Friday, 31 October 2014

One year on from their fracking protest Brent FoE shape up for a fight against Park Royal proposals

Brent  FoE's fracking protest outsiode Willesden Green Station in October 2013
In response to London Local Energy's application for a licence to frack for shale gas in Park Royal, Brent, Ian Saville joint Co-ordinator of Brent Friends of the Earth (Brent FoE) says,
We resolutely oppose fracking in Brent, or anywhere else, and urge Brent Council to turn down the application by London Local Energy to site a well head in Park Royal. Fracking is a dirty technology that may seriously damage our health, environment and is very likely to worsen climate change. Shale gas is a dirty fossil fuel that will add to the dangerous levels of greenhouse gases in the environment. It should be left in the ground.

Regulatory systems are not strong enough to protect against leaks of toxic chemicals used in the fracking process. This threatens our soil and water supplies. Fracking uses vast quantities of water - in the region of 4 million gallons per well head – which are lost to public supply.

We cannot count on fracking to reduce our fuel bills. Instead we need to invest in renewables and energy saving to heat our homes.
Brent Friends of the Earth have been lobbying their MPs and parliamentary candidates about fracking in London. You can read an update on their talks with Glenda Jackson on their website HERE

Jenny Jones, Green Party AM, said:
The suggestion that London’s residents will not notice the noise and disruption of fracking trucks as it already has high levels of traffic and noise is truly insulting.

Boris Johnson can’t just brush these off as NIMBY issues. More noise, pollution on our roads is completely unacceptable. Nor should the risks of contaminating ground water with toxic chemicals be underestimated. 

At a time when current trends mean that we are on course for a catastrophic 4 degree temperature increase, our priority must be switching to renewables such as solar/wind and getting serious about energy conservation. 

Exploiting even more fossil fuels such as fracked oil or gas that can only accelerate global warming just isn’t an option.
Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council, assured Brent Friends of the Earth of the Council's opposition to fracking when they demonstration against it in 2013. LINK 

Cllr Butt was interviewed on BBC London's Breakfast Show this morning about the licence application. Listen from 01.43 LINK

Brent allotment holders encouraged to go green as sites with short waiting lists advertised

Birchen Grove allotments near the Welsh Harp
It is good to see Vanessa Hampton, Brent Food Growing and Allotments Officer, taking action to encourage greener gardening by allotment tenants.  This was sent to allotment holders today:
Earlier this year I ran a couple of free cultivation classes which were attended by approx. 50 people.  So back by popular demand I’ve organised another 2 classes which any tenant is welcome to come along to.  The classes are identical, so you don’t need to go to both.

We will be covering useful topics for beginners on the allotments looking at tools and how to get your plot cleared and dug over, composting and how to garden more sustainably, reducing the use of chemicals on a plot.

The classes start at 10.30am and there will be a poster on the gate showing where I am on site if you can’t see me from the entrance. The class will last for approx. 2 hours and I have enclosed a useful information sheet that covers some of the subjects we’ll go over in the class.

Saturday 29 November at Gladstone Park Gardens allotment, Dollis Hill, Broadfield Close entrance, NW2 6NR  Map and travel info   There is a car park at this allotment.

Saturday 10 January 2014 at Woodfield Avenue allotment, North Wembley, HA0 3TP  Map and travel info   The entrance to the allotment and car park is in the park: go down Sudbury Avenue, take the first turn on the right into the park and you will see a building, North Wembley pavilion and the car park opposite where the gate to allotment is. 

I will also be contacting every tenant in December to invite them to complete a short questionnaire about their gardening methods with a view to finding out how green are our plot holders, for example do you have a water butt if you have a shed and how often do you use pesticides?  We will then re-survey everyone in a year’s time to see if people are getting greener.

I am also producing a Conservation Management Plan for the allotments and the aim will be to improve the places for wildlife at every site.  This will involve some fun habitat improvement activities like making log piles and ponds, building bird boxes and managing hedgerows.  If you are interested in joining in with a habitat improvement activity on your allotment site, please let me know.
Meanwhile the Council is advertising some potential plots on its website:
If you fancy your hand at food growing, some of our allotments have short waiting lists where you can be offered a plot within a year or so.
The short waiting lists are at:
  • Cecil Avenue, Wembley, HA9 7DY
  • Dors Close, Kingsbury, NW9 7NT
  • Kinch Grove, Kenton, HA9 9TF
  • Lyon Park Avenue, Wembley, HA0 4DZ
  • Sudbury Court Road, Harrow, HA1 3SD
Allotments are a great way of growing good quality and fresh fruit and vegetables for your family and friends at a low cost.
Apply online for an allotment plot or call 020 8937 5619.

