Sunday 26 September 2010

Gardiner's Manifesto for Shadow Cabinet Post

Now that Ed Miliband  has been elected leader the shadow cabinet election campaign will start in earnest. Barry Gardiner's hat was in the ring early on and he has already published his manifesto on the website Left Foot Forward LINK. He has been working assiduously in the House of Commons on environmental issues and he sets out his vision in a posting entitled 'Sustainable living: A radical manifesto for 2015' with his eye clearly on the shadow version of Ed's old job,

He argues that we have no right to diminish our children's right to fare as well as we have:

The Labour Party must rise to this challenge from generations yet to come, so that the environment we hold in trust will be transmitted to them cleaner, healthier and more resilient. The environment is not just another discreet policy issue like housing or transport. It is the context in which all our other policies are carried out.

The roads we build and the buildings we construct, the power we generate and the industries they power, all are influenced by and have an influence on our environment. For this reason a radical manifesto for 2015 must integrate environmental considerations and policies into every aspect of government decision-making...

The tension between these two imperatives – to reduce emissions whilst meeting rising demand for economic growth — presents us with one fundamental challenge: to increase carbon productivity. The amount of wealth generated per tonne of CO2 equivalent emitted has to rise.
To maintain the current average global economic growth rate of 3.1 per cent per annum and to reduce emissions to around ten gigatonnes per year, carbon productivity must increase in real terms by a factor of fifteen by 2050.
‘Sustainable living’ sets out bold and radical policies to achieve:
• The successful integration of the value of Natural Capital into UK government accounts;
• Climate change mitigation strategies to achieve UK emissions reductions of 65 per cent by 2030 and at least 90 per cent by 2050;
• Climate change adaptation strategies to protect biodiversity and enhance habitats;
• A marine recovery strategy;
• Proposals to enhance carbon sinks.
‘Sustainable living’ requires a commitment to internationalism, equality, fairness and justice. These are the values upon which the Labour Party was founded.
 Apparently Gardiner has won respect from some Labour MPs for his campaigning on the environment and it will be interesting to see whether he can bounce back from the setbacks he suffered latterly under Blair and after he called for Brown's resignation.

New Director of Children and Families

Usually reliable sources tell me that Dr Krutika Pau has been appointed as the new Director of Brent Children and Families following the retirement of John Christie.   Krutika has worked for Brent (with a break) for a long time and until this appointment was Assistant Director for Strategy and Partnerships. As Krutika Tanna, she was principal research officer for the Brent Race Unit   She is known as an excellent administrator and organiser.  It will be interesting to see whether she now delivers on vision.

Blogging on June 8th 2010 I set out my views on what I felt was required:

Although policy is in theory made by councillors, the Director of Children and Families... is extremely powerful and his or her educational philosophy and perspective on current educational issues vitally important. Will the  Labour Council appoint someone with the ability to stand up for children and schools, with an independent mind and the strength to resist government pressure; or will they appoint someone who will manage 'efficiency savings' and implement poorly thought out 'innovations' and in the process oversee the deterioration of Brent's education system?

An issue that has concerned some in education in Brent is that the post was filled internally, in effect ring-fenced, because of the 'savings' restructuring going on in Brent. This meant that there was a very narrow field with only a handful of people eligible to apply. In contrast when headteacher and deputy headteacher posts in schools are vacant they are always, as a matter of policy, advertised nationally to ensure the widest and best quality field of candidates.  This is because the children of Brent need and deserve the best possible headteacher and the field should not be limited for other less worthy reasons.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Teather's Tory Troubles

Sarah Teather's troubles worsened on Monday when the Lib Dem Conference passed a motion opposing Tory plans for 'free schools' and critical of academies. She is now on a collision course not only with her past political convictions but with the current convictions of the rank and file of her party.

Still enraptured by Michael Gove she expressed 'secret pride' that the party's conference could still make trouble even when in government, but speaking against the motion claimed that the party could have more impact in government than in opposition. Conference voted against her indicating a lack of confidence in their own Education minister.

Peter Downes, a retired headteacher and Lib Dem councillor, made a cogent case in the Guardian yesterday against the 'five fallacies' underlying Gove's 'vision'.  Having gone through the fallacies he says, "We should go back to the places where decisions are being made - and explain to heads, governors, parents, teachers and councillors that academies and free schools are likely to be divisive, costly and unfair.'

