Thursday 31 July 2014

Sponsor Willesden to Wales cycle ride for Gaza medical aid funds

As the news from Gaza becomes every grimmer, a group of cyclists from Willesden have got together to organise a sponsored cycle ride from Willesden to Wales to raise funds for Medical Aid for Palestine.

Sponsorship is welcome from anyone who wishes to help those in Gaza injured by daily bombings and mortar fire. Hospitals are struggling with insufficient equipment and medical supplies, now often without power following the attacks.

Go to or give directly at

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Will Brent Scrutiny Committee have sufficient time to consider far-reaching changes in health provision in the borough?

The Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday August 6th will discuss two key issues relating to health in the borough.

They will receive a report from the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) on the closure of Central Middlesex Accident and Emergency. The report is available here: LINK
The committee is recommended to question representatives of the CCG on the robustness of their assurance plans and the timescale for their implementation, as well as on what contingency plans are in place in case any of the proposals turn out not to be possible or feasible.
The A&E Department is due to close on September 10th and David McVittie, Cheif Executive of NW London Hospitals NHS Trust this week admitted that there could be problems initially LINK    It is  hard to see what additional safeguards could be demanded by the Commitee if they are not satisfied, just 4 weeks before the closure.

The second report to be considered, also from the CCG,  outlines three 'transformational' strategies to reduce the costs of healthcare in the borough whilst at the same time improving outcomes. The full report is available HERE
The committee is recommended to question representatives on the viability of these transformation plans, the timescale for their implementation, as well as on what contingency plans are in place in case any of the proposals turn out not to be possible or feasible. In particular the committee is asked to consider the adequacy of proposals to expand capacity within primary care services.
These are clearly complex issues with huge implications for Brent residents.  It does raise the issue of whether the decision to have one Scrutiny Committee rather than several specialist ones was wise. There used to be a Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, now this Committee will also be considering the 'Garden Tax' call-in, proposals for a Budget Scrutiny Commitee and the Committee's Forward Plan. LINK 

Will the crowded agenda allow for the full examination and  discussion required?

Brent's 'Garden Tax' called in by Scrutiny Committee

In the first major test of Brent Council's new stripped down scrutiny process, the Scrutiny Committee will consider the £40 charge for green waste collection agreed recently by the Cabinet.

The Commiteee which meets on Wednesday 6th August at 7pm at Brent Civic Centre will consider the following call-in: (Full report HERE)

Whilst not opposing the principle of charging for garden waste, members consider that the system proposed could be improved on.
·      There was concern at the absence of crucial information in the report including:
·      a proper analysis of options available to the council
·      consideration of up front payment (covering collection and disposal) for recycling bags rather than an annual charge
·      clear financial information regarding risk/gain to Brent Council and Veolia
·      information about market research undertaken with residents on options likely to achieve good recycling rates
·      how Brent can seek reciprocal arrangements with neighbouring authorities so
·      increasing drop off points. The only site proposed in the report is at Abbey Road
·      learning from other local authorities
·      contamination of dry recycling/kitchen waste o monitoring and enforcement communication with residents.  

An outline of the suggested course of action of the Scrutiny Committee is to:

·      seek a report responding to the concerns outlined above
·      question lead member and senior officers and the leader
·      if necessary, set up a very brief task finish group to examine these issues in more depth.

Additionally, reference was made to residents’ concerns about the charge and the implications. 

Further clarification was requested on:

·      the way the decision was made
·      what would have changed within a year of a new contract, to justify such big
·      change or adjustment
·      the framework is in place for monitoring and reporting
·      the financial implications for the council in relation to the scheme.

Whilst not opposing the principle of charging for garden waste, additional concerns  were expressed at the absence of crucial information n in the report including the failure to:

·      demonstrate VFM (value for money)
·      show financial information containing savings from decommissioning existing
·      garden waste service
·      give financial information regarding risk/gain to Brent Council and Veolia
·      model other alternatives, available to the Brent Council and consider their financial and environmental impact.

Scrutiny Committee is asked to:
·      seek a report responding to the concerns outlined above
·      question lead member and senior officers o if necessary, set up a task group to examine these issues in more depth to ensure VFM.

Finally, representations expressed the concern that a flat fee was regressive, and referred to lobbying by the Mapesbury Gardening Group, environmental groups and local residents. The main concern was that the arrangement may not represent value for money once scenarios for unintended consequence s were included in the model.
Scrutiny Committee is asked to:
·      invite the Lead Member, the Leader and appropriate officers to address these issues.

Monday 28 July 2014

The Wembley Lion Returns

Local historian Philip Grant and the Wembley History Society are to be congratulated on getting a little piece of the British Empire Exhibition preserved. A preserved lion's head from Palace of Industry, that was demolished by developers last year, has now been erected on a plinth at the junction of Wembley Hill Road and Empire Way. It marks the end of the 90th Anniversary Exhibition at Brent Civic Centre.

Cllr Muhammed Butt, cut a ribbon today to inaugurate the lion and Philip Grant made a short speech. Rather typically for modern Wembley, he was almost drowned out by the noise of building works.

The short video below shows the demolition of the Palace of Industry and the carving out of the lion's head corbel.

Saturday 26 July 2014

Jon Snow and Michael Rosen speak out for the children of Gaza

Jon Snow speaks about the Children of Gaza on returning home from reporting the onslaught

Michael Rosen read his poem 'Don't Name the Dead Children' at today's Rally for Gaza

followed by 'Then what?'


Wembley mums set up Eid supermarket boycott campaign for the children of Gaza

Children protest on behalf of their brothers and sisters in Gaza, London, July 26th 2014
A group of Wembley mothers, sickeded by the sight of children being murdered in Gaza, have set up their own campaign over Eid  to boycott large supermarkets that sell Israeli produce.

This is what they say on their Facebook page:



This group has been created because of the affinity mothers and grandmothers feel for the plight of the people of Palestine. In this month of July 2014 Israel has mercilessly bombed Gaza resulting in countless deaths, suffering, trauma and horrendous injuries, mental and physical.


We feel helpless as we do not have much power to effect justice for the Palestinians, who have suffered for decades. But what power we do have is our spending power. We often make the decisions in our families on what we purchase for our families and homes. And now we are using this power to force change.

In the first instance, we want to use this power to transform our buying patterns and to boycott companies, supermarkets and other outlets that sell produce from Israel and the Occupied Territories. We are bringing our local Mums together to effect real change - because money speaks!
We have had enough of British companies propping up Israel economically, which allow it to act with impunity. We will no longer be complicit in this genocide because we will no longer buy Israeli & OT produce. We will run Total Boycott Strikes targeting all the supermarkets until they comply with our demands.

We are demanding that all supermarkets:

• Stop sourcing all their produce from Israel
• Stop sourcing their produce from the Occupied Territories
• Support Palestinian Farmers and other ethical producers around the world

We are an organic movement of Mums of all backgrounds and this is only the beginning. We are not going to stop until children of Gaza can sleep safely in their beds in a free Palestine and there is a JUST resolution for the Palestinians.

‪#‎FreePalestine‬ ‪#‎FreeGaza‬ ‪#‎Boycott4childrenofgaza‬


Follow on Twitter @Mums4gazakids

The Lion Will Roar Again in Wembley on Monday

A lion's head corbel, rescued from the demolition of the last of the British Empire Exhibition buildings, is to be unveiled at its new resting place in Wembley on Monday at 12.15pm.  The unveiling coincides with the end of the exhibition 'The Lion Roars - the World at Wembley' at Brent Civic Centre which marks the 90th Anniversary of the British Empire Exhibition.

I publish Philip Grant's Guest blog account of the Lions of Wembley below:

Demonstrate for Gaza and its children today: Noon, Israeli Embassy, Kensington High Street

Writer and broadcaster Michael Rosen will be one of the speakers at today's rally for Gaza in Parliament Square. This is a poem published on his blog LINK earlier this week. The names of Gazans, including children,  killed by the Israeli Defence Force can be found HERE

Assemble today at Noon opposite the Israeli Embassy (Kensington High Street) and then march to rally in Parliament Square.

Don't Name the Dead Children

Israel bans radio advert listing names of children killed in Gaza (Guardian 24.07.14)

Don't mention the children.

Don't name the dead children.

The people must not know the names

of the dead children.

The names of the children must be hidden.

The children must be nameless.

The children must leave this world

having no names.

No one must know the names of

the dead children.

No one must say the names of the

dead children.

No one must even think that the children

have names.

People must understand that it would be dangerous

to know the names of the children.

The people must be protected from

knowing the names of the children.

The names of the children could spread

like wildfire.

The people would not be safe if they knew

the names of the children.

Don’t name the dead children.

Don’t remember the dead children.

Don’t think of the dead children.

Don’t say: ‘dead children’.

Thursday 24 July 2014

Children's activities at Wembley's LDO summer weekends

There will be play opportunities for children at the London Designer Outlet during the summer holidays.

Activity Timetable:
What’s On?
19th July
Capeoria Workshop & Steel Pan Band, Bungy Trampoline*
20th July
Jazz Duo
25th July
imPULSE Youth Dance
26th July
Stilt walker with balloons
27th July
First Impressions dance group, Face Painting
2nd August
Dance Workshop
3rd August
Storytime, Mini Football
9th August
Surf Simulator
10th August
Mini Football
16th August
Bungy Trampoline
17th August
Bungy Trampoline
22nd August
Hillside Dance Group performance
23rd August
Bungy Trampoline
24th August
Bungy Trampoline, Face Painting
25th August
Bungy Trampoline, Face Painting
30th August
First Impressions dance group, Spanish Classes
31st August
First Impressions dance group, Storytime
6th September
Football trickster
7th September
Fitsteps dancelikenow

Barham Park planning appeal – the Community fights for its Community Facilities

Guest blog by Philip Grant

It is now more than eight months since Brent’s Planning Committee refused an application by the Barham Park Trust (sole corporate trustee – Brent Council) for a change of use of the former Barham Park library building from community use to business use. On 3 December 2013, the Trustees (five members of Brent’s then Executive) accepted the recommendation of a senior Council Officer to appeal against that decision, but it was only last Tuesday, 22 July, when a Planning Inspector finally held an informal hearing of that appeal at the Civic Centre. The delay was due in part to the Trust’s appeal not being submitted to the Planning Inspectorate until the end of March 2014 (it has been suggested that this was to ensure that the appeal could not be decided before the local elections on 22 May). 

Around thirty local people attended the hearing (including two of the Brent Cabinet members who now have Trustee responsibility, for parts of the proceedings), and although less than half of these came forward to speak when given the opportunity by the Inspector, this impressive display of support for the former library building remaining available for local community use will have been noted by him. This was a planning appeal, so the fact that many of them were Friends of Barham Library was only relevant to the extent that it showed a need and demand for the sort of community facility which could be available on a permanent basis in Sudbury, but there were many other reasons shown to the Inspector why Brent’s planning policy CP23, aimed at protecting existing community and cultural facilities that meet the needs of Brent’s diverse community, should be upheld, as the Planning Committee had already decided. 

Greens call for Wealth Tax on the richest 1% with assets of more than £3m

THE Green Party, the only party committed to progressive policies that tackle Britain’s persistent inequality problem head on, is calling for a Wealth Tax on the top 1%, those with assets of more than £3million. 

The Green Party, which is already fighting for a Living Wage for all and fairer company-wide pay ratios, says a tax on wealth would help to ensure that the richest 1% (300,000 people) pay their fair share back to society. 

The richest 1000 people have doubled their wealth in the last five years . Meanwhile, the number in poverty has risen and the queues at food banks have lengthened. 

Policies that tackle the disparities in income do not necessarily address the problem of excessive wealth. That is why an annual wealth tax which taxes the assets of the wealthiest at a rate of 1% which would raise approximately £21billion is needed. 

Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, revealed the Party’s commitment to a Wealth Tax ahead of the General Election live on LBC’s Duncan Barkes Show. 
Bennett said:
Our strong General election polling and surge in membership goes to show that the Green Party’s commitment to people over profits policies are really hitting home. The Green Party is prepared to take principled stands and an increasing number of voters recognise and value this. 

Other political parties are offering business as usual, only minor changes to our failed economic system and policies that are helping the super-rich and making the poor pay for the economic crisis that they did not create.   

A Wealth Tax is part of the Green Party’s policy programme that will deliver real change for the common good. It is this change that British politics and British society desperately needs.


Professionals and Mercenaries
Guest blog by ‘All in this together’.
Richard Marshall, the interim Copland Head hired by the Gove/ Pavey/IEB coalition to do their dirty work for them, this week  gave a new meaning to the much-abused word ‘professional’ when, in his last-day-of-term address to staff (and his first official recognition that any member of staff had left the school all year) he used it to describe the manner in which staff at Copland had responded to the one hundred and thirty three redundancies he had diligently imposed on the school since last July. By ‘professional’, Mr Marshall presumably meant that his sackings had been achieved without loss of life and, ultimately, with a kind of cowed resignation from the staff. In George Osborne’s  would-be-macho world of balding male willy-wagglers, where’ tough’ decisions have to be made with a fearless lack of concern for the comfort or security of any individuals (except themselves), this version of ‘professionalism’  can be framed as some kind of brave and realistic acceptance of the unavoidable new realities. 
The inconvenient truth, however, is that Copland staff did not behave at all in the manner which management clones mean when they employ the weasel word ‘professional’  to mean ‘that of which I approve’.  In reality, Copland teachers  used their collegiate solidarity to resist at every stage what Richard Marshall and his sidekick  Nick John had been hired to do. When the pair arrived last July and demanded of Copland Heads of Department that they nominate people they wanted sacked, apart from the odd shameful exception they refused to do so. When the Heads of Department were then threatened that they themselves would go unless they provided names, they still refused. That resistance, an expression of the self-confident autonomous decision-making which is the mark of real professionalism, set the tone which continued throughout the year. Teachers at all levels (except senior management, inevitably) have been united in their action against the surrendering of the school to Ark Inc and its removal from local democratic accountability.   In the end, the fight was lost, as any fight by a few hundred teachers, parents and pupils  against Cameron plus Gove plus their friends on Brent Council plus a hand-picked and craven IEB plus a couple of hired ‘tough’ guys was always going to be lost. 
However, there are defeats and there are defeats.  Ark and the spivs who own it have grabbed Copland. They will give it a new name and claim the credit for the new  building (which, in fact, was planned to go ahead whoever ran the school).  But Gove has gone from the DfE and, as a result of his perceived ‘toxicity’ in the eyes of the electorate (in large part a result of the loud and active resistance of teachers like those at Copland) his hopes of leading the Tory party, and God help us, the country, have gone too.  
Copland staff can feel  proud of the fight they put up in defence of the jobs of their colleagues (including dinner ladies, classroom assistants, mentors, support staff, sports coaches, caretakers, cleaners as well as classroom teachers).  Their professionalism was manifested in action not in apathetic quiescence and  this kind of professional engagement and concern  is a crucially important part of the checks and balances in any democratic society’s resistance to a bullying centralised state. 
So ‘professional’ is certainly what the great majority of Copland staff have been, particularly in face of the despondency and disillusionment which they inevitably felt as they watched their various ‘Leaders’ abandon them. But to use the word ‘professional’ in the way Mr Marshall used it on Wednesday was an insult.  However, there is another variant of ‘professional’’s  many shades of meaning  and it relates to an any activity performed primarily for financial gain. At this point the word almost takes on the meaning of ‘mercenary’, where any moral qualms on the part of the people hired to carry out the activity can be silenced by, to misquote a great British politician of the past, ‘stuffing their mouths with ten pound notes’. There were  people in the hall at Copland on Wednesday who maybe were worthy of such an appellation; but it was certainly not those teachers and ex-teachers who were having to listen to that ill-judged  speech.

Congratulations to all the staff, parents and pupils who fought so hard and persistently to prevent forced academisation. Although you didn't succeed it was a battle worth fighting and an example and inspiration to others.

Martin Francis 

Help Barham Park Estate's Temporary Residents extend their tenancies

We the undersigned petition the council to intervene in the premature issue of 42 "Notice to Quit" orders issued by Brent Community Housing to its tenants and subletting organisations who are resident in the Phase 3 development area of the Barham Park regeneration plan. These NTQs require all the affected residents in these 42 properties to leave by 18th August 2014, when the Council's website clearly indicates there are no plans to proceed with the Phase 3 demolition until early 2015. We therefore request the Council uses its influence with its contractor to extend the above tenancies until January 2015.

We believe that the premature issue of these 42 NTQs is liable to be financially detrimental to the Council in terms of lost rental income and the security of tenure and duty of care for existing Council tenants.

It is our understanding from viewing the Council’s regeneration plans, and from discussion with the contractors and others involved in the proposed scheme that Phase 3 is unlikely to start for at least six months. The Council’s website states that the current building under construction, Phase 2C, is not due to become occupied until “Early in 2015” ( To date it has been usual to start to move tenants into the new builds prior to initiating the next demolition schedule.

In addition to forcing a large number of young single people to seek alternative accommodation, which will impact on the council’s Housing Options Team, and the substantial loss of income to the Local Authority, we are also concerned about our neighbours who have council tenancies and are awaiting rehousing. They have already expressed their worries that leaving these 42 properties empty will encourage anti-social behaviour from outside elements.

 Sign ePetition

New anti-racist group launched in Brent

A new broad-based group was set up last night to challenge racism in Brent. The group, Brent Anti-Racist Campaign (BARC) will take up issues in policing, housing, immigration, employment, education and any other areas where racism becomes an issue. BARC will also get involved in running 'Know your Rights' workshops for young people.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Barnet Council gives go ahead for Brent Cross redevelopment

Regular readers will know that the Brent Cross development has been subject to much debate, not least because of the increase in car traffic involved in the expansion of retail and the associated loss of green space. See Coalition for a Sustainable Brent Cross Development  LINK

This is a Press Release from Barnet Council: 

Barnet Council has today confirmed planning permission for a revamped Brent Cross Cricklewood shopping centre as part of the wider Brent Cross Cricklewood redevelopment. 

The confirmation comes today following the signing of final commercial agreements between Barnet Council, developers Hammerson and Standard Life.

The overall development of both north and south sides of the A406 will create more than 27,000 jobs and 7,500 homes and double the size of the shopping centre.

The Section 106 planning agreement is one of the largest in British history and will see a £250m investment in roads, public transport and pedestrian and cycle links as well as three new parks.

It will also see investment in three new schools and other community facilities as well as a £5.6m major improvements to Clitterhouse Playing Fields.

Leader of the Council, Councillor Richard Cornelius said:

It is very difficult to overstate the importance of this redevelopment to Barnet. The council is committed to playing an active role in the development of the south side of the site to get the best financial deal for the taxpayer and to play our part in creating a thriving London neighbourhood.

We are particularly excited by the opportunities presented by Brent Cross overground station which will give a 12 minute fast link into Kings Cross. We are working very closely with the Treasury and the Mayor’s Office to make this happen.

Tuesday 22 July 2014

A film about Gaza made by people 'living the reality' - July 30th Rumi's Cave

Brent's legal flip-flopping over Kensal Rise Library planning application

In this Guest Blog Meg Howarth tries to disentangle the various interpretations of the law involved in the Kensal Rise Library development planning process.

Last week, Brent's planning committee gave the go-ahead to Andrew Gillick's latest plans for the Kensal Rise Library building he now owns. Brent & Kilburn Times report HERE

Regarding the still-unresolved fraudulent email affair surrounding the developer's original scheme - there's currently some speculation that matters might now be in the hands of the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service). This is unconfirmed, however, and shouldn't stop anyone from writing to their ward councillors to ensure that Brent police's investigation isn't quietly dropped on the back of last Wednesday's planning consent.

Last Wednesday's decision was made in the face of apparently contradictory advice from the council's lawyers about the relevance of ACV (Asset of Community Value) legislation to the application - the library building was listed as an ACV in December 2012. The committee's legal advisor told the committee that the Localism Act and ACV was 'separate legislation' and 'not under the consideration of this committee'. This is not only untrue, as Jodi Gramigni says on the following Wembley Matters' blog  LINK

The advice appears also appears to contradict points 7 & 8 of the planning officer's report. These state unequivocally that 'in this case [KTR planning application] the fact that the building is listed as a Asset of Community value is...a material planning consideration' and 'is also a partial change of use to residential is proposed' - link to report HERE 

But the most glaring evidence of Brent legal's flip-flopping regarding ACV legislation comes in the statement from Andrew Gillick's spokesman on the eve of the planning committee: 'Further to advice provided by the LPA [Brent local planning authority] in respect of the Assets of Community Value Regulations 2012, I am pleased to advise that the applicant [the developer] has today confirmed that he is naming FKRL as the "actual" tenant, as opposed to his "preferred" tenant'.

So less than 24 hours before the Localism Act and ACV was declared 'separate legislation', it had been  used by Brent's planners to enable a shift from 'preferred' to 'actual' tenant status for FKRL. Why, then, did committee members fail to probe these inconsistencies? Were they asleep on the job? The 2012 legislation either applied to the application or it didn't.

In the event, the shift to the much-heralded status of 'actual' tenant appears to have been little more than a PR move to encourage support for Mr Gillick's latest attempt to convert the library building into unaffordable residential flats. As his spokesman said: 'We trust this ['actual' over 'preferred' tenant status] goes some way to giving the Council, the FKRL and the local community the confidence to support this application'. But as Jodi Gramigni says: there's no 'legally binding requirement to reinstate a library [in the KRL building] or agree a lease with FKRL, confirmed by committee member, Cllr Kasangra, when he said clearly at the meeting that a lease is not part of the planning conditions. 

Those with long memories will here recall the developer's apparent untrustworthiness when, in his original change-of-use application for the Mark Twain library - the one linked to the fake email support - he offered D1 space in the basement of the-then publicly funded building in breach of the legally binding contract he'd signed with then-owner All Souls College: 'none [of the D1 space shall be] in the basement of the Property)' (Option Agreement para 15.1). Jodi's appeal for 'vigilance' is surely spot on.

A further point regarding the Localism Act: if a property is listed as an Asset of Community Value before a sale is agreed, the property is subject to the Community Right to Bid - a 6-month period to enable community groups to prepare alternative sale proposals. Brent's legal counsel argued that the Option Agreement to purchase Kensal Rise Library from All Souls College, allegedly signed in November 2012, preceded the building's ACV-listing in December, and that the building was therefore exempt from the right-to-bid period. But the Option Agreement wasn't a sale contract. That wasn't signed until later, almost certainly in January 2013. So it's arguable that the 6-month bidding process should have started then, enabling FKRL to exercise a bid. For clarification of this alone and/or other aspects of Brent's handling of the application or the police investigation, it might be worth requesting the Secretary of State to call in the planning committee's decision for reconsideration advice on how to do so HERE