Tuesday 31 July 2012

My choice for the Green Party leadership: Romayne and Will

Campaigning is hotting up for the Green Party leadership. In this video my personal choices for Leader and Deputy, Romayne Phoenix and Will Duckworth explain their policies.

'Betrayed' Brent Lib Dem councillor defects to Labour

Open letter from Councillor James Allie – Alperton Ward, Brent

It is with great sadness that after more than 10 years as a Liberal Democrat Councillor, this week I have resigned my membership of the party. I joined the Liberal Democrats because I wanted to help make Britain a fairer, greener and more equal country. I no longer believe that the Liberal Democrat Party has the will or the ability to make this happen. They have betrayed the values that I once shared with them.
However, I believe that the Labour Party, under Ed Miliband in Westminster and their new Leader of Brent Council Muhammed Butt, shares my values and that I can as part of a Labour administration, once again work to improve the lives of the people I represent. 

I have always struggled to lend my support to the devastating policies the Coalition is inflicting on Britain. I have also been sickened by the hypocritical things the Liberal Democrats do and say here in Brent. While my feelings about this have built up over the past two years, there are three issues that have finally pushed me to take this decision:
  1. The people I represent in Alperton are struggling more than ever under this government, but the Liberal Democrat Leadership in Westminster is prioritising reform of the House of Lords instead of a plan for economic growth.
  2. The closure of the A&E at Central Middlesex Hospital under this government is an astonishing betrayal. Brent MP Sarah Teather campaigned to keep the A&E when it was not under threat of closure. Now she is in government closing it. I am only sorry that I trusted her back then and I am sure that a number of her constituents feel the same way.
  3. The Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Brent, Paul Lorber, also knows very well that had the Lib Dems won the Local Election in 2010 they would have faced the same pressure to close the six libraries in Brent that have caused such a stir. It is the Coalition’s cuts to local government that have caused this problem and Cllr. Lorber’s posturing on the issue is just an insult to the library campaigners and the people of Brent.
I recognise that some of my constituents in Alperton will feel let down by my decision. I apologise to them if they feel I ought to have nailed my colours to the mast more firmly before the election. Equally I trust that many of them voted for me because they knew of the hard work that I have done as a councillor over the years.  I pledge to them that I will work harder than ever to improve the lives of everyone who lives in Alperton.

I know that there are many people who voted Lib Dem at the last election and indeed many Lib Dem members who feel as betrayed as I do by the party’s record in the coalition. I urge them to join me and to join the Labour Party.

Councillor James Allie

Willesden Green regeneration consultation dates published

Further details of the August 8th consultation on Willesden Green Library Centre redevelopment plans have now been published as well as new consultation dates in September:
Open day on Wednesday 8 August 
An open day will be held at Willesden Green Library Centre in The Library Lab to give you an update on the project. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to share your ideas on the future of the WGCC.

There will be a display at The Library Lab throughout August if you are not able to attend the open day.
Wednesday 8 August
11am to 8pm at The Library Lab in the WGLC with presentations at 12noon, 2pm, 4pm and 7pm

Further workshops with the following focus groups are planned for September:
Tuesday, September 4 - Seniors
Thursday, September 6 - Small and medium enterprises
Tuesday, September 11- Community groups
Thursday, September 13 - Ethnic minority groups
Tuesday, September 18 - Teens
Thursday, September 20 - Families with young children

Further information

If you need more information or have any questions about the planning application please contact Galliford Try’s dedicated freephone information line on 0800 298 7040 or email 
Web: www.willesdengreen.co.uk  Twitter: @Will_GreenCC

Monday 30 July 2012

Stand up for Central Middlesex A&E tomorrow

As public concern and anger mounts about the closure of Central Middlesex Accident and Emergency, North West London NHS is holding an open day on its proposals called 'Shaping a Healthier Future', renamed by some as 'Dictating a Dangerous Future'  as it includes no option of keeping Central Middlesex A&E open. It is likely that the closure will lead to the eventual down-grading of the hospital.

This is their blurb:

On Tuesday 31 July, the ‘Shaping a healthier future’ team will be hosting a public event at Patidar House, 22 London Road, Wembley, Middlesex HA9 7EX from 2pm – 8pm

              Local clinicians will host a dedicated question and answer session from 3pm - 4pm and 7pm - 8pm

The event is part of major public consultation programme taking place across North West London this summer Views are being sought on clinically-led proposals to improve healthcare for nearly 2m people in North West London in response to changing health needs, medical advances and rising standards.

Everyone will have the chance to learn more, put questions to the programme’s clinical leaders and fill in the consultation response form when the ‘Shaping a healthier future’ consultation roadshow comes to Brent.

It will be held at Patidar House, 22 London Road, Wembley, Middlesex HA9 7EX from 2pm to 8pm and will be attended by local clinicians and members of the programme team who will be on hand to talk local residents through the proposals. 

A further roadshow will be held in Brent on Saturday 29 September from 10am - 4pm at Harlesden Methodist Church.

Sunday 29 July 2012

How Council Tax Support proposals will hit the poor

 The proactive Chalkhill Residents Association has put up posters around the estate urging residents('THIS IS IMPORTANT')  to respond to the consultation on Local Council Tax Support. The consultation ends on 10th August.  Unfortunately, despite paper copies of the consultation form being available in libraries and One Stop Shops, you really need to view the on-line documentation to get a full idea of the repercussions of the change from Council Tax Benefit to Local Council Tax Support. Unfortunately the complexity of these documents will put many off.  LINK   There was a public meeting about the changes at Brent Town Hall on Friday which unfortunately was not very well advertised with no details on the consultation site or on the leaflets. It didn't help that it was on the Olympics Opening Ceremony day.

In an article in the Guardian last week LINK Polly Toynbee put the changes into context stating that this was another example of the Coalition devolving the axe to councils: 
Here's the background: on average, households pay £1,000 a year in council tax. Until now, households on low incomes were exempt or paid only according to their means, so 5.9m households received council tax benefit. From next April, the benefit is cut by 10%, which is bad enough; but then insanity takes over. Each local authority will be given the sum that was handed out in benefit in their area (less 10%) to disperse as they please. They must keep paying the full benefit to pensioners and "the vulnerable". Each council must choose who is "vulnerable", as the government refuses to provide its own definition. Half of the recipients are pensioners, so protecting them means all other low-income households bear the whole cut, averaging 20%. People who live in areas with a lot of pensioners or a lot of the "vulnerable" will suffer the biggest cuts, as much as 30% or more.
Brent Council says that this represents a cut of at least £5.2m in 2013/14 taking account of the increasing number of people claiming benefit.  They say that if they were to retain the current Council Tax Benefit scheme it would have to reduce current services: 'Instead Brent is proposing a new scheme that is as fair as possible and in line with the needs of the community'. They are clearly caught between a rock and a hard place but end up carrying out the Coalition's cuts.

