Wednesday 31 October 2012

Residents meet on Thursday on Willesden Green Library Plans

Labour Brent's public realm privatisation too high risk for Tory Barnet

Barnet Today LINK is reporting that Barnet Council has decided that the proposed four borough waste, recycling, street cleaning and parks maintenance super contract was 'too high risk' and will approve having the services in-house.

So Labour Brent Council has turned out to be more of a privatiser than right-wing Conservative Barnet Council!  Barnet is presently in turmoil after Cllr Brian Coleman and former London Assembly member was suspended from the national Conservative Party. Coleman is in trouble over alleged racist slurs and an assault.

The Barnet Today report states:
 The council had been exploring the possibility of procuring its waste management services in partnership with Brent Council. But while the neighbouring borough agreed to pursue that avenue earlier this month, Barnet’s council officers ruled that it was too high-risk.

The decision will be seen as a departure from the council’s controversial One Barnet model, which will see a raft services, including planning and customer services contracted to private companies via two outsourcing projects worth around £1billion.

Council leader Richard Cornelius said providing the services in-house represented the best option for driving down costs and improving services.

“The One Barnet programme has always been pragmatic and this was the pragmatic way to go,” he said. “The rubbish collection in this borough is well done. It can be improved but we don’t want to muck it up.”
Brent Council press office today refused to answer my request about the future of the contract on the grounds that I was not an accredited journalist.

Lucas condemns Coalition's pre-emptive Trident strike

The Green Party has condemned the government’s announcement of further spending on nuclear submarines as pre-empting a decision on Trident – and preventing a full public debate on the UK’s nuclear deterrent.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond announced on Monday that the government will spend another £350m of taxpayers’ money on ‘design work’ for a ‘future generation of nuclear submarines.Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, criticised Mr Hammond’s announcement, saying:

“The decision about whether to renew the UK’s Trident weapons system isn’t due until 2016. But pre-emptive spending on the ‘nuclear deterrent’ is gathering pace, with at least £2bn already being spent on making enriched uranium components, high explosives and warheads.

“While schools, hospitals, police forces and other services face savage cuts, BAE Systems and Babcock are being handed taxpayers’ money for a vast defence project that hasn’t even been signed off yet – and one which many believe is outdated, and incapable of addressing modern security challenges.”

The Coalition agreement, signed by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in 2010, delayed a decision on whether to replace Trident until 2016, after a government study into alternatives has been completed.
But the Ministry of Defence announcement this week has been interpreted by many as a sign that the Coalition is committed to a Trident replacement.

Caroline Lucas is leading calls for the Trident replacement option to be dropped, highlighting serious economic and moral challenges.

She said: ‘There is still a huge public debate to be had about replacing Trident. The economic and moral questions are clear.

“With the total cost of replacement likely to come in at an eye-watering £100 billion over the next 30 years, can the UK afford such an extravagance? Is a Cold War deterrent really the right solution for our defence needs in the 21st century?

“And what message would replacing Trident send out to the rest of the world about our country’s commitment to nuclear disarmament?”

"Police! Fire!! Ambulance!" - not in Willesden...

 Muhammed Butt's office has released the following press statement:
Brent Council Leader Muhammed Butt has urged the government to reconsider its plans to close Willesden Police Station as part of a dramatic programme of cuts as Cllr Butt has grave concerns that this will endanger thousands of residents.

The station, which is one of only four in the borough, will be sold off as part of the government’s 12% cut to The Metropolitan Police, which has already seen 1,777 police officers and 1,800 PCSOs lost across the capital in the past two years.

The news of the station closure was announced despite figures that show that burglaries in the borough have already increased by almost 15% since the beginning of this year despite a reported average fall across the capital.

Metropolitan Police figures also reveal that over the last 12 months, there has been more than double the number of crimes in Brent than in the neighbouring borough of Harrow. 

Cllr Butt criticised the government’s reckless approach to cutting the emergency services back too far and too fast, noting that the announcement about the police station closure comes less than a week after leaked documents revealed that two of the three fire stations in the borough could face closure as result of a severe 25% budget cut to fire services.

This is in addition to the swiftly announced plans in 2010 to close a quarter of London’s 24 A&Es, forcing each of those remaining to cater for an average of 120,000 extra residents with little time to plan how to implement the changes without endangering lives.

Cllr Butt said, ‘Thousands of people requiring the vital help of the emergency services are having their safety compromised and lives endangered. The closure of Willesden Police Station, one of the busiest in the capital, will have devastating consequences for a community that still suffers from high levels of crime and anti-social behaviour. The fact that Sarah Teather and Nick Clegg are supporting this is a disgrace. Brent residents deserve to have their local MP on their side.’