Brent Full Council Meeting moved to December 8th

Following rumours that the Full Council Meeting due on Novembver 17th was being cancelled or delayed I emailed Democratic Serrvices this afternoon for confirmation and asked for the reason.  I had heard that it was connected with legal cases currently in process.

Peter Goss, Democratic Services Manager, sent this at 5.29pm:
Councillors have this afternoon been notified that the Full Council meeting on 17 November has been moved to 8 December in order that the outcome of the consultation on the borough plan can be considered as part of the 1st reading of the budget.  The web site has been amended to reflect this change.

Chalkhill families enjoy the sunshine in their very special park

I was lovely to see families out enjoy in the autumn sunshine in Chalkhill Park this afternoon. People were relaxed and happy at this unexpected bonus at the end of the half-term holiday.

More evidence of how important these social open spaces and play facilities are. Councillors may boast about the Civic Centre but I thibk this is, in the long run, a much more significant achievement.

Stonebridge: So much more than just a playground

United in the battle to save Stonebridge Adventure Playground
The Kilburn Times is playing a gteat role in publicising and supporting the fight to save Stonebridge Adventure Playground. Unfortunately they have not had a Letters Page for several weeks so I print below a letter I sent them:

 It has been gratifying to see the Brent & Kilburn Times getting behind the local community's fight to save Stonebridge Adventure Playground.

I recently attended the Wembley Connects forum where we were invited to shape a vision for the improvement of the borough. One strong theme that emerged was the need for social spaces where our diverse population could meet, share common interests and learn about each other. It was argued that this  would help produce community cohesion and solidarity.

Stonebridge Adventure Playground is such a space where generations of children and their parents and carers have mixed and shared each others company in an area of disadvantage.  It was noteworthy that Doug and Glynis Lee's MBE nomination for their work on the playground was from grown up children who had helped them build it back in the 1970s.

By concentrating on bricks and mortar Brent Council is in danger of ignoring the role that such places play, not just in the obvious provision of play opportunities but in the way the play workers know generations of people in the area who used the Adventure Playground as children. They are well known in the community, have its respect and contribute positively to its stability. They provide a safe place where through the opportunity to play children children can become confident, independent and sociable. This largely invisible contribution to children's development can make a massive impact on children's future lives.

A local teacher posted this comment on my blog:

I used the adventure playground as a child. I remember bonfire nights, tuck shop, arts and crafts, movies, pool, arcades, table tennis and camping trips. I was welcomed to work there as a volunteer into my late teens which helped focus me toward my career in teaching. Ive been back to visit a number of times and am blown away to see children from all backgrounds, special needs and mainstream all playing together. It's currently ahead of its time.

Its heart breaking to know that there is enough money out there to supplement the money that it already raises for itself, to keep it open.
Shortsightedness must not prevail. Keep Stonebridge Adventure Playground open!!

Replacing the Adventure Playground with an unstaffed kickabout area next to the main road is tokenistic and insulting to the children of Stonebridge and Harlesden.

We need housing and we need school places but not at the expense of destroying something so valuable.

Brent Council must think again and come up with a solution that recognises the value of Stonebridge Adventure Playground and its work.

Martin Francis
Brent Play Association

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Bonfire night fireworks for a Brent senior manager?

There is an intriguing item on Brent Council's General Purposes Committee agenda for November 5th:
Senior Manager Restructuring Proposals 
This report outlines proposals for a further restructuring with two aims: refocusing the Council’s senior management and corporate centre to meet the substantial challenges the organisation must manage over the next period and inevitable reduction in staffing; further streamlining to deliver a £1.4 million saving in senior management costs.
Clearly £1.4m is a substantial sum so the proposals could be far-reaching. They come only a little over 18 months since the last restructuring LINK.

Unfortunately the Council has decided that the proposal must remain concealed from the public by virtue of paragraph(s) 1, 2 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972. This protects proposals relating to an individual and which reveals the identity of the individual.

On the same agenda is a new policy on Learning and Development authored by Cara Davani. Cara Davani was the second respondent in the Employment Tribunal case against Rosemary Clarke, former head of Learning and Development.

The Watford Employment Tribunal found that Clarke had been racially discriminated against, victimised and constructively dismissed.

