Thursday 29 January 2015

Brent's Austerity Cuts - a Disaster for the Environment

Brent FoE and Brent Campaign Against Climate Change outside Energy Solutions, Welsh Harp
This joint letter from Brent Friends of the Earth and Brent Campaign Against Climate Change was published in the Brent and Kilburn Times today:
Imagine our neighbourhoods and parks strewn with litter, fly-tipped with bulky waste, and green wheely bins being fought over. A borough where our children are deprived of the chance to learn about nature, and where vulnerable residents needing advice on fuel poverty have nowhere to turn. This is what Brent's austerity agenda will mean if the Council's budget proposals go ahead.

The proposed cuts will mean no street sweeping in residential roads, no litter collected in parks at weekends, charging us £15 to collect bulky items, and £40 a year for our green wheely bins. It will close two valuable institutions – the Welsh Harp Education Centre (a unique resource that inspires our kids to learn about the natural environment) and Energy Solutions (who help residents, landlords, schools and businesses reduce fuel bills - cutting Brent's carbon footprint and helping fight climate change.) The grants for these, a mere £30,000 and £50,000, are a fraction of the £54 million cuts overall.

Brent's own “Green Charter” will also be scrapped and, apart from statutory monitoring, all Council work on sustainability and climate change will go. All this a time when we need more than ever to build local resilience for an uncertain future.

Whilst we acknowledge the Council's difficulties, and other vital services are also at stake, these cuts are short-sighted easy targets for which we all will pay a heavy price.

Viv Stein
on behalf of Brent Friends of the Earth and Brent Campaign against Climate Change
Teacher organisations, schools and pupils have been taking up the issue of the Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre Closure.

There is a petition to save Energy Solutions HERE  It needs many, many more signatures.

Meeting: Floods, coming to a High Street near you...?

Climate change campaigner Guy Shrubsole will be giving a talk about floods at Brent Friends of the Earth's (Brent FoE) monthly meeting at Watling Gardens Community Meeting Room, in Kilburn on Tuesday February 10th at 7.30pm.

Guy Shrubsole, Climate Campaigner from Friends of the Earth will be asking are we at risk, and what can we do to tackle floods and climate change in Brent.

Ian Saville, a Co-ordinator of Brent Friends of the Earth says:
Floods and extreme weather events are becoming more frequent as a result of climate change. In Brent we have a large reservoir and the River Brent, and many people now find when they renew their insurance that they are considered at risk of flooding. There is a real danger of serious flooding in some areas. We'll be discussing how all this might affect us in Brent and what we can all do to lessen the risk.
Everyone is welcome to attend this free event, and stay for the rest of the group meeting. Light refreshments will be available.

The talk will start at at 7.30pm till approximately 9pm, and will be followed by Brent FoE's monthly meeting. The meeting will be at Watling Gardens Community Meeting Room, 97/135 Watling Gardens, Shoot Up Hill, NW2 3UB (5 mins. from Kilburn tube/buses on Shoot up Hill). For more information see or email

Will 'cronyism' allegations re-emerge after new Brent Council appointment?

I heard yesterday that Lorraine Langham had been offered one of the newly created Corporate Management Team jobs at Brent Council after interview.  The job of Chief Operating Officer is part of the senior management restructuring carried out by Christine Gilbert and Cara Davani. It is a one year fixed term appointment at salary of £125-142k. LINK

The restructuring saw the departure, with compensation, of Fiona Ledden, Head of Legal and Procurement and Ben Spinks, Assistant Chief Executive Officer, over the Christmas holiday.

I sought confirmation of the appointment from Brent Council press office at 9.30am this morning but they have still not got back to me at 2,15pm. However, I do think the appointment, if it has been made, is important background to the deliberations of the General Purposes Committee which will be discussing Michael Pavey's HR review at 6pm this evening.

