Thursday 31 May 2012

Children raise their voices for their library

                             Photo: Lorraine Skinner
 BNCTV seemed to have stopped uploading their videos to YouTube so I cannot embed them here. They have posted a video showing Muhammed Butt talking to campaigners outside Kensal Rise Library earlier this week.  Follow the link to see what he has to say.

The film is notable for the militant primary school children spontaneously voicing their opinions about the library at the beginning of the clip.

Kilburn Times: Library night raid "shameful"

Following on the widespread condemnation by campaigners and authors the  Brent and Kilburn Times   LINK added its powerful voice yesterday to criticisms of Brent Council's clandestine raid on Kensal Rise Library:

In a hard-hitting editorial they state:
The night raid was a shameful episode, one that will win the council no friends, either within or without the borough. It is indeed difficult to imagine councillors and officers planning so nefarious an act: did they do so behind closed doors, at dead of light, speaking only in whispers as they plotted?
Focusing on the fact that the new leader of Brent Council, Muhammed Butt, claims he did not know about the raid they say:
His embarrassment must be profound, since just a few days earlier he had promised that the library's books would remain in place for the time being. Perhaps it is time for him to exert his newly-won authority and hold someone accountable for this brazen breach of trust, before he is made to look like a fool again.

In a withering coda they conclude:
Sadly, it seems futile to add that the council's reputation has been damaged. When it comes to the borough's libraries, Brent seems content to behave in a way that leaves it with no reputation to preserve.
In it heartening to have a local newspaper which stands in solidarity with the community against a council that attacks those it was elected to serve.

All Souls: Our 20th century Fellows never imagined this would happen

Keep Willesden Green campaigner Susan Clark has received the following response from All Souls College to concerns she expressed about the situation at Kensal Rise Library after Brent Council's dawn raid:
The College has of course been made aware of the “dawn raid” to which you refer. 
It is indeed very sad that the Council has closed the library.  This is something we made clear to the Council would trigger a reverter, thereby resulting in the freehold coming back to the College, something our Fellows of the early 20th century never imagined would have happened. 
We had hoped the Council might keep the library open, and encouraged them to discuss with the Friends of Kensal Rise Library that possibility.
At present, we have no “exact plans”.  On all property-related matters, however, we are advised by professional advisers.  Some time ago we advised the Friends of Kensal Rise Library to meet with these advisers to discuss what might happen if the site were to revert to our ownership, and I know that at least one meeting has taken place between them.
Yours faithfully,
Tom Seaman
Fellow and Estates Bursar

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Authors round on Butt and Brent Council

The Guardian reports Muhammed Butt's comments at yesterday's meeting with Kensal Rise campaigners:
The leader of Brent council, Mohammed Butt, told campaigners he did not order the overnight removals and was not informed the clearance was happening until a couple of hours before council workers moved in.
"The decision to empty the building had been made before I took over the leadership and the go ahead was made by the police at that time on the basis of public safety concerns," he said. He added that his IT system had failed at home and that he had not found out about the removal until midnight last night.
But he stood by the decision to remove the items, saying they had been left in the building for months and would have begun to deteriorate had they remained.
He said the council's solicitors and those acting for All Souls College, Oxford, said the library building had now reverted to the college. He hoped All Souls would return the building to the use for which it was intended.
 Brent Council's action has been widely condemned:

Alan Gibbons, author said:

I grew up in an area where you didn’t vote Labour- you were Labour. As I became politically aware in the mid to late nineteen sixties, for all its flaws, we had an idea what Labour was about. It meant public service. It meant hospitals and schools that were free at the point of use. It meant libraries and swimming pools and municipal socialism.

Compare this hard-won, long-fashioned identity with the actions of Brent’s Labour council, skulking into Kensal Rise library in the early hours of the morning to strip it bare. I have written to Labour leader Ed Miliband asking him to condemn the council’s actions.

The shadow Culture Secretary Dan Jarvis was well received at the Speak up for Libraries rally in March for asking failed Culture Minister Ed Vaizey if he was a champion for libraries. That question will look like double standards if the Labour leadership fails to distance itself from this irresponsible act of cultural vandalism.
The removal was denounced as “wanton destruction” by the biographer Sir Michael Holroyd. And author Maggie Gee called the move “cowardice”. She said:
The philistinism of unscrewing the brass plaque remembering Mark Twain from its wall in the middle of the night, would horrify anyone who still recalls Labour’s founding mission to share education, knowledge and hope with the people. We will continue to fight for our library.
Fellow writer Michael Frayn said: 
The library is now an unlibrary, in the way that people became unpersons in the darkest days of the Soviet Union. I hope they took the titles of the books off as well. Removing unbooks from an unlibrary – who could possibly object?

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Kensal Rise issue challenge to Cllr Butt

Kensal Rise community library campaigners have sent this message to Muhammed Butt:

Dear Cllr Butt,

Perhaps after the action early this morning you might like to join us this afternoon at 3.30 at the library?

You might like to explain to residents in this community the reasons for the action you have taken.

That is, if you are still serious about 'engaging' with us.

We are somewhat baffled about why you would choose to do what you have done.
Did you not say the tables and chairs and more importantly the murals that were painted specifically for our library could remain? Along with all the plaques and photos commemorating the opening of the library by Mark Twain.

Regards and hopefully see you at 3.30.

"We will not let Brent Council's cowardly, middle of the night plundering defeat us"

This morning between 2 and 3am Richard Barrett, Brent's Property Officer, raided and stripped Kensal Rise Library. About 15 workers took the books from the library and also took the murals painted in the 1930's specifically for the library along with all the plaques commemorating the library's opening by Mark Twain.

They took tables and chairs and other assorted objects including a microwave and a box of sticky tape.They were assisted in this action by about 12 police officers.

Campaigners said: 
In a meeting with campaigners last week, the new leader of the council, Muhammad Butt promised that the murals and furniture would not be taken.

We asked him to hold off stripping the library until he had organised a meeting with All Souls College, the council and ourselves.

This action this morning is proof that the council had no intention of trying to ensure that the reverter on the library had not been triggered.

Cllr Mo Butt said he wanted to listen to the community, engage with them.

This is how he listens. By taking this action he has jeopardised the ability of this community to run this library.

We may be finished with Brent council but our campaign continues. We will not let their cowardly, middle of the night plundering defeat us. 
Cllr Butt's words to us are worse than meaningless.  
They reveal what a cowardly, conniving, bunch of dishonest panhandlers they are, but what else would you expect in the Banana Republic of Brent?