If the Lib Dems have  no confidence in Teather's support for Tory policies, why should we?

Saturday 18 September 2010

SEN support should be based on need not budget restrictions

OFSTED’s attack on children with SEN rights is deeply unhelpful says leading campaigning organisation, Alliance for Inclusive Education. 

OFSTED recommended that fewer children should be identified with special educational needs and therefore no longer be entitled to SEN support based on their needs.   

“Many parents have to battle for LEAs and Schools to recognise their child have special educational needs and that additional support is required to enable that child to flourish in school.   Any suggestion that SEN support should only be provided if it’s reasonable to do so will be disastrous for children with SEN.    We fear SEN provision will increasingly be considered as unreasonable to arrange by schools and LEAs at a time of big cuts in education budgets.   It really is unacceptable for ‘politically driven’ decisions to determine if and what SEN provision is reasonable for children.   This will result in families having to fight harder for a well-supported mainstream school placement for their children. ” says Simone Aspis of the Alliance for Inclusive Education.

As OFSTED have pointed out the quality of SEN provision is vital if children with SEN have the best educational outcomes for themselves.   Quality of provision is likely to be adversely affected when the savage cuts to education budgets are implemented.  

“It is crucial that the support children with SEN get in school remains based on need rather the budget,” says Simone Aspis

Alliance for Education would like to see a simplified legal framework so that all disabled children including those with SEN will have their needs and provision identified in a mainstream school.      

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Fight for Freedom (Pass)

London members of Britain’s biggest pensioner organisation, the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) have accused local politicians of trying to alter the terms of the Freedom Pass without proper consultation.

The capital’s pensioners have issued a damning criticism of London Councils latest attempt to weaken the scope and management of the Freedom Pass; pledging to mount a campaign to oppose the changes.
On August 20, London Councils issued a consultation paper aimed at changing the Freedom Pass, but the deadline for views on the proposals is October 22 – at least a week before councillors in Bromley, Greenwich, Hammersmith and Fulham, Bexley, Westminster, Harrow and Hillingdon are expected to discuss the proposals.

Those behind the changes claim it will make minor amendments to the Greater London Authority Act 1999 in relation to the concessionary fares scheme for older and disabled Londoners – but there is serious concern that these changes will allow the 32 London Boroughs and the City of London flexibility to make unspecified changes to the concessions without consultation.

Campaigners are concerned that:
·        The “reserve powers” currently held by the Mayor of London to settle any dispute about the scheme’s future cost with Transport for London (TfL), would be handed to an “independent” arbitrator – who would not be accountable to Londoners. 
·        Certain overground train services could be removed from the current concession; seriously weakening the Freedom Pass and future services.
·        The plans would allow any single council to invoke the arbitrator - not a majority of London Councils - creating a recipe for outside political intervention every year and the constant danger of cuts in services.

Barry Todman, chairman of the NPC Greater London region said: “The Freedom Pass is enjoyed by 1.2m older Londoners and disabled people – and provides a lifeline for many who otherwise would be isolated and lose their independence. Very few local councillors seem to know about the changes – and the whole thing is being done without proper consultation of local people. It’s clearly an attempt to weaken the Freedom Pass by the back door.”

The NPC is calling on its members to lobby their local authorities and urge them to oppose the plans.

Sunday 12 September 2010

Greens oppose Royal Mail privatisation

Ref Number: 04-27-18 Photographer: Ian Britton

Green Party autumn conference has passed an emergency motion today, stating the party's opposition to the proposed privatisation of Royal Mail by Business Secretary Vince Cable.

Adrian Ramsay, the party's newly re-elected Deputy Leader, said the Greens were opposed to the privatisation of such an essential public service. He stressed "the fundamental importance of a strong, modern, publicly owned Royal Mail, which is available to all." Ramsay highlighted that although many people today prefer to use alternative forms of communication, the postal service remains of vital importance to small businesses and rural communities.

During a panel at autumn conference yesterday, Billy Hayes, General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union, also emphasised the opposition of both communication workers and the public to the privatisation of Royal Mail.

Whither Barry Gardiner?

Spot the knife

The Guardian reported on Saturday that Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North, is one of several ex-ministers likely to put themselves forward for the forthcoming shadow cabinet elections.

Gardiner's ministerial career started at the Home Office and he went on the Northern Ireland, Trade and Industry and eventually DEFRA. It appeared to be a career in decline and this was confirmed by his appointment as a 'Special Envoy on Forestry' when Gordon Brown replaced Tony Blair.