They set out these 'Key Principles':
Principle 1: Everyone should pay something
At present, claimants in receipt of income support, job seekers allowance (income based) and employment support allowance (income related) and other claimants not receiving these but with an income below the required level for their basic living needs, generally receive 100 per cent council tax benefit and therefore pay no council tax.

The council proposes that all working age claimants (unless protected) should pay at least 20 per cent of their council tax under the CTS scheme.
Principle 2: The most vulnerable claimants should be protected (from the minimum contribution)
Claimants will be protected from the 20 per cent minimum contribution if they or their partner or dependants are entitled to a disability premium or enhanced disability premium (normally given where disability living allowance has been awarded) or disabled earnings disregard, or the claimant is in receipt of disabled persons reduction for council tax purposes, war disablement pension or war widow’s pension.
Principle 3: The scheme should incentivise work
At present, the first £5 of a single claimant’s earnings, £10 of a couple’s earnings and £25 of a single parent’s earnings are not counted when calculating their weekly income for the purposes of determining their entitlement to council tax benefit.

The council proposes to increase this level by an additional £10 a week under its proposed scheme for single claimants, couples and single parents. This would mean that the first £15 of a single claimant’s earnings, £20 of a couple’s earnings and £35 of a single parent’s earnings would not be counted when calculating their entitlement to council tax support
Principle 4: Everyone in the household should contribute
At present, a deduction is generally made from potential weekly council tax benefit entitlement in respect of other adults aged 18 or over living in the claimant’s home. These are referred to as non-dependants. A non-dependant is a person who is living with the claimant but who is not dependent upon them, and not living in their home on a commercial basis, (i.e. as a joint tenant or sub tenant). Non-dependants include an adult son or daughter, a mother or father, friend etc of the claimant.

These people are assumed to be giving the claimant some money towards their council tax regardless of whether or not they are actually doing so. This assumed contribution is based upon the non-dependant's circumstances.
The draft scheme proposes doubling existing levels of these contributions. Additionally for other adults in receipt of job seekers allowance (income based), a charge of £6.60 is proposed instead of no charge as at present.
The current deduction rates applied to council tax benefit in 2012/13 and the proposed rates for the council’s local CTS scheme are shown in Appendix C.
Principle 5: Better off claimants should pay relatively more so that the least well off receive greater protection
The draft scheme proposes to continue to reduce entitlement to help with Council Tax as income / earnings increase. However, it is proposed that the calculation of this is adjusted so that the rate at which Council Tax Support reduces where weekly income exceeds basic living needs is 30p in every pound rather than the 20p currently applied. This is referred to as the taper and it is often expressed in proportionate terms. It is currently 20% per week for the existing Council Tax Benefit scheme and will become 30% per week under the proposed Council Tax Support scheme.
Principle 6: Benefit should not be paid to those with relatively large capital or savings
At present, working age claimants with savings and investments above £16,000 are generally not entitled to council tax benefit.

Our proposal is that working age claimants with capital such as savings and investments amounting to over £6,000 shall not be entitled to council tax support
Feature 1: Removal of second adult rebate scheme for working age claimants
The current second adult rebate scheme (whereby claimants whose own income is too high to receive CTB, but have other adult(s) in the household whose income is low, can receive a council tax discount of up to 25 per cent) is to be abolished for working age claimants.
Feature 2: Rate of allowances and premiums to be frozen at 2012/2013
Premiums and personal allowances used to determine basic living needs for a claimant and their family when calculating entitlement to CTS shall be held at the rates applied for 2012/13.
 For practical purposes the most valuable document is probably worked calculations for particular circumstances and so I have made that available below:

The document sets out what the claimant will have to pay each week  from 1st April 2013 when Local Council Tax Support comes in, compared to current Council Tax Benefit. In the examples below the extra money the claimant will have to find (the difference between Council Tax liability and Council Tax Support) is in blue.
  • A Single Person in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance (Income Based) living in a Band A property. Claimant will need to pay extra £2.62 weekly 
  • A Couple with 3 children, in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance (Income Based) and Child Tax Credits, living in a Band D property. £5.24 weekly 
  •  A Single Parent with 2 children, in receipt of Income Support and Child Tax Credits, living in a Band C property. £3.49 weekly 
  • A Couple with 2 children, in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance (Income Based) and Child Tax Credits, living with another adult (i.e. a non-dependant) in a Band F property. The non-dependant is also in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance (Income Based). £14.17 weekly 
  • A Single Person earning £90.00 per week and living in a Band A property. £3.82 weekl
  • A Couple with 3 children, with a total income of £400 per week (made up of Self-Employed Earnings and Tax Credits), living in a band D property £16.96 weekly
  • A Single Parent with 2 children, with a total income of £270 per week (made up of Salary and Tax Credits), living in a Band C property £3.49 weekly
These extra payments will of course come on top of the housing benefit cap and other changes which will make the poor worse off.

I would welcome a report of guest blog from anyone who was at Friday's meeting. Send to mafran@globalnet.co.uk

Universal free school meals improve attainment and diet

The Green Party has campaigned for universal provision of free school meals in the past and research published last week provides evidence for the efficacy of this policy.  Apart from the benefits to children outlined below the policy would end costly, cumbersome and bureaucratic administration of Free School Meals applications by local authorities, the collection of 'dinner money'  in schools and enable planning of a school meals service based on overall pupil numbers.

The findings should make the Our Lady of Grace Primary school, Dollis Hill, think again about its plans to do away with hot meals and provide sandwiches only to children entitled to free school meals.