Brent Council is appealing the Employment Tribunal's judgment.

The new policy abolishes employees' access to funding to gain job related professional qualifications. It states:
Key changes include a consistent approach to work experience and internships, the latter of which must be paid. Given the budgetary pressures the council is facing, the council is no longer able to support funding for professional qualifications, although paid time off may be available in accordance with the council’s Time Off policy.

Funding will still exist for specific initiatives, such as BAME Senior Management Development programmes
The proposed full policy document can be found HERE

Natalie Bennett: Abolish politicised Ofsted & replace with collaborative body

Cartoon: Rose Asquith, Education Guardian

Natalie Bennett's letter to the Guardian today

Your vox pop of senior education figures (The verdict on Ofsted? ‘requires improvement’, Education, 28 October) was damning. It is clear that all trust has been lost; Ofsted is regarded as a highly politicised, untrustworthy, damaging organisation. That’s one reason why the Green party is calling for its abolition and replacement with continuous collaborative assessment and a national council of educational excellence working closely with local authorities.

Of course we need more change than that. The state of Ofsted is a reflection of the state of a system that is vastly overfocused on exams, has lost local democratic accountability, and has left teachers overworked, disempowered and increasingly demoralised.

Natalie Bennett
Leader, Green party

Rotten Boroughs features Brent Council's HR & CMT Scandal

Brent Council: Trick or Cheat?

Brent Council’s ‘Big Three’ weigh their options to avoid giving Rosemarie Clarke  her Staff Achievement Award
Guest blog by Jack O. Lantern
                 Christine Gilbert, Cllr Butt and Cara Davani pictured yesterday
With only days to go before the nominations for Brent Staff Achievement Awards 2014  have to be announced, it’s decision time at the Civic Centre. Having used up  the 7 days breathing space which the hastily-announced deadline extension gave them, it’s now time to decide whether to try to
TRICK  the people of Brent by claiming that Rosemarie Clarke is not eligible (even though the Tribunal’s constructive dismissal judgement made it clear that the only reason Rosemarie is no longer a Brent employee is that she was illegally forced to resign by Davani), or to
CHEAT the people of Brent by somehow ‘losing’ the mountain of votes Rosemarie has obviously  received. (Aside from the transparent obviousness of such an attempt, a Freedom of Information request would surely follow).
No matter how  frightening  the choice appears to be for them, one option that definitely isn’t open to Davani, Butt and Gilbert is to attempt to further delay the expected anouncements while they  try to conjure up some other escape strategy.  There are now more than just local eyes on this whole grubby business and the sooner Cllr Butt decides to cut his losses the better.
             Decision time, Councillor:  Witch is it to be?

Monday, 27 October 2014

Stonebridge Adventure Playground Must Stay Forever!

Cllr Muhammed Butt received the petition

A group of children, young people and parents handed over a petition of more than 1,000 signatories to Brent Council leader Muhammed Butt at Brent Civic Centre today.Dawn Butler, Labour Party parliamentary candidate for Brent Central also attended.

The signatures had been collected over the last few weeks from door-to-door knocking,  Harlesden Town Centre, Tesco and Love Where You Live in a amazing effort to save the playground that has served the community since the 1970s.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Costa vs Customer Centre:? Willesden Green Cultural Centre: Have your say on Monday

The saga of the Willesden Green Library redevelopment continues.  Another promise made to sell the redevelopmet appears to have bitten the dust. Here is an update fron Make Willesden Green LINK

Last month we blogged about the rumours that there would be no Customer Services (previously known as the One Stop Shop) at the new Willesden Green Cultural Centre and that, despite several enquiries from both Make Willesden Green and from individual residents, there was little knowledge of the plans from our councillors although they did promise to keep people informed if, or when, they found out more.

Having not heard anything further we were surprised to see the issue on the agenda at Brent Cabinet last week, hidden within a long document on Community Access Strategy. Two local residents spoke at the Cabinet meeting and raised several queries and objections but the document was approved unamended. There were no representations from any local councillors at the meeting.

The document presented a case to say that, since more residents were using the online service rather than seeking face-to-face contact, there was no longer a need for a dedicated Customer Services space within the Cultural Centre. Instead, self service computers and telephones with a direct line to the Wembley Civic Centre would be placed in the library and a weekly "by appointment only” surgery would be held (in an unspecified space within the Cultural Centre) for those who could not travel to the Wembley Civic Centre. 

