Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Big players sideline locals and Brent Council as they tussle over Quintain and Wembley Stadium

The Financial Times reported yesterday that the sale of Quintain by its owner Lone Star is at a stand-off over the price with the area of contention between £2bn and £2.3bn. The Delaney led consortium according to the article has not yet moved into formal talks with Lone Star as discussions over the price continue.

The Delaney Consortium includes Canadian, Quatari and Dutch firms as well as Delaney itself while rival bidders are based in the US and Germany, along with LRC founded by a London-based Israeli investor.

With both Quintain and Wembley Stadium up for sale to big players it feels as if it is not only Brent residents but Brent Council that have been sidelined.


Monday, 15 October 2018

Caroline Lucas tells Hammond to fully fund teachers' salary increase & reverse per pupil funding cuts

Caroline Lucas MP has written to the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, ahead of the Budget regarding school funding:

Dear Philip,
 
I am writing to you ahead of the Budget and following the recent protest by over 1,000 headteachers about the funding crisis in our schools.
 
Yesterday morning I received the ‘Dear Colleague’ letter on school funding from the Secretary of State of Education about the Department’s use of OECD figures on education spending. The purpose of the letter appears to be to rebut the criticism from Sir David Norgrove, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, that education ministers have made "exaggerated" claims that "do not give the full picture" on school funding. You will be aware of Sir David’s concerns about repeated misuse of statistics, and the Government’s deliberate distortion of data on the schools crisis: “…figures were presented in such a way as to misrepresent changes in school funding. In the tweet, school spending figures were exaggerated by using a truncated axis, and by not adjusting for per pupil spend.” [1]
 
I am writing to you ahead of the Budget to make it clear that Damian’s letter has not allayed my concerns, nor those of the headteachers, staff, parents and children in Brighton Pavilion, and no doubt across the country. Given that Sir David’s letter specifically raises the key issue of adjustment for per-pupil spend, it beggars belief that the letter did not address the Institute for Fiscal Studies finding that total school spending per pupil fell by 8 per cent in real terms between 2009/10 and 2017/18 [1]. Moreover, the National Audit Office have also identified an 8 per cent real-terms reduction in per-pupil funding for mainstream schools between 2014/15 and 2019/20 due to cost pressures [2].
 
It is vital that the Government reverses the per-pupil funding cuts and also fully funds the 3.5 per cent pay rise recommended by the School Teachers Review Body (STRB) for all pay ranges and allowances. Heads are talking about being forced to make redundancies in order to afford well-deserved pay rises for their teachers. 
 
Heads, teachers, teaching assistants, parents and pupils all know the impact of the cuts. There are particular concerns for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). I have received heart-breaking emails from headteachers for many months. Counselling services cut, vital SEND support cut or not provided, staff not replaced, enrichment activities and trips cut back, basic supplies paid for by charity, repairs not undertaken. To provide just a few examples of the most recent messages from headteachers in Brighton Pavilion:
“…if it was not for our parents and friends we would not manage”
 
“Already we have had to rely on parent fundraising to update our reading books”
 
“…significant undervaluing of and mean spirited approach to children's education in this country and the totally inadequate funding”
 
"where do I find the money from?... We don't have the money.”
 
“…the building is falling apart, there is no money for trips, enrichment activities or other things that help to enhance children's learning.”
 
For children with SEND: “we have nothing left to provide for their needs adequately.”
 
“We increasingly rely on volunteers”
I am also receiving representations from sixth form colleges who face a serious shortfall between the funding they receive and the amount they need to educate their students. I urge you to take account of the new report produced by London Economics on behalf of the Sixth Form Colleges Association: Understanding the funding shortfall in sixth form education [2]. It shows the dramatic impact of the government freeze on sixth form funding combined with a sharp increase in running costs. The report found that sixth form colleges need an increase in funding of at least £760 per student in 2020/21 to continue providing a high quality education to young people. The report also found that, in real terms, sixth form colleges received £1,380 less per student in 2016/17 than they did in 2010/11 – a 22 per cent decline in funding [3]. I trust you will urgently address the issue of sixth form funding in the forthcoming Budget.
 
Lastly, and in short, the purpose of this letter is to ask that we do not get the same barrage of lame excuses about OECD spending comparisons on Budget Day. As you will understand from the quotes and information above, they simply do not wash, and I urge you to directly address the issue of rising pupil numbers in schools. Talking about ‘more money’ is an old political trick that fools no-one and leaves this funding crisis unaddressed. Educational standards are in jeopardy. Yet, with the per-pupil funding they need, our schools could deliver great outcomes for all children. Without it we are letting down a generation. The Budget is yet another chance for you to respond as the crisis requires and I sincerely urge you to do so.
 
