Thursday, 3 December 2020

Brent Council Tax and Council Rents to rise but Council says it is not as hard hit as some


Brent Council's Overall Financial Position

Next week's Cabinet will discuss proposals for the 2021-22 Council budget.  The report to Cabinet LINK lists many uncertainties caused by the pandemic and lack of clarity over government funding.  However, the report states:

The new proposals for 2021/22 and 2022/23 are designed to limit, as far as possible, service reductions and the impact on front line services particularly during these challenging times. For example, the new proposals include expected gains from re-procurement of major contracts, service transformations and efficiency savings. This does not mean that delivering these planned savings, if approved, will be managerially straightforward, or that front- line services will be entirely unaffected, or that they can be achieved without staffing reductions, but it is nonetheless the case that the new proposals set out in this report do not include the wholesale cuts to services that many Councils are considering and indeed implementing. 

Consultation on the proposals will take place between this month and February 2021. 

Features of the budget include

 A Council Tax increase of 4.99%, making a Band D Council Tax of £1,378.26 (for the Brent element). The GLA precept is unknown at this stage and is subject to their own decision making and consultation processes.

New budget savings proposals of £5.1m to be delivered between 2021/22 and 2022/23. LINK


An increase of Council rents of 1.5% (figures below are per week)


The report admits that the Council Tax rise will hit people. It refers to the Council Tax Support scheme which they expect to be used more but not all of those hit by the rise will be eligible. Similarly more people may fall into rent arrears when so many are hit by job losses and income falls because of Covid19.


Three possible scenarios are given for pressure on services ranging from additonal costs of £5m to £20m


 Officers estimate that 63% of the planned cuts are on track to be realised, while others will be realised in future years.  One cut that was due was via a review of homecare and placement packages, re-commissioning day care (£250,000).


The report states:

This saving is delayed because the re-commissioning of daycare has been affected by Covid-19 as daycare will have to be delivered in a different format as a result of the pandemic. It is expected that these savings will be achieved through reduced transport usage.

A disability campaigner told Wembley Matters:

Although there is very little detail it looks like the only  2 day centres left for disabled people will not reopen and all the council daycare will be in a new format.  But the. clue is they will save £250k in transport costs from the remainder of this year and another £250K next year.  That means with no daycentres, no transport is needed to pick the disabled people up, as most of them have mobility issues.

So who will speak up for the most severely disabled people in Brent, if not Wembley Matters?  It seems that nearly every London borough has an organisation representing disabled people but Brent does not have one, apart from Brent Advocacy Concerns which no longer have the resources to challenge the council anymore.

The report states that these cuts are 'technical' and therefore don't have to be consulted on.  They are included for transparency:

The Freedom Pass saving depends on the progress of Covid and a return to normality is likely to increase demand again.

Schools are funded separately though the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) calculated by the National Funding Formula. Schools have incurred increased costs because of Covid and there has been some central government financial support but this has now ended, although additional money still has to be spent on additional cleaning costs, and supply cover for staff self-isolating or on sick leave. Covid restructions means that lettings income has dropped through the floor.

However, many were already facing financial problems because of the school funding crisis and the unfunded pay increase. More are expected to fall into deficit next year. The situation will worsen because the High Needs Block of the DSG is not keeping up with demand so the  Schools Forum will be asked to take money from the Schools section of the budget to additionally fund the High Needs in the borough.

High needs funding is intended to provide the most appropriate support package for children and young people (from early years up to aged 25) with special educational needs and disabilities in a range of settings, taking account of parental and student choice.

The report states:

The pressure in the HNB has led to the DSG being in a £4.9 million deficit carried forward from 2019/20 and further forecast pressures of £4.2 million in 2020/21 will increase the deficit position to £9.1 million. The DfE require local authorities with an overall DSG deficit to present a plan to recover the deficit over a number of financial years. To recover the deficit in the medium to long term, options being reviewed by the task group set up by the Strategic Director of Children and Young People include;

Looking to establish more Special Educational Needs & Disability (SEND) provision in the borough as part of the School Place Planning Strategy Refresh including developing new Additionally Resourced Provisions (ARPs);

Ensuring there is full cost recovery from other local authorities that place pupils in Brent special schools including administration and other specific costs;

Review of the DSG funded SEN support services currently underway.