The (approx 210sqm) space on the first floor that was to have housed Customer Services is now subject to a “local dialogue” about its alternative use but that use, says the council, will need to be both "of public benefit” and “income-generating”.

It’s a great shame that while the strategy document contains some positive proposals to improve the quality of the council’s online service to residents it seems to have come at a high cost, both to those who are unable to use that mode of communication and to library users who will see their facility further reduced.

Some of the points raised by residents at the meeting were:

  • a significant proportion of people still do not have online access, they are most likely to be poorer, elderly, disabled and more vulnerable residents. These are the very people who have complex needs that need to be dealt with face-to-face, rather than via a self-service computer or on the phone.
  • the majority of the council’s high need residents live in the south of the borough.
  • the housing of the Customer Services self-service computers and telephones within the library will represent a further reduction in the actual library facility – library users will be jostling for space with self-service customers and librarians will be expected to facilitate both sets of users.
  • the redevelopment of the library site was “sold” to residents on the basis that the old building couldn’t house an enlarged Customer Services facility, yet we are now going to end up with less than we started with.
  • there has been no consultation with local residents on what they feel their needs are relating to Customer Services provision.
  • how will the "alternative use" of the space be determined? Is there a contradiction between the need for it to be both “of public benefit’ and “income-generating”? Will the “local dialogue” be nothing more than giving us a choice between a Costa and a Starbucks?
Despite these concerns the proposals were nodded through. The broken promise that the Cultural Centre will mirror services at the Wembley Civic Centre  leaves us yet again feeling like the south of Brent is the poor relation of Wembley and that we are subject to a two tier service when it comes to council provision.

Having made this decision without any reference to residents views, Brent Council is hosting a meeting next week, the agenda is to include:

  • An update on progress with the building and services
  • A presentation from the building designers and a chance to take part in design workshops for the interior
  • A chance to give your views on how the community can be involved and put this building at the centre of life in Willesden
Monday 27 October 2014  6:30-8:30pm
St Andrews Parish Centre, 2 St Andrews Road, NW10 2QS

All residents are invited to attend and we encourage you to do so.

The original Brent Council offer for the Cultural Centre is worth revisiitng ahead of this meeting. It can be found in the Equality Impact Assessment HERE

Saturday, 25 October 2014

BrentARC steps up rights campaign over Operation Skybreaker

Brent is one of five London boroughs to be chosen as the target for Operation Skybreaker. This follows targeting of the borough by racist organisations such as the BNP, Britain First and the South East Alliance and by the UK Border Agency and Home Office through the racist van and raids on tube stations.

Today the Brent Against Racism Campaign (BrentARC) will be in Wembley Central  distributing the leaflets below informing the public and businesses about their rights regarding Operation Skybreaker.

The leaflet below is particularly aimed at small business owners:

Friday, 24 October 2014

Guest blog: Left Unity and the Green Party - time to talk?

 Sean Thompson is a former member of the Green Party and Green Left, who left the Green Party to join Left Unity. Ahead of LU's November Conference he has written an article about the organisation's relationship with the Green Party.

He has given me permission to publish this as a Guest Blog. I do this to encourage debate. I do not endorse everything he says but I do think he raises some important issues for both Left Unity and the Green Party.

Two resolutions to our national conference in November mention the Green Party; one calls for ‘structured collaboration… between serious forces on the left at the 2015 election, including the Green Party’, while the other states that
‘we will not call for a vote for… the middle class Greens’

Clearly, we need to get our act together and decide on the sort of relationship we want to develop with the Green Party. In my view, it is essential that we not only have a realistic understanding of the party’s politics and its support base, but that we develop a positive (but critical) working relationship with them wherever we can.

It’s only a bit more than eighteen months since our Ken, appearing on BBC’s Question Time, said that what Britain needed was a ‘UKIP of the Left’ and so kick-started the initiative that was to become Left Unity a few months later. However, since May it has started to look more and more as if it is the Green Party which is beginning to match that description. Membership of the Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW) is booming: it now stands at around 23,000 – a near 60% increase since the beginning of this year. Membership of the Young Greens (party members under 30 or full time students) has more than doubled over the same period and now stands at over 8,000. In the week since the TV companies announced that UKIP would be invited to take part in the election debates between the party leaders next May but that the Greens would not be, the party received an incredible 2,000 membership applications and in five days an online petition demanding its inclusion in the debates received over 185,000 signatures. Given our very modest size and limited visibility and the utter irrelevance of all the old far left sects and (except for a couple of areas) TUSC, the Green Party is increasingly being seen as the only alternative to the left of Labour.

Council sells Brent House for £10 million

Brent House

Brent Council has sold Brent House, Wembley High Road, for more than the £10m asking price.

It has been sold to Henley Homes who have plans for up to 265 homes on the site subject to Brent Council giving planning approval.

Brent House is close to the old Copland High School, now Ark Elvin, which  is also the subject of an extensive planning application.

The sale follows plans for the conversion of  the  high rise Wembley Point at Harrow Road/North Circular into homes.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The City of London and TTIP - meeting Saturday Oct 25th

Barry Gardiner: Injury prevented me from voting for recognition of Palestine

I have received this reply to a message I sent to Barry Gardiner MP (Labour Brent North) asking him to vote for the recognition of Palestine on October 13th and a follow-up email asking why he wasn't present for the  vote:
Thank you for contacting me about the debate regarding the recognition of Palestinian statehood that took place in the House of Commons on the 13th of October. 

You will, I am sure, be aware that the House of Commons voted in support of the motion with a significant majority of 276-12. Labour voted for the motion because it reflects our support for the principle of recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Unfortunately, I sustained an injury on the Sunday evening and had to go to the hospital, so I was not actually present for the vote. Had I been able to attend, I would have voted to recognise Palestine along with my colleagues in the Labour Party. I believe the events of recent months have made it clear that such progressive steps are essential to avoid further violence and bloodshed.

I also believe that recognition of Palestine at the United Nations would be a further tangible step along this route. That is why I have supported the Labour Party’s consistent calls upon the Government to commit Britain to supporting the Palestinians' bid for recognition at the UN, in 2011 and in 2012, in order to restart peace negotiations.

Police Appeal: Do you recognise this butt?

Deadline for nominations for Staff Achievement Awards extended as Council leaders ‘snatch   dogs off the streets’ in desperate bid to boost Davani vote.    
Guest blog by E.Tribunal

Earlier rumours that Brent Council leaders have reacted to the avalanche of support for Rosemarie Clarke by selecting, as their own favoured nominee, HR  supremo  Ms Cara Davani, seem to have been confirmed.  Leaks from Civic Centre staff tell of receiving scores of nomination forms bearing a paw mark where the nominator’s name should be ( see earlier report HERE, and that almost all the dogs involved appear to be Kerry Blue Terriers, Lakeland Terriers, Irish Terriers or Welsh Terriers, the breeds which Ms Davani  and her partner Andy Potts specialise in at Kebulak Kennels LINK , the business Ms Davani runs when things are a bit slack in her other jobs. 

Now, in a new development, it seems that Cara and Andy’s kennels have not been able to supply enough supporters to swing the vote in the HR supremo’s favour and last Thursday’s deadline for nominations has been extended to give the Butt/Pavey/Ledden/ Davani/Potts  gang one last chance to deny Rosemarie Clarke her rightful award.

Desperate for extra votes, it seems that supporters of Ms Davani, having exhausted their own canine support, are now snatching other people’s  dogs off the streets and, with promises of mountains of bones and endless  walkies, or simply by crude threats of violence (see below,) forcing the unfortunate mutts to put their paws on the form and vote for the shamed HR chief who was recently found guilty of racial discrimination, victimisation and workplace bullying in her role of Human Resources lead and figurehead in equal opportunities Brent.  

Local police, who are understandably keen to trace the perpetrators of this particularly cruel and insensitive practice, have issued a CCTV image of a suspect  reproduced above in the hope that someone out there will recognise him. Detective Inspector Sturmey Archer of Wembley CID  made this plea:

‘If anyone in the community recognises this butt, don’t hesitate to get in touch. The man is described as below average height and bearded. Do not approach him. He is desperate.’  
Witnesses said that when he spotted the CCTV camera, the suspect seemed at first to react by smiling broadly into the camera and looking for someone’s hand to shake. However, when he realised what he’d been filmed doing he immediately ran off at great speed throwing away the rope and a half-eaten takeaway meal. Police later said they had sent away a quantity of akee and salt-fish for analysis. 

Meanwhile they have urged residents to keep their pets safe indoors until the extended deadline passes today.

Warning: Robbers posing as builders in Wembley Park

I tweeted about this yesterday evening and my neighbour who was the victim popped in this morning to give me more details.