From School Food Trust LINK
Research measuring the impact of offering free school meals to more children in specific areas of England found significant improvements in their attainment, as well as benefits for diet and take up of healthy school meals.
The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and Bryson Purdon Social Research looked at pilot schemes in Durham and Newham which offered free school meals to all children at primary school, and at a scheme in Wolverhampton to extend eligibility for free school meals to include families receiving working tax credits. Their findings include:
  • The universal pilot had a significant positive impact on attainment for primary school pupils at Key Stages 1 and 2, with pupils in the pilot areas making between four and eight weeks’ more progress than similar pupils in comparison areas. These effects could have arisen either through the provision of free school meals directly or through the wider activities that accompanied the pilot (such as the promotion of school meals and healthy eating to pupils and parents) or both.
  • The improvements in attainment tended to be strongest amongst pupils from less affluent families and amongst those with lower prior attainment, though It should be noted that the effects for different types of pupils are not always significantly different from one another.
  • The impact of the universal entitlement pilot on the take-up of school meals amongst primary school pupils was generally large, positive and significant. Most pupils in the universal pilot areas took up the offer of free school meals. Around nine in ten primary school pupils were taking at least one school meal per week by the end of the pilot compared with around six in ten similar pupils in a set of similar comparison areas.
  • Take-up of school meals increased for pupils who were not eligible (that is, entitled and registered) for free school meals before the pilot was introduced, but it also increased among pupils who were already eligible for free school meals.
  • In the universal pilot areas, the increased take-up of school meals led to a shift in the types of food that pupils ate at lunchtime, away from foods typically associated with packed lunches towards those associated with hot meals.
  • Children in the universal pilot areas were less likely to report eating crisps at least once a day than children in comparison areas. This suggests that the reduction in crisp consumption at lunchtime did not lead children to eat crisps in the afternoon.
  • The universal pilot also had a positive impact on parents’ perceptions of children’s willingness to try new food. Two-thirds of parents in these areas agreed that their child was willing to try new food, compared with 57 per cent in comparison areas. This finding supports evidence from case studies that parents felt that taking school meals in the pilot had encouraged their child to try a wider range of foods.
Our Chief Executive, Judy Hargadon, said: “These findings are serious food for thought. Offering free school meals to every child in Newham and Durham helped to make them more likely to eat a better diet at school, do significantly better in class – with an average of two months more progress by pupils at key stages 1 and 2 – and less fussy about what they ate at home.

“The investment in the pilots is dwarfed by the spiralling costs of poor diet to the NHS and our national spend on efforts to close the attainment gap between children from poorer backgrounds and their peers. What’s particularly interesting is that researchers say the impact on attainment seemed be strongest among those from lower income backgrounds, and those who weren’t doing so well at school before.
“Feedback from parents taking part in the Wolverhampton pilot has also been very positive. That both Wolverhampton and Newham councils decided to continue their schemes beyond the pilot stage and that Durham is now offering school meals at a reduced price – at a time when demand for limited funding is so fierce – is testament to the value they see in good school food to support children, families and schools.
“These results show how important it is to ensure every child living in poverty gets a free school meal and – at the very least – that we keep good school meals affordable for everyone else. It’s a reminder for policymakers, head teachers, local authorities and parents that investing in good food for children at school pays back a big return for their diet and education.”
The full report can be viewed at https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/standard/publicationDetail/Page1/DFE-RR227#downloadableparts

Saturday 28 July 2012

Wembley Central station patched up in the nick of time

Wembley Central station in June
Signs of possible work last week

Wembley Central station on Wednesday

I have been recording how the condition of Wembley Central station has deteriorated over the last few years of regeneration and speculated about whether any  improvements to the station exterior would be ready by the time of the Olympics. Well I can report that a quick patch up job hiding the exposed joints was done by Wednesday but it is far from the smart station that we were promised in the regeneration publicity. See below:

Do your bit for the NHS this afternooon in Harlesden and Willesden

Campaigners will be giving out postcards about the threat to our local NHS and the closure of the Central Middlesex A&E and collecting signatures on petitions this afternoon at Harlesden Methodist Church and outside Sainsbury's on Willesden High Road. (3pm-5pm)

Please come and help publicise the campaign and the march due to take place on September 15th from Harlesden to Central Middlesex Hospital.

The Guardian publicises Willesden Bookshop's plight - still time for Council to act

The plight of the Willesden Bookshop, facing closure this month as its notice expires, is reported in today's Guardian LINK

Helen Sensi, who has worked at the shop since it opened, said:
We've been inundated with people saying 'Why are you closing down?' I think people will feel a tremendous sense of loss. Independent shops have had a hard time, but Steve (Adams) has kept the shop going where others have fallen. He's managed to be a community service, even if the council doesn't recognise it.
Sensi said that the end of the Willesden store was:
... disaster for children in terms of literacy. To see children engrossed on the floor, from tiny tots reading cloth books to older children running towards a cover they recognise, is a delight. For me, that's where it begins.
Surely it is not too late for Brent Council  leader  Muhammed Butt to meet with campaigners and the bookshop to sort something out.  The bookshop is something of tremendous value that Brent Council is in danger of needlessly throwing on the scrap heap.

Friday 27 July 2012

Kids bored already - will this help?

A little  girl stopped me on the Chalkhill Estate yesterday and rather forlornly asked me when school started again. She was bored and missed her teachers and friends and wanted to go back to school This was only day 4 of the 6 week summer holiday!

Ten years or more again, many Brent primary schools hosted summer play schemes, usually lasting for 4 weeks with activities, outings, and inter-playscheme competitions. Since then funds have dried up and the subsequent costs are too much for many families. The schemes were also affected by the amount of building work going on in the summer holiday in many schools which made them unavailable for hire.

Events for older children are available but have to be booked on-line and again entail charges. Details on: http://www.bmyvoice.org.uk/brentinsummer

Luckily Chalkhill Community Action have secured funding for 12 days activities connected with the Olympic Games for Chalkhill children aged 8-18: The Chalkhill Games. Tonight there will be a viewing of the Opening Ceremony at the Chalkhill Community Centre (Welford Centre, 113 Chalkhill Road)  from 8.30pm and Chalkhill's Own Show tomorrow from 3-6pm in the Large Hall.

Subsequently, from Monday there will be activities from 2-5pm including quizzes, traditional games, making French skipping ropes and paper gliders, athletics and team games. Saturday 11th August will be for Under 5s only.

The activities are FREE but parents are asked to be responsible for their children outside the stated times and make arrangements to bring them and pick them up.

Further information from Kath-Fraser Jackson Phone 020 8904 0976  07931 842 158

Thursday 26 July 2012

Willesden woodland cut down - not quite in its prime

The carved  'woodland' installation of trees, animals and birds outside the Willesden Green Library and Willesden Bookshop was torn down today and disappeared on the back of a lorry.