Lorraine Langham, like several of the present CMT, has previouslly worked for Tower Hamlets Council and Ofsted. (See table below). Like Gilbert and Davani she also has her own private company. She is no stranger to controversy over her alleged friendship with Christine Gilbert as this hit the headlines in 2007 and again in February last year. LINK

The Daily Express reported:
In 2006 the wife of Labour minister Tony McNulty, Christine Gilbert, was appointed as Chief Inspector of Schools at the watchdog.

Within a year, Ms Gilbert had appointed a number of former colleagues to key positions within Ofsted.

Ms Gilbert - the former chief executive of Tower Hamlets council - recruited her friend Lorraine Langham to be Ofsted's £120,000-a-year director of corporate services.

Ms Langham had worked for Ms Gilbert at Tower Hamlets as communications chief through a company she ran called Verve Communications.

That company was paid £923,000 from Tower Hamlets over a two-year period.

The then-MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, George Galloway, said at the time:  "You have a situation where this woman is a propagandist for probably the worst council in Britain and, lo and behold, she gets a job with her best pal.

"There is not a whiff of cronyism, there is a stench of cronyism.

"You would have thought Labour would have learned something but, clearly, they believe they are above scrutiny."

Ms Gilbert and Ofsted denied the allegation at the time, saying Ms Langham had been appointed after a thorough and transparent recruitment process.

Ms Langham remains Ofsted’s chief operating officer.
I am sure that this was also a 'thorough and transparent recruitment process' and that Brent HR made sure any connections and associations were declared.

Tony McNulty is a Labour Party activist working hard for a Labour General Election victory in Brent and Christine Gilbert is Brent's neutral Returning Officer.

For those losing track of Brent Council's version of 'Only Connect' here is a useful table:

Brent Position
Tower Hamlets position
Ofsted Position
Private companies
Christine Gilbert
Acting Chief Executive (current)
Chief Executive
Chief Inspector
Christine Gilbert Associates
Cara Davani
Director of Human Resources (current)
Drew up Gilbert’s contract
Second respondent in Employment Tribunal Case
Director Human Resources
Organisation change and HR Consultant
Cara Davani Ltd
Clive Heaphy
Director of Finance (left Brent after Gross Misconduct charges withdrawn.)
Drew up Cara Davani’s contract, Now at HS2. His treatment was contrasted with that of Rosemarie Clarke in  the Employment Tribunal Judgment and was the basis of the Racial Discrimination finding

Interim Director of Finance

Thomas Cattermole
Head of Executive and Members’ Service (current)

Christine Gilbert’s Executive Assistant

Lorraine Langham
Chief Operating Officer (Current TBC)
Various interim roles
Director of Corporate Services
Verve Communications

The membership of the General Purposes Committee (if there are no substitutions) is exactly the same as the Cabinet except that Cllr Mashari is not a member of GP. Cllr Suresh Kansagara, leader of the Kenton Conservatives joins his Labour colleagues on GP.

Labour backbench disquiet over Brent Council cuts proposals

Hitherto, much of the opposition to Councillor Butt's leadership has been more about personal style and character, rather than politics, with opponents not sharing a political anaylsis of the Labour adminstration's shortcomings.

Now, with public reaction againsts the cuts building up, as evidenced by the atmosphere at the Harlesden Connects meeting, some Labour backbenchers are looking askance at the way the cuts package is being presented and want to see some modifications.

It does not appear to be a great revolt and does not involve a huge number of councillors but surely welcome. It is clear that despite the mantra of 'It's the coalition's fault' and 'We have no choice' some councillors are finding it hard to defend some of the more extreme proposals to their constituents.

The Cabinet will approve the cuts package on February 23rd so time is short.

Brent Council to out-source leaks service

I understand that the Cabinet will be discussing a proposal to out-source the Council's Leak Service at its next meeting.

Brent Council leader Muhammed Butt consulted widely with his cabinet colleagues who all felt that the service was far too efficient.