Monday 28 May 2012

Downhills Primary carpet Lord Harris

On Saturday, about 50 parents and children from Downhills Primary and other local  Haringey schools had a ‘carpet time’ in Carpetright, Tottenham Hail to protest against the Secretary of State’s attempts to force our school (and at least one other Haringey primary) to become an academy sponsored by Lord Harris.  Lord Harris has donated millions of pounds to the Tory party and is described as a ‘close friend’ by Prime Minister David Cameron; he made his fortune selling carpets, not educating children.  We thought that if Lord Harris wants to take over our school, we should take over his shop for a short while.  The children listened to the story of ‘The Magic Carpet Seller’ who came to realise that children cannot be mass produced and manufactured in the way that carpet can.  We left the shop after ‘carpet time’ and assembled outside to sing our campaign song ‘Save our school’.  Thanks to Hazel Gould for writing the fantastic story and Andy Graves for the illustrations.

Alperton teachers strike against Co-op Academy move

Michael Gove - profits ahead for private providers?

On Thursday 31st May NUT members at Alperton Community school in Brent will be on strike against their governors decision to convert to a Co-op academy. The message to parents below from the teachers at Alperton explains why they have taken this very difficult decision to strike. There will be a picket at the school on Thursday from 8.00 am at both the Stanley Avenue and Ealing Rd entrances.

Jean Roberts, Joint BTA Secretary said, “We are proud that teachers at Alperton are standing up against this decision. The academies programme is Gove's plan to worsen state education by removing legal safeguards on teachers pay and conditions ultimately allowing unqualified teachers to teach, privatising the management of all state funded schools and again ultimately opening them all up to be run for profit. Their idea is to have a chaotic free-for-all market in state education which they say will drive down costs and improve the quality of education.

“It will certainly drive down costs but the privatisation of state education for profit will no more improve the quality of education than it will improve the quality of service for the majority of people in the national health service.”

Dear Parents/Carers
Members of the National Union of Teachers at Alperton Community School will be taking strike action on Thursday 31st May 2012. This is  as a result of the school’s  Governing body voting on Tuesday 22nd May 2012 to become an Academy. 

We ask for your support for our action and want to explain briefly why we are doing this.
Academies are publicly funded but privately run schools outside of the Local Authority. The NUT, in fact all education unions and the TUC, are opposed to schools being run in this way and believe that this Government wants to privatise the management of education as they do with, for example, the NHS, Royal Mail and prisons. 

Even though Alperton has applied to become a ‘Co-operative’ Academy, there is no evidence that Academies benefit pupils and no evidence that they get better examination results. The teachers are concerned for the future of all students and staff in all schools that change to Academies.

The Government has overspent on converting academies and free schools by £600 million. There is no guarantee that the short term 'bribe' to get schools to become academies will continue, rather the reverse. All schools and academies will receive the same funding from April next year. In fact there has been overpayment of more than £120 million to academies, some having to pay this back by July. The first for profit company has been agreed to run a free school in Suffolk. Others will follow.

Members of staff at the school, both teachers and non teachers have voted by a large majority in a secret ballot against Academy status and the Chair of Governors has acknowledged that there is no ‘consensus’ amongst the different stakeholders.   As a parent you may have been given a letter by your child asking you to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but there has not really been any attempt to provide you with both sides of the argument.

Teachers and staff at the school work incredibly hard to achieve the best results for students attending the school.  Teachers do not decide to take strike action lightly.  
We strongly urge the Governing Body of the school to reconsider its application to become a Cooperative Academy and to undertake a thorough and much longer consultation, with parents and carers being allowed fully to hear both sides of the argument before having their say.
Yours sincerely
National Union of Teachers at Alperton Community School

Kensal Rise campaigners leave meeting with new council leader empty handed

Kensal Rise Library campaigners emerged from their meeting with Cllr Muhammed Butt, new leaders of Brent Council and Ruth Moher, his deputy, pleased to have had a meeting but disappointed by the result.

Cllr Butt did not give any practical assurance to the campaigners but instead really just restated the John-Powney position.

He said that the ownership of the library had already reverted to All Souls College and the relevant deeds will soon be signed. Campaigners said they had indications that All Souls, even at this late stage, would be content to see the library remain in Brent's hands and be run by the campaign group. However, if it does revert it will be put on the market within weeks, probably at commercial rates.

Butt said he hoped that the council would be able to persuade All Souls to come to a compromise agreement with campaigners. However, they feel that with the current frosty relations an apparent attempt to shift responsibility from the Brent Council to the college will not be well received.  Campaigners said, "Brent seem to think they can give the building back to All Souls and then ask All Souls to let us have it, instead of just letting us have it themselves. All Souls have always said they would be happy if we reached agreement with Brent, so from where we are standing the problem at the moment is with Brent, not All Souls".

Cllr Butt said the council would be reluctant to freeze the transfer of ownership back to All Souls because it would go against their current policy of reducing the council's property portfolio. If that wasn't enough he then claimed that having a community library in a council building would undermine the whole Libraries Transformation Project to which he remains committed.  Kensal Rise campaigners said their proposal was for taking a long lease on the building with no expenditure commitment or administration burden on the council. If the community library failed the building could revert to All Souls anyway. The idea that the whole Libraries Transformation Project would be undermined by a small, volunteer run community library, in an area not otherwise served, was described as 'verging on the pathetic'.

Finally Muhammed Butt said that he couldn't promise the books currently in the library would not be removed as 'the council needs them' (despite removing book shelving from many of the remaining libraries) and All Souls' solicitors had asked for the building's contents to be cleared. Campaigners made it clear that books remaining was legally significant. If the building had no books it would make it harder to argue that the reverter clause had not been triggered. Campaigners offered to move their donated books in at the same time as the council moved their books out.

Refusing to give way on these and other issues Muhammed Butt said he would need to consult Brent's legal team and others to see if  the campaigns suggestions were viable and if he had any room for manoeuvre. He has not yet got back to the Kensal Rise community library campaigners.