Locals, already bemused by the installation which appeared as if by magic overnight some time ago, are perplexed about its removal and concerned about its fate.

Was it robbery, vandalism, an art 'happening' - will it be sold as firewood, donated to a nursery, put in storage for a return to the proposed Cultural Centre, or be the centre piece of the Civic Centre atrium?

Who knows.....

How much did it cost....?

Drop me an e-mail

GLA planners torpedoed Old Willesden Library demolition application

GLA planners, advising the Mayor,  have acted before the bulldozers move in, at least as regards the Old Willesden Library.

It can now be revealed that Strategic Planners at the GLA  met with the Galliford Try application team twice during the 6 week consultation period during which the they considered whether the Willesden Green Redevelopment application  complied with the London Plan Policy.

According to Gemma Kendall, Case Officer,  in the meetings before the July 4th deadline, the planning officers:
...expressed serious concerns that the proposed scheme would not comply with the London Plan Policy 7.8 and 7.9 regarding heritage assets and heritage-led regeneration. The applicant subsequently chose to withdraw the application before it was reported to the Mayor on 4th July 2012.
Galliford Try, in what appeared to be a surprise move, withdrew their planning application for the Willesden Green Cultural Centre on July 4th.

It now appears that the combination of unprecedented local campaigning, massive public rejection of the plans,  the views of the GLA planning team and not least the Town Square application combined to force withdrawal.

Meanwhile, appearing to have learnt little, the application team have arranged a consultation day on the revised application in the middle of the August holidays!

And now for something completely different...Counter Olympics on Saturday

Whose Games? Whose City?
12 noon, Saturday 28 July
Assemble Mile End Park, East London.
March to Wennington Green (next to Victoria Park) for People's Games for All
A family-friendly protest. 
 Supported by London Green Party, Waltham Forest and Redbridge Green Party, Tower Hamlets Green Party.
The Counter Olympics Network (CON)announces a march and rally in London’s East End on Saturday 28 July, assembling in Mile End Park (near Mile End tube station) at 12 noon, and marching to Wennington Green (next to Victoria Park) for a family friendly People’s Games for All which will include speeches, entertainment, “alternative games”, and children’s events.
Already more than 30 organisations officially support the event, with more coming on board all the time. They include anti corporate campaigns, civil liberties groups, local trades councils, green groups, anti militarists, community groups, other anti Olympics campaigns, disability activists, and others. It will be an event which symbolically “reclaims” the Games, a party to which everyone is invited. It will present a truer and more optimistic vision of Britain than the officially promoted one of a militarised and austerity ridden country that is content to be hijacked by millionaire politicians and their corporate friends.
 The Counter Olympics Network links people and organisations critical of some or many aspects of the 2012 Games. Issues of concern include:
 * the corporate takeover of the Games (with sponsors that profit from sweatshops, poison local people, pollute the planet, and so much more);
 * the eviction of local people from their homes and businesses to make way for the Olympic sites, and prioritising the interests of global corporations at the expense of small businesses;
 * the privatisation of public space;
 * the introduction of repressive policing and surveillance in conjunction with the Games, and the use of the Games to promote acceptance of the militarisation of society (in particular – siting missile launchers on domestic roofs in East London, employing 42,000 private security staff on top of the vast police and military presence, increasing stop and search powers which target and alienate local young people, placing warships on the Thames and at Weymouth, and introducing preventive detention and ASBOs to intimidate peaceful anti-Olympics protesters);
 * the threat to both the lives and livelihoods of Londoners caused by the VIP Lanes for dignitaries on London roads;
 * the encouragement of nationalism, in contradiction to the supposed spirit of the Olympics;
 * the sanctioning of gender apartheid in Olympic teams;
 * the “body fascism” mentality in elite sport;
 * the hypocrisy of a Paralympics sponsor, ATOS, which is also responsible for wrongly removing welfare payments from tens of thousands of people with disabilities;
 * the multi-billion-pound expenditure, much of it on temporary facilities, and most of it unnecessary at a time of supposed austerity.
 CON helps to provide a co-ordinated voice for a wide range of groups which share the desire to provide a counterbalance to the overblown mainstream pro Olympics propaganda. CON is also concerned that the Orwellian security apparatus and regressive legislation put in place to protect brands, privilege, and privatised public space won’t all disappear after the Games.
 CON supporter Julian Cheyne said today, “The 2012 Olympics have turned into a corporate festival of world security, consuming billions of our money to increase private profits, while the elderly, disabled, sick, unemployed, young people and other groups are punished for a crisis caused by the finance industry. To stand by silently would imply we consent to this; and we do not. If you are as fed up with all of this as we are, come and join our Counter Olympics gathering on 28th July.”

The Olympic Torch in Wembley

See the BBC video here LINK

 Wembley High Road 10.49 Wembley Park station 11.46 Forty Lane 11.47 (Chalkhill banners)

Councillors back Asda petrol station despite local opposition

Pedestrian routes at Forty Lane/King's Drive/Asda junction
Brent Planning Committee last night unanimously approved plans for a new petrol station at Asda's Wembley Superstores despite objections from ward councillors, residents and the governing body of Chalkhill Primary School.

Planners admitted that the nearby road junction at Bridge Road/Forty Avenue/Forty Lane/Barn Hill was operating at full capacity but claimed that 100 yards down the road the Forty Lane/King's Drive/Asda junction (above) had spare capacity.

Cllr Shafique Choudhary (Labour -Barnhill) drew attention to the health hazards posed by petrol fueling stations to nearby residents and foodstuffs at the store, less thyan 100 metres from the proposed fueling station..He particularly focused on the carcinogenic properties of benzine. Steve Weeks of Brebt Planning said these dangers were known about but that the problem was being addressed nationally through redesign of petrol. Cllr Ann John remarked that many petrol stations had food stores and nearby flats without any problems.

Cllr Michael Pavey, the Labour winner of the recent Barnhill by-election, lambasted the planning officers'; report for being base don old data, lacking specific figures and being based on trip figures submitted by Asda and accepted by officers without an independent check. He said that the business model submitted by Asda which claimed that it would not be in 'aggressive' competition with other petrol providers lacked credibility - in fact Asda prides itself on low prices and will draw in additional customers. A check revealed that current Asda prices at their petrol stations were 3-5p cheaper that other local facilities and he could not see Asda charging higher prices in Wembley than it did elsewhere.   The 2009 traffic figures did not take into account school expansions in the area.  He concluded that the application should be rejected on the grounds that the officers' report was unsubstantial, unanalysed and untrustworthy.