Best wishes,
 
Caroline

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Brent Council austerity cuts to hit the old, the poor, the young & the environment

Monday's Cabinet Meeting will be considering 'savings', known to most of us as 'cuts', of some £20million for 2019/20-2020/21 with cuts totally £40 million expected over the four year term of the current administration.

The Council Tax base (number of households paying the tax) is expected to rise by 2.5% per year and the Council expect to raise Council Tax itself by 4.99% in 2019-20 and 3.99% in 2020-21. At the same time there are proposals to cut Council Tax Support by up to 15% over the period.
The Council's Financial Position
Demographic Pressures

The process following the Cabinet meeting is: 

·      These proposals, together with any changes made by Cabinet, will form the basis of consultation between October 2018 and January 2019 with local residents, businesses and other key stakeholders;
·      The three scrutiny committees will review the budget proposals and report accordingly;
·      In November the General purposes committee will review the calculation of the council tax base; and
·      After consultation, a budget report will be presented for Cabinet to recommend a final budget and council tax to the February 2019 Council meeting.

The Officers' Report states:
The proposals have been categorised as follows:
Appendix A:
Appendix B:
Appendix C:
Appendix D:
A.  Recommended budget proposals that have relatively minor impact on residents, business and other stakeholders. Typically these proposals represent generating additional income, general efficiencies in order to reduce expenditure and transformation programmes in order to deliver services within a reduced budget envelope.
B.  These proposals are considered to be ‘difficult’ in that they will have a direct impact on residents, businesses, the voluntary sector and other key stakeholders. Typically these proposals represent a service reduction or a transformation in the way in which services are delivered.
C.  These proposals are considered to be ‘very difficult’ as they represent a greater reduction in key council services and will have a greater impact on key recipients of council services, including vulnerable clients.
D. These proposals are considered to be the ‘most difficult’ as they represent a significant reduction in key council services, including to the most vulnerable residents in the borough.

Officers’ expectation is that savings of £40m will be needed over the lifetime o f this Administration. The profile of these is broadly balanced, and so officers’ advice is that the Administration should seek to agree savings of at least £20m in order to be able to agree a balanced budget for at least the next two years. However, it is important to note that, on the current funding estimates, significant further savings will need to be agreed at the Council meeting of February 2021. As a result the current working assumptions is that anything not agreed in this budget round may need to be considered again at the point in time, and further options identified.
There are usually some items in the report that the administration  do not intend to implement but where they can claim in not implementing then that they have 'listened' to residents. (Forgive me for my cynicism!)

There are 161 pages on detail on the proposals so I cannot summarise them hear but I have embedded them below.

Headline items that will impact on the old, the young and all residents include
  •  renegotiate adult social care costs to bring them down to the lowest current level (this may mean some agencies will withdraw from bidding),  renegotiate Supported Living and Housing Related Support, and reducing carer visits to 15 minutes.
  •  ending Youth Service provision at the last remaining Youth Centre in Brent, Roundwood
  • reduce the number of Children's Centres from 17 to 8, transforming into Family Hubs ( there is a further option of closing them all)
  • reduction in Early Help Service staffing and increase in fees
  • reduce Connexions Service further
  • reducing Library opening hours and possibly closing one library
  • making 40 full time equivalent Environmental Services staff redundant (producing 'leaner teams' !)
  • ending street cleaning of residential streets (Zone 5) and removing their litter bins
  • reduce the opening hours of Abbey Road Recycling Centre or close it completely
  • reduce or end grants to Brent's voluntary organisations 
Details (click on bottom right square to enlarge):

Free trees for Brent community groups

Trees on the King's Drive Estate in Wembley Park
From Brent Council

Community groups in Brent are being encouraged to apply for free tree packs to brighten up their local area.

In partnership with The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) the Mayor of London is making available 25,000 trees for community groups, free of charge, to plant in their London neighbourhood.

To find out more and apply for a community tree pack, visit https://www.london.gov.uk/community-trees.

Advice from our Parks Service:
  • Groups or interested residents should contact Brent through the parks service to discuss where they would like to plant the trees
  • Trees can be planted on private land with the permission of the landowner, which may or may not be Brent Council
  • To ensure a good spread of trees throughout the borough, we would encourage local groups to apply together and share a tree pack
  • Not all trees will be suitable for all locations and trees on public land will be maintained by Brent Council, so make sure to get in touch to discuss
If you have any questions, please contact the Parks Service at brent.parks.services@brent.gov.uk

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Proposed new ward structure in Brent


Proposal 1


Proposal 2

The General Purposes Committee of Brent Council, which consists of Cabinet members plus Cllr Colwill leader of the Conservative Group, will be discussing plans for new ward divisions on Wednesday LINK.