Cllr Butt said:
Going forward we must learn from the inefficiency gains we have made when out-sourcing other services such as street cleaning and parks maintenance.  The problem with the current in-house service is that it is far too effective and producing more leaks that Affinity.  We owe it to the residents of Brent, especially those who don't know what is going on, to protect them and  make things as opaque as possible.
A public consultation event will be held on February 29th in the Dalliance Suite at the Civic Centre.

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Kenton by-election to be held on Thursday March 5th

There will be a Brent  by-election in Kenton ward on Thurday March 5th following the death of Conservative councillor Bhiku Patel.

The Kenton ward result in the  May 2014 local elections was:

Suresh Laxmidas Kansagra Conservative 1798 19% Elected
Reg Colwill Conservative 1796 19% Elected
Bhiku Mani Patel Conservative 1669 18% Elected
Syed Alam Labour 1139 12% Not elected
Lewis Hodgetts Labour 1040 11% Not elected
Nadhim Ahmed Labour 946 10% Not elected
Graham Allen Green Party 348 4% Not elected
Violet Margaret Steele Liberal Democrats 221 2% Not elected
Vivienne Rosamond Williamson Liberal Democrats 153 2% Not elected
Ieva Tomsone Liberal Democrats 125 1% Not elected

Anyone wishing to stand as a candidate at the election may submit their nomination between Thursday 29 January and 4.00pm on Friday 6 February.
Nomination forms and assistance can be provided by emailing Electoral Services or call 020 8937 1372

Rumours are circulating that Brondesbury Conservatives may stand a candidate so that in the event of beating a Kenton Conservative  they could claim recognition as the Official Opposition. Cllr John Warren of Brondesbury Conservatives has not responded to Twitter requests for clarification.

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Green Party: Holistic approach to education and poverty will redress the balance for children

Responding to Tristram Hunt's article on Green Party education policy, Green Party schools spokeperson Samantha Pancheri said:
Tristram Hunt’s attack on our education policies demonstrate how out of touch Labour are with ordinary people and suggest that schools should take on the responsibility of mopping up the damage caused by soaring inequality.

When we have teachers taking food into class to feed hungry children , or consoling sobbing pupils at the end of the day because they don’t want to go home to a cold, dark house, it is startlingly obvious that there is a much larger problem in today’s society. Teachers are not social workers, and we should not be placing these demands on them. It is only by looking at the problem holistically, and by taking bold steps to eliminate poverty that we can begin to redress the balance for children.

Our education policies work in tandem with those designed to lift families out of poverty and close the wealth inequality gap. By taking that strain off schools and teachers, we can begin to support all children in accessing the same high quality education that teachers strive to deliver.

Teachers have welcomed our policies and recognise that the focus is on providing a child-focused school system, relieving the workload on teachers, and reducing bureaucracy to put accountability into local hands. The academy system, introduced by Labour and furthered by the coalition government, has failed to improve standards for schools and outcomes for children.

With 40% of newly qualified teachers leaving the profession within 5 years, and 25,000 unqualified teachers working in state schools and academies, our education system is floundering and is in urgent need of sensible reform.
Samantha will be answering questions on Green Party policy for the Education Guardian. Here are the details:
In the run-up to the election, Education Guardian has arranged for readers to interview education spokespeople of the political parties. Is there a key question they seem to be avoiding so far? Do you feel they need to provide some evidence for their views? Ask whatever you like. First up is Samantha Pancheri of the Greens. Coming soon: other parties. Tweet us your questions using the hashtag #guardianeduGreens, or email with GREENS in the subject field.
We can’t wait to see what you come up with … Questions by noon on Friday 30 January please. Over to you.

Questions of accountability for Barham Park Trust meeting tomorrow

The Barham Park Trust will be meeting tomorrow to consider its future governance arrangements and recommendation on the future of the buildings in the park.

Having spent possibly thousands of pounds on advice from Bircham Dyson Bell, specialists in the law of trusts and charities, five options are discussed, and maintenance of the status quo recommended by officers.