Rachel McConnell for the planning department said that the trips data was based on national data as well as Asda's own experience of their other petrol stations. The peak flow was 2,300-2,400 cars and there would be only 43 extra trips caused by the petrol station, and this did not take into account trips that would be made to the store anyway.

Earlier I had made a presentation on behalf of the Chalkhill Primary School Governing body. I noted that we had not been formally consulted about the plans despite the school being close to the proposed site - we had only heard about the application through our community contacts.

As a governing body we are responsible for the safety of pupils both in school and on their way to school. In line with Brent Council policy, for environmental and health reasons, we encourage children to walk to school.  However, in the case of this development there appeared to be a conflict with our duty of care to keep children safe and implementation of the walking to school policy. If the petrol station were to be built increased traffic (at the 7 crossing points marked in blue - two not pedestrian controlled) would put children walking to school in more danger.  There were already problems with people avoiding the multiple blue crossing points by walking straight across Forty Lane from the Town Hall bus stop (red line on map) to the chestnut tree lined avenue leading to Chalkhill Estate and the school. There had been traffic accidents at the junction and injuries to pedestrians at the unofficial crossing.

I further contended that the planners' report did not take into account the increased vehicular and pedestrian traffic which would result from the expansion of schools places in the area. Ark Academy (secondary)  is due to add a further 540 secondary school places over the next 3 years, Ark Academy Primary 180, Preston Manor Primary 180 and if plans to be discussed by the Executive on August 20th go ahead a further 210 or 420 at Chalkhill Primary. This amounts to more than 1,000 extra journeys when planners admit that the morning peak is already higher than in 2009. Overall the report focused on vehicles and not on pedestrians.

In addition when Brent Town Hall is sold off next year, depending on its new use which could be retail or hotel, further journeys may be generated. Surely planners should take into account future pressures as well as the current situation?

The lone voice that spoke in favour of the proposal was that of former Independent Conservative Group councillor Robert Dunwell. Speaking on behalf of Ban Hill Residents Association (2004) he supported the application 'in principle' as being a good amenity for the store and for the surrounding community. He suggested that there could be a delay while the problem of capacity at the Bridge Road/Forty Avenue was dealt with.  Barn Hill Residents Association (without the 2004 in brackets!) has opposed the proposal on grounds of increased traffic.

I have to record that the points I raised were not addressed by planning committee councillors or officers. I remain seriously concerned about the safety of children walking to school from King's Drive and Pilgrims Way estates (bottom right of map) as well as those using the Town Hall bus stop.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Willesden Green: 'Is this all there is?'

Well, that was my reaction in the words of the old song,  when I saw that the proposed consultation with the community and redesign, following the withdrawal of the Willesden Green Redevelopment Planning application, amounts to a one day event.

The truth is that the Keep WillesdenGreen campaign, through its website, public meetings and face to face cobersrtions with local people, has done far more consulting that the developers.

Still it will be worthwhile going along and remaking the points that have galvanised so many local people and library, bookshop and museum users into action:

Dear Resident
The planning application for the proposed new Willesden Green Cultural Centre was withdrawn by Galliford Try at the beginning of July.
The Council and Galliford Try are now proposing some further engagement activities with local people and other stakeholders to explore the design for the Cultural Centre including what the building will look like and also what activities will take place in and around the building.
An open day will be held on 8 August 2012 at the Willesden Green Library Centre in the Library Lab to update all stakeholders. You are welcome to drop in at any  time during the day and we will be available to answer questions. There will be presentations at set times during the day and further information on this will be available at the Library Lab.
Thursday 8 August
11am to 8pm at the Library Lab at the WGLC

All Souls urged to bring their original spirit of enlightenment to Kensal Rise issue

Lindsey Davis, Chair of the Society of Authors, has written to the Warden of All Souls College, Oxford, about the situation at Kensal Rise Library.
Dear Warden,

Like many people I was horrified by the uncivilised scenes when Kensal Rise Library was recovered by Brent Council in the middle of the night.  I won't dwell on that. If nothing else, All Souls must be aware what a terrible PR disaster it was. I am writing to you both in my position as Chair of the Society of Authors and personally, as a concerned Oxford alumna. I remember that friends of mine who read Law were fortunate to use the wonderful Codrington Library in their studies.

I was ashamed to see an institution of my university, and a registered charity, involved in actions that were reported so luridly. There has long been a spirit that Oxford colleges, often unobtrusively, bring help and enlightenment to deprived areas (my own has a Settlement in a poor area of London, for instance) The same spirit would appear to be behind the original grant of the land at Kensal Rise under a restrictive covenant to the people of that area, the gift to stand as long as the building was used as a library.

I understand that the library doors are now locked and All Souls have put a security guard inside - a sad image. As I believe you are advertising for tenants, may I say on behalf of the Society, that we hope All Souls will bear in mind the importance of public libraries at a time when so many are threatened with closure. I wrote recently in The Bookseller about what libraries had meant to me , growing up in a depressed city environment and a home where money was tight, eventually allowing me to be one of the first in my family to go to university, and Oxford at that.

Of course you have financial responsibilities, though in this context I was interested to see recently that Lord Hodgson has suggested making it easier for charities to invest in social enterprises by scrapping the requirement that charities have to maximise profits. Perhaps this would help All Souls in their current predicament. Perhaps, since you have the original grant of land as a precedent, you might even anticipate the change.

Children's authors slam phonics tests

A item from the Guardian to give teachers heart over the holidays. Three cheers for our children's authors!

More than 90 of Britain's best-known children's authors and illustrators have called on the government to abandon its plans to introduce early-year reading tests, warning that they pose a threat to reading for pleasure in primary schools.

The former children's laureate Michael Rosen is leading the writers' charge against a phonics-intensive approach to teaching young children how to read.

A letter to the Guardian signed by 91 names including Meg Rosoff, Philip Ardagh and Alan Gibbons says millions is being spent on "systematic synthetic phonics programmes" even though there is "no evidence that such programmes help children understand what they are reading".

Rosen told the Guardian: "It does not produce reading for understanding, it produces people who can read phonically."