Brent North MP Barry Gardiner said, ‘This is just one more example of the strain this government is placing on local services. Police numbers have declined and our Neighbourhood teams in Brent have lost 60 officers and PCSOs. Our police do a great job. We should be supporting them not cutting off all support.’

Navin Shah, Assembly Member for Brent and Harrow, said: “We’re seeing the unacceptable and dangerous face of deep cuts. The Mayor has tried to duck and dive when questioned directly about cuts to the NHS but he has direct responsibility for the fire and police services so has to take responsibility for the closure of fire and police stations.’

Barnet may opt out of public realm 'supercontract'

On Wednesday 7 November 2012 Barnet Council Cabinet Resources Committee is considering a recommendation to support the One Barnet in-house Street Scene Project. The One Barnet Street Scene Project includes the following services:
·         Refuse, organic waste and recycling collections
·         Waste strategy
·         Street cleansing
·         Greenspaces
·         Highways operational team

Earlier this month the Brent Executive approved a joint 4 borough procurement for a contract of up to 16 years  which would have covered the first four of the above items. Barnet was one of these partner boroughs, another,  Richmond recently dropped out. If the recommendation is approved by Barnet Council only Brent and Hounslow would remain in the 'super public realm' contract.

A proposed  Brent and Hounslow joint appointment of a Public Health Director was withdrawn before the Brent Executive meeting after encountering opposition from within the Labour Group.

John Burgess Barnet UNISON Branch Secretary said: “This is fantastic news for residents and 700 council workers delivering these services. I want to take the opportunity to applaud the Council for at last recognising the potential of in-house services to be able to compete with the private sector. We are now calling for the Council to halt the current outsourcing plans for the other two contracts (1), worth in excess of a Billion Pounds public money. We are asking for the Council to work with staff, unions and the community to develop efficient, innovative services for Barnet residents and ensure savings go back into the pockets of the council tax payers.” 

(1)  The first One Barnet project known as New Support Customer Services Organisation (NSCSO) will be for back office services such a Finance, Revenues & Benefits, Estates, IT, HR & Payroll etc, it is estimated to be worth up to £750 million.
It involves approximately 700 council workers. There is a high probability that the winning bidder will not deliver these services from Barnet so there is a high risk of significant redundancies at the moment of transfer.
This contract will be awarded to either Capita or BT at the Barnet Council Cabinet Resources Committee on Thursday 6 December 2012.
The second One Barnet project is known as Development & Regulatory Services (DRS) which includes the following services:
Trading Standards & Licensing, Land Charges, Planning & Development, Building Control & Structures, Environmental Health, Highways Strategy, Highways Network Management, Highways Traffic & Development, Highways Transport & Regeneration, Strategic Planning & Regeneration, Cemeteries & Crematoria.
This contract, worth up to £275 million pounds, will be awarded to Capita Symonds or EC Harris at the Barnet Council Cabinet Resources Committee on 8 January 2013.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

£7m spent on Shaping a Healthier Future consultation

The Daily Mail LINK has revealed that the NW London NHS Trust consultation cost £7,000,000. It seems that at national and local government level PR companies are one of the main beneficiaries  from austerity as those in power seek to dress up cuts decisions already made with spurious and meaningless 'consultation' exercises. In the case of Central Middlesex Hospital keeping the A&E open  was never an option the public were allowed to choose. Moreover with no risk assessment  in the public domain respondents had no way of assessing the true human cost of the changes. A shameful waste of public money. With so few turning up to consultation meetings it would be interesting to know the cost per attendee.

Meanwhile in Brent the PR bill for the Willesden Green Redevelopment project continues to mount as plans are tweaked but no ground given on the fundamentals.

When I worked for Erwin Wasey, Ruthrauff and Ryan Limited, an advertising agency, in the 1960s, I asked about a job in their Public Relations Department. In the interview I was naive enough (I was only 16) to say that I thought I was suited to work in PR because I got on with people. The director who interviewed me exploded and said, "Well you shouldn't work in PR then. You have to hate people and hold them in  contempt if you want to do well in this business."

David Cameron worked in PR for Carlton Television in order to have some experience outside politics. He got the job because his then girlfriend's mother, Lady Astor, had a word on his behalf with her friend, Michael Green, who was executive chairman of Carlton. He started on a salary of £90,000.

Have your say on Brent integrated health plans

Multi-occupancy may increase as result of housing benefits cap

When it became clear that the housing benefit cap would lead to many families being unable to afford their current accommodation it appeared that many would have to seek housing outside of Brent where rents are cheaper. Many families were upset at having to leave job, family and friends and disrupt their children's education. In Brent the Counihan family have exemplified this attachment to home and school as they fight to get rehoused in the borough.

However I have been told that rather than move far away and lose these connections, some families are moving into multi-occupied housing.