The proposals are the Council's response to the Local Government Boundary Review and would reduce the number of Brent councillors from 63 to 57. There are two options on the table with the main difference being whether there should be 3 wards with 2 councillors each or 2 wards with 3 councillors each after the great majority of wards have been allocated 3 councillors each.  There is an attempt to have boundaries that reflect existing communities with their own centre.

These are the proposals:


The following ward proposals are the same for both proposals and are for 3 member wards.
Ward 1 – Wembley Central ward This ward is predominantly made up of the current Wembley Central ward but incorporates some of the current Alperton and Tokyngton wards. The community centre of the ward remains Wembley Central.
Ward 2 – Queensbury ward The boundary for this ward remains unchanged from the current Queensbury ward. When forecasting the electorate for 2024, it was projected to be 12,906 which represents a marginal variance from the mean electorate. There is also an established local community identity in this area.
Ward 3 – Mapesbury ward The ward takes in the entirety of the current Mapesbury ward but takes in some of the current Dudden Hill Ward. The community centre would incorporate parts of Willesden and Cricklewood.
Ward 4 – Sudbury ward This ward is predominantly made up of the current Sudbury ward but takes in some of the current Wembley Central ward. The community centre of the ward remains Sudbury.
Ward 5 – Willesden Green ward This ward is predominantly made up of the current Willesden Green ward as it is one of the established communities; for electoral equality it would take in some of Dudden Hill ward.
Ward 7 - Northwick Park ward This ward is predominantly made up of the current Northwick Park ward but also incorporates some of the current Sudbury ward. The community centre remains Northwick Park.
Ward 8 – Queens Park ward This ward is predominantly made up of the current Queens Park ward as it is one of the established communities; for electoral equality it takes in some of the current Kensal Green ward.
Ward 9 – Kilburn ward The boundary for this proposed ward remains unchanged from the current Kilburn ward. When forecasting the electorate for 2024 was projected to be 12,581 which is a marginal variance from the mean electorate.
Ward 10 – Kingsbury ward This ward is predominantly made up of the current Fryent ward but also encompasses some of the current Welsh Harp and Barnhill wards. The community centre for this ward would be Kingsbury hence the suggested a name change.
Ward 11 - Brondesbury Park This ward is predominantly made up of the current Brondesbury Park ward but also incorporates some of the current Kensal Green ward. The community centre remains Brondesbury Park.
Ward 12 – Tokyngton ward This ward is predominantly made up of the current Tokyngton ward but also incorporates some of the current Stonebridge ward. The current CST1 polling district has been moved into this ward as the North Circular Road forms the boundary for this proposed ward. The community centre remains Tokyngton.
Ward 13 – Kenton ward The ward takes in the entirety of the current Kenton ward and also takes in some of the current Northwick Park and Barnhill wards. The new boundary for this ward runs along the two railway lines thus forming a natural ward boundary. The community centre remains Kenton.
Ward 14 – Dollis Hill ward This ward is predominantly made up of the current Dollis Hill ward but would also incorporate some of the current Dudden Hill ward. The community centre remains Dollis Hill.
Ward 16 – Neasden ward This ward is made up of the current Welsh Harp ward but also incorporates some of the current Barnhill and Dudden Hill wards. As this ward covers one of the established communities of Neasden a name change for the ward is proposed.
Ward 17 – Wembley Park ward This ward is predominantly made up of the current Barnhill ward but also incorporates some of the current Tokyngton and Stonebridge wards. As this ward covers one of the established communities of Wembley Park a name change for the ward is proposed.
Ward 18 – Alperton ward This ward is predominantly made up of the current Alperton ward but also incorporates some of the current Wembley Central ward. The community centre remains Alperton.
Ward 19 – Preston ward This ward is predominantly made up of the current Preston ward but also incorporates some of the current Tokyngton ward. The community centre remains Preston.
The following are for proposal 1 and are for 3 member wards
Ward 6 – Stonebridge ward This ward is predominantly made up of the current Stonebridge ward but also incorporates some of the current Tokyngton and Harlesden wards. The community centre remains Stonebridge.
Ward 15 – Harlesden ward This ward is predominantly made up of the current Harlesden ward as it is one of the established communities for electoral equality it takes in some of the current Kensal Green and Willesden Green wards.
The following are for Proposal 2 and are for 2 member wards
Ward 6 – Stonebridge ward This is predominantly made up of the current Stonebridge ward but also incorporates some of the current Tokyngton ward. The community centre remains Stonebridge.
Ward 15 – Harlesden ward This ward is predominantly made up of a more concentrated area of the current Harlesden ward as it is one of the established communities for electoral equality it takes in some of the current Kensal Green ward.
Ward 20 – Church End ward This ward is made up of the current Harlesden and Stonebridge wards in equal measure but also incorporates small parts of the current Kensal Green and Willesden Green wards. The community centre would focus around Church End which could suggest a name change.
 
2024 Electorate