This maintains a structure which gives control of the Trust to Labour Cabinet members with no alternative councillor or community trustee voices.

Titus Barham of course gave his home for the benefit of residents of Wembley and future use of the buildings is passionately disputed.

The Trustees will be considering a number of recommendations to market the buildings. 
2.1       That the Trust approve the marketing of the Card Room (Unit 1) for a possible Café A3 and/or D1 use and to authorise the Property Adviser to the Trust in conjunction with the Trust Chair to select and let the unit to a suitable tenant on terms to be agreed.
2.2       That the Lounge (Unit 4) be marketed for a D1 and/or an A3 Use depending on the outcome of the marketing of the Card Room, or marketed in conjunction with the Card Room as a D1 use and to authorise the Property Adviser to the Trust in conjunction with the Trust Chair to select and let the unit to a suitable tenant on terms to be agreed.
2.3       That the Trust directly lease the Snooker and Billiard Rooms, (Unit 2), to the current occupiers, The Barham Park Veterans’ Club (Wembley), under appropriate leasing arrangements to ensure compliance with the aims of the Charitable Trust. The terms of the lease to be as set out below in Para 3.6 or as amended by the Property Adviser to the Trust in conjunction with the Trust Chair/
2.4       To obtain an independent valuation of the terms proposed between the Council and the Trust so that another application can be made to the Charity Commission for consent to lease the Children’s Centre (Unit 8) to the Council as Nursery Education Grant funded childcare open 5 days per week with children centre sessions being delivered in evenings and at weekends and to agree the Council can sub-let the space to a third party for similar use only. 
The 15 year lease granted to ACAVA (Association for Cultural Advancement through Visual Art) for a number of units on the site has been opposed by many local people as not benefiting local people in the spirit of Barham's legacy. This followed a Planning Appeal that cost £9,000 which I understand the Trust (and it is claimed therefore Brent Council) will pay, rather than ACAVA. The rental income (before service charges) is below that officers first projected.

In the light of the controversy over the Welsh School's bid to set up their school on the Bowling Green Pavilion site at King Edward VII these proposals are clearly important in terms of setting a precedent for other parks.

The Friends of Barham Library have been campaigning for the use of one of the Barham buildings as a community library having successfully run libraries at Sudbury Town station and a shop in Wembley High Road.

The report states:
The Trust has already received an offer from the Friends of Barham Library, (FOBL), for the Card Room and the Trust maybe minded to pursue this offer as the FOBL has charitable status with similar aims, in certain respects, to the Trust’s.
Alternatively the Trust could suggest to the FOBL that they may wish to consider participating in the tender process, should the Trust decide to approve the recommendation to instruct officers to conduct another marketing campaign for this Unit.
As mentioned above the Vets currently make occasional informal use of this space and they will be similarly advised of the intention to market the space should the Trust so approve.
(iii) It should be noted that The Card Room, is of a simple timber frame construction.  It is in poor condition and will require considerable expenditure to secure any long term use. Any ingoing tenant will need to not only install catering facilities, but will also need to expend a comparatively large sum of money on the Unit to carry out basic and essential improvements. Thus if a suitable tenant is not procured through this marketing process, it may then be necessary to consider demolition of the building as the cost of repair would not be economic for the Trust to undertake as a speculative project.
Local people have argued for some time that the Trust had been neglecting the buildings and letting them fall into disrepair as they prevaricated over their  future.  There are claims that after spending £220,000 on repairs and refurbishment that water has damaged newly refurbished floors and ceilings.

Monday 26 January 2015

Black Lives Matter: Film, Discussion, Entertainment, Food - Friday January 30th, Kilburn

Hunt's neo-liberalism distorts his understanding of education policy

Tristram Hunt's Guardian attack on the Green party's education policy LINK , characteristising it as 'total madness', seems to have spectacularly misfired today. Guardian readers looking up the detail have come back to comment favourably on the policy.