Clearly this creates a whole new set of problems regarding over-crowding and possible exploitation by profiteering landlords. It also means that the school population may, if this becomes a common solution, may increase more than expected as places in 'unaffordable' lets are taken uo by families moving out of inner London,  This is a real headache for officers in charge of school expansion as it is hard to predict future trends.

Brent has already encountered the phenomenon of 'beds in sheds' but there are also likely to be unofficial and substandard conversions of houses that may well increase fire and sanitary risks. The possible closure of Willesden and Harlesden fire stations and the Central Middlesex A&E adds to the danger.

Brent Housing will be on the frontline in dealing with these issues and particularly  enforcing licensing and standards. Its website makes clear the difficulties posed by HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupancy:

In order to be an HMO the property must be used as the tenants' only or main residence and it should be used solely or mainly to house tenants. Properties let to students and migrant workers will be treated as their only or main residence and the same will apply to properties which are used as domestic refuges.

It is widely recognised that many HMO residents are among the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

The HMOs that they live in can be particularly difficult to manage and can present a greater risk to occupants than houses occupied by single households. Because of the risks associated with HMOs, licensing for this sector has been introduced.

We are committed to improving housing conditions for people living in HMOs and ensuring that all tenants enjoy the standards of accommodation to which they are entitled to under the law.

Measures available to us range from awarding discretionary grants to carrying out works in default of non-compliant owners and ultimately prosecution.

Brent Council gets school students involved in climate change battle

New York today
 As Hurricane Sandy lashes the Eastern Coast of the USA and Canada at one level and Year 5 at Wembley Primary take to Twitter to research their half-term homework on severe weather events at another it is appropriate that Brent Council today announces a Climate Change Competition for Brent schools.

I declare an interest here as Chair of Brent Campaign Against Climate Change and because I have had a minor role in organising the Schools Conference on Climate Change that will take place in March 2013.
Brent Council is launching a competition in partnership with the College of North West London and Brent Campaign Against Climate Change for young people to present ideas showing how to help their community improve its understanding of the effects of climate change and how it might be addressed.

Brent Student Climate Change competition is open to anyone aged from 11 to 21 years who lives, works or studies in the borough. It invites young people to submit a piece of work that either raises public awareness of climate change or offers a practical means to lessening or adapting our lives to deal with its effect.

Young people can use any of the following media to present their ideas:
  • new media forms including apps for tablets and phones, websites
  • music, art, poetry, video, drama or performance
  • 3-D models
  • poster or technical drawing
  • written proposal of 1, 000 words such as a business plan for a small firm.
The winning entry for the competition will receive a £100 voucher and a certificate signed by the Mayor of Brent Councillor Michael Adeyeye, and the five runners-up will receive a letter of commendation also signed by the Mayor. The certificate and letters of commendation will include the name of the entrant's school, college or youth club, who will receive copies for display. The six winning pieces will be displayed in the new Brent Civic Centre and during a schools' conference on climate change in the borough, which is being planned for 20 March 2013.

Councillor James Powney, Lead Member for Environment and Neighbourhood Services, said:

"The competition will help to increase awareness of climate change in Brent. It is excellent that young people have been invited to put forward their suggestions because it is that generation who could be most affected by climate change in the future.

"It also offers schools and youth clubs the opportunity of receiving valuable publicity for their organisations while motivating students whose projects and ideas can form part of their normal coursework. I'm looking forward to seeing the innovative ways the boroughs young people tackle such a current and relevant issue such as raising awareness of adapting and tackling climate change."

Ken Montague, secretary of Brent Campaign against Climate Change, who is coordinating the competition, is available to visit your school or club venue with a Brent councillor to explain the competition. He can be contacted if a school or youth club emails .

The deadline for submissions is 13 March 2013, but you must register by 8 February 2013.
Entries will be judged by a panel of representatives from Brent Council, Brent Campaign Against Climate Change, and The College of North West London. For more information about submitting your entry email .

Monday 29 October 2012

James Powney and his library campaign critics

 I disagree with Cllr James Powney on many things but it is to his credit that he publishes critical comments on his blog.  The latest comments are of particular interest as they raise broader issues about his attitude to library campaigners. LINK

There is also an ongoing discussion about libraries on the Streetlife site of the Kilburn Times which readers may wish to join in with LINK

A new thorn in the side for the Brent Council Executive?

A Brent branch of the LRC (Labour Representation Committee) is to be launched tomorrow.

The LRC takes its name from the 1900 committee which was the forerunner of the Labour Party. Its chair is John McDonnell MP and its group in the Commons are known as the Socialist Campaign Group. Jeremy Corbyn MP is a prominent member. The journal Labour Briefing is associated with the group.
The LRC which is said to have about 1,000 members is open to Labour Party members and socialists who do not stand against the Labour Party in elections. It is supported by several unions including ASLEF, CWU, FBU and the RMT.