The letter calls on the government to abandon plans for reading tests, specifically the phonics screening check at the end of year one and the spelling, punctuation and grammar (Spag) test at the end of year six.
The former requires five- and six-year-olds to sound out the letters of a short word or nonsense word and blend them to make the word (for example: emp, sheb, shelf, splok, blow, pine).

Rosen claimed schools were coaching children through the process and at least half were still failing. Many were failing because they were trying to correct the nonsense words, he said, for example saying "strom" as "storm".

"It is incredibly baffling to most parents because it sounds as if they are being told that their child has failed at reading, which is not the case," he said.

The proposed Spag test is to be sat by children at the end of primary school as a way of addressing what the government sees as a lack of attention given to spelling and grammar in recent years.

Rosen said it would mean teachers spending months on a "drill, skill and kill" programme, "trying to get them to pass this thing. It's bad enough with Sats. Anyone who has a year six child will know that for the past six months up until the Sats test, our children have been drilled and drilled, doing paper after paper, when they could have been writing, reading and playing with language in all kinds of ways.

"They have no evidence that any of this stuff they've imposed will actually improve children's writing. If they produced it, perhaps we'd have to shut up, but they don't."

The letter highlights a recent Ofsted report, Moving English Forward, which recommended that the government should call on schools to develop policies on reading for enjoyment. "To date there has been no such move by government," it says.

Instead the government has concentrated on phonics programmes. "As a result, more school time will be devoted to reading as an academic, test-driven exercise; less time will be available for reading and writing enjoyment.

"We deplore this state of affairs and consider that the quality of children's school lives is about to be altered for the worse."

Real spirit of Olympics wins out over corporate hijack

Children, parents and teachers herald the Olympic Torch
Local people turned out in force today as the Olympic Torch came along Forty Lane.  The contradictions of the Olympics were much in evidence with the commercialisation competing with more traditional values of community and diversity.

Just before the Torch was due a Samsung vehicle drew up and in what at times was a potential mini-riot started distributing 'blow-up' Samsung flags on which Samsung's name was very large and the Olympic rings symbol very small. Samsung cheer leaders tried to get the crowd banging their Samsung advertising flags together to welcome the torch.

At first it looked as if  the hand-painted  banners made by school children with the Mahogany Carnival Arts workshop would be over-shadowed by corporate plastic  but as the photographs shows the beautiful banners won out.

The torch itself was preceded by sponsor vehicles from Samsung, Cocoa Cola and Lloyd's bank - the latter drew a shout of 'Give us back our money!'.

Nonetheless beneath the corporate shenanigans there was real enthusiasm and a sense of history being made from a typically diverse Brent crowd.

Local MPs should back zero waste EDM

With air pollution a constant concern in London, and particularly in Brent, readers may wish to ask our local members of parliament to sign Early Day Motion 383 on 'Zero waste strategies, recycling and incineration'. With possible incinerators at Brent Cross and Park Royal the quality of our air and its impact on the young, unwell and elderly is a vital local issue.
EDM 383

That this House notes the European Parliament's adoption by a large majority, on 24 May 2012, of a resolution on a Resource Efficient Europe, which commits to working towards a zero waste strategy and the Parliament's call on the Commission to bring forward legislative proposals, by the end of 2014, to ban both landfill and the incineration of recyclable and compostable waste in Europe, by 2020; further notes growing evidence of incinerator overcapacity in the UK by 2015, which seriously risks harming recycling performance, as has already happened in some European countries; further notes UK figures showing a steady and significant decline in residual waste since the middle of the last decade - even allowing for the economic recession - and rising recycling rates; acknowledges the impact that these developments will have on the economic case for, and environmental sustainability of, mass-burn incinerators in the UK within a decade; and calls on the Secretaries of State for the Environment, Energy and Climate Change, and Communities and Local Government, and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to work together to examine how government policy can positively facilitate the pursuit of zero waste strategies, and to report to Parliament on their findings as a matter of urgency, as many local communities across the country are currently opposing their local waste authorities' costly, environmentally damaging and unsustainable plans to build mass-burn incineration plants.
Sixteen MPs including Labour, Liberal Democrat, Conservative, Democratic Unionist and Green have signed so far.Full list HERE

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Tara Brady a champion of the people of Brent, leaves tomorrow

Tara Brady, senior reporter of the Brent and Kilburn Times, has been making the news herself tonight, following her announcement that tomorrow is her last day with the newspaper. She, like her predecessor Kate Ferguson, is moving to the Ham and High (Hampstead and Highgate Express) which is also in the Archant Group.

The Kensal Rise Library Campaign said:
The Save Kensal Rise Library Campaign would like to thank Tara for her part in defending this community through her continued commitment to investigating those in authority and the impact their decisions have on communities.
She is indeed a defender of the community.
We wish her all the best as she leaves the Brent and Kilburn Times. We will miss her as will the many communities she has helped in Brent.
Kensal Triangle Residents tweeted:
What will the good people of Brent do without you. Thursday's essential reading for the last few years. 
The work of Tara, Lorraine King and latterly Max Walters have made the Brent and Kilburn Times essential reading. They have shifted it from the usual local paper fodder of crime and rewritten press releases to genuine stories that emerge from the local community. The BKT campaigned to save Kilburn College and through its coverage and investigations supported the many campaigns around the libraries, as well as battles over the Charteris Sports Centre and local nursery closures. They are now getting behind the campaign to Save Central Middlesex A&E.

It is no secret that some of our councillors and council officers have been peed off with them at times but a vigorous local press is absolutely essential to democracy and, as current national events show, too close a relationship between press and politicians is not good good for democracy.

It is right that the relationship is tetchy at times.

I wish Tara all the best in her new job and look forward to her swansong in Thursday's edition with some  anticipation.

Friends of Kensal Rise to attend 'Block Viewings' at library

Now the talk moves on.....
 Cluttons, the property agents for All Souls College will be holding 'Block Viewings' of the library on Wednesday 1 August from 9am to 12 noon.

This will give 'interested parties' an opportunity to view the library with a view to purchasing or leasing the building.

The Friends of Kensal Rise Library are preparing their proposal to the College and will be at the library too. 

We would be very happy to talk about our plans as we think we have the best proposal and we won't give up easily the fight to save the library for this community.
Petition to All Souls

The online petition is here and it would be great if you could sign it and circulate it to your friends:


Potential purchasers viewing Kensal Rise Library on August 1st?

