Tuesday 30 June 2015

Police move neo-Nazi demonstration to Whitehall

The Jewish Chronicle reported this afternoon that the police intend to move Saturday's  neo-Nazi demonstration from Golders Green to Richmond Tearrace, Whitehall.  They will be limited to a static demonstration for 60 minutes from 1pm-2pm.

Golders Green will still be policed as some demonstrators and counter-demonstrators who have not heard of the change of venue may turn up,

Greens: Don't sacrifice liberty in knee-jerk reaction to terror attacks

Green Party deputy leader Shahrar Ali has expressed his shock at hearing of the “inhumane” terror attacks that took place on Friday 26 June, but warned the government against fast-tracking its data communications bill in response.

Both Dr Ali and the Green Party’s foreign affairs spokesperson Tony Clarke called for nonviolent solutions to terrorism.

Dr Ali said:
How shocking to hear the news of terror attacks in a mosque in Kuwait City, a factory in Lyon and a beach in Sousse, Tunisia. People going about their everyday business suddenly had their worlds brought to an abrupt, inhumane end.

In the aftermath of the massacre, it is natural for our politicians to want to seek immediate solutions, but action requires thought, not haste. Just as the racist Charleston shooter, days earlier, was not representative of a whole community nor are the sick ideologues acting out their evil designs representative of any religion.

We must not sacrifice our liberties with a knee-jerk response to terror attacks.

The government's Prevent strategy is counterproductive on its own terms as it would impede open debate in our schools and universities when it is most needed.

Talk of fast-tracking the government's data communications bill, which would give agencies intrusive powers to intercept data, is not a legitimate response when current anti-terror legislation is already so open to abuse.

In seeking out nonviolent solutions we must take a sober look at our contribution to conflict, strife and resentment around the world. An attempt to understand the causes of the spread of terror, far from justifying unconscionable actions, gives us our best prospect to curtail them in the future.
Mr Clarke said:
All of us are affected as individuals each and every time terror strikes out at the innocent. We feel less secure, we feel angry at the use of extreme violence being perpetrated against people simply going about their everyday lives.

But to defeat the terrorists we have to win the peace, we have to redouble our diplomatic peacekeeping efforts and be prepared to advance our shared understanding of the open wounds in the world often created by governments themselves.

Only by reducing violence and assisting communities to live in peace will we ever be successful in breaking down the real recruitment drivers of terrorism.

The lessons are there for all to see in our recent past in Northern Ireland and in South Africa. We must now apply the same level of proactive peace and reconciliation processes in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in Palestine if we want to prevent future terrorist attacks and to protect the innocent.

'They Shall Not Pass' - Green statement on neo-Nazi demonstration in Golders Green on Saturday

Barnet Green Party have issued the following statement about the neo-Nazi demonstration due to take place in Golders Green on Saturday.

We at Barnet Green Party are shocked and appalled that a small group of neo-Nazis have called an anti-Semitic demonstration in Golders Green on Saturday 4th July 2015.

This is an act of deliberate provocation against the Jewish community who have lived in - and provided an important contribution to - both the local area and the British way of life since their arrival along with the Normans in 1070. It is particularly repugnant in the year that marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

This is not solely a matter for Jewish people but for all who believe in democracy, tolerance, freedom of faith, and who oppose Nazism. In a climate of growing anti-Semitism across Europe, we urge all communities to come together to roundly oppose their presence.

For this reason Barnet Green Party and our members - many of whom are Jewish - will be among those joining the counter-protests next weekend, including Adele Ward, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Finchley and Golders Green in the general election.

Adele said: “It's completely unacceptable that a neo-Nazi demonstration is being permitted in Golders Green, where many have been affected by the suffering of the Holocaust, and where it will be particularly frightening for children. Although freedom of expression is important, there is a point where it becomes incitement to hatred and this demonstration crosses that line. The government should have banned this from happening in Golders Green.”

We stand with the Jewish community at this time and reiterate our opposition to all forms of racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and oppression. We will meet at midday outside Golders Green tube station so do join us.

We are reminded of the slogan used by British anti-fascists who came out onto the streets to successfully prevent Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists from marching through the East End of London in a similar act of intimidation against its Jewish community in 1936.

“They shall not pass.”

Monday 29 June 2015

Lancashire councillors vote against Cuadrilla's fracking plans

I have just received this message from Richard Casson of Greenpeace:

Amazing news -- Lancashire just said no to fracking!

In a resounding move that will send shockwaves through the fossil fuel industry, Lancashire councillors voted overwhelmingly against fracking firm Cuadrilla's plans to drill for shale gas.