Our policy does of course mark a clear break with the neo-liberal policies of the three main parties which support competition and marketisation of schools based on what Chomsky recently called the 'grading of students and teachers'.

Labour of course began the marketisation of schools with their sponsored academies and this, along with the privatisation of the NHS, was a key element in Blair's New Labour strategy.  Hunt, along with Lord Adonis, is essentially a Blairite and we cannot expect him to offer a fundamental critique of what the system, instigated by them,  has become.

So what is this 'madness' Hunt has found:

Delaying the start of formal education until the age of six

There are many countries in the world where children start later than in England and Wales and achieve just as well, if not better, with less anxiety. The Green Party takes account of such evidence and understands the importance of play and exploration in early childhood rather than the testing and ranking at ever earlier ages supported by the neo-liberal parties.

Ending SAT tests in Primary Schools

SATS are essentially a way of grading teachers and schools putting them and their students under intense pressure. This has had the effect of narrowing the curriculum, deskilling teachers who are under pressure to 'teach to the test' and removes much of the joy from teaching and learning. Greens have a much broader view of what constitutes education.

Hunt suggests that children's progress would no longer be monitored, but of course SATs are not the only way to monitor and evaluate progress and tell us little about the individual child compared with other systems.

Abolition of Ofsted will end accountability

The  Green Party would replace Ofsted with a collaborative system ending much of the stress, illness and rushed judgements associated with Ofsted:
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).
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.
Education cannot compensate for society
In a variation of Michael Gove's 'enemies of promise' labelling of his opponents, Hunt suggests that Natalie Bennett speaks the language of 'low aspiration and defeatism' because she recognises that schools cannot compensate for all the ills of an unequal society.

This is what Natalie actually said:
I am gravely concerned about low exam results and high dropout rates from children from disadvantaged backgrounds. But I understand that even wonderful schools can’t fully compensate for severe poverty and stress at home - which is why making the minimum wage a living wage, affordable and warm homes, and ensuring decent benefits are available to all who needs them, are education issues as well as social justice issues
More than 40 years in teaching and school governance has certainly taught me the importance of material conditions, and I would add a daily hot meal and a place to study to the list. These make an impact on levels of energy, motivation and self-worth. We have to work on both improving education and improving living conditions and increasing equality.

The focus on individual progression in education with its blame for failure on pupils, parents, teachers and schools, serves to let politicians off the hook over increased inequality, child poverty and inadequate housing.

What Hunt didn't say

Hunt failed to attack the Green Party's policy to end academies and free schools, integrate existing ones back into the Local Authority system, strengthen LAs through better funding and increased democratic accountability,  restore LA's ability to build new schools where they are needed and end Performance Related Pay for teachers.

Perhaps they were too popular for him to advertise?

Green Party Education policy is HERE

Rosemarie Clarke’s missing votes: Cara Davani refuses to tell

Guest blog by Amir Tahir

On 22nd December last I submitted a Freedom of Information request to Brent Council asking for the following:
1. The number of nominations/votes received by individual Brent Staff Achievement Award winners 2014                                                                                                                                                                          2. The number of nominations/votes received for Rosemarie Clarke for Brent Staff Achievement Awards 2014.
By return I received the following acknowledgement from Cara Davani:
‘Thank you for your information request. We (sic) will forward it to the relevant department who will contact you shortly.’
On 21st January  I received the following from Brent Council HR department.
‘The requested information is exempt from disclosure under Section 40(2) of the
Freedom of Information Act (FoIA).  The information is personal data as defined by
the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). As it is information about individuals, we are
unable to give this to you; release of this information would constitute a breach of
Principle 1 of the DPA. Principle 1 states that personal data shall be processed
(used) fairly and lawfully and, in particular, shall not be used unless at least one of
the conditions in Schedule 2 of the DPA is met; in this case none of those conditions
have (sic) been met.*
 This response therefore acts as a refusal notice under section 17 of
the FoIA.’  
                                                                    * I would welcome opinions on this. AT
Obviously, my request for the total number of Rosemarie’s votes was not made out of idle curiosity; we all know that the response to the ’Vote for Rosemarie’ idea was overwhelming with Civic Centre staff and members of the public expressing  their solidarity with Rosemarie and their admiration for the way she had conducted herself in the face of what a British court has adjudged was Cara Davani and Brent Council’s racial discrimination, victimisation  and constructive dismissal. The online vote she received was massive. Nor was it my intention in any way to detract from the achievements of the other worthy winners of Brent Staff Achievement  awards.
However, the Council leadership’s mean-spirited response to the avalanche of votes for Rosemarie seems to me a missed opportunity for Butt, Gilbert and Davani finally to concede that those voting for Rosemarie possibly had a point; that Civic Centre staff and the public generally support Rosemarie for principled and valid reasons; and that an employment tribunal judge’s opinion possibly carries a little more authority than that of a small cabal of mutually back-scratching and terminally compromised senior managers  and local politicians.          

Sunday 25 January 2015

Monday's crowded Cabinet agenda covers many crucial issues

The  Brent Cabinet on the afternoon of Monday January 26th has an unusually crowded agenda with a great many detailed reports, supplements and appendices on vital matters.  It is being held at 2pm at the Pakistan Community Centre, Willesden Green.

Here are the main items with link:

Museum and Archives Strategy

Adult Social Care Local Account 2013-14

Procuring an Accommodation based Respite Framework Agreement

Rate Discount Scheme for businesses accredited to Living Wage Foundation

Brent Local Welfare Assistance Scheme

Update of Schools Capital Portfolio

Purchasing system for management of Temporary Accommodation 

Awarding of contract  for procurement and management of temporary accommodatio  for Housing Association Leasing Scheme

South Kilburn energy supplier for decentralised energy solution

South Kilburn Regenration Gloucester House, Durham Court, Chippenham Gardens secure tenancies for Phase 4

London Councils Grant

Authority to tender a contract for Health Watch

Financial report November 2014

The full Agenda  which contains many more documents is HERE

Fo! about FoI to Brent Council results in no information held!

It is rather odd that a Brent Labour councillor has to resort to a Freedom of Information request to his own Council about their performance regarding Freedom of Information requests. This is what Cllr Dan Filson did on Thursday. He got a response the next day which is amazing, However he did get fobbed off like the rest of us often are:

I am still waiting for the answer to an FoI request made on November 28th 2014. I hasd heard that the maintenance of large trees had been left out of the Publc Realm contract in which Veolia took over parks maintenance. It had been suggested to me that this was an oversight that would result in additional expenditure.

This is the  response to my intial request:
 1. State who is responsible for safety checks, maintenance, felling and replacement
of trees in Brent's parks, open spaces and cemeteries.

The Contractor is only responsible for minor tree works which can be carried out
whilst working at ground level. The Council is responsible for major tree works.
Grounds maintenance staff from Veolia and the Council’s monitoring officers
(horticulture) would look at trees when they are working in the park or carrying out
monitoring visits. The Coucnil would then engage specialist contractors to carry out
the major works.
My follow-up which is still awaiting a response:
1.     Is the cost of major tree works by a sub-contractor included in
the Public Realm budget out-sourced to Veolia?
2.    If not, what is the expected annual cost of this sub-contracted
work (recognising it might vary considerably due to major weather
events such as storms)?
BREAKING NEWS: Having posted this article at the weekend I got this answer about 9.30am this morning:
 1: No
2: The Council’s street trees maintenance contractor is Gristwood & Toms. The budget for street tree maintenance works was £500,000 in 2014/15, but this is expected to fall to £450,000 in 2015/16.


Friday 23 January 2015

West Hendon Public Inquiry hears comprehensive account of mistreatment of tenants

Paulette Singer, former community organiser on the West Hendon Estate, got a warm round of applause for this statement that she read out at the Public Inquiry yesterday evening:

1) I am writing this letter in objection to the Compulsory Purchase Order as the former Community Organiser on the West Hendon estate and ongoing supporter of the residents group ‘Our West Hendon’.

2) I spent a year and a half working on the West Hendon estate up until November 2014. My role, paid for by central government as part of the Community Organisers Programme was ‘building relationships in communities to activate people and create social and political change through collective action’.

3) Part of my work involved taking on volunteers from within the community whose role was to assist with the door-to-door listening process. In March last year a group of these residents formed ‘Our West Hendon’ in a attempt to both campaign about the perceived unfair treatment residents were experiencing through the regeneration process and also in order for them to have a support group in place to deal with individual housing cases. Along with several volunteers I listened to over 300 people across the estate and in the local area.

Pavey Review not yet available but notes on Constitutional challenge released

The Agenda for Thuursday's meeting of the General Purposes Committee has now been published. The meeting is due to discuss the Pavey Review of Brent Human Resources but the report is not yet available on the Agenda web page.

I understand this is because there are some late additions being made. Instead of the report there is a placeholder:
Following the loss of an employment tribunal case in September, 2014, Councillor Pavey, Deputy Leader, who has Cabinet responsibility for Equalities and the Council’s role as employer, agreed to take stock of the Council’s policies and practice to see where improvements could be made.  Councillor Pavey has now completed his review and will present the findings to the General Purposes Committee.
Although the fullest possible report is obviously desirable, it is unfortunate that members of the committee, the press and the public won't have time to consider it in detail before the meeting.

The Annual Brent Diversity Profile LINK  has been published and this graphic tells its own story about racial equality (Sc3 is the lowest and Hay the highest). Overall % of council workers who are BME is 62%):

Meanwhile the indefatigible Philip Grant is now able to pass on notes of his meeting with Brent Council Leader Muhammed Butt following a resident's successful Freedom of Information request.

Philip asked for a meeting to raise his concerns over the Council's respect of its constitution.

Cllr. Butt had agreed that Mr Grant should take a note of their discussions, and that these should be sent to him for checking, with a view to producing an agreed accurate record of those discussions. It was Cllr. Butt's change of mind on that agreement which means that the Council now claims they are no more than Mr Grant's 'own personal recollection of the meeting'.

Regular readers of Wembley Matters will be able to put a name to the anonymised "AB", especially if they follow those initials in alphabetical order.

This is what working class community struggle looks like!

I joined West Hendon campaigners yesterday at their meeting and march to achieve justice in their fight against social cleansing and homelessness brought about by Barnet Council and Barratt Homes. Their social housing estate is being demolished to make way for luxury multi-storey homes on the edge of the Welsh Harp. The rehousing tenants are being offered is limited and the compensation leaseholders are offered is insufficient to get a new home.

Campaigners were joined by E15 Mothers and the New Era housing campaign as well a Unite Community.

The issue has been covered extensively on Wembley Matters and the Brent Greens and Brent Labour combined to oppose the development on social and environmental grounds. LINK

A Public Inquiry into the development is underway at Hendon Town Hall.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

UPDATED Support Our West Hendon's challenge to social cleansing by Barnet Council and Barratt Homes

The Public Inquiry into the West Hendon development has started. The Guardian has carried an article outlining the arguments that Barnet Council are engaged in the social cleansing of the estate LINK

There will be a meeting at the Marsh Drive Community Centre on the estate at 2pm on Thursday afternoon and then a procession to Barnet Town Hall.

This is an update received from Barnet green party member Ben Samuel:
Now is the most crucial time to stop the West Hendon development since the "lake side" phase 2 Public Inquiry opened yesterday and will continue for 8 days.  We started with broad principles and the promoter's case.  Then objectors including myself will have the chance to read out their evidence and questions will be asked.  All the papers are on and the evening session we are told will go ahead between 6 and 9 p.m. this Thursday.