 One thing is clear - without any action by the Government schools face a very tough time financially in 2021-22 as will most Brent residents.




Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Brent Council guidance on Tier 2 restrictions

Tier 2 COVID restrictions

Brent, along with the rest of London, will be in the second highest risk level – Tier 2 – when the ‘stay at home’ restrictions end on 2 December 2020.

The regional approach, where different ‘Tiers’ of restrictions apply in different parts of the country, is a tougher version of the previous local COVID alert level system.

The specific rules that apply to areas in Tier 2 are:

  • You cannot mix with anyone indoors unless you live with them or they’re in your support bubble, but you can still meet people outdoors while sticking to the rule of six
  • Pubs and bars must close completely unless they can operate as restaurants and they must all be shut by 11pm
  • You can do an exercise class or play sport outdoors, but indoors you can only exercise with other people in the same household or support bubble
  • Gyms, non-essential shops and personal care services like beauty salons and hairdressers can re-open
  • Up to 2,000 fans can gather to watch any live event or sports match
  • You should continue to work from home if you can
  • Communal worship can restart, however you cannot socialise with anyone while you are indoors there unless you live with them or they’re in your support bubble

Public health experts have warned that London could easily have been placed in the worst ‘Tier 3’ risk level and that this is where we will find ourselves if cases don’t continue to fall.

COVID has not gone away and is still a real and present threat – especially to older people and those with underlying health conditions. That’s why it’s important you continue to protect yourself and your loved ones to stop the spread of the virus by:

  • Washing your hands, or using hand sanitiser, regularly
  • Wearing a face covering in indoor public spaces
  • Making space between you and others outside your household or support bubble
  • When indoors with people you live with or your support bubble, try to open your windows and let fresh air in regularly as this can reduce your risk of infection by over 70%
  • Walking or cycling where possible and avoiding busy times and routes when travelling

 Find out more about the rules that apply to areas in Tier 2

Forming a Christmas bubble

The government has announced an easing of social restrictions over the Christmas period so that families who do not live together can decide whether they want to risk celebrating the holiday season together.

From 23 to 27 December, three households will be able to meet indoors and outdoors, forming a ‘Christmas bubble’.

The rules on forming Christmas bubbles are:

  • Christmas bubbles will be able to meet in private homes, attend places of worship together and meet in outdoor public places, however bubbles cannot meet up in pubs or restaurants
  • Christmas bubbles are fixed, meaning once three households have formed a bubble this cannot be changed and you cannot be a part of more than one bubble
  • You can travel between tiers and UK nations for the purposes of meeting your Christmas bubble
  • Existing support bubbles count as one household
  • Children of separated parents can move between two Christmas bubbles

When following these new rules, people are reminded to continue to take personal responsibility to limit the spread of the virus and protect loved ones, particularly if they are vulnerable.

Find out more about the rules on forming a Christmas bubble.

Test and Trace

Find out more about Test and Trace in Brent.

Face coverings

The use of face coverings can help us protect each other and reduce the spread of the disease if you are in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.

From Friday 24 July 2020 you must wear a face covering in shops and supermarkets.

You must also continue to wear face coverings when:

  • Using public transport, like buses or the Tube
  • Visiting a hospital, as an outpatient or visitor, and
  • In enclosed public spaces where social distancing is not possible.

You don’t need to wear your face covering outdoors, while exercising or in schools and offices.

Children under the age of 11 and people who may find it difficult to wear a face covering, because of a disability or breathing difficulty, do not need to wear one.

Clinically Extremely Vulnerable

The Government paused the NHS Shielding Programme for Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) people on 31 July 2020.

However, from 5 November 2020, following new national restrictions, the government has advised anyone who is CEV to:

  • Stay at home as much as possible, although you can still go outside to exercise
  • Continue with medical and NHS appointments unless these are cancelled
  • Don’t go to work – although you should work from home if you can
  • Avoid shops and pharmacies

Read more advice, guidance and details of the support available for people classed as clinically extremely vulnerable

Medical help

If you need medical help for any reason, do not go to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus (a high temperature or a new, continuous cough), use the 111 coronavirus service.