I am unable to confirm but I have received a Tweet  saying All Souls College are holding block viewings of Kensal Rise Library for potential purchasers  on Wednesday August 1st 9am to noon.

Monday 23 July 2012

Brent Council warns governors on headteachers' pay and procurement

Brent Council has written to governors, clerks to governor bodies and school leadership teams warniong them of the need to comply with regulations on the pay of headteachers.

Clive Heaphy, Director of Finance and Corporate Services, wrotes that the Council's recent survey has:
...revealed that a significant proportion of (Brent) Governing Bodies have approved salaries for head teachers that exceeds the levels permitted by the school's head teacher group as defined by the school's pupil numbers...
He goes on to say that schools that have set an Indiivudal School Range above the headteacher groups are:
 ...on average remunerating headteachers in excess of an additional 10% per annum - much more in many cases. While some schools have provided acceptable reasons for paying above the cap, the review has demonstrated that a large number of Governing Bodies have allowed incremental increases in head teacher pay either without good reasons or  factors outside the  criteria set out in the School Teachers Pay and Conditions guidance.
 Heaphy says if the Governing Body becomes aware that this is the situation it is incumbent on them to take appropriate action to remedy the situation within a reasonable period of time.

He concludes:
I apologise if this letter is direct but the situation within Brent schools is a serious one and I need to be sure as the person ultimately responsible for all school spending in the Borough, that Governors, Clerks and Leadership Teams are fully aware of the framework under which you operate.
Last week Heaphy and the Brent Audit Team experienced close questioning at the Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee over this issue and the problem of excessive and exploitative procurement and leasing agreements entered into by schools.

Clive Heaphy frankly told the meeting that he was not confident of schools' capacity to take action on these issues. Stating that he was 'not happy with the state of things'  he said he would continue to put pressure on schools.In future he would be requiring local authority schools to make an annual return on headteacher pay. Brent had no statutory authority over academies or free schools.

Cllr Michal Pavey asked if this amounted to a admission that before these actions the authority's monitoring had been 'inadequate'. Heaphy denied this stating that other local authorities, uncovering similar issues, were coming to Brent for advice. Lesley Gouldbourne for the teacher associations welcomed the 'very full' report given to the Committee and congratulated the council on its proactive approach. She warned if the impact of financial mismanagement on both on schools' reputations and on taking money away from children's learning resources. Gouldbourne asked for more resources to be devoted to auditing but Cllr Mary Arnold (lead member for Children and Families) said Brent already devoted more hours to school audits than other boroughs.

Several councillors declared an interest at the beginning of the meeting as they were governors of various schools in the borough. Cllr Michael Pavey was particularly forensic asking if the headteacher's responsibility to advise governors on the regulations about headteacher pay was not in itself a conflict of interest.

It emerged that no secondary school and only half of Brent's primary schools now use Brent Council's  in-house payroll system and so early clues to over-renumeration could not be spotted through HR officers' monitoring when glaring discrepancies, such as a head of a small school being paid more than the head of a much larger one, became apparent.

Additionally in the Copland case, as a  grant maintained school it had appointed its own auditors and checks had been much less in-depth than those of the Brent Audit Team. The Copland case, involving additional payments, was different from the headteacher pay scale issue. Members expressed concern that, as more schools became academies. or free schools were set up, the possibility of further such cases in terms of both pay and procurement would increase.

The second major issue, procurement and leasing,  produced more searching questions from the Committee members. They were told that a small number of schools had entered arrangements with Finance Companies and that the amount involved was 'very material' in a small number of schools. In five schools the amounts were such that it could affect their financial future.Brent Council was taking group legal action on behalf of a number of schools over leasing arrangements in a process that could take 10 months.

Asked about what action the Council could take on such issues officers replied that when schools went into deficit the Council would agree a Deficit Reduction Plan requiring the school to return to a balanced budget within a reasonable period.. Challenged on what action could be taken if a governing body were uncooperative or did not agree with what had been requested Simon Lane explained that the Council did have powers but these were draconian, employing a sledgehammer to crack a nut. The governing body could be removed but this needed the permission of the Secretary of State,  or delegated financial powers taken away from the governing body with the council running the finances. The schools could challenge the latter and  the council didn't  have the resources to run the budget themselves.

There was further discussion about financial training for governors and whether that should me mandatory, at least for chairs, and on recruiting governors with financial expertise. No information was produced on how many governors had taken advantage of the financial training on offer and whether all schools had been involved.

In terms of a time line Simon Lane from the Audit Team said that headteacher pay should be regularised within 3 months; the legal case resolved in 10 months and that individual school investigations were ongoing but an update would be produced in six months.

It was good to see a Scruitiny Commiitee doing its job thoroughly. I  fact time ran out and the very important issue of Children's Safeguarding was postponed until a later meeting. 

Serious concerns must remain over financial mismanagement, particularly as council staffing is reduced, schools become more autonomous, and out-sourcing become more prevalent. I think what concerns me most about this is that these issues take way from the main function of headteachers, governors and schools: improving teaching and the learning of pupils.

Children to lose hot meals at Brent school?

Message from GMB union posted today

No more hot meals?
 GMB Union is fighting to save the jobs of seven catering staff at Our Lady of Grace RC Junior School Dollis Hill Lane. Jobs are under threat as a result of the school’s decision to move from a full school meals service to a sandwiches only service which will be available only to pupils entitled to free school meals. The school will provide nothing at all for other pupils.

Mary Turner, GMB Branch Secretary and National President said “The decision by the Head Teacher and the Governors of the school is unacceptable on every level".

School staff were only made aware a few days before the end of the school term for the summer holidays. The employer catering contractor, ISS Catering, is seeing if it can relocate the staff to other schools in the borough. However, some staff will have to travel long distances from one end of the Brent to the other if they are lucky enough to find an alternative job.

The school has said that no decision had been taken, but a sandwich provider turned up at the school with samples.

The decision to provide a sandwich only service to pupils entitled to free school meals will identify them as children of parents on benefits and these children could face bullying as a result. Under the previous service free school meals pupils were integrated with those who paid for their school meals, so nobody could be singled out.

This will come as a shock to all parents of pupils at the school as the head teacher and governors have failed to consult them or GMB.

GMB is calling on the school to re-think its decision and is asking for the Diocese of Westminster and Brent Council to intervene.”