Please come to Thursday's afternoon of action starting with a guest talk at West Hendon's Marsh Drive Community Centre booked for 2 pm.  We'll then process to the Town Hall.

After the statement of case by the expensive QC Neil King, who characterised objectors as mere protesters not with a serious plan, we heard form Martin Cowie from Barnet Council, and his developer partner who seems to be his boss.  Cllr Adam clarified the Council's claim that there were no non-secure tenants in 2002 even though we'll hear next week that there were.
They cited s.13 1974 Misc provisions Act, 2004 circular on policy and Equality Act to create "an inclusive place for all sections of the community".
They explain the long delay in phase 3 as due to changes in market conditions but Adam made Barratts promise not to lower the % affordable from 25% which includes shared equity.
This is a message received later this afternoon about tomorrow's (Thursday) meeting and march:


Come and listen to the Focus E15 Mothers talk about their campaign 2 - 4 o clock
Marsh Drive Community Centre Marsh Dr NW9 7QE (Nearest station - Hendon Overground, on Thames Link )
15 min from kings cross
Hendon Central Tube - northern line then 83 bus to Hendon Broadway

buses 32, 83, 142, 183, 632, 642


4 - 5 o clock
join us for some hot home made soup and rolls while we drop our ginormous banner


5 o clock
March from the estate to the Public Inquiry at Hendon Town Hall

6 o clock
- outside Hendon Town Hall The Burroughs NW4 4AX - nearest station Hendon Central, Northern Line )
buses 143, 183, 362

we will be joined by the Women from The New Era campaign, speakers from the Our West Hendon Group, Radical Housing Network , Unite The Union and other estates in Barnet.;
where we will make a noise and voice our objections to the social cleansing of West Hendon and London wide.

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Support the latest strikes of Your Choice Barnet Care Workers

From Barnet Unison
UNISON members working for Your Choice Barnet (YCB) have just announced their next strike dates as being 22nd and 23rd January. In addition the workers will be attending an event in the House of Commons 28th January highlighting the conditions for workers in this sector. This will make a total of 6 days of strike action since the dispute began. This is in a bid to reverse the harsh 9.5% pay cut imposed on them by their employer. 

UNISON and YCB have had numerous meetings at ACAS and there has been no improved offer which has come close to being acceptable to the majority of our colleagues. The latest offer made in October 2014, was a 7.9% pay cut and this was resoundingly rejected in a ballot of the membership. The discussions have, however, revealed stark issues imposed on YCB by Barnet Council which make it difficult to see how YCB can survive financially into the future without our members constantly bailing it out through their financial sacrifice. The pensions deficit (an extra 9.8% payment) for the TUPE’d staff was transferred across to YCB, although this did not happen with other contracts in the private sector. Relieving YCB of the pensions’ deficit would restore our members’ pay at one stroke. Not allowing YCB to charge for unplanned “no-shows” (when service users are unable to attend the service at short notice) would potentially halve the pay cut to our members. However, Barnet Council refuses to participate in any of our discussions although ultimately the Council holds the purse strings.

Meanwhile our members tell us they are working harder than ever with increasing levels of stress and no prospect of a pay rise. They report the first day they have off from work is used simply to recover from the stressful week they have had. The pay cut has left many of our colleagues finding it particularly hard to make ends meet.  They have made it clear to us they want to see a substantial shift in any new proposals from YCB in order to end the dispute. 

UNISON Branch Secretary John Burgess said:
Our members held back from taking action before Christmas in order not to disrupt the service for service users and their carers at such a sensitive time of the year. This demonstrates again their professionalism and dedication but also their determination to stand up to attacks on their terms and conditions.

22nd January  & 23rd January Picket Line details 

1.Flower Lane Day Centre
41 Flower Lane
London NW7 2JN

2. Rosa Morrison Day Centre

83 Gloucester Road
London EN5 1NA