This is a huge victory for people power. Fracking would be bad news for Lancashire because it could contaminate water and pollute the air.  And it would be bad news for all of us, because burning more fossil fuels like shale gas could lead to catastrophic climate change. It's a win that will be felt far beyond Lancashire's borders.

Click on the image to share it on Facebook and celebrate!

In Lancashire, local people have been rallying outside county hall for days. But for the past four years they've run an incredible, grassroots campaign that's inspired so many of us. They've fought hard to win this -- and just last weekend, 65,000 Greenpeace supporters backed their local fight once more by signing an emergency petition to Lancashire council.

This morning I was in Preston. I was lucky to be there outside Lancashire county hall when the news came through and a huge cheer echoed through the crowd. People were hugging each other and celebrating -- the atmosphere was electric!

This is a victory for all of us - and a great surprise because councillors were under huge pressure from the fracking industry and the UK government to let Cuadrilla go ahead.

But over the past months and years, local residents, and organisations across the UK have campaigned to keep fracking out of Lancashire. We’ve signed petitions, emailed Lancashire councillors, and attended protests and fracking action camps.

Today all that hard work has paid off, so please click to share the good news:

Of course, Cuadrilla and other companies will keep trying to get fracking permits and start pumping chemicals into our soil. But we’ll keep fighting them every step of the way. And now we know the power we have against them, with each victory we will be one step closer to a frack-free UK -- for good.

For now, though, we can celebrate. Thank you - once again - for everything that you've done and continue to do.

All night weekend Jubilee Line from September 12th

TfL have published the NightTube map for services that will operate from the early hours of September 12th on Friday and Saturday nights.  Brent will be served by the Jubilee line. Trains will run at 10 minute intervals.

Further information LINK

Heat wave: Put your bins out the night before collection due

Brent Council is asking residents to put their bins out the night before collection day during  the expected heatwave period this week June 29th to July 3rd.

This is to ensure collection because waste workers will start earlier than usual in order to work in the cooler part of the day.

Child's Play? Investing in the young despite austerity

This guest blog by Andrew Ross, which he has adapted from his LGiU briefing to local authority members and officers, succinctly sets out some of the arguments for maintaining play provision in the face of pressure for further cuts. Wembley Matters publishes it with permission from the author and Policy for Play LINK.  It is of particular interest following the decision of Brent Council to close Stonebridge Adventure Playground.

Readers of this blog will be acutely aware of the threats to playgrounds and to play services. The London Play & Youth Work Campaign has come out fighting, warning the new government that it must:
‘recognise the profound value of play and youth work to society. If not, then be warned: cutting us will not be an easy ride.’

It’s not as if this ‘profound value’ is a secret. I recently wrote a briefing for local authority members of the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU), an organisation that aims to improve local democracy. I pulled together the findings from two recent reviews that caution local councils against cutting money for play because of the many wider benefits that play services bring. The first was by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on a Fit and Healthy Childhood. Adrian Voce has written about the APPG approach, set out in its first paper, Healthy Patterns for Healthy Families; and about its forthcoming play review, expected later this summer.

The other – The Play Return – was commissioned by the Children’s Play Policy Forum and written by Tim Gill. Tim cites the many developmental benefits for children of play. But he also points out that play could be a prudent investment for other reasons too. Play initiatives:
  • encourage volunteering and community cohesion: the review illustrates a number of examples of where this has happened, including Playing Out schemes
  • reduce antisocial behaviour and vandalism: Thames Valley Police have reported that installing youth facilities in Banbury led to a 25 per cent drop in the cost of repairs to children’s play equipment
  • reduce obesity: one study has found that children with a playground in a local park are ‘almost five times more likely to be classified as being of a healthy weight rather than at risk of being overweight’ than those without playgrounds in their nearby park
  • create healthier places: providing enticing outdoor play spaces can make a trip to the local park more inviting for children and their carers, and is one way of making it easier for people to maintain good health
  • reduce inequalities: public parks are – or should be – free to use, and are places where any child can play regardless of their family’s income.
It’s tempting to think that the arguments speak for themselves. But local authorities are under enormous pressure to cut budgets. For example, government figures show that council spending on open spaces (excluding national parks) fell by 14 per cent, or almost £15.5 million between 2009-10 and 2013-14. In practice, that means councils have already reduced funding on maintaining parks, adventure playgrounds, sports fields and a whole range of services that go on in them.

How can they be persuaded to keep spending on play? I think elected members need to be reminded constantly of how increasing the opportunities for play can help create the sorts of communities that councils are elected to deliver, even as budgets continue to decline: places that are attractive to live in, safe, connected and where everyone feels like they have a stake in the local area.

This means making spending on play part of something bigger. One example is Knowsley Council’s Green Space Strategy (2015-2020). It acknowledges the many benefits of providing outdoor play spaces, but recognises that funding to maintain and develop these is under threat. The strategy focuses on what the council can influence:
  • Leadership: this starts with the council and elected members but should draw in people from public, private and social enterprise sectors (which could include representatives from the play sector)
  • Achieving more with partners: including local communities, but also working with other stakeholders to create new management partnerships (again, the play sector could have an influential role here)
  • Establishing a compelling business case for investing in green space assets: Knowsley believes that its future economic resilience and competitiveness ‘will be strongly influenced’ by the overall quality of its parks and green spaces
  • Securing funding and investment: Knowsley is developing a needs-based approach that will allow it to assess how best to continue to invest in green spaces and services
  • Identifying alternative delivery models: these are likely to include private funding, support from the community and voluntary sectors, generating more income from uses of the green spaces, and fund-raising/sponsorship.

As for what limited spending there will be on play specifically, what might be the biggest wins for any investment? The former director of Play England Cath Prisk writes that:
 ‘The onus will be on local providers, schools and councils to make the case that is right for them to increase or sustain investment in most provision.’
She suggests three possibilities:
  • Street Play (championed by the Bristol-based Playing Out), where streets are closed regularly so children can play – this achieves multiple objectives of play, physical activity, and community cohesion – ‘not free, but certainly not a huge expense’
  • Encouraging head teachers to use some of the pupil premium and protected school funding to invest in spaces to play because of the evidence that play and outdoor activity improves attainment (most particularly for this funding in reading and maths)
  • More outdoor nurseries utilising existing quality outdoor spaces following the government’s commitment to double the free childcare allowance for three- and four-year-olds in England.
I’d be really interested to know how well the local authority in your area understands how play connects to some of the wider arguments about creating decent places to live, and whether that is reflected in their spending plans! Feel free to leave me a comment below, or tweet me at @andrew_ross_uk.

This blog was written by Andrew Ross, a freelance writer, researcher and facilitator specialising in urban places, andrew@fdconsult.co.uk. It is an abridged version of an LGiU briefing, available to members only. For more information, or to subscribe, visit www.lgiu.org.uk/briefings

Saturday 27 June 2015

Oppose neo Nazis in Golders Green on July 4th

A tiny group of neo Nazis aim to hold a provocative show of hate in Golders Green, a part of London well known for the Jewish community’s longstanding roots locally.

Unite Against Fascism  will join with people from across the area on the day to show the community will not tolerate such race hate. Demonstrate at 12 noon on Saturday 4 July, opposite Golders Green Tube Station.

UAF has launched a Unity Statement, which has attracted wide support from National and local Trade Unionists, Jewish anti fascists and those in the arts: 

It is an appalling provocation by a tiny group of British neo Nazis who have announced an anti Semitic demonstration, in London, on July 4th. That it is proposed to be in Golders Green, an area, of course, where many Jews have long resided, among London’s multicultural communities, is doubly insulting, to all, Jewish and non Jewish.

The choice of the Jewish Sabbath is a particular insult to observant members of the Jewish community.

This is the second time Nazis have called a recent mobilisation against the Jewish community. 

However, their demonstration in Hackney could only get around 24 fascists including the long time fascist, ex National Front leader, Martin Webster. Fortunately, local anti fascists resolutely opposed the Nazis. The Clapton Nazi event in April, was opposed by hundreds from the diverse area, that is East London. They did not pass, and nor should there be any platform again, for these little Hitlers.
This sickening, fascist move is particularly repellent in the year that marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The fascists will be opposed by all who detest their poison. Quite rightly, Jewish groups, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews, have condemned what is totally unacceptable. This is not solely a matter for Jewish people but for all who believe in democracy, freedom of faith, and oppose Nazism.

It is essential to say ‘the Jewish community has every right to express its opposition to this demonstration’. In a climate of Islamophobia and anti Semitism across Europe with the likes of the Front National, Jobbik and Golden Dawn, pushing such filth, we need unity.

Webster and Griffin were defeated by mass movements against their filth. We need a big protest to show that Nazism is rejected by the vast majority. The EDL have been severely weakened by community mobilisations and the active support of trade unionists, and those of faith. UAF calls for all anti fascists to stop the new Nazis getting a toehold in London.

We ask you to sign this statement, and publicise it/ the anti fascist demonstration, on July 4th, in your school, college, work place, faith group, community. Send signatures to info@uaf.org.uk with Name-Trade Union-Workplace-Faith Group etc.

Jeremy Corbyn MP
Diane Abbott MP
Edie Friedman – Jewish Council for Racial Equality
Julie Hesmondhalgh  – Actress
Francesa Martinez – Comedian, Writer, Actress
Mark Serwotka – PCS Union General Secretary
Dave Ward – CWU General Secretary
Len McCluskey – Unite the  Union General Secretary
Kevin Courtney -NUT Union Deputy General Secretary
Alex Kenny – NUT NEC
Tony Kearns – Senior Deputy General Secretary  – CWU Union
Michael Rosen- Poet/Author
Chris Keates – NASUWT Gen Secretary
Julia Bard, National Committee, Jewish Socialists’ Group.
David Rosenberg, author of “Battle for the East End: Jewish responses to fascism in the 1930s”
Max Levitas – Cable Street veteran
Weyman Bennett – UAF Joint Secretary
Sabby Dhalu – UAF Joint Secretary
Patrick Hunter – Barnet TUC Secretary
Helen Davies – BARNET Unison – Barnet TUC (PC)
John Burgess – Barnet Unison Branch Secretary
Lindsey German  – Stop the War Convenor
Sam Fairbairn – People’s Assembly
Shakira Martin – National Union of Students (NUS) Vice President – FE
Aaron Kiely – NUS NEC
Paul Mackney – Greek Solidarity Campaign
Gerry Gable – Searchlight Magazine Editor/ Publisher

Alert sounded on return of Pinkham Way waste plant proposal

The Pinkham Way Alliance LINK  have circulated an alert on the return of plans to relocate Barnet's 6 acre Cricklewood Waste Transfer Station (WTS) to the Pinkham Way site, working again with the North London Waste Authority (NWLA).

The Alliance claim that any plant handling black-bag waste can have major problems with odour and fly infestations and that WTS facilities pose a particular fire risk. They quote statistics that show between 2011-2013, there was a fire in UK WTS's almost every three days. 

Barnet's facility would be directly adjacent to the A4506 and the East Coast Main Line.

The Alliance say that the number of lorry movements will approach that of the previous, abandoned waste plant proposals on one of the most polluted and congested road stretches in London.

Stephen Brice, Chair of the Pinkham Way Alliance, will be addressing Haringey Cabinet about the issue at the start of their meeting on Tuesday 14th July at 6.30pm, Haringey Civic Centre, Wood Green, N22 8LE.

He calls on supporters to be out on force in the public gallery and more, for 'barely half an hour' that evening to let politicians know the strength of local feeling.

Twitter: @PinkhamWay

Friday 26 June 2015

Options for the update of Brent's Gordon Brown Centre to be discussed at Cabinet

Generations of Brent people have, as school children,  enjoyed a residential trip to the Gordon Brown Outdoor Education Centre (nothing to do with the ex-PM) which is in deepest Hampshire, near the village of Rotherwick.

The Centre is on land that once formed part of Tylney Hall which between 1933 and 1984 was a special school, latterly owned by the London Borough of Brent. It is now an upmarket hotel.

The ‘Shrubbery’ at Gordon Brown is a standalone unit with pupil and teacher dormitories and rather basic showers.

Its condition has deteriorated and there have been plans over several years for its refurbishment.

The Cabinet on Monday will debate a report that examines several options to deal with the problem. They includes investing more than £500,000 in replacing the Shrubbery, the possibility of selling the lease and making the new owner responsible for the rebuild or selling off the  freehold and investing the money in a new Centre possibly  nearer to Brent in Hertfordshire. LINK

Officers recommend the first option and propose to pay for it by using some money from reserves and an increase in fees: 
With the agreement of Cabinet, revenue contributions from the Youth Support Service in 2012/13 (£150,000.00 held an earmarked reserve within Regeneration & Growth) and in 2013/14 (£100,000.00 held in an earmarked reserve within Children & Young People) could be used to contribute to the overall costs of this work.
Subject to agreement to use the revenue contribution from Youth Support Services, the remaining sum of £325,000 would be re payable over a period of 12 years at an annual debt charge cost of £32,650 per annum. This cost can be met from the additional income flow over the total 12 year period
It is proposed that fees be increased by 4.5% every three years to increase the income flow over the 12 years, although in the early years it would not be sufficient. Income flow would also be