If you need help or advice not related to coronavirus:

  • For health information and advice, use the NHS website or your GP surgery website
  • For urgent medical help, use the NHS 111 online service – only call 111 if you're unable to get help online
  • For life-threatening emergencies, call 999 for an ambulance

Read more advice about getting medical help at home.

Travelling safely on public transport

If you need to travel, Transport for London advises cycling, walking or driving. This is to help ensure there is enough space for those who need to travel on public transport to do so safely.

Passengers are encouraged where possible to:

  • Keep two metres apart from others
  • Wear a face covering
  • Use contactless payment
  • Avoid the rush hour
  • Wash hands before and after travel
  • Follow advice from staff.

More advice on walking, cycling, and travelling in vehicles or on public transport during the coronavirus outbreak


If you're pregnant and worried about coronavirus, you can get advice about coronavirus and pregnancy from the Royal College of Obstretricians and Gynaecologists


Having diabetes does not mean you are more likely to catch coronavirus.  However, if you do catch coronavirus, it can cause more severe symptoms and complications in people with diabetes.

Coronavirus guidance for people living with diabetes from NHS North West London

Monday, 30 November 2020

£100k plus Brent Neighbourhood CIL awards

 Next Monday's Cabinet Meeting will be asked to approve Neighbourhood Community Infrastructure Levy funding awards worth  more than £100k each. Many smaller projects have also received funding.

These are the details of the large awards:

The shortlisting criteria for all NCIL projects are as follows:

·  Meets the terms of the CIL Regulations (2010) as amended

·  Evidences community backing

·  Addresses the demands that development places on an area

·  Reflects the strategic priorities of the Council & CIL Neighbourhood

·  A one-off scheme that does not require additional revenue funding in its delivery or its operation (or identifies how additional revenue funding may be met)

·  Benefits a diverse Brent community

·  Offers value for money

· £227,272.30 for Ultra Education CIC - It Takes a Village – Black Caribbean Boys of Excellence project: Working across families, schools and communities addressing the root cause of the underachievement of Black Caribbean Boys

·  £197,561.95 for Asian Women's Resource Centre(AWRC) - Revitalise Project: To refurbish the AWRC building in Harlesden so that it is inclusive, accessible, welcoming , safe and comfortable for women, girls and children to access a range of holistic support services offered under one roof

·  £197,561.95 Mobs Ventures Ltd / Slenky Powering Change – Social, Mobile Engagement and Ethical AI Project: Developing and imbedding a digital programme aimed at engaging young people in new skills and employment that development has brought to the borough.

·  £146,698.63 EACH Counselling and Support, Strive Project: A mental health support programme for BME people to recover from the impact of Mental Health, Domestic Violence and Substance Misuse. Providing culturally sensitive Education Training Employment and counselling support.

Ultra Education – It takes a Village

1.     Ultra Education sought funds to use entrepreneurship as a vehicle to increase the life chances and close the gaps in educational attainment and achievement of Black Caribbean Boys in Brent; positively tackling the disproportionate educational outcomes by bringing about a transformation in their school, community and home.

2.    The ‘It Takes a Village programme’ will provide:

·  Improved education, training, employment, and professional development within the community

·  Improved supported learning at home

·  Increased parent participation

·  Increased understanding of complex trauma within both the

School and African Caribbean communities

·  Increased long term educational attainment and achievement through improving independent learning

3.    The Project meets the CIL regulations by ensuring that regeneration has a positive impact on local communities who are not skilled to or do not have the voice to take advantage of opportunities in their environment e.g. jobs, volunteering and training. This project challenges these low expectations by strengthening the communities’ voice, improving Black Caribbean Boys attainment and skills and establishing a legacy of achievement and excellence that will be built on in following generations of young people achieving a permanent approach to address the demands of development across Brent. The project is for 18 months with a plan to sustain this project longer term with alternative funding.

4.     Project will be delivered across the Borough of Brent with community support for the project based on cross borough organisations representing the target groups.

5.    Ultra Education are registered on Companies house as a Community Interest Company (CIC) in Primary Education.

Women Asian Resource Centre - Revitalise

1.     Women Asian Resource Centre (AWRC) sought funds to refurbish the AWRC building in Harlesden so that it is inclusive, accessible, welcoming, safe and comfortable for women, girls and children to access a range of holistic support services offered under one roof.

