Friday 27 August 2010

Coalition of Resistance Meeting September 2nd


7pm, Thursday 2 September, Room 3A, University of London Union, Malet St, WC1E
(Euston, Russell Square, Goodge St. tubes)

Brent Anti-Cuts Campaign Set Up

Twenty people attended Wednesday's organising meeting to set up a Brent Anti-Cuts Campaign. The twenty included members of the Labour Party, Green Party, Social Workers' Party and even the ex-leader of the Brent Democratic Conservative group. They included members of Unison, Unite, RMT and the NUT and workers from the public sector and voluntary sector.

All were agreed on the serious threat posed by the cuts on ordinary working people and vulnerable groups. After discussion of the main areas of cuts in council services, health, public transport, education, welfare benefits,housing benefit,  school building programmes, legal aid the meeting agreed an organisational structure.

Brent Campaign Against Cuts will be broad and inclusive, including workers and users, community groups and all opposed to the cuts. It will be pro-public services and attempt to be proactive, looking at alternatives to the cuts, rather than just reactive. It will recognise that Coalition government policy is the source of many of the cuts even if implemented at local authority level.

The meeting agreed to lobby the Brent Council Labour group to follow the example of Camden and Islington Labour councillors in agreeing to join their workers in the protest march against the Autumn Review on October 20th.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

More than one way to fight the cuts?

Tonight's meeting at the Brent Trades Hall to discuss organising against the cuts will be vitally important. One important issue will be the type of action that can be taken. The problem with strike action, although a key weapon, is that such action by public sector workers can impact on the very people we are trying to defend. As today's report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies made clear these are poor families, women and those with disabilities. In the last period of mass anti-cuts action in the 70s and 80s there were attempts to bring together workers and users of services to not only defend public services but also to agree ways that they could be improved. As public sector workers we have to be prepared to admit that public services as presently constituted are not perfect.

In the summer in which Jimmy Reid of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders occupation died, occupations should again be considered as a way of fighting cuts. The UCS occupation inspired other occupations across the country. As a young teacher I was involved in a small occupation when Fulham Baths (both a swimming pool and a public baths for those who at the time lacked bathrooms at home).  The baths were occupied by workers from the baths, trades unionists and members of the local community. As a local teacher and NUT member I joined the occupation and slept in a sleeping bag at the side of the swimming pool overnight and then went in to teach the next day. Now I cannot imagine how I coped with a full teaching load! The occupation was fully supported by local people, especially children as the photograph shows, and I used to take my class to swim in the pool during the occupation. We were determined to keep a resource used and valued by the community. We didn't save that particular building but we did help ensure a new pool was built nearby.

Children marching in defence of Fulham Baths and swimming in the occupied pool.
Some of the occupiers outside the baths including a young Paul Kenny (last on right), then a local GMB organiser, and now leader of the GMB

Another occupation around the same time in which I was involved was that of Hounslow Hospital. Although the times were different and strategies need to be updated there is a useful Handbook on Hospital Occupations available based on lessons from that campaign: HERE  We should consider occupations for community buildings that belong to us but which may be closed down (Kilburn College), moth-balled (Children's Centres if funding is not secured after 2011), or sold off (Brent Town Hall?).
Other methods could include working but not charging the public (tubes, buses etc) and showing the public in advance how the cuts will hit services by having an open day and showing them how cuts will hit. I did this sucessfully in one school where we 'implemented' the cuts and showed parents the resulting increases in class sizes, crowded class rooms and sharing of resources. The result was parents with much more idea of what cuts would mean and increased support for the campaign - plus good local newspaper coverage.

We will also need to consider how to campaign on cuts which are not jobs but welfare benefits including disability and housing, and cuts of funding for future projects like the Building Schools for the Future and Playbuilder programmes, and those affecting voluntary organisations. 

A complicating factor is the impact creeping privatisation. In contrast the to the 70s there are private companies waiting like vultures for public services to crumble so that they can leap in as 'providers' and make a tidy profit. As services provided by Brent Council to schools for example, are cut as staff are not replaced or are made redundant, they become less efficient. Schools will then be tempted to 'buy in' services from the private sector and deprive the council department of revenue, leading to a further downward spiral and perhaps leading to the department closing completely as it will be 'uneconomic'. The private sector will then be free to charge schools higher fees. This is likely to happen with services such as Brent's supply teacher pool. At present teachers employed by schools via the pool get a higher rate than private supply staff because the private companies rake of a fat agency fee. As headteachers are involved in recruiting teachers to the supply pool they have some control over the quality of staff - this is much reduced with private agencies.

But perhaps the greatest contrast with the 70s and 80s were at the time we still did have some shipbuilding, iron works and coal mining. With most of that dismantled by Thatcher and her followers and the subsequent reliance on the financial sector, with the dire results that we are now grappling with, we need to look at alternative economic models. An anti-cuts campaign needs to be proactive as well as reactive and we need to be questioning the whole basis of the Coalition's policy of drastic cuts and paying off the debt within 4 years. This is like a family deciding to pay off a 25 year mortgage in 4 years by turning off the heating, living on bread and water, and not sending the kids to school to save money on clothes!

Instead we need to be putting forward the need for investment in green jobs, education and training as part of the transformation of the economy and press for cuts where it really matters - Trident, defence, bankers' bonuses.

Civic Centre details available on-line

Details relating to conditions of the planning consent for the new Civic Centre are now available on line.  They are easily missed as listed under the old site names of Palace of Arts/Palace of Industry rather than 'Civic Centre'. LINK  The case to be decided no earlier than September 13th 2010.

Let us have a say on the future of Brent Town Hall

After reneging on their election promise to reconsider the Civic Centre project, the new Labour administration is now looking at the future of Brent Town Hall. At last month's Members' Question Time, Ann John, leader of the Brent Council, said that the Local Development Framework recognised that the Town Hall is a statutory listed building and that therefore the 'existing building would substantially remain'. However, there would be scope to extend the building and develop the land to the rear. John  expected staff to be decanted to the new Civic Centre during 2013 and the site made available for disposal.

Cllr John stated that capital receipts for the disposal had been built into budget for the cost of the Civic Centre and that this had been risk adjusted to taking the current economic climate into account.

Brent Greens have argued that the Town Hall should be retained for community use and Ann John said that the Council had agreed a range or combination of potential uses which would also include residential, small scale retail, a hotel and offices.  She said that a more detailed planning brief would be prepared prior to the marketing and disposal of the site.

As there was very little public consultation on the Civic Centre proposal we hope that there will be full public consultation on these proposals so that the people of Brent have a say on the future of their town hall.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

NHS Web Campaign Launched

38 Degrees has launched a web campaign to defend the NHS against cuts and privatisation. They say:

Money may be tight. But the government is still planning to find billions of pounds to fund new Trident nuclear submarines. These changes to the NHS are about ideology, not saving money. Some Tories have always wanted to trash the NHS.Last year, one MEP described the NHS as a "60-year-old mistake" and another MP said that the NHS "would not be out of place in Stalin's Russia".

But these hardliners have never managed to get their way, because the NHS is popular with voters.  People power has stopped them before, and it can stop them again.

We need to show that the NHS has the support of tens of thousands of people. Everyone has been touched in some way by the NHS. It's there at the start and end of most people's lives. Everyone who signs the pledge will be added to a map of the UK, so politicians can see for themselves how many thousands of people want to defend the health service from political attacks. Every MP will be able to see people in their own constituency who don't want the NHS to be destroyed. 

Add your name today - so politicians know how many of us are standing up for the NHS:

Friday 20 August 2010

Brent Greens on Brent's waste proposals

Brent Green Party has issued this initial response to Brent Council's proposals on waste management:

A genuinely sustainable approach to waste management would be to minimise the amount of waste by reducing packaging, encouraging the re-use of containers and increasing the amount of domestic composting. This could both reduce the number of collections and produce environmental benefits.
We welcome the strengthening of recycling through extending the scheme to flats but are very concerned that waste produced by businesses and commercial properties remains outside the scheme.We are pleased that cardboard is at last to be included in the 'dry' recycling box.
 We are aware that the organic collection will continue to be  weekly but are realistic in assuming that some organic matter will cling to material in recycling bins and that residual collection bins will still contain some organic material.  These will be left outside for a two weeks so it is essential that the council carry out a health and environmental assessment of the consequences of fortnightly collections.

Preston Manor to become all-through school?

Kate Ferguson of the Willesden and Brent Times was right and not in error as I had thought in this week's report on school places. The recent Primary Places report to the Council Executive does outline a two stage approach to Preston Manor High School expansion into primary provision.

The first proposal is a temporary classroom for two classes of Reception age (4+)  children on the secondary school site which would open in January 2011. The second is  permanent primary provision on the site from September 2011. This would eventually amount to 420 children as the school filled up over the years. The report says that further discussions need to take place with the governing body.  There would then be formal public consultation on the proposal. It will be interesting to see if the consultation will include residents' views on overall size of schools and the principle of all-though provision.

The school could exist as a separate primary school with a different name on the Preston Manor site or be the primary department of a new all-through 5-19 school.  The form of governance has not yet been decided. The school would be funded through Basic Need Safety Valve (BNSV) funding based on the expanding Brent population.

Such a proposal would mean two all through 5-19 schools within half a mile of each in Wembley (Preston Manor and ARK Academy) and primary classes at Chalkhill, Ark, Preston Manor, Park Lane, Wembley and Preston Park in the immediate area. There also remains the possibility of a primary school in Quintain's Wembley Stadium regeneration area. It is unclear from the Executive paper if this is where the need for primary places in Brent is greatest.

Declaration of interest: I am Chair of Governors at  Chalkhill Primary School which may be affected by the proposals

New Chalkhill Park 'Safe'

Shaun Faulkner, head of the Brent Parks Service has responded to my enquiries about the future of the new Chalkhill Park in the light of the government cuts and states: 'the removal of the Playbuilder grant will not affect the development of the new park in Chalkhill, and works are scheduled to comment this current financial year'.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Brent Campaign Against Cuts - Meeting August 25th 2010

 Gary Barker from Channel 4 competition

The extent of the cuts is clearly set out by the TUC in the post below. This is a message from Sarah Cox (Brent Trades Council) on a local meeting to organise against the cuts.

The first organising meeting of the Brent Campaign against the cuts launched from Brent Trades Council's July public meeting will be at 7.30 pm on Wednesday August 25th in Brent Trades Hall. This meeting is open to everyone who wants to organise against the cuts - Phil O'Reilly from Brent Unison told us that one in ten Council jobs will go, Brent Council is considering closing children's centres, moving to fortnightly rubbish collection, cutting school staff. Councillors and council officers will be spending another weekend at a country spa hotel to plan further cuts. The proposed cap on housing benefit will have devastating effects in the South of the borough where private rents are consistently higher than the cap. Families made homeless by these measures will have to be housed by the Council. The "Welfare to Work" disability assessments are harming people already. Please come to the meeting. The time to organise against the cuts is NOW.

The Trades Hall/Apollo Club is at 375 High Road, Willesden, NW10 2JR  (Dollis Hill tube - Jubilee line)

Coalition's 100 days: Poor and vulnerable hit by cuts, says TUC

Given the high number of unemployed people and the record number on the housing list Brent is going to be badly hit by the coalition cuts and benefit changes. The TUC has today set out the implications of decisions made in the Coalition's first 100 days:

Some of the UK's poorest families have been hit by more than 100 unfair spending cuts during the first 100 days of the new Government, a TUC analysis of departmental spending reveals today
The TUC research, published in advance of the 100 day anniversary of the coalition Government tomorrow (Thursday), shows that cuts which impact more on the poorest families in the UK have been made across the board in services including education, health, housing, welfare and social care.
Examples of cuts the TUC believes are unfair include:
  • Free school meals - The cancelled measure would have extended entitlement to free school meals to about 500,000 families in work on low pay from September this year. Cost £125m.
  • Every child a reader - This programme to provide early support to children with literacy difficulties (focussed on inner-city schools) will be cut by at least £5m and its future is not guaranteed.
  • City Challenge Fund - This programme aimed to provide extra support to under-performing children in the most deprived areas, but has been cut by £8m this year.
  • Building Schools for the Future - This scrapped programme was the biggest-ever school buildings investment plan. The aim was to rebuild or renew nearly every secondary school in England. Cost £7.5bn.
  • Housing benefit - Nearly a million (936,960) households will lose around £624 a year as a result of changes to housing benefit. Londoners will be worst hit.
  • Homes and Communities Agency - Cuts to programmes including Kickstart (for restarting stalled house building programmes), affordable housing, gypsy and traveller support and Housing Market Renewal (improvements to housing in deprived areas). Cost £450m.
  • Young Person's Guarantee - £450m has been cut from the Guarantee, which will be abolished in April 2011. This Guarantee promised unemployed young people access to a job, training or work after six months of unemployment.
  • Working Neighbourhood Fund - This fund, which aimed to help unemployed people in deprived areas to move into work, has been cut by £49.9m.
  • Domestic Violence Protection Orders - Scheme to create two-week banning orders so that victims of domestic abuse can look for protection in the safety of their own house.
The TUC is calling on the Government to reconsider its plan of swingeing spending cuts to public services, and focus instead on other ways to reduce the deficit, such as a Robin Hood Tax on financial transactions that could raise up to £20bn a year.

The TUC is also a member of a coalition, which includes Barnardo's, Oxfam and Save the Children, who want the Government to guarantee that any future budget cuts will be put through rigorous fairness testing - or a Fairness Test - by the Treasury, to ensure that vulnerable people, low-paid workers, women and children are not left to bear the brunt of spending cuts.

Monday 16 August 2010

It's YOUR Wembley - Have your YOUR say

Trees on the famous  processional Olympic Way may be removed

By the time I visited on the afternoon of the last day only 120-150 people had visited last month's exhibition about the next phase of the Wembley Regeneration. This is a very small number when you think that this is the most important regeneration project taking place in Wembley and one of the biggest and most expensive in whole of London. However it was enough for Quintain, the developers, to conclude that 'a good number of people visited the exhibition over the course of six days and that the overwhelming majority of people welcomed the plans'. They will be submitting a planning application to Brent Council later this summer.

Quintain have recovered from a shaky period in  2008 when they reduced their Wembley project staff from 28 to 13. They recently agreed the sale of Pier Walk, the Transport for London building on the Greenwich Peninsula for £97m.

The exhibition was full of the pastel/line drawing artist's impressions we have seen before and it was hard to really envisage what is intended.  However I did dig out a few facts:
  • Section 106 (funds from the developer to Brent Council ) trigger points in the development have not yet been reached despite the fact that Wembley City is up and running
  • £9m towards schools in Wembley is listed as a future commitment - with a school places shortage we need the money now . £3.5m for road and junction improvements, £2.5m for education and training and nearly £2m for improved bus services are also some time in the 'future'
  • The mature trees along Olympic Way on the Curry's Superstore side will have to be removed as the new buildings will abut the roadway. Quintain said said they would be replaced by trees of similar size in Arena Square.
  • There are plans to run buses along the currently mainly pedestrian Olympic Way for the first time
  • Despite earlier emphasis on a relatively traffic free development there are plans for 800 parking spaces in a multi-storey car park for the new shopping street and another 500 for the new homes
  • The much heralded 'London Designer Outlet' will, according to staff at the exhibition, specialise in end of range and end of season bargains - not quite the high quality shopping experience first mooted
  • Quintain did not take into account, and appeared to know little about, the proposed North West London Light Railway  which suggest a link to Wembley Stadium
To be fair there are plans for affordable new homes and  they will be built to Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4. Completed commercial properties will be built to BREEAM Excellent standard and Combined Heat and Power is 'planned in linked clusters with the ability to link into a district wide energy centre in the future'. Policy on renewables even vaguer, 'Solar panels or other renewables could be included on some buildings and green and brown roofs will encourage diversity'. Quintain argue that local people will use Wembley shops in the new development and this will reduce car use as presently drive outside the area to shop. They claim that their designs will favour pedestrians over cars.

Throughout Quintain and Brent Council have argued that the redevelopment will bring benefits to local people and that the stadium area will become a local resources as well as something for visitors. The low numbers attending the exhibition doesn't suggest crowds of Brent citizens are leaping around with enthusiasm. So let's ask, "What's in it for Brent?'

Quintain would argue:
  • 2,500 new jobs in the new hotels, shops and restaurants and 400 during construction
  • Up to(my emphasis) 1,300 new private and affordable homes with a range of 1,2 and 3 bedroom apartments (we will need details of the proportion that will be 'affordable')
  • A new Civic Centre (Brent Greens remain sceptical of its benefits)
  • A new local open space around the Civic Centre 'green, accessible for all, and planted with trees..'
  • A new shopping street with around 30 new shops with a large 'anchor' store
  • A range of new cafes, coffee shops and restaurants
  • Affordable work spaces, including some suitable for the creative industries
  • Nine Screen cinema to be opened by September 2013
  • A new community pool and leisure facility on the site of Dexion House
Quintain's planning  application to Brent Council will be an 'Outline' application which will establish uses, layouts, heights and access principles, with 'Reserved Matters' applications to follow with the detailed designs before construction begins. There will be consultation on this and it is important that residents respond.  Too often the public respond on general principles at the detail stage, only to be told 'that has already been dealt within the 'Outline' application'.

Quintain will be circulating 60,000 homes and businesses with a Newsletter about the scheme.You can see an on-line version of the exhibition and booklet HERE and you can e-mail your view to or ring Quintain's Wembley team on 020 7478 9277

Brent may be losing its BRAIN but the community can still have one!

Brent Brain, to be closed down in September, is still advertised
above the O2 shop at the junction of Park Lane and Wembley High Road

The library service is still looking for expressions of interest from community organisations interested in training that will enable participants to set up the their own community websites when Brent Brain is closed down.

If you think that it is important that the community should continue to have a forum for information, mutual help, volunteering and discussion of local issues then register your interest by using this LINK for training sessions.

Vulnerable road users to be safeguarded in traffic signal removals

Brent Council have said that they will only undertake any traffic signal removals in the borough suggested by Transport for London if  "it can be undertaken in a safe, practical and cost effective manner without undue negative impact on more vulnerable road users or more sustainable modes of transport." The Transportation Unit were responding to my enquiry following the publication of a list of traffic signals that Boris Johnson wanted to see considered for removal. DETAILS HERE

The council said: 

Brent have only recently been informed by TfL of its proposals to look at reducing delays caused by inefficient or unnecessary traffic signals, at which time we were made aware of a list of potential traffic signal removal site including the Neasden Lane/Quainton St/Braemar Avenue junction. We will shortly be holding our first meeting with TfL to discuss the details of the project after which we will hopefully be in a better position to understand how it will be taken forward. 

I am therefore currently unable to provide you any specific information regarding the Neasden Lane/Quainton St/Braemar Avenue junction. I can however say that Brent shares TfL’s desire to reduce congestion on our network, but only where it can be undertaken in a safe, practical and cost effective manner without undue negative impact on more vulnerable road users or more sustainable modes of transport.
We will need to be vigilant to ensure that the council's criteria for removal are rigorously applied.

Saturday 14 August 2010

Tory Councillor: Armed police raiding my house behaved 'superbly'

Early yesterday morning armed police raided Cllr Reg Colwill's home in Kenton as part of four drugs raids according the the Harrow Times.  Two men staying at the house were arrested by the Herfordshire police who siezd a quantity of cash from the house.

Cllr Colwill said the two men were staying at his house and were not family members. He said the raid was nothing to do with him or his family. He commented that the police were absolutely superb and did very little damaage.

Friday 13 August 2010

"Conservative-Lib Dem cuts will hit the poorer people in society”, says Lucas

Caroline Lucas, the leader of the Green Party and MP for Brighton Pavilion, has warned that the coalition government's cuts to housing benefit could result in increasing social problems with serious debt and homelessness. Crisis estimates that Brent is one of the most seriously impacted areas in the country with 9,650 households affected.

The report also warns that cuts to housing benefit could have hidden costs in the future, in order to deal with the social problems of homelessness, including health problems and providing accommodation.

Housing benefit cut is equivalent to big increase in income tax for poorer people

Caroline Lucas MP said:

“Consider someone earning £16,000 (after tax-free allowance) and receiving housing benefit. If they lose £728 that would be the equivalent of paying an income tax rise of over 4.5 per cent.

“These particular Tory-Lib Dem cuts will leave more people struggling to pay the rent, more people falling into serious debt and ultimately more people becoming homeless.

“This is very unfair, coming at a time when many of these people are facing economic uncertainty or even redundancy.

“Once again we see the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition’s cuts hitting the poorer people in society. The government could avoid these cuts by properly tackling tax avoidance and tax evasion perpetrated by some of the wealthiest, which could raise billions of pounds a year.”

Teather must stand up for Brent children

Brent children were involved in the Playbuilder consultation on playground improvements

Coalition cuts have again hit Brent children with Michael Gove's announcement of a stop on Playbuilder schemes for new and improved playgrounds. Sarah Teather, MP for Brent Central, will be under renewed pressure as Gove's cuts have already stopped building improvements in four Brent secondary schools, although articulating the Coalition's bias towards academies, he has announced that the Crest Academies building works will go ahead. Teather as 'Children's Minister' is having to defend the indefensible.

I declare an interest here.  I am passionately committed to enhancing children's opportunities for play.  Only one third of 7-14 year olds now play outside compared with 90% of their parents in their own childhoods. In our local election manifesto Brent Greens pledged a 'good local school and safe play facilities a for every child'. Play is vitally important for children's psychological, emotional, social and physical development.  I am a trustee of the Brent Play Association, a member of Play England, a governor of a primary school and run Brent School Without Walls which provides activities for children in Fryent Country Park.  I was one of the facilitators for the children's consultation which took children around Brent's play areas to put together ideas for the implementation of the government's Playbuilder scheme.  The enthusiasm of the children and the range of their ideas was absolutely amazing and inspiring.

All that is now threatened with the Department for Education's bland statement: "The coalition inherited unrealistic spending commitments for 2010-11. Play is important - but investment has to be affordable."

The council's Park Strategy makes it clear that the priority is to provide play facilities in areas where there are deficiences but one of the first areas to be hit is Harlesden and the Bramshill Road site. Two weeks ago I attended another consultation, this time at the Chalkhill Community Centre, where local residents put forward their ideas on play equipment for the new Chalkhill Park which is due toe be built on the old Chalkhill Health Centre site. Local people have already lost the Wembley Park  playing fields now occupied by the ARK Academy, will these cuts mean that they will lose their promised new park?

Tuesday 10 August 2010

195 reception pupils without a school for September?

Recently Sarah Teather visited 10 Downing Street with a group of pupils from Braintcroft Primary School to urge the government to do more to ensure every child in the world received an education. Back in Brent the council is wrestling with the problem of rising pupil rolls which at present mean that 193 4 and 5 year olds need a reception school place in September with only 21 vacancies - so 172 Brent children may not be receiving education The council attribute the rise in demand to an increasing birthrate, new housing, inward migration, parental choice and rising standards and achievements in primary schools.

Some schools such as Robert Southwell and Park Lane are due to expand and others will have temporary 'bulge classes' which may not be able to move forward through the school.  The chart below sets out clearly the problem the council is facing. FULL REPORT HERE

Plans for the Quintain regeneration area around Wembley Stadium at one stage included a new primary school and further housing is due to be built there. No Section 106 agreements have yet been triggered by building milestones although Wembley City is now occupied. A new primary school there seems to be something worth urgent consideration.

Brent to introduce high emissions-high charges parking policy

Tomorrow's Brent Executive is due to discuss a proposed emission-based charging regime for parking permits in Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs).  Currently there is no charge for vehicles below 1200cc registered before 2001 and no charge for vehicles in DVLA bands A,B and C registered after 2001. All other vehicles are £50 for the first permit, £75 for the second and £100 for the third. Visitors' permits are £100 each. The proposal is seen as a way of combating climate change and raising revenue.  In addition to the new charges it is suggested that residents could be awarded a 'permit surrender prize' and car club users could have a free permit allowing them to park in any CPZ in the borough.

The proposed new charges are set out below:

Currently 25% of Brent is covered by CPZs and the estimate of vehicles in each band based on renewals and new permits in July 2010 are (Above Brent Bands):
1-6%, 2-6%,  3-21%, 4-31%, 5-22%, 6-11%, 7-3%

After consultation the charges would be introduced from April 1st 2011 or as near to that date as possible.


Monday 9 August 2010

Brent envisages fortnightly waste collections

 What will be the impact on fly-tipping?
A Briefing Note for Brent Council's August 11th Forward Plan Select Committee suggests substantial changes in the Council's Waste Strategy.  The aim is to save £500,000 annually and increase recycling rates to 50% by 2020, reduce reliance on landfill and reduce the carbon footprint of waste collection services. It will mean that most households will now have three bins. The 'savings' will presumably include job losses as a result of the move to fortnightly collections.

They propose for low rise properties:
  • Alternate weekly collections using existing wheeled bins with a 'no side waste' policy( Nothing left next to the bin will be collected.  The health and safety implications of fortnightly collections will have to be examined)
  • A new bin to collect mixed dry recyclable materials to include cardboard on alternate weeks
  • Green bins for organic waste to be retained for 60,000 properties and extension of the weekly scheme to cover the remaining 28,000 properties. New properties to receive food waste collection only (What will happen to their garden waste?).  Cardboard will no longer be collected from green bins as it will be included in the new dry recycling bin All 88,000 households to receive a kitchen caddy.

For high rise properties:
  • Extension of the scheme to cover all flatted properties (something Brent Green Party has been pressing for)
  • Delivery of some estate  refuse directly to a MRF (material recycling facility) for sorting and subsequent recycling
  • Organic waste to be collected from suitable properties only (what will be the criteria?)
The compulsory recycling policy will be retained and there will be targeted work to remove trade waste from the household stream and to minimise contamination of kerbside containers. (Contamination means that the contents cannot then be recycled).

If the paper is approved there will be public consultation from August until October 2010. Interestingly one of the channels  listed for consultation  is BRAIN which the council has decided to close down in September.


Saturday 7 August 2010

Brent Open Spaces Win Green Flag Award

 An appreciation of Fryent Country Park

Fryent Country Park and the Welsh Harp Open Space have both won Green Flag Awards for 2010/11 and join several other Brent parks in the category. Earlier this year the Welsh Harp Open Space was threatened by housing development which was seen off by a spirited cross-party, community-based campaign.

Fryent Country Park is a surviving remnant of Middlesex countryside and contains the remains of Repton's Wembley Park landscape work.  It is a Nature Reserve and its hay meadows have organic farm accreditation. Horses are still stabled on the site of Bush Farm.

Brent Parks Service and the volunteers of the Barn Hill Conservation Group deserve recognition for the great work that they do in the park and congratulations on gaining the award. I hope the award will help Brent people realise what wonderful open spaces they have and encourage them to use and preserve them.

Friday 6 August 2010


The decision to end the detention of children in immigration centres, more than 1,000 in the last year of the Labour government,  was one of the few made by the Coalition government that I welcomed. The detention of children and the physical and psychological damage done to them was a national scandal.

However the Guardian reports today that the UK Border Agency is launching a scheme to deport families within a two week period, preventing them from having enough time to organise the move, seek legal advice, settle their affairs and prepare their children for the move. The UKBA document leaked to the Socialist Worker expresses fears that ending detention could result in more community campaigns against deportation supported by the media and MPs.

In a previous post  last year I put forward the view that the authorities preferred to detain children because if they attended school there was a possibility of campaigns in their support:

I believe that one of the reasons that detention is favoured by this Government, and previous ones, is that schools as institutions have become highly effective at mounting campaigns against the deportation of pupils as well as supporting their needs. Schools are legally required to support racial equality and often have policies committed to social justice. Refugee and asylum seeker's children establish friendships in the school and their families begin to make links with the local community. These friendships and connections challenge negative stereotypes as refugees and asylum seekers become real people, with names, characters, emotions and histories and earn the respect of the host community.

The Guardian confirms this view:

'Nicola Rea (the author of the document and head of service, asylum, refugee and immigration services),  also raises concerns that children will continue to attend school once a family has been warned of removal, which could cause problems with other children and teachers campaigning to stop the deportation'

Too right!

Wednesday 4 August 2010

Coalition of Resistance to challenge the Coalition of Cuts

Caroline Lucas, the first Green MP has joined Tony Benn and many others to call for  resistance to Con-Lib Dem Coalition cuts. Full list and statement HERE  After outlining how the cuts will hit women and the poor the most, and calling for the withdrawal of troops from.Afghanistan, the cancellation of Trident replacement, taxes on the rich and the democratic control of banks, they go on to state:

An alternative strategy could use these resources to: support welfare; develop homes, schools, and hospitals; and foster a green approach to public spending – investing in renewable energy and public transport, thereby creating a million jobs.

We commit ourselves to:
• Oppose cuts and privatisation in our workplaces, community and welfare services.
• Fight rising unemployment and support organisations of unemployed people.
• Develop and support an alternative programme for economic and social recovery.
• Oppose all proposals to "solve" the crisis through racism and other forms of scapegoating.
• Liaise closely with similar opposition movements in other countries.
• Organise information, meetings, conferences, marches and demonstrations.
• Support the development of a national co-ordinating coalition of resistance.

They urge those who support this statement to attend the Organising Conference on 27 November 2010 (10am-5pm), at Camden Centre, Town Hall, London, WC1H 9JE.

Brent loses its BRAIN

Brent Council has pulled the plug on the community website BRAIN Brent Brain has been a site where voluntary organisations are able to publicise their activities and ask for help from volunteers, helping to provide the glue that holds our community together. Importantly they have managed their information page themselves rather than have it filtered through a third party. In addition forums have provided an arena for open discussion that have helped inform the work of councillors and hold them to account.

Brent Council has won awards for its internet work so it is a shame to see this lively semi-autonomous community website ended. The Council says that it will absorb some of the content into its official website but this misses the crucial matter of participant independence. This is the official Council Press Release - judge for yourselves whether it explains WHY the site has been closed. If anyone can translate the last paragraph into everyday English I would be obliged (and please let me know if you experienced any 'external stakeholder engagement' - I certainly didn't!):

Following a complete review undertaken of the council’s main website and BRAIN site over the last few months, Brent Council has taken the decision to merge the two sites transferring all relevant content from BRAIN to the council’s main website.

The aim is that the transfer will be complete by Friday 24 September 2010 and the BRAIN site will no longer operate from this date.

The review involved an internal and external stakeholder engagement process being conducted, with the consensus and overall aim to now provide a more co-ordinated website that operates more efficiently, better meets the needs of the council, and provides an improved online service for all local people.

Brent Libraries are looking at the possibility of  training people to set up their own community website via Talk Local Meanwhile as a precautionary measure, in case people want to continue Brain's work, I have registered New Brent Brain with two blog providers. Please get in touch if you are interested in following this up.

Resist this dangerous ploy - people before cars!

Away from the publicity about his bicycle scheme, Boris Johnson has been pursuing his agenda of prioritising the motor car.  Not content with reversing attempts to restrict pollution by heavy trucks and cars, he has now published a lost of 145 crossings that he feels should be considered for removal.  Some of these are owned by local councils and some by Transport for London. In addition he is seeking to introduce a quicker crossing period at some sites and a countdown feature that would indicate seconds left to cross - presumably to make the pedestrians run for the last few feet. The message is clear: pedestrians are to be put firmly in their place and only allowed to delay motorists for a minimum amount of time. Living Streets has a petition against the introduction of countdown crossings in London.

Of course this will impact, as the image illustrates, on the very young, the elderly and those with disabilities. Think of the parent pushing a buggy, perhaps accompanied by a couple of under 5s trying to cross the road as the countdown increases in urgency.  As a former teacher, I know the difficulties and dangers of crossing London roads with a crocodile of children - especially when the group is split by rapid light changes.

If you add to this the decision by some local councils, with the loss of government subsidy, to do away with speed cameras, we are facing the prospect, after years of decline of an increase in the number of pedestrians killed and injured on the road.

Earlier this week Brent Green Party demonstrated at the Quainton Street. Braemar Avenue crossing on Neasden Lane  pointing out the dangers. MORE HERE  Pupils from two schools, Wykeham and St Margaret Clitherow, use these crossings which are close to bus stops.

Transport for London is consulting with local councils about the removal of crossing.  I hope Brent Council, whose crossings have often been funded by Transport for London itself as a safety measure, will resist any removals.

The Brent crossings on the list for possible removal are:

Willesden Lane - The Avenue - Cavendish Road
Brondesbury Park / Sidmouth Road
Brondesbury Park / The Avenue
Fleet water Business Centre (formerly Brentwater Estate)
Brondesbury Park by Christchurch Avenue
Coles Green Road / Crest Road / Oxgate Lane
Neasden Lane/Quainton Street/Braemar Avenue