Yesterday evening around 7pm a white English man, 30-35 years old with no discernible regional accent knocked on my neighbour's maisonette door to say he was doing some work in the flat below and to apologise for any noise nuisance.

He returned 30 to 45 minutes later to say the work had been completed and my neighbour assured him that he had heard nothing. The 'workman' turned to go and then, Colombo style, stopped and asked if he could just check the water pressure which might have been affected by the work he had done.

He went into the kitchen to the stop-cock under the sink and then asked my neighbour to hold something while he checked elsewhere. My neighbour's suspicions were aroused when the man then closed the kitchen door on him.

Coming out of the kitchen he discovered all the cupboard doors open and the man investigating a tin box. Simultaneously another man, black baseball pulled down, came through the front door which must have been left ajar by his accomplice.

My neighbour, no Spring chicken, managed to kick them both out.

Be warned.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

'Cockney Benefit Tourist Invaders' jibe as Brent Council relocates families in Sandwell

Illustration used in the Halesowen News

Following Sandwell' Council's loss of a court case which over-ruled their attempt to withhold Council Tax benefit for two years from new residents who are families rehoused by Brent and other London boroughs in Sandwell, near Birmingham, Brent Council is again sending families to the city.

The Halesowen News LINK states:
In a memo entitled Out of Area Placement Notification seen by the News Brent Council warned Sandwell Council officers of its plans.
The memo said:
We are housing tenants again in the Sandwell Council area due to the change in the council tax status.

We will be housing clients in temporary accommodation and emergency hotel accommodation (mainly houses) with offers of two year tenancies.
The memo also revealed Brent Council would be advising Hammersmith and Fulham Council to do the same.
The story goes on:

Deputy council leader Councillor Steve Eling said:
Within just weeks of the court's judgement that deemed there was no evidence of people being relocated from London to Sandwell, a London borough has placed a family here and another has confirmed it will be dumping poor families in Sandwell, apparently taking advantage of cheaper rent here.

This is a direct result of the court's judgement in the case of Brent Council and would appear to apply equally to the others. As a result, we're powerless to stop this happening.

We believe some of these families don't want to come here either because it takes them away from family and friends.

This will create an added burden on Sandwell Council taxpayers who will now have to pick up 100 per cent of the bill for these extra families who can't afford to pay council tax - as well as potentially for families that London boroughs have already placed here.

That's why we introduced the two-year residency rule in the first place, to protect Sandwell taxpayers and Sandwell families who are most in need.

Following the court's judgement, we've had no choice but to suspend that policy. We'll now have to either make further cuts or ask everyone - including the most vulnerable and poorest people in the borough - to pay something towards their council tax bill.

Following the court's judgement, we now have a £1.6 million shortfall in the money to cover the cost of council tax discounts.
The stereotype in the illustration above may be ridiculous but such stereotyping of Brent families, already removed from friends and family, clearly presents a danger that they will encounter prejudice and resentment on arrival in Sandwell and the possibility that the children of 'invading' 'Cockney Benefit Tourists' will encounter bullying in school.

Thankfully the Halesowen News quotes the warmer words of another local councillor:

Councillor John Tipper said:
Whatever the finances of the matter is we have to remember these people who are coming into Sandwell are probably not coming by choice and are human beings who should not be demonised. I hope the people of Sandwell offer the hand of friendship to these newcomers.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Greens back Occupy Protest as Jenny Jones arrested

Jenny Jones. Green Assembly Member for London, was arrested this morning at Parliament Square when visiting the protestors there. She was witness to a close friend being arrested as part of the protest in defence of civil liberties and the right to protest. She was released soon afterwards. 

Jenny is former member of the Metropolitan Police Authority and is deputy chair of the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee. She has been a consistent advocate of civil liberties and has worked closely with the police on how protests should be facilitated. 

Jenny Jones said: 
The police have a duty to facilitate peaceful protest in this country which people have a legal right to do, but that appears to end as soon as you come within shouting distance of the Westminster village. The people who run this country should not be able to tuck demonstrators away out of sight. Parliament needs to listen and people should have the right to get their voices heard.
 Responding to Jenny's arrest, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett immediately tweeted: "Proud of @GreenJennyJones for standing up for the right of peaceful protest. Let's defend democracy." 
Bennett later added: 
There is cause for serious concern about the nature of the policing of the Occupy demonstration. I spoke at the event on Saturday after the TUC march and there was at that time a large number of police present - no doubt at very considerable expense - for a small, peaceful demonstration that involves workshops and speakers such as economists, scientists and politicians.