Gardiner, who had always been super loyal to the Blair government, rebelled for the first time when he criticised Brown and called for his resignation LINK . The Anti-Brown faction were quickly swept into oblivion when the banking crisis sent shockwaves across the world and Brown took on the role of saving it. Gardiner left his forestry post 'by mutual consent'.

In the General Election, rather than openly oppose Brown, Gardiner ran a campaign that didn't mention Brown and  references to the Labour Party in his literature were about as prominent as the 'Printed and published by' tag. He adopted green and lilac colours rather than the usual Labour Party red and his rosettes had his smiling portrait in the centre.His  quasi-independent campaign which centred on his public profile, personality and family rather than policy, was very successful and he won the seat with an increased majority. His difficulties with expenses when he faced a constituency meeting to explain himself, pursued by a Lib Dem lunch mob and Lone Ranger Atiq Malik, appeared to have caused him little damage.

During his time as a backbencher in the last months of Brown's premiership, and again now facing the Con-Dem government, Gardiner has been active in asking parliamentary questions and contributing to debates. Helped by his TV coverage friendly seating position just behind the front benches he has established quite a high profile.

Whether this will help him in the shadow cabinet elections remains to be seen. His ultra-loyalty  to Blair means that he is contaminated by his pro-Iraq War stance and his support for Labour's assault on civil liberties. With the Labour leadership contenders distancing themselves from the Blair government and New Labour his best bet is a leadership win by David Miliband. A win by Ed Miliband would mean that even if he won a place in the shadow cabinet it would be likely to be a junior position with an early exit date. Ed Balls, a close ally of Brown, would be even less likely to give Gardiner the time of day.

SIOE One Year On

Reading about the rising tide of Islamophobia in the US over the building of a Muslim Cultural Centre in New York caused me to reflect on the demise of the SIOE (Stop the Islamisation of Europe) in the UK. Little has been heard of them since the mass mobilisation against them at the Harrow Mosque on September 11th last year LINK and their failure to muster more than15, rather than the promised 1,500, at their subsequent demonstration in December 2009 LINK. It appear that their humiliation seriously weakened the organisation.

They are now seeking to build support on the coat-tails of the American protests and had planned demonstrations yesterday in support of the SIOA in Denmark, Norway, Germany, Bulgaria and Australia. A possible protest outside the US Embassy here in London  was given little prominence. It would be interesting to know how many turned out.

Meanwhile Harrow Mosque is thriving and pursuing the aim outlined on their website:

Our vision is to become a dynamic hub that seeks to meet the needs of diverse local Muslim communities and builds bridges with wider society. We are committed to a peaceful and prosperous Harrow where communities learn from each other and work together for the common good.   We will continue to host open days at the mosque showcasing our work, along with inter-faith events with other communities.    

Along with colleagues from the Brent Palestine Solidarity Campaign BLOG LINK I recently received a warm welcome at the mosque when leafleting for a boycott of dates grown in territories illegally occupied by Israel and our presence was announced to the worshippers. We have had similar experiences at other local mosques including Wembley Central, Brent Central and Monks Park.

Eid Mubarak to all

Greens will fight NHS privatisation

An emergency motion, passed unanimously at Green Party autumn conference, has strongly criticised the privatisation of the NHS.
The motion called for a campaign to have those health providers which have already been privatised brought back into the NHS, and for the NHS to be promoted as a public service free of commercial interests.
Caroline Lucas, Green Party leader said: "The White Paper spells out just how far the Tories and Liberals will go with their destruction of our essential services. They are planning on full privatisation of NHS service across England, a move utterly opposed by us. They have hidden their idea as Foundation Trusts and Social Enterprise, but as residents in Huntingdon have found with their local hospital this is just a short step from takeover by corporate giants."
"Health care is not a market and shouldn't be run as one. Buying and selling packets of treatment like widgets in a factory is the wrong way to provide health care. It is expensive, fragmented and destroys quality. Health care is a service, an essential one, and should be run as such. Health care does not lend itself to the business models of Tesco or Asda."
"The new government's ideas are a death knell for the NHS and we will fight these changes. The NHS is a public service and should be publicly owned and run as such. "

Friday 10 September 2010

Caroline Lucas: Why we need the Green Party

 An activist leader

In her first Green Party conference speech as an MP, Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, told her audience in Birmingham that: "I doubt that any of us expected the realignment of British politics that has come in the aftermath of May's election. But its implications are becoming ever more clear. And one of these is that, on a whole range of issues, there is no effective opposition to the coalition and its plans. And that makes the role of the Green Party more important than ever."