2.    The project will

·  Renovate outside of the building, rendering of the brickwork at the front and sides.

·  Renovate ground floor to improve ventilation and improve wheelchair accessibility.

·  Renovate first floor to improve facilities for varied use of activities e.g. cooking, yoga, workshops

3.    The project meets the CIL regulations by improving facilities of a cultural hub in the community for women experiencing or have experienced abuse.

4.    The community support has been provided by a survey completed about the project proposal and capturing over 100 residents supporting the proposal primarily from Harlesden however the project will support borough wide.

5.    Asian Women Resource Centre is a registered charity that provides holistic support services to BAME women and children and prioritises work on issues around violence against women.

Mobs Ventures Ltd / Slenky

1.    Mobs Ventures Slenky sought funds to develop and implement a digital programme in Brent that connects 13 – 24 year olds with Shots (opportunities) related to their passions and interests. Shots are centralised on a content platform and distributed/targeted as social content. Future engagement is digital. Slenky digitally empowers young people, making organisations and opportunities digitally and socially accessible to all.

2.    The project will deliver for young people in Brent, including students in Brent schools

·  Free technology to search for/be notified of opportunities

·  Improved long-term employment and economic prospects

·  Improved early understanding of their Passions, interests and skills

·  Improved early understanding of the relationship between their passions and different sectors

·  Improved engagement with new and traditional sectors

·  Improved early awareness of ‘firewalled’ and out of reach sectors

·  Presented with higher earning sectors and skills at an earlier age

·  Feel empowered to independently explore and secure opportunities

·  Have increased access to non-employment opportunities e.g. cultural, well-being, sport

·  Have access to digital work experience and digital employment opportunities within the Slenky team

3.The project meets the CIL regulations by developing a sustainable digital programme that will support the engagement of young people within the new businesses and work opportunities within the growing commercial and residential developments in Brent.

4. The community support provided is a number of letters from key cross borough organisations working with young people.

5. Mobs Venture is registered on Companies house as a private limited company

EACH Counselling and Support - STRIVE

1.     The EACH counselling sought funds for running and staffing costs to deliver the STRIVE, Mental Health Support Programme over one year.

2.    The project will provide: Culturally sensitive based Employment Training and Education (ETE) and Mental Health (MH) counselling support for 150 vulnerable BMEs aged 18+ who need specialist support to identify, achieve and maintain their ETE goals and manage their MH Aims, reduce the impact of overall inequalities faced by BMEs in recovery from Domestic Violence, MH, or Substance Misuse so they achieve their ETE goals and maximise every opportunity to succeed.

3.    The Project meets the CIL regulations by meeting the significantly increasing and diverse population needs e.g. increased need and demand for specialist support will rise in line with population growth. STRIVE will provide support to people living in the allocated social housing in new developments. Both short and long-term residents living in deprivation and or financial hardship will benefit from the service and have every opportunity to success along with their counterparts living in commercial and private allocated housing in the same developments. Strive will addresses barriers to employment by providing clients with flexible support across the 4 CIL neighbourhoods in a range of community languages.

4.    Community support for the project is a number of local resident signatures supporting the project primarily from Harlesden however, project will work across borough.

5.    EACH Counselling and support is a registered charity whose principal activities are to facilitate and sustain positive changes in the lives of individuals, families and communities affected by problems arising from alcohol & drug misuse, domestic violence & related mental health concerns, by offering treatment services that are responsive high quality and provide effective & integrated interventions.

 Other funded projects

Another 19 projects were awarded below the value of £100,000 totalling £1,230,905.17. 


6 projects are addressing early intervention with children, young people and families to the value of £405,954
1 project is supporting the black community and voluntary sector - grant funding and procurement to the value of £85,995

2 projects are supporting embedding equalities to the value of £95,390
3 projects are providing support for employment and enterprise to the value of £219,503
2 projects are tackling health inequalities to the value of £167,206
3 projects are addressing the Impact of COVID19 to the value of £148,537
2 projects are addressing wider inequalities to the value of £113,359


Sunday, 29 November 2020

URGENT: Brent TUC launch petition to stop closure of Wembley Ambulance Station


Sign the petition to Garrett Emmerson, Chief Executive London Ambulance NHS Trust SIGN HERE

Kilburn activist suspended by Labour Party

I understand that Pete Firmin, chair of Hampstead and Kilburn Labour Party has been suspended by the party for the crime of defying the edicts from the Party's General Secretary about what Party members are allowed to discuss.    