There are reports that protesters had umbrellas, cash and other items of no conceivable aggressive use confiscated, and that police in large numbers have tried to make their continued presence as physically uncomfortable as possible.

Prime Minister David Cameron was recently rightly speaking up for the rights of free assembly of the people of Hong Kong. He might like to look out his office window and ensure that the same rights are being respected in London.

Cllr George Crane appointed Brent Council lead member for the Environment to replace Keith Perrin

Hot on the tail of my story about the non-filling of the Lead Member for Environment cabinet post left vacant by the resignation of Cllr Keith Perrin LINK and my suggestion that Cllr Butt was reluctant to have another election for the post, comes this story on the Get West London website LINK

It appears that former Executive member Cllr George Crane has been appointed to the post. There is no press release on the Brent Council website about this:
A former manager of Rolls Royce has been appointed the new lead member of environment at Brent Council.

Councillor George Crane from Wembley has taken up the role after Councillor Keith Perrin stepped down from the position last month.

Councillor Crane has been a councillor for a number of years and was the lead member for regeneration and growth in the last Cabinet.

He has two grown up sons and is retired now but was a senior manager at Rolls Royce for 20 years and after that worked as a buyer for a food manufacturing company in Harrow.

He said: "I am delighted to take on the role of Lead member for Environment at the request of the Leader of the Council.

"I am excited about the portfolio area - there are lots of new things in the pipeline in Brent including improvements to the public realm and waste management including new and more frequent recycling collections from Spring next year. However I am also acutely aware that Brent Council faces some tough challenges with public services facing dramatic cuts in funding from central government, so the Cabinet will have to be making some tough decisions over the coming months.

"I am keen to listen to and engage with residents. I look forward to working with them and other Partners over the coming months."

Keith Perrin had 'no problem' with £40 garden waste charge

Gaynor Lloyd has sent me this comment on suggestions that the Garden Tax was a contributing factor to Cllr Keith Perrin's resignation.  (It is published here as it was too long to go in as a normal comment on the original story)

As Keith Perrin's wife, could I just make a comment? I  was around when - after the election and  as new Lead Member - Keith  was looking at the whole "package" of changes to the waste arrangements: considering  the overall  contract,  and the variations including those for food and green waste. I know what  research he did , and how much time he spent  raising  questions with officers, etc. I   watched him deliver information about the changes in various forums, and answer numerous residents' and councillors' questions, including at Scrutiny - and follow up those questions which he was unable to answer. I can  say that Keith had -  and has  - no problem with the "garden tax"  (though he may not be keen on calling it that!) or with the overall changes .   What follows is the article he did for the Sudbury Court Courier in our Ward, while he was Lead Member, and which sets out Keith's genuinely held views. 

" Changes to Waste Services in Brent by Northwick Park Councillor Keith Perrin

After being elected to the Council in May, for which I thank you all, I became Lead Member for the Environment in June.   Almost immediately, the  Council announced proposed changes to its Waste Services.  Since then, I have been questioned daily and often at great length on the subject.  I have had to understand the issues, the waste contract with Veolia (the Council's contractor) and the position in the Borough as a whole. Most contentious is the new 'opt in' £40 charge for a garden waste bin   - but the changes are about much more.  

These changes are being introduced for two reasons.  Put simply, the Council has no choice. It has to save money and it has to reduce waste. The changes should achieve both.  More than that, they will be  fair and overall improve the waste collection service  to all the residents in the Borough.  

The basic principles behind the changes:
·         We have to improve recycling rates
·         We have to reduce overall collected waste (2011 Waste Regulations). Waste sent to landfill costs us £108 a tonne.
·         We have to reduce the overall cost of waste disposal.  Mixed garden and food waste  costs £88 a tonne to process;  food waste on its own costs less than £30 a tonne and garden waste £34.
·         We have to save money or increase income. We have a £53 million budget deficit.  The Government won't let us raise Council Tax; the Council is bound by law to provide services - which cost money. We have to do what we can. These changes will  reduce the cost of the waste contract by a projected £378,000 per annum (and potentially more).

So - back to the Green Bins.

I should explain that, unlike most waste,  the Council has no statutory obligation to collect garden waste for free; many councils have never done so; since 2005, some of us in Brent have been lucky and received this service. Living in the greener parts of the Borough, I have had a free green bin for mixed food and garden waste. (In fact, I have two.) But not every household  in Brent even has one.  