Sunday 22 July 2012

Broad beans and cabaret this afternoon

I popped down to my allotment yesterday afternoon to see what I could harvest in preparation for cooking a dish for this afternoon's Brent Stop the War/PSC fundraiser. Pretty dispiriting compared with last year when courgettes, french beans etc were available. This year the slugs have had them and much else beside. The combination of early drought and later heavy rain - and lack of warm sunshine - has been devastating.  I have been left with lots of broad beans and a few globe artichokes so I am having to use my imagination and creativity. Plenty of raspberries for summer pudding but sweet corn has barely moved for weeks.

All this has led to many conversations with fellow allottees, not just about climate change but also recognising that if we were small-holders relying on our crops to feed our families this year, they would probably starve. Which of course confronts you with the realities of farming in this country as well as subsistence farming abroad. Salutary

Anyway the sun is out so this afternoon's fund-raiser in a lovely garden in Willesden Green with wonderful food, live music (including a cabaret performance by Green Party member Deborah Fink) and bar should go well.  The garden party starts at 4pm so there is still time to book your ticket.

Cash bar. For more information or to reserve your ticket
ring / text 07951 084 101

Saturday 21 July 2012

Trolley queues at over-stretched Northwick Park A&E

Brent Green Party member, Pete Murry, was recently admitted to Northwick  Park Accident and Emergency ward. In the following Guest Blog Pete reflects on his experience which raises issues of concern for what the future holds if Central Middlesex and several other neighbouring A&Es close.

At about 7.30 pm on Monday 9th July 2012, I was told by a member of the STARRS District Nurses, (based at Central Middlesex Hospital), that based on my blood tests, STARRS and my GP had decided to have me hospitalised by ambulance. I assume that this was because my mobility was very restricted at the time and that this was the quickest way to get me to hospital.

The ambulance arrived at my house in Dollis Hill at about 8pm.  I asked the ambulance crew if I would be going to Central Middlesex Hospital, as this was where I had gone when I had been hospitalised previously. I was told I could not go there as the Accident and Emergency Department CMH closed at 8.30pm. It was therefore decided to take me to Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow.

The ambulance arrived at Northwick Park Accident and Emergency at about 9pm. I was wheeled into the hospital lying prone on a stretcher accompanied by two ambulance men, the three of us immediately joined a queue of other potential A and E patients on stretchers or wheelchairs, each also accompanied by ambulance crews and sometimes also by friends and/or relatives. As far as I could make out in the queue in front of me consisted of about six or seven patients and others were frequently joining the queue after me.
I don’t recall any of the other patients in the queue shouting out, crying or giving any indication of being in great distress, so I have no idea if there was any procedure for emergencies to go to the front of the queue. If such procedure existed it would have made the wait of the “more routine” patients longer.

The restriction that was causing the queue seemed to be the number of available curtained –off A&E treatment areas available, until one became vacant, patients had to queue. When an earlier a patient was moved out of one of these treatment areas, a patient from the queue could be moved into it and also then be formally transferred from the care of the ambulance crew into that of the A and E Department.

I don’t know, but I assume that as well as arriving at Northwick Park A and E by ambulance, potential patients may have been arriving by other means.

By about 9.55pm, I was at the head of the queue, at this stage the member of A and E personnel in charge of handover ‘re-designated’ two Gynaecology rooms as being empty spaces available for A and E admissions.  I was wheeled into one of these rooms by about 9.58pm.

The ambulance crew who had had charge of me until then explained that if a patient was logged as waiting for one hour, this became logged as an “incident”, which apparently meant extra paperwork for both the ambulance crew and the A and E staff.

Within about 15 minutes I was moved from the Gynaecology room to one of the curtained –off A and ;E treatment areas and the use of the Gynaecology rooms seems to have been a temporary ad-hoc measure to deal with the queues of ambulance patients, but it was taking place at 9pm on a Monday night when there were no adverse conditions or unusual events adding to the number of potential A and E admissions.

After my wait in the queue, I was not fully tested and assessed in A and E and transferred to a ward until about 2am, but I think I was dealt with as promptly as possible by the A nd E staff. My concern is how much of the initial wait before I was assessed by Aand E was due to Northwick Park A and E having to deal with extra cases such as mine who might otherwise have gone to Central Middlesex Hospital.
It seems that the run down of Accident and Emergency  facilities at CMH, (let alone their total closure), may displace demand onto other facilities which may not have the capacity to deal with them promptly. Further more the reduction or closure of CMH Accident and Emergency  a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ in regard to ambulance admissions, because ambulance patients have to go where they are taken, which may not necessarily be the nearest or best source of treatment.

If an ambulance can’t take a patient to a closed facility does this show a lack of demand for the facility that has been closed?

Wembley Olympics - summer jams ahead?

With Lorraine King at the Kilburn Times managing to get Transport for London to admit that they have rephased traffic lights ahead of the Olympics LINK, resulting in tailbacks; road closures on Wednesday for the Torch procession, and Olympic lanes around venues, advice to residents not to use Wembley Park station, we can expect some confusion in the weeks ahead. 

The video below attempts to explain the restrictions.  It has collected a number of critical comments, including some suggesting that the arrangements are really for corporate sponsors, rather than athletes and officials as the video claims. 

Brent MPs under pressure to take up hospitals fight

Sarah Teather, Barry Gardiner, and Glenda Jackson have been targeted by campaigners against hospital closures and privatisation of the NHS in a petition launched this week. The petition reads:

To: NHS NW London, Sarah Teather MP, Glenda Jackson MP, Barry Gardiner MP,

NHS NW London is consulting on proposals which would mean the accident and emergency department at Central Middlesex Hospital, already closed at night, closing for ever. This could be the first step in the downgrading of the hospital, which serves some of the most deprived wards in Brent with the greatest health needs.

We the undersigned demand: 

· The reopening of A & E at Central Middlesex Hospital to provide a full 24 hour emergency service with all necessary back up.
· No cuts to community, mental health or other services. The government can find money for the banks, they should restore the £1billion they are cutting from NW London Health Services.
· An end to privatisation which provides an inferior service for patients and cuts in jobs, pay or worse working conditions for staff, creaming off profits for private companies.
Campaigning organisations will be collecting signatures over the summer and into the autumn. You can run off your own copy using the link below and collect signatures in your workplace or neighbourhood.