Pete who lives on the South Kilburn Estate and is a tenant association activist and a member of Brent TUC  has contributed a number of articles to Wembley Matters.

He is a man of principle and integrity and I express my solidarity, across parties, at this challenging time.

Where has all Brent's CIL and S106 money gone?

 In an aside at last week's Planning Committee when speaking against the proposed Wembley Park Station 'Five Tower', Cllr Kansagra, said that Brent Council had lots of unspent Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 money in its coffers and gave the figure of £126,000,000.

We will be able to check on that claim by looking at the first Brent Annual Infrastructure Funding Statement  for the year 2019-2020 that will go to Cabinet on Monday December 7th.  Given the controversy about the use of the funding that there is in the borough,  it would  help allay concern if the Statement was called in for Scrutiny.

You will find some extracts below which help give an overall view and further full details and explanations can be found in the very extensive report. 75% of CIL is labelled Strategic CIL (SCIL) and used for infrastructure projects, 5% for managing CIL and the rest for Neighbourhood CIL (NCIL) - used for local community led projects after a bidding and selection process.

£63m unallocated and therefore unspent

Note the difference between 'allocated' and 'spent'.

So at the end of the year 2019-20 there was £105m in the SCIL coffer and £14m in NCIL - £119m rounded

So about half of the NCIL collected in 2019-20  £2m) was spent on neighbourhood projects  but the amount retained, including from previous years, was £14m.

Barnhill and Preston wards are missing but may be covered by multi-wards. A lot depends on how organised councillors and community groups in their wards are in terms of putting in bids. Again this is 'allocated' not spent. Often there is underspend and in 2019-20 it would have beenimpacted by Covid restrictions at the end of year.

The individual projects allocated funds and the amount spent can be found in the full report (Table 6) it covers 7 pages.

£4.7m of Section 106  appears to have been carried forward and not allocated to any project.  Added to the £119m on SCIL and NCIL it amounts to £124m - not far off Cllr Kansangra's figure.

Affordable units in developments were secured as part of the Section 106 deal. A good use of S106.

Underspend probably the result of Covid lockdown.

Full report here include indications of future expenditure on infrastructure that would use up some of the retained funds. Click bottom right corner for full page version.

'Finding your Brave' - Brent's Children's Poems for Children's Mental Health Week

The theme of Children's Mental Health Week was 'Funding Your Brave' and many Brent children entered poems for a competition. LINK Their many entries are displayed in Wembley Park opposite the Premier Inn, between the LDO and White Horse Bridge, on full size billboards. It is well worth spending some time reading them and appreciating the level of insight and empathy on display.

These are the three winning entries:



Thursday, 26 November 2020

'Flagrant breach of Brent planning policy' Wembley Park Station application passed by Brent Planning Committee


The Wembley Park Station car park application is the 5 dark green blocks at the bottom right of the image. Planning Officers claimed that they were part of the overall Wembley Park high-rise area rather than the suburban area in which their own image shows they are clearly situated. The railway line, Bridge Road and Empire Way form a physical enclosure and boundary of the high rise area around the stadium.

Brent Planning Committee tonight approved the planning application for the Wembley Park Station car park which will see the construction of 5 tower blocks on Brook Avenue.

Philip Grant made a powerful presention on the Brook Avenue - Wembley Park station planning application this evening demonstrating how it breached Brent Council's own planning policies.  Nevertheless the Planning Committee went ahead and approved the application with only one vote, that of Cllr Maurice, against.

This is what Philip said:

Paragraphs 44 to 52 of the Officers Report give a confused view of Brent’s planning policy on tall buildings for this site. I will explain those policies clearly, using the objectors’ document supplied to you.

The current policy, on page 1, is WEM 5, in the Wembley Area Action Plan, adopted by the Council in 2015. This says that ‘Tall buildings will be acceptable in a limited number of locations within the AAP area.