Lucas went on to outline why, on nuclear power, the Trident nuclear deterrent, and education, the Green Party is providing the real opposition to the coalition government:

"Labour championed the Academies programme, despite all our warnings about the risk of creating a two-tier education system. Now - surprise, surprise - the Coalition has dropped any requirement that Academies should gain from outside sponsorship, or should help those communities most in need. Any pretence of a higher social purpose is out. Michael Gove's plans are simply about an ideological opposition to state education and a chance to allow private companies to make a profit from our schools. And Labour, having opened the door to this in the first place, cannot mount an effective, principled opposition, despite their heroic efforts to try to rewrite history. And that's why we need the Green Party."

"We are gaining members from the Liberal Democrats too. Perhaps their anguish and sense of betrayal is all the more sharp, for being so unexpected. Could they really have imagined during the election campaign, when Nick Clegg could hardly open his mouth without saying the word "fairness", that they would be voting for a party that would become an apologist for the most brutal, savage cuts in a generation?

"Cuts which are decimating communities up and down the country.

"Cuts that affect people like the woman who came to my surgery a few weeks ago, desperate to be re-housed because she, her partner and child were all living in a single room in Brighton, and she was expecting another child very soon.

"That's why the Green Party is committed to fighting these cuts every step of the way.

"I don't criticise Nick Clegg and those around him for agreeing to work with the Conservatives. But I do criticise him for the terms of that deal. With our principles and our courage to be honest with the public about the greatest issues of our time, such as climate change, we are the natural home for Liberal Democrats who feel betrayed by their leaders.

"And so to those Liberal Democrats, I say, join us. Many of your former colleagues are already here."

'Savings' will have devastating impact on jobs and services

Brent Fightback: Guest posting by Phil O’Reilly, Branch Secretary Brent UNISON

In May 2009 Brent Council appointed management consultants PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PWC) to undertake a review of the Council’s structure and staffing arrangements.  The aim was to identify significant ‘efficiency savings’ as part of a wider Improvement and Efficiency Strategy.  I asked how much PWC were being paid (management consultants often get paid £1,000 a day) to carry out this review and to date, have not received an answer.

In September 2009 the Council launched its Improvement and Efficiency Action Plan 2010 – 2014.  This plan clearly stated ‘In the light of these financial and political factors, forecasts for the likely scale of the efficiency savings the Council will be required to deliver are a minimum of £53.7 million by the end of the financial year 2013/2014’.  It was also stated that the staffing complement in Brent was to be reduced by ten per cent over four years which is the equivalent of approximately 300 full time posts.  Since then of course we have had a change of government and I have heard it said that the ‘savings’ now required are likely to be £85/£90 million.  Make no mistake this is having and will continue to have a significant and devastating impact on jobs and services.  It has been stated that frontline services will be protected.  However, this is dividing ‘front’ and ‘back’ office workers who need each other to deliver efficient and effective local services.  Also, it is not possible to protect frontline services whilst delivering ‘savings’ of £85/£90 million.  Let us be clear – they are cuts and not savings.

However, the cuts that have been imposed so far are ‘different’ to the ones that Brent, historically, have made in previous years.  We are not seeing (yet) closures of nurseries, old people’s homes, etc.  These type of cuts and closures gain public support and sympathy and galvanise people into action.  What we are seeing are job losses and post deletions in the following areas :  Health, Safety and Licensing, Environmental Health, Cemeteries and Mortuary, Transportation, Youth Service, Crisis Intervention and Support Service, Social Workers, Administrative Workers, Planning, Building Control, Parks, Streetcare, Libraries – these are just some of the cuts that have been imposed so far.

Clearly, the coalition government is out to destroy the public sector.  The savage cuts will have a devastating impact and effect on jobs/services/the community.  Noticeably and alarmingly, they will hit the most vulnerable – disabled people, single parents, those on housing benefit, black and other ethnic minority communities, students, migrants workers, LGBT people and pensioners.  Women are expected to bear 75% of the burden.

So how do we respond?  We need to mount a broad based campaign, working with other unions, the voluntary sector, service users, community groups, etc to defeat the aims of the coalition government and protect jobs and services.  We should also be calling on the newly elected Labour Council in Brent to lead a delegation from Brent to march on Downing Street or Parliament and/or hold a rally/demonstration to coincide with the announcement of the Comprehensive Spending Review on 20 Octoberwhich will surely deliver even more cuts to the public sector.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Brent Fights Back

The local movement against public sector cuts and privatisation took another step forward last night when an open meeting adopted the name Brent Fightback and drew up plans for a series of actions:
  • A petition is being circulated calling on Brent councillors and MPs to join the demonstration in favour of public services that will take place on October 20th when the outcomes of the Autumn Spending Review will be announced
  • A coach has been organised to take demonstrators  to the Conservative Party Conference on Sunday October 3rd. It will pick up at 8am Kilburn Square; 8.20am Trades Hall, Willesden High Road; 8.45am Brent Town Hall. Tickets will be at least £15 waged, £5 low or unwaged. Book at
  • A model resolution will be circulated to local union branches calling for support for Brent Fightback
  • The impact of cuts locally will be publicised by a Brent Fightback newsletter and articles on local blogs including this one
  • A Brent Fightback Facebook page will be be set up to share experiences and engage younger people
  • Local leaflets and posters publicising the campaign will be produced and the first leafleting will take place at Wembley Park Station at 5pm  on Friday 17th September
The next Brent Fightback Committee meeting will be held on Wednesday September 15th and Open Meeting Tuesday September 21st. Both at the Trades Hall (Apollo Club), 375 Willesden High Road.

    Monday 6 September 2010

    Mencap on Impact of Cuts

    Brent Mencap has circulated this message:

    Here at Brent Mencap we are very concerned about the effect that public sector spending cuts will have on the lives of people with a learning disability in Brent. Even in the "good times" people with learning disabilities didn't get paid jobs or as good medical treatment as the rest of the population. They were discriminated against by service providers in many other ways.
    We think the cuts and changes to things like
    • Disability Living Allowance
    • Incapacity benefit.
    • Social Care services and Community based support
    • Housing benefit cuts and longer waits for their own tenancies
    • Cuts to transport staff, police, libraries, sports centres, colleges and other public services
    will make it much harder for people to feel safe in their communities or access community services. We also think it will slow down the reasonable adjustments that service providers need to make to enable people with a learning disability to access the same services that you and I take for granted.
    As a campaigning organisation we are going to hold some meetings for Brent people with a learning disability of all ages and their families . At these meetings we will talk about the kinds of cuts and changes the Government and Council are planning and support people to decide what action they want to take. Please circulate details of these meetings to people you know with a learning disability and their families. The times may not suit some people and we could hold similar meetings at different times if there was enough demand. Please contact about this.
    Please circulate the flier (see under Pages) to your contacts who work with people with a learning disability and their families.
    We are looking for volunteers to help support people with a learning disability voice their concerns. If you are interested in volunteering with us please contact
    Brent Mencap recognises that other vulnerable groups and the general public will also be badly affected by these cuts and changes. We would encourage other voluntary sector groups, residents groups and other people to also get involved in the local anti-cuts campaign. The next local meeting to plan action against the cuts (organised by Brent Trades Union Council)  is on Wednesday 8th September at 7.30 at the Apollo Club, 377 High Road Willesden NW10 2JR. We would encourage people to attend and also to plan their response to the cuts. For more details of the public meetings please contact Sarah Cox on
    At the recent meeting we heard that Camden Councillors and their workforce (and parts of Islington Council) will be demonstrating against the cuts on October 20th, the date the comprehensive spending review report is published. To date there seems to be no similar action planned in Brent and it appears as if the cuts will go ahead here with little Brent statutory or voluntary sector public response about how this will badly affect Brent residents

    Good News from Chalkhill

    The temporary swimming pool at Chalkhill Primary School is nearing completion ready for opening on September 13th.  The pool will be used for school swimming groups during the day and for the community after school.  It will be in place until December.

    Meanwhile the plans for a community swimming pool on the site of Dexion House, Empire Way, Wembley have been approved but it is unclear when the redevelopment will take place.

    Work is expected to start in the Autumn on the new community park on the Chalkhill Estate.  It is being built on land vacated by the old Chalkhill Health Centre opposite the ASDA car park and will include two children's play areas, adult exercise circuit, a water feature and kickabout area.