Their food waste has to go into the ordinary landfill bin, collected fortnightly  - so potentially smelling awful, and attracting vermin, maggots and flies. You could say that our green bins have been subsidised by other people in the Borough who have not even had a food waste collection service. This does not make sense. 

Going forward, all 110,000 Brent households will be supplied with a robust sealable 23 litre food waste container  - collected every week - by new compartmentalised recycling lorries, which will also  collect dry recycling (the blue bin stuff). In one step reducing landfill by taking food waste,  and the overflow recycling which has previously found its way into the grey bins,  because blue bins are only collected  fortnightly. This removal of recyclable waste from the landfill bins will save us over £70 a tonne. Since 50,000 households don't have a green bin, you can easily work out how much we might save.

I have looked at the evidence from other parts of the country. I know that people believe that garden waste will increase fly tipping.  I believe It hasn't happened anywhere, except Birmingham, where there were "demonstrations" prior to the local election in May.  I hope it won't happen in Brent;  I don't believe that those who love their gardens would be the sort of people who would fly tip their garden waste. 

I hope we gardeners will think of composting, mulching, leaving wildlife areas less cultivated,  and being community minded in, e.g., helping each other on shared runs to the free recycling centre in Park Royal. But, if there is fly tipping, Veolia collect it. And pay the excess landfill tax.  Veolia clearly believe it will work! And I believe it will. It has to. We must reduce waste,  not just to save money but for the sake of the planet and our children. And a bit more leaving of green wildness might help in that aim too. ".

Monday, 20 October 2014

Harlesden Connects Tuesday: Help kids & parents save Stonebridge Adventure Playground

Brent Council want to expand a school and build houses in Stonebridge and in the process demolish the much loved and valued Stonebridge Adventure Playground which has been there since the 1970s.

The playground is staffed by playworkers who have worked with generations of children in this disadvantaged part of Brent. They are a respected part of the community and contribute to its stability.

In the plans the Adventure Playground would be replaced by an unstaffed kickabout area next to the main road.

Brent Council is currently consulting on their plans. Get involved and help the children and parents save the playground and force the Council to come up with alternative plans.


21 October 7pm Brent Connects Harlesden at the Bridge Park Community Leisure Centre, Brentfield, Harrow Road NW10 0RG. The consultation will be on the agenda at Brent Connects Harlesden.

29 October 9.30-11.30am and 5 November 5.30-7.30pm at the Main Hall, The Hub, 6 Hillside, Stonebridge, NW10 8BN.

12 November 5.00-7.00pm at Stonebridge Primary School, Shakespeare Avenue, Stonebridge, NW10 8NG

Fungi galore in Fryent Country Park today

The warm humid autumn weather created a surge of fungi growth overnight. These are samples found in Fryent Country Park today.

WARNING: Do not eat raw or cooked fungi unless you are absolutely certain that it is edible and have experience in such matters.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Another reason why a politicised Ofsted is not fit for purpose: the Green's alternative

The Guardian has revealed that so-called 'super head' Rachel de Souza of the Inspiration Trust, who has Michael Gove as a groupy, received advance notice of Ofsted inspections LINK

This is just one more example of the politicisation of Ofsted and its harnessing to serve the aims of the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) for the privatisation of education.

The Green Party recognised this as its Spring Conference this year and approved a policy to replace Ofsted with a body based on school improvement through collaboration.

Here are extracts from the policy:
--> ED056 The Green Party will instate a system of local accountability using continuous, collaborative assessment of schools. We would replace OFSTED with an independent National Council of Educational Excellence which would have regional officers tasked to work closely with Local Authorities. The National Council would be closely affiliated with the National Federation for Educational Research (NFER).

ED057 Where pupils’ attainment and progress is reported as part of a school’s holistic report to parents and the wider community it will include assessments, including value-added, moderated by the National Council of Education Excellence and the Local Authority’s School Improvement Service as well as the school’s own self evaluation.

ED076 Secondary and college students will have a right to attend meetings of the Governing Body and members of the elected School Council will have voting rights. Governing Bodies in primary schools will have the duty to regularly consult with the elected pupil School Council.

ED077 In accordance with Green Party philosophy the running of the school will be devolved as much as possible to the school within the above guidelines.

ED078 The Local Authority and National Council of Educational Excellence will be involved in monitoring the structures to ensure there is consistency of standards and level of involvement and to help to share best practice.