At page 2, you can see the locations on the Tall Buildings Strategy map. The station car park is in the red area – Sites inappropriate for Tall Buildings’.

There was a specific site called “Wembley Park Station Car Park” in that Action Plan. This was the site where Matthews Close was built, with blocks between 5 and 8 storeys high - a scale identified as suitable for this mainly residential area.

The Brent Design Guide, SPD1, adopted in November 2018, is another policy covering this application. Under Principle 3.1 it states: ‘Tall buildings will only be encouraged in areas identified as appropriate for tall buildings.’

The Officers Report says that you should be guided by Brent’s emerging Local Plan. The 2015 Wembley AAP policies still take precedence within that Plan, subject to any locally specific details.

The Station Car Park is a specific site, BCSA7, in that Local Plan. If you look at the copy provided on page 4, you’ll see that this application’s southern site has an indicative capacity for 300 homes, and that: ‘Up to ten storeys will be considered acceptable to the western side of the site, stepping up slightly directly adjacent to the station.

Those are the planning policies on which you should decide this matter.

Committee members, please don’t allow yourselves to be fooled into accepting an application which doesn’t comply with the policies adopted by Brent Council, after consultation with its residents.

This application is a flagrant breach of those policies, and you can, and should, refuse it on those grounds.

 Cllr Kennelly, councillor for the relevant ward, Preston, and soon to be on the Planning Committee himself, made a neutral presentation. He thought that the development wasn't in keeping with the local area, it fell outside the designated tall buildings area, the tallest was nearly three times as tall as the existing tallest building in  the road, and that the attempt to make up deficiencies in amenity space meant provision of balconies facing each other that would impact on privacy.  He welcomes the provision of affordable housing but said that shared ownership would not have been his choice. Answering a question from the Committee he said that a CPZ might alleviate parking issues but would be a long-term cost to local residents, even if initially funded by the developer.

Cllr Liz Dixon, a member of the Commitee said that Philip Grant's presentation had been well articulated but asked what he thought the damage would be to the area. He replsed that the height of the blocks would overshadow neighbouring properties and cut out the light of new homes that were only built a few years ago. It was over-development and breached policy that was the result of public consultation.

Cllr Kansagra said it was wrong that the Council spent so much time on the Wembley Area Action Plan only to ignore it. He said that the developer had bribed Brent Council with flats.  He went on to complain more broadly that Brent Council had £126m of CIL and Section 106 money unspent in its coffers. Covid had taught us that space is important - the development was too dense with little amenity space.


Responding, an officer claim that the 'emerging local plan' anticipates that this is a site for tall buildings and that tall buildings should be built around transport hubs, which Wembley Park station on train and bus routes, demonstrably was. Furthermore, both sides of Brook Avenue, beyond its current surburban character, was designated as a site for tall buildings as was part of nearby Forty Avenue thatit leads to. (Forty Avenue is far bottom right - outside the image)

Planning Officer David Glover took me aback when he remarked, 'We are not saying that that 21 storeys is slightly above 10 storeys.' He went on to argue that there would be a loss of viability and thus of affordable homes, if the propsed blocks were lower in height.

Another Planning Officer made my jaw drop when responding to the issue of Covid in high density developments, he said Covid would be gone by the summer and we don't have to worry about it.

There was a very long discussion led by Cllr Maurice on the amount of car parking available in the road that he claimed was already over-parked and would be hit by many of the up to 900 additional residents in a supposedly car-free development seeking a parking space. In addition the 80 or so people who used the station car park would be looking for parking space in the nearby streets.  There will some disabled parking in the development and spaces for transport personnel who drive in  before the trains start running and drive home after the last trains.  There was debate over the extent to which a CPZ would just displace competition for parking to streets further afield. Residents on Twitter testified to how in normal times the station car park was full by 8am, contrary to planners claim that it was underused.

The Planning Committee is not supposed to be political but the only dissent when it came to the vote was the single Conservative councillor, Cllr Maurice. Aside from parking his objection was based on the density of the development in what he considered a suburban area and clear breaches of specific and current Brent policies.  He was used to breaches of guidelines but policy was a different matter.