They said:
Obviously, we are concerned about the extent of Cllr Butt's goodwill. He may hope to fob us off with bland reassurances while offering nothing concrete. He may also hope he can shift blame for the loss of the library onto All Souls if they refuse a meeting, or if they resist a compromise arrangement. Clearly his main concern is to take the political heat out of an issue that has caused the Council huge problems and a lot of bad publicity. 
Cllr Butt and other councillors may now regret how the library closures and community aspirations have been handled, and they are  obviously nervous about the pubic perception of the council and would like to change that, but if this new 'support' for us is simply a devious attempt to achieve 'good press' we will not be happy about being used in this way and this community will be very angry if this is the case.
So we do wonder if this is what the meeting with councillors was all about - damage limitation for the very bad public image that they have created for themselves and an attempt at co-opting us to help with its restoration, because, after all, we left that meeting empty handed.
The campaign will continue to keep on the pressure and will be vigilant at defending the building and preventing the removal of books.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Butt: A seventh library would undermine Transformation Project

There a report on BNCTV of a meeting between Kensal Rise Community Library campaigners and the Council LINK.

In his  interview Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council,says that  if the freehold of the Kensal Rise building remained with Brent Council, despite being run by volunteers,  as the campaigners had requested,  it would be a problem. It would be adding a seventh library to the six remaining in Brent and open the way for Preston and other campaigners to make a similar request. .He goes on to say that as the Libraries Transformation Project is based on six libraries this would undermine the  whole Project.

For the campaigners  a sticking point is the removal of books from the library. If they are removed by the Council could it lose its designation as  a library?

Have a look at the video and see what you think.

Monday 21 May 2012

The Queen is dead! Long live the King!

Outside Brent Town Hall tonight
In fact Muhammad Butt's first Executive meeting as leader was a muted affair - no fanfares, cheers or even a 'well done, chum' from his colleagues. Instead a few mumbles about the order of business, a murmured exchange or two with Anne Reid, and we were away.

If there was any tension in the Executive after it was split by the leadership election it didn't show in any obvious way. Perhaps more councillors than usual arrived at the last minute to take their seats and there was little social interchange, but it was heads down and on with the agenda.

It was left to the public to inject a bit of life and passion into the proceedings and this they did through making representations on the Progress Report on the Library Transformation Project. All the contributors congratulated Muhammed Butt on his election win  and called on him to engage with the community.

Philip Bromberg for Brent SOS Libraries Campaign said the report reminded him of the saying 'the operation was a complete success but the patient died'. He had figures to show a huge drop in the number of visits and book issues at the remaining libraries and queried the escalation in the cost of the Kilburn Library refurbishment from £117,000 to £650.000.  He showed the audience and Executive a leaflet produced by Brent Labour Party asking people to 'Join Labour Campaign for Our Libraries' with a quote from Dan Jarvis shadow Culture Secretary. Bromberg reported that earlier in conversation Jarvis had express 'serious concern about what is happening in Brent over libraries'.

Martin Redston, speaking for the Keep Willesden Green Campaign urged Butt to be proactive, engage with the community and see the issue of the Willesden Green regeneration with fresh eyes. He pointed out that the only increased space int he new building would be for council offices and that the actual library would be smaller. English Heritage had recognised the community's valuing of the 'meaning of space' provided by the 1894 building. Redston pointed out the contradictions between the flowery words of the planning brief and the actual plan, which included a small door as an entrance to the new building, in contrast to the substantial entrance of the 1980s building. He urged Muhammed Butt and the Executive to 'stop, listen and reflect', because the majority of the local community did not want the scheme.

A speaker from Cricklewood Library spoke for how local nurseries and schools had been deprived of their library and older students of their study space.  She urged Muhammed Butt to restore good relations with the community by keeping the building open,

Cllr Paul Lorber said that the Executive had not been provided with proper financial information and said that the suggested 'savings' had not factored in the cost of rent and business rates for the closed buildings. He asked regarding Cricklewood and Kensal Rise's reversion to All Souls, 'Why give away buildings with £1.5m'. He claimed it was the Executive's responsibility to safeguard local assets. Speaking about the Barham pop-up library he said that most of the people who were using it were precisely those most affected by the closures: children brought along by their parents and mainly from an Asian of African Caribbean background.

A Conservative councillor urged that ward working money should instead be spent on keeping libraries open.

In response Cllr Powney said that most of the people who had spoken were just saying that they disagreed with the decision to close libraries that was taken last year. That decisions was to keep six 'excellent' libraries (one of which his Executive has since declared unfit for purpose and scheduled for demolition'  and develop those. He claimed that he had always said the the increase in the number of visitors and borrowers would not happen until 2014 when the refurbishments had finished and the new Wembley Library at the Civic Centre had been opened. He said, to heckling, that by 2014  the figures would be 'higher than now'. He confirmed that reversion of Cricklewood and Kensal Rise to All Souls had been completed, and that was the opinion of both council officers and All Souls.  In response to the questions about the increase in Kilburn refurbishment costs he said that the £117,000 had just been minor repairs and redecoration and the £650,000  was for a more extensive refurbishment.

At the end of the item, Muhammed Butt said he was meeting with Kensal Rise campaigners tomorrow and promised to meet with the Preston and Keep Willesden Green campaigns.

All other items on the agenda, including the Air Quality Action Plan, Animals at Events policy, and the provision of a Brent Carers' Hub were approved without discussion.

Still time to have your say on allotments and food growing strategy

The above poster was issued by the Friends Allotment Committee in the 1930a. The Quakers set up the Committee to assist the unemployed during the 1930s depression. It continued its work until 1951.

In our current recession  once  again allotments have a role to play and Brent Council is consulting on its Allotments and Food Growing Strategy. Its report acknowledges that allotment rents in Brent are the third highest in London. It proposes to deal with the large number of people on the waiting list by halving or further reducing the average size of plots when they come up for renewal.

There are some imaginative ideas in the document on extedning food growing opportunities other than in allotments including putting temporary vegetable growing beds on sites awaiting development.

The consultation closes on May 31st. Details HERE

167,004 fewer library visits concealed by Brent Council

Ahead of a meeting tonight at Brent Town Hall, at which a “progress” report will present what SOS Libraries claim is misleading and incorrect information on the so-called “Libraries Transformation Project” to the new Labour executive, Brent SOS Libraries has submitted its own report on the library closures (LINK). It shows:
  • There have been 167,004 fewer library visits since half of the borough’s libraries were closed in October compared with the same period year on year.
  • 158,809 fewer books have been issued.
  •  Library visits and lending have fallen 20% will continue to fall with the imminent closure of Kilburn and demolition of Willesden Green libraries.
  • This has been a net loss of 191 opening hours per week.
  •  Most of the users of the closed libraries ARE NOT USING the remaining libraries, as the council claims.
The report that will go before the council on Monday will fail to mention these key indicators and will misrepresent a failing, wasteful service as a success. 

Brent SOS (Save Our Seven) Libraries will present the true picture to the executive on Monday night. Representatives of the six closed libraries (Barham, Cricklewood, Neasden, Kensal Rise, Preston and Tokyngton), and of Willesden Green, which is due to be demolished this summer, will also make presentations.

This data will also be considered by Jeremy Hunt’s Department of Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS), which is investigating whether Brent Council has breached its statutory duties.

Brent SOS Libraries was asked last month to give evidence to the DCMS of Brent Council’s use of misleading and incorrect data, and of the effects of the withdrawal of the library service on local communities.

Brent SOS Libraries campaigner Samantha Warrington said: "Young people in Brent are working hard to pass their GCSEs and A levels, and the loss of study space and facilities in the local libraries closed by this administration will only make their lives harder."

Brent SOS Libraries campaigner Samantha Warrington said: "Young people in Brent are working hard to pass their GCSEs and A levels, and the loss of study space and facilities in the local libraries closed by this administration will only make their lives harder."

Act tonight to Save Our Libraries

Have they learnt anything post AJ?
Tonight is the first meeting of the Brent Executive under the new leadership of Muhammed Butt. It is a chance to impress on him that the library campaigns remain as vociferous as ever and will not go away. He needs to make a fresh start on the issue.

The Executive will consider a report on the progress of the Libraries Transformation Project which glosses overs its failings and especially the fall in the total number of visitors and book issues since the 6 libraries closed.

Brent SOS Libraries has prepared a response to the report which is available HERE

Library campaigners will be outside the Brent Town Hall from 6pm. The Executive meeting starts at 7pm.

Sunday 20 May 2012

New plan to attack Brent's air pollution problem

The Green Party tried to make air pollution an issue at the GLA election with limited success - perhaps because it is what is often called an ' invisible menace'. Its impact on health occurs at an individual level and over the long-term so it is often not seen as an urgent issue. More visibly air quality and air pollution became a worry as a result of several big fires recently in the borough that released noxious smoke.

However, Brent Council recognises the seriousness of the problem and an Air Quality Action Plan 2012-2015 is on the agenda for Monday's Executive.

The accompanying report notes that levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulates continue to exceed national air quality objectives in some areas of the borough and will not meet future targets. The aim of the new AQAP is to reduce levels of Nitrogen Dioxide and fine particulate matters (smaller than 10 microns) which are the key pollutants in Brent.

It is proposed that the Council should lobby the government over the relationship between licensing of waste sites and the achievement of air quality improvements reflecting the air pollution association with waste sites around Neasden Goods Yard. Air quality there breaches the daily mean air quality objectives and as one of the few in the country reporting such excesses could lead to sanctions from the European Union.  Brent has worked with waste operators and the Environment Agency to enclose the majority of dust generating activities on the site but they admit that a significant proportion of waste handling and transfer operations there still take place in the open air.

The Council estimate that fine particles have an impact equivalent to 133 premature deaths across the whole of Brent. They are unable to estimate the local impact around the Goods Yard as the standard estimating methods are not applicable to smaller populations.

The report notes that the most economically and socially deprived areas in the borough, the south of the borough as well as Stonebridge, Neasden and St Raphaels suffer the poorest air quality.

Worryingly DEFRA will no longer fund air quality monitoring and as a result Brent has reduced the number of its monitoring stations from six to three. The Council warn that there is a significant risk that DEFRA may not fund the costs of intensive cleaning and application of dust suppressants at Neasden Lane once the Olympic Games is over.

The 2012-15 Plan lists 15 actions and can be found HERE It includes integrating air quality improvements into local health plans, increasing the planting of trees in new developments, reviewing planing policies to safeguard against environmental impacts of new and existing waste facilities, reducing car use and congestion, a 10% reduction in business energy use, a 20% decrease in energy use in council housing stock and 25% in council emissions and a 10% reduction in emissions from major commercial fleet operations in the borough.

The aim is to have a holistic approach that fits with the framework of Brent's Climate Change Strategy.

I welcome these measures and hope that national and local government cuts will not prevent their effective implementation.  Air pollution apart from causing premature deaths also condemn some of the young and the vulnerable to regular occurrences of respiratory illnesses.

Children at Risk
  • Children are more susceptible to the effects of air pollution for several reasons related to their physical development and behaviour.
  • Children’s respiratory organs are not fully developed and thus are more vulnerable to toxic substances in the air.
  • Children have narrower airways that are more severely affected by the tissue inflammation that occurs due to air pollution.
  • Children have weaker immune systems that are more vulnerable to the foreign substances found in air pollution.
  • Children inhale more air (and more air pollution) per pound of body weight than adults.
  • Children often breathe through their mouths, rather than their noses. This route bypasses the cilia and mucous found in the nose that trap foreign particles in the air and stop them from entering the lungs.
  • Children do not recognize or acknowledge the effects of air pollution as quickly as adults. This may exacerbate the effects of air pollution, because symptoms are not treated as quickly.

Saturday 19 May 2012

Dollis Hill-Lib Dem, Barnhill-Labour, Dudden Hill?

A game of cat and mouse between Labour and Lib Dems over a possible by-election in Dudden Hill seems to be developing. The Rev David Clues holds the seat for the Lib Dems at present but he has been living in Brighton for 6 months and the Brent and Kilburn Times hinted last week that he might resign soon.  Seems a bit of a waste of money when the by-election could have been held earlier this month alongside the GLA and Barnhill by-elections.

New Executive member Krupesh Hirani tweeted earlier today that he was off door-stepping in the ward for Labour and according to his blog LINK he saw Sarah Teather there and a couple of residents said they had been canvassed by Lib Dems.  I suspect the Lib Dems are just testing the temperature and will make a decision on whether Clues should hold on for the time being based on their canvassing returns.

With their current poor position in the polls and their failure to stand in the Barnhill by-election they are likely to be ultra-cautious and willing to endure the embarrassment of having a semi-detached councillor rather than face losing the seat.

Poor David Clues must be longing to be able to get on with his new life in Brighton....

Ann John joins Planning Committee shortly after being cleared of wrongdoing

A few weeks after being cleared of illegally bringing pressure on a Labour Councillor on the statutorily independent planning committee, Ann John has become a member of that committee.  This means that she will be considering the controversial Willesden Green Library Centre redevelopment for which she has publicly expressed strong support. The planning application is submitted in the sole name of the developer Galliford Try despite the project being a partnership between them and Brent Council.

The full list of the new committee is:

Attendee Role

Councillor Ketan Sheth Chair

Councillor Mary Daly Vice-Chair

Councillor Abdi Aden Committee Member

Councillor Eddie Baker Committee Member

Councillor Mark Cummins Committee Member

Councillor Sami Hashmi Committee Member

Councillor Ann John OBE Committee Member

Councillor Chandubhai J Patel Committee Member

Councillor Ramesh Patel Committee Member

Councillor Krupa Sheth Committee Member

Councillor Harbhajan Singh Committee Member

Support the parents, teachers and children of Downshill Primary

Parents of children attending Downhills Primary School  in Haringey, which Michael Gove is trying to force to become an academy are organising a fun event in support of striking teachers on Tuesday May 22nd.

Click here for more information about the campaign in Downhills

The parents at Downhills are continuing their brilliant campaign to stop their school becoming an academy. You can follow them on facebook and their website is

Please rush messages of support to the strike:
Haringey NUT –
Phil Brett NUT rep at Downhills -

Brent defends record on school finances monitoring

Krutika Pau, Brent's Director for Children and Families, has written to the Times Educational Supplement after they published a critical article drawing attention to the number of cases of financial mismanagement in Brent Schools, which obviously raised the question of  the effectiveness of Brent Council's monitoring and auditing processes. I posted on this issue recently LINK asking why there was no report from Children and Families on this issue tabled for Monday's Executive Meeting.
I was very dismayed to read the article entitled, “Financial scandal continues to plague Brent Council” that appeared in the TES on 4 May, accusing Brent Council of being negligent in its duty to oversee school finances robustly and effectively.

Brent Council takes its role in ensuring sound financial management in schools very seriously and takes firm action against schools whenever there is evidence of it taking place.

In the case of Malorees Primary School, a thorough audit of the school identified that a number of improvements in financial management were necessary and the current head teacher is actively engaged on making these changes.

Brent has over 80 schools which receive an audit on a two or three year basis. It would be impossible within current resources to audit every school each year. Auditing schools on a rolling programme basis, so that each one is audited every two to three years, is very normal within local authorities and Brent does more than most in relation to school audits and has a very detailed audit brief.

In fact, the very detailed nature of our audit brief is precisely why Brent has managed to uncover these, thankfully rare examples of financial mismanagement that have occurred in the four schools your article mentions, over a fairly long period of time.

Schools have a duty to monitor their financial position on an on-going basis and this can throw up potential overspends that could worsen in the future unless corrective action is taken. In the case of Malorees School, the current head teacher has identified potential issues and is working proactively with Brent Council to take decisive action now to ensure that any potential problems are averted in the future.

Whenever irregularities occur we do not attempt to conceal them but are open and transparent at all times about our investigations and provide appropriate support to schools so that corrective action can be taken.

Yours sincerely,
Dr Krutika Pau
Director of Children and Families

Friday 18 May 2012

Pressure from within Labour Party on Kensal Rise Library

In an unusual development Queens Park Labour Party has set up a petition calling on new council leader Muhammed Butt to open talks with library campaigners and All Souls College:

Petition for Kensal Rise Library


At its May AGM, Queen’s Park Labour agreed a motion supporting the new leader of Brent Council, Cllr. Muhammed Butt, to meet with Kensal Rise Library campaigners and All Souls College to see if the building can be re-opened as a reading room under community management.
The petition above states that:

We welcome the pledge made by the new Leader of Brent Council, Muhammed Butt, to host a summit with All Souls College and campaigners who are looking to take over the running of Kensal Rise Library building . 

We welcome the proposal for Brent Council to use Ward Based Working money to enable the building to be refurbished and run as a community facility 

We urge All Souls College, ( an Oxford college that has an endowment of over £230 million and owns the building ) to support this by offering the building on a rent free basis 

In addition to signing this petition, please email
To find out more about the recent magnificent events at Kensal Rise library go to the great I Spy In Queen's Park blog HERE

Kilburn Unemployed Workers oppose 'Council tax on free speech'

Alan Wheatley of Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group arrived at Brent Council's Scrutiny Committee meeting last night, with just approved press statement on the leaflet licensing fiasco. He came straight from the KUWG meeting that ended at 5pm the same day on the Camden side of Kilburn. He writes of his experience of the meeting:

"The seating arrangement in the scrutiny committee room was such that we observers were effectively excluded from hearing properly, as the scrutiny committee all sat round a table and we were clearly outsiders, with extremely limited capacity to input into the meeting.

"That image seemed to be an artistic installation representing what Brent Council's Council Tax on free speech will do to our public witnessing of the impact of despotic central and local government policies on local people."

This is KUWG's press statement:

Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group has joined Brent Fightback and Brent Trades Council in opposition to what it calls “Brent Council's Council Tax on free speech.”

Brent Council plans to institute licensing of organisations other than charities and political parties that deliver leaflets in the Borough of Brent. “This is not only an attack on free speech,” said Alan Wheatley, a spokesperson for the group. “It is also a way for despotic local and central government to bury disclosure of how widespread oppressive measures such as the sanctioning of benefit claimants actually are.”

“The Council say that they do not want the reputation of the Borough of Brent tarnished by littering over the time of the Olympics. As usual, the Council has its priorities wrong while at the same time it is throwing people in South Kilburn onto the street and central government's attacks on poor people exacerbate the desolation and isolation that come with poverty.

“The Olympics serve as a branding platform for global corporations such as McDonalds that are notorious for shoddy employment practices and for product that leaves loads of street litter. Our leaflets, by contrast, help counteract the desolation and isolation that vulnerable benefit claimants experience via Kilburn Jobcentre and the JobCentre Plus network. Our leafleters are not paid, and to make our resources stretch further, we display our leaflets rather than thrust them under people's noses. People ask us for the leaflets that tell of our weekly meetings at Kingsgate Community Centre on the Camden side of Kilburn, and more. Further, people who attend our meetings who have had bad treatment at the jobcentre and/or through the testing procedures of Atos Healthcare that reduce the number of disability benefit claimants without curing them of their ailments, feel less inclined to throw themselves under a bus.

“We know of people who have won their tribunals for entitlement to Employment & Support Allowance and had but a month in which to enjoy their back money before dying in this the year of Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee. The wait for a tribunal is about a year these days. Serial re-testing of claimants adds to their stress. The Royal Family, who cost the taxpayer much more per head, are comparatively in glowing heath.

“Through the invitation to our meetings that our leaflets represent, people who have been subjected to bullying that goes through the Chancellor of the Exchequer and ministers at the Department for Work & Pensions begin to feel better about themselves.

“Brent Council's proposed daily leaflet licensing fee of £75 is greater than the sum total of £67.50 weekly Jobseekers Allowance plus £5 per week earnings disregard for a single person aged over 25. That fee would hit us and our members hard,” s/he said. “Non-claimants generally remain blithely ignorant of the facts of how low state benefits are, and the fact that the £5 per week 'earnings disregard' has remained unchanged since 1988, but our leaflets help to set the record straight about that and the sanctions against claimants that are now routine.”

Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group meets every Thursday at Kingsgate Community Centre, 107 Kingsgate Road, NW6 2JH from 3pm to 5pm. With a dearth of such groups around London, KUWG helps benefit claimants in Brent and Camden and beyond to the help they need, when they need it.

Concerns remain over leafleting after Scrutiny discussion

Although Labour councillor members of the Call In, Overview and Scrutiny Committee, clearly saw their role last night as to support the Executive and the officers, rather than scrutinise, members of the public did try and hold the Council to account with the able assistance of Cllr Alison Hopkins. At either end of the experience spectrum neither Cllr Joyce Bacchus nor Cllr Krupa Sheth spoke.

Pete Firmin speaking for Brent Trades Union Council and Brent Fightback, and a member of the Labour Party, spoke about the lack of clarity in the leaflet licensing document. He said it left lots of grey areas in terms of  exemptions based on 'political purposes' and gave the example of the Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group leafleting claimants outside the Kilburn Job Centre about their rights Was that a political purpose? .  He argued that if the scheme was aimed at commercial interests that this would leave small businesses discriminated against. He said that they key question was, 'Who decides whether a leaflet meets the criterion set out in the report?'  He said that here was no evidence from the council that littering caused by leaflets was a problem - in his experience fast food packaging was much more of a problem. He concluded by stating that only 27% of local authorities had introduced such a scheme, the legislation was enabling rather than compulsory and so Brent Council did not have to implement it, and urged the council to abandon the proposals.

Speaking as a local resident, Secretary of Brent Green Party and a committee member of the Brent Campaign Against Climate Change, Pete Murry asked that the council to entirely reconsider the necessity for charges for leaflet distribution. He said he doubted that the intention of Brent Council was to restrict freedoms of speech, information and discussion in the borough when it would be under the international Olympic spotlight. However he feared that this could be the case

He said:
I have regularly leafleted in Brent on Party political issues during elections, but also at other times on other issues such as pollution from Waste incineration, the dangers of nuclear waste being transported through the borough and to promote events such as public meetings about Climate Change. Such issues are not always well covered in the media and often people can only be made aware of their possible local impact through leafleting. None of the organisations that I have campaigned for are financially wealthy or represent profit making commercial concerns. Leafleting is often the only way for minorities and minority causes to be brought to public attention. The current proposed charges would place even this method of communication beyond the financial means of some groups, especially groups of unemployed people whose limited income would make leafleting charges unpayable.
Murry also drew attention to the ambiguities  around definitions and concluded that there were surely better ways keeping the borough clean and tidy other than restricting citizens' freedoms.

Alison Hopkins asked about a non-party political campaign such as the Brent Coalition for a Sustainable Brent Cross Development leafleting over incinerators and whether that would be exempted. She pointed out that the lack of clarity meant that officers or the council would be making decisions about exemptions and that this may be okay for now in terms of free speech, but officers and councils change and we have to think of the future. Unwritten laws were dangerous so there needed to be detail and clarity based on real cases.

In an intervention that lacked the usual sarcasm and side swipes, Helga Gladbaum said she was relieved that the original focus on the Olympics had changed. She said the council needed to sharpen up enforcement of the rules and asked what was meant by the phrase 'harm to the community's interests'. (This latter phrase was used to illustrate when officers thought they would intervene in the leafleting process'.

Cllr Powney, who seems to be in charge of everything contentious, said that rules on leafleting had been in force since 1994 and that the new proposals represented a liberalisation. For example, the previous rules had exempted 'political parties' not 'political purposes'. He suggested that the wording in the supplementary report was 'not particularly illuminating' unless you are a lawyer. He said the proposals were not lime limited but the Olympics may result in a slightly great amount of leafleting. He said it would be difficult to define all possible cases in advance and it was better to focus on the principles behind enforcement. He said that enforcement has not been a problem in the past.

There followed some detailed officer contributions with assurances from Michael Read that in 18 years Brent Council had never used their powers to stop leafleting for political purposes. He said that there had been no prosecutions since 2006 using the existing powers but there were about 20 seizures of leaflets a year. He said that the council's enforcement record should reassure the public. Leafleting was only an issue if it did real harm, people carrying it out were creating a nuisance (thrusting leaflets at the public on narrow pavements), big corporations carrying out mass leafleting, or leaflets being left unattended or being thrown away on the street.  David Thrales gave examples of nuisance caused by leaflets about new shops opening, mobile cards, buying of gold and pawnbrokers  and these along with examples from Yogini Patel about leafleting by a big betting ship all seemed to focus on Wembley High Road, rather than the other streets designated in the report. She thought that leafleting encouraging gambling did harm. Patel said it was leafleting every day of the week by small businesses that caused the real nuisance and also gave the example of the Cup Final when Liverpool fans distributed 'Don't Buy the Sun' leaflets that were left all over Wembley High Road.

Officers favoured on the spot fines rather than the expense of going to court and also drew attention to problems about seizures where legally the council had to find the original owners and return them. They said that giving a warning or moving people on usually worked and it emerged that Brent Council has only four officers to enforce the rules.

As the discussion progress it seemed to me that the emphasis had changed from discussion about definitions of exempted activities and the dangers inherent in that to the concept of 'harm to the community' or 'nuisance'  which I saw as equally dangerous. David Thrales at one point said that hs own interpretation was that leaflets that broadly wanted to ;'progress the community' were ones that would be approved. That seems to me to be a minefield. Could a pro-academy conversion headteacher complain to enforcement officers that anti-academy campaigners leafleting parents outside her school were 'creating a nuisance' or 'doing harm to the community'?

Winding up Cllr Paul Lorber said that the discussion had justified the Call In showing how confusing the whole issue was. If councillors were confused, what about the public? He asked why,  if the key issue was littering,  was the licensing scheme and fees necessary?  Could the council implement enforcement over nuisance without fees etc? If the target was commercial leafleting then shouldn't that be stated? He said that small business should not be discriminated against by exorbitant fees. Alison Hopkins suggested a sliding scale and Cllr Powney said he would seek advice on whether that would be legal and put it into the consultation if it was.

The Lib Dem Call-in motion was then voted down.

The Consultation will take place from the 22nd May, advertised in the press on 24th May and the results made public on the 14th June. Officers would make the decisions based on the consultation and the new powers would come into effect on July 2nd in time for the Olympics.

Open letter to new leader from a Labour Party member

Graham Durham has written this open letter to Cllr Muhammed Butt, the new leader of Brent Council.
Dear Mo,

Thank you for your telephone call of 9 May 2012 in which you invited me to vote for you as Leader of the Council at the Brent Labour Party hustings on 10 May.

As you know I am opposed to the Brent  Labour Group record over the last two years of implementing the Tory /Lib Dem government cuts and thus severely damaging the life prospects of many of the most vulnerable people in Brent. Naturally I was anxious to know how you would change matters and specifically how you would propose to make the Tory/Lib Dem cuts you made clear you are committed to over the next two years 

I was pleased  to hear your response on the question of libraries which I recorded.You said

'I feel we handled libraries very badly.I always wanted to consider partnership with community groups as Camden Council has done and was blocked by Ann John who  insisted we had to be seen to be backing officers and closing the six libraries.This will change if I am Leader.'

On future budget cuts you said

'We have far too many senior officers in Brent ,a record number of Directors on very high pay and they all build empires of Assistant Directors.I think we could save £3 million a  year  on these costs by 2015 '

Whilst I do not wholly agree with these two proposals I did concede that they represented progress from the intransigence and hostility to community groups displayed by Ann John and senior officers over the last two years .As promised  I advised Labour Party members I know of your views and asked them to consider if the changes you promised were sufficient to enable them to vote for you as Leader.

You have become Leader of Brent Council  at a time when working  people across  Europe  are realising that the disastrous policy of austerity is leading to impoverishment and misery everywhere.Voters in France and Greece have realised that the solutions of  cuts in services and basic benefits and pensions are incapable of creating jobs and protecting a reasonable standard of living for working people.

In Brent we have seen the extraordinary GLA vote in which Labour heavily  defeated the Lib Dems in every single ward of Brent Central - a great opportunity exists for us to remove Sarah Teather and cuts agenda at the next General Election.

You will need to be resolute in challenging Brent Council officers on every aspect of their work.In particular Gareth Daniel,Chief Executive, must be reigned in and told to stop spreading government cuts propaganda to Brent Council staff.

I am sure that the local newspaper, the Brent and Kilburn Times, has misquoted you in stating that you now support library closures and the matter is closed. I do not believe that you would have completely reversed the promises you made to Party members during your leadership campaign nine days ago.

I know that Brent SOS Libraries Campaign have written to you asking for  an urgent meeting and I look forward to discussing this issue with you then.Labour should be embracing local campaigners not treating them with disdain.

On a wider programme Brent Fightback want to work with Brent Labour Council in opposing Tory/Lib Dem cuts.We have also requested a meeting to discuss how to work together to resist  NHS Cuts such as the closure of Central Middlesex hospital  as well as local government cuts.

I look forward to meeting you to discuss further co-operation 

Best wishes 

Graham Durham

Helga the revanchist ignores regime change

There are few checks and balances on the power of the Brent Council Executive and under Ann John's leadership they worked hard at down-grading even those that do exist.

One of the these is the Call In, Overview and Scrutiny Committee the role of which is described thus on the Council's website:
Scrutiny is the mechanism by which the Executive is held publicly to account.  Together, the scrutiny and overview functions have the capacity to give non- Executive Members a significant opportunity to influence the proposals of the Executive and to probe into the impact of policy decisions on the Borough.  The Call In Overview and Scrutiny Committee meets as and when required to consider any matter “called in”, in accordance with Standing Orders and to make recommendations thereon.
Out of the last 12 committee meetings timetabled only  three have actually been held  Yesterday the committee met to discuss the Call In of the Executive's proposals to license leafleting in the borough.

Cllr Helga Gladbaum on her way into the meeting nonchalantly told demonstrators outside the Town Hall that she was going to vote for the Executive proposal  before she had heard any of the representations. Throughout the meeting she heckled other speakers shaking her head, laughing and say 'nonsense' when Cllr Alison Hopkins was asking if a campaign against incinerators, which was non-political, would be exempted from the regulations.  Gladbaum dismissed the Call In as a Lib Dem attempt to embarrass the Executive - which is of course a heinous crime when directed at as  fine a body of intelligent, diligent and august  men and women as you could find anywhere on the planet. They are as  we should all know by now,  always right. Clearly Cllr Helga Gladbaum believes there is no need to scrutinise their decisions at all and Scrutiny is just a waste of her time

But wait - wasn't this the first meeting of the new regime under the new caring leadership of Muhammed Butt, 'Brent with a human face', a leader who according to Muhammed's BNCTV interview wishes to:
....engage with our councillors, especially between the front bench and the back benchers - get them involved in the decision making process so everyone has an input and also I want to have more engagement with out residents and the electorate, listen to them rather than just sort of blindly defending our decisions.
Helga as a member of the old guard clearly hasn't got the message. Shafique Choudhary the new Chief Whip was in the public seats: perhaps he should have a word.

Thursday 17 May 2012

Mary Arnold: Consider the wider impact of academy conversion

Cllr Mary ArnoldLead Member for Children and Families, London Borough of Brent has made the following contribution to Queens Park Community School's debate about academy conversion:

Brent Council is committed to continue to work collaboratively and inclusively with its Family of Schools which is a ‘mixed economy’ of maintained community and foundation schools, including a range of faith schools together with four sponsor academies and more recently three ‘converter’ academies.

The government’s school reform legislation, the huge reduction in capital spending just at a time when population increases demand school expansion in Brent (and London-wide) and the diversion of funding away from local authorities towards academies is changing the education landscape and putting significant pressure on local authorities. Brent will continue to lobby the government on the following issues

 The central importance of local authorities in the strategic planning of school places and Special Educational Needs arrangements ,the regulation of fair admissions and the development of an authority wide school improvement strategy

 The vital role that elected members and local authority governors play in a locally accountable, democratic system

 The need for fair funding allocation for all schools which does not disadvantage maintained
schools in favour of academies and free schools

 The need for a realistic level of capital funding which will address the London-wide shortage
of school places

The government has created financial incentives for schools converting to Academy status.However conversion means the Local Authority’s budget is reduced through a topslice by the Department for Education and this inhibits its ability to deliver statutory requirements particularly impacting on vulnerable children.

In Brent we have much to be proud of and a strong record to maintain:

 education outcomes are continuing to improve at all key stages
 attainment at Key Stage 4 is in the top 25% of authorities nationally within the context of high levels of deprivation
 the gap in outcomes for under-achieving groups in Brent is closing
 permanent exclusions are reducing year on year

This represents fantastic work undertaken by individual schools. However, it isn’t the whole picture. What is special about Brent and has been a key feature of success is the co-operation across Brent’s education community – schools and the local authority – and the sense of collective responsibility.

It is vitally important to maintain high levels of collaboration across Brent’s education community and avoid the risks of fragmentation from academy conversions. The Local Authority continues to have key statutory duties and responsibilities across the whole system and needs to have the capacity to discharge its duties effectively, particularly in relation to the most vulnerable. This is brought into even sharper focus with increasing levels of poverty in Brent, higher unemployment and changes to the housing benefit system.

Brent Local Authority is not standing still but is developing new ways of working in the changing landscape. We know that many services provided by the Local Authority, particularly School Improvement Services, are highly valued. We also know that many schools recognise the importance of a shared moral purpose that transcends individual schools.

Therefore Brent has developed a comprehensive Traded Services offer for 2012/13 and is also developing with schools a partnership model for future delivery of School Improvement Services from 2013/14 onwards, with schools as leading partners. Over 100 governors attended the recent meetings and there was a very positive response to partnership working between schools and the Local Authority to secure the best outcomes for Brent’s children and young people.

In summary, in making decisions about your school, we would ask you to consider the wider impact on Brent’s education community and the importance of working together in the Brent Family of Schools for the benefit of all Brent students.

Queens Park parents voice concerns over academy conversion

Queens Park Community School is currently balloting on a possible conversion to a Cooperative Trust Academy. A group of parents have put  forward their views:

Message to All Parents and the QPCS community from Parents with deep misgivings about conversion to academy status:

14 May - 2012

Many parents, long term enthusiastic supporters of QPCS, are deeply concerned at the prospect of our school becoming an academy.

Our main concerns are:

o Academies are less democratic than the current arrangements, and rules regarding oversight of governance and finance are significantly less rigorous than for Local Authority schools.

o Academies are not required to follow national guidelines for Teachers’ pay and conditions. While we do not suggest conversion would impact teacher remuneration or conditions immediately, there are no guarantees that fair pay and conditions for teachers, who are the bedrock of QPCS, can be secured.

o Brent schools – including those within the Local Authority and those with academy or foundation status – currently work together with the Council to address borough-wide educational issues. There is no certainty this will persist long-term as academies develop independence, to the detriment of the school community.

o Conversion to an academy may put the current QPCS ethos at risk because it is impossible to guarantee that future management teams will maintain values of inclusion.

o Any financial gain to the school will be short term: we shall be averting a crisis now only to encounter one in a year or two

o There is no guarantee we will get the large sum stated at the meeting with parents. Recently, the Financial Times pointed out that the Department for Education has overpaid £120 million to some schools converting to academies and those schools now face a repayment crisis – the “bribe” has been overestimated and is not sustainable. What’s more, a recent Government consultation paper suggests that the cost of academies is already £600 million more than estimated. Consequently, there is now no guarantee that schools converting will receive any additional funding at all. If the money stops next year, QPCS will have cast itself adrift in a potentially dangerous situation.

We are trying to find another way through this crisis and will meet the leader of Brent Council, Ann John, this week. We will ask Brent to explain its future policies and funding, and whether it believes it can offer an effective alternative strategy to the academies. We are also taking a letter of opposition to the Department of Education on the morning of Friday 18 May, and have also asked the secretary of state, Michael Gove, to meet us.

QPCS been transformed by the efforts of the current and previous head teacher, with tremendous support from the teaching staff, the governors, pupils and parents. We are now concerned that our high-performing and immensely popular local school is being driven down this road just because our governing body feels it has no choice.

We are also concerned that many teachers feel bad about the situation, even though they may vote for conversion in the face of threatened redundancies. Brent has not been regarded as the best borough in providing services to education. But the pressure should be on provision of better services, not privatizing the schools in a world where the comprehensive ethos is thrown out of the window!

Save Our Libraries - lobby Executive on Monday

Defending Kensal Rise Library yesterday
Message from Save Kensal Rise Library:

Date: Monday 21st May. Meet outside Brent Town Hall at 6.15pm. Meeting starts at 7pm.
Brent’s Executive will consider a Progress Report on the implementation of the library closures. Please come to Monday’s meeting to support the campaign to get our libraries back. We will be outside Brent Town Hall at 6.15; the meeting starts at 7pm, and members of the public are welcome to attend.

We were engaged in a democratic process - not a conspiracy

Ruth Moher
Jim Moher
Muhammed Butt
The majority Brent Labour Group on Brent Council have recently had  their annual  elections for Leader, Deputy Leader and Executive. As usual,  this involved a range of contests for different positions. This democratic  process resulted in some significant changes at the top, with Cllr Muhammed Butt replacing Cllr Ann John as Leader. 

Suitable tributes were paid to Cllr John for the long and sterling service which she has given to the Labour Party and Council, which we endorsed.

As long-serving activists in the Labour Party and as senior front bench councillors, we favoured the change and indeed Ruth stood for and was elected as Deputy Leader, without challenge. Jim was returned as
Executive Member for Highways and Transportation, again without challenge.

 In the circumstances, we entirely refute the gossip which  you retailed from a BNCTV item which was based on an anonymous and mischievous source. It implied that we may have been involved in a conspiracy to bring about the change of Leader, an innuendo which your headline circulated widely.

The truth is that we took an active and open part in a democratic process, that is all. As elected public representatives we take exception to such 'sour grapes' gossip being given credibility by your blog. This leak is only an attempt to deflect from the fact that a majority of Labour councillors thought it was time for a change.