Brent connections currently include the affiliated Kensal Green Labour Party and Pete Firmin, chair of Brent TUC who is joint secretary of LRC nationally..

The LRC has a website HERE  which is not as dynamic as I expected it to be, Only one of the policy statements has received any comments and as far as I can see the blog postings have received no comments at all. Things will need to be a little livelier in Brent if it is to make any impact and it will be interesting to see how relationships develop with the recently formed Brent TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) LINK  as well as Brent Fightback, which includes independent, Labour, SWP, Socialist and Green Party members.  A major issue is likely to be the position Labour councillors should take on the forthcoming budget, a possible rise in Council Tax and the iimplementation of cuts.

Will the Brent LRC have the Brent Executive trembling in their boots? Will the Brent LRC persuade those of us who have long given up on Labour to join them? Answers in the comment box below, please.
Tuesday 30th October, Learie Constantine Centre, NW2 7pm

(the Centre is at the junction of Dudden Hill Lane and Villiers Road – 2mins walk from Dollis Hill tube on the Jubilee Line)

Activists and left wing Labour Party members in the Brent area have agreed to come together to organise a local section of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) - the organisation that aims to make the Labour Party represent the working class and fight for its interests.

All are welcome - Labour Party and non-Labour members.


John McDonnell, MP for Hayes & Harlington
- Chair, Labour Representation Committee, speaking on the fight against austerity

Speaker from the Counihan Family Campaign
- This family of 6 has been made homeless by Brent Council and are leading an inspiring local campaign for housing rights

Speaker from the NW London NHS Campaign

Local trade unionists

About the LRC

The original Labour Representation Committee was formed in 1900 to fight for political representation for the Labour Movement. In Britain today we face a similar crisis of representation. The LRC has been re-formed to secure a voice for socialists within the Labour Party, the unions, and Parliament.

Never in the history of the Labour Party has the need been so great to make the case for peace and socialism. The advocates of global capitalism and war have taken control of the political agenda. The task for today's LRC, founded in 2004, is to fight for power within the Labour Party and trade unions and to appeal to the tens of thousands who have turned away from Labour in disillusion and despair. Therefore we are calling upon all socialists, Labour Party and trade union members, constituency Labour parties and union branches to join our campaign and join or affiliate to the LRC.

The LRC is a democratic organisation committed to fighting for a socialist future:

- We need a foreign policy based upon peace, justice and solidarity
- Britain is a more unequal society than at any time since the Second World War. The LRC is fighting for a living wage, a decent state pension, council housing and public services run to meet our needs not sold off for private profit
- All people are equal. We believe in fighting all forms of prejudice and discrimination
- With global capitalism in control of the political agenda, there is an urgent need for a major shift of wealth and power in favour of ordinary people
- The LRC was setup to fight for workers’ rights, civil liberties and political representation
- With the planet on the brink of environmental catastrophe New Labour’s answer is more nuclear power and an expansion of aviation. We need a green energy policy based on renewable and the development of public transport

This is an exciting time to join the LRC – we are continuing to grow rapidly as Labour supporters, trade unionists and other socialists look to develop a radical agenda around which the movement can unite in the face of the resurgent Tory threat.

We have local LRC groups right across the country bringing together socialists and trade unionists to fight local campaigns.


Sunday 28 October 2012

Sign Kensal Rise Library petition and read latest news

 Dear Supporters,

All Souls College, Oxford, has decided to sell Kensal Rise Library to developers who are going to strip the buildings and convert to flats. The developers are offering us a very small section (for a library) in exchange for helping them with planning, but we will have to pay commercial rates in perpetuity. Not a very good offer.

We are greatly saddened that this venerable college has chosen profit over people. The destruction of our only local cultural asset is shocking and demoralizing for all of us who have been working to support a service that benefits the most vulnerable amongst us. That All Souls chose this path in the face of our shared history, accelerating the gentrification of our community, is a direct rebuke to the original residents of Kensal Rise that the Fellows gifted the land to so many years ago.

Luckily there is another developer with a much more generous proposal for Kensal Rise Library re: space & terms. They have been in touch with the campaign and will submit a Bid to All Souls College, Oxford, by Monday for urgent review. We sincerely hope that All Souls gives this proposal serious consideration.

There will be a lot of activity over the next few days and your support is vital. Please help spread the news and share our petition as widely as you can. If you would like to get involved further, or have any ideas or suggestions for the campaign I'd love to hear from you email me via: or twitter: @jodigramigni

Many thanks again for all your support.

Kind regards,


Saturday 27 October 2012

Northwick Park A&E won't cope after reorganisation

If reorganisation proposals go ahead and Central Middlesex Hospital A&E closes, Northwick Park will be the nearest A&E for most Brent residents. It is clear that the hospital is not coping now, let alone after the closure of Central Middlesex A&E.

From the Harrow Times this week: