Saturday 21 April 2012

The Barnhill by-election debate

Storm clouds over Barn Hill yesterday
A week or so ago I asked my rival Labour candidate in the Barnhill by-election seven questions about his stance on a number of issues.  I have published his responses fully HERE (Under comments).  I welcome the chance to make the discussion accessible to Wembley Matters readers.

It is only fair that I put my own views on the issues forward, although as some were premised on being a member of the ruling party on the Council, they are not directly comparable.

1.This is the case with my question asking about a conflict between the interests of voters and Council policy. I can only say that as a rule Green councillors are not whipped by their Group so they have a degree of independence that does not apply to the other three parties.  There are rigorous democratic processes within the Green Party: one person one vote, twice yearly conference making policy and as in the case of deciding whether to give Ken Livingstone our second preference Mayoral vote, a full and open London Federation of Green Parties debate followed by a show of hands vote. I was attracted to the Green Party by its open democratic nature and suggest that the Brent Labour Party is much more centralist in comparison.

2. I would support a London-wide campaign of  council resistance against the cuts imposed on London boroughs by central government. The cuts are disproportionate compared with councils outside London, unfair and adversely impact on the poorest in our society. Ken Livingstone in the days of the GLC made that organisation a centre of resistance against Margaret Thatcher. He said he would lead such a campaign as London Mayor when I asked him about it at the London Federation meeting.

3. Voting against implementation of cuts if they are clearly damaging local people and the Council's capacity to offer adequate services. With more cuts in the pipeline and now expected to continue beyond 2015. If things continue as they are I  think there will come a point when it is a 'cut too far'. Brent Labour has veered between arguing that they have managed to make cuts that won't hurt people ('transformations' rather than cuts) and admitting that the cuts are bad but their hands are tied. In this way they end up doing the Coalition's dirty work for them - managing and implementing the cuts, rather than fighting them. Coupled with 2 above I would advocate Councils devising a 'needs based' budget in full detailed consultation with local people based on deciding what services are necessary to ensure the quality of life of the people of Brent. These fully costed budgets would then be the basis of the London boroughs challenging the government with Councils potentially refusing to set budgets based on inadequate funding.

4.  The Council's ignoring of the petitions signed by thousands of people on library closures and the Willesden Green Regeneration is scandalous. Worse is their refusal to table the Old Willesden Library and Willesden Bookshop petitions at any Council meeting.

5. I would like to see a thorough overhaul of the Council's consultation system which has lost the confidence of local people and is feeding a cynicism and disaffection about local politics and democratic accountability which is potentially very dangerous. I have outlined previously on this blog LINK some of the ways that consultation is misused by Brent Council.

6. I am opposed to privatisation of council run services with particular dangers posed by private companies running elder care and child protection services. Low pay, lack of training and high staff turnover would put both the elderly and vulnerable children at risk. I reject the idea that our schools need to somehow 'escape' from the 'control of the local authority'. The local authority provides support to schools and ensures that they are accountable to the electorate. Brent primary schools are now performing above the national average. We put that at risk if schools go it alone and the School Improvement Service is cut as a result.  Government funds for expanding school places should be used to build new schools of a child-friendly family size rather than expanding our present schools to accommodate more and more pupils creating impersonal institutions with inadequate play space. I am against our schools converting to academy status and believe they should remain in the democratically accountable local authority 'family of schools'. 

7. Policies -

Champion facilities for children and young people including the early completion of the much delayed Chalkhill Park and refurbishment of the BMX track and installation of a skateboarding area in St David's Close on the Chalkhill Estate.

Reopen the closed libraries and provide adequate local authority finance and professionally trained staff

Press for concerted action by the Council to improve insulation of local housing and promote energy saving measures to reduce carbon emissions and energy bills.

Support parking rules that will help the traders on Bridge Road, Grand Parade and  Preston Road attract customers and thus promote thriving small businesses and diverse high streets.

Promote partnerships between the Council, schools,  the College of North West London and developers such as Quintain to develop training, apprenticeships and jobs in the emerging environmental  technology industries.

Challenge Brent Council's damaging cuts and their sham consultations, giving  local residents a strong  independent voice in the council chamber

Protect our green spaces from development particularly Fryent Country Park and the Welsh Harp

Promote safe cycle routes, particularly from Wembley to the south of the borough which will mean finding safe ways for cyclists to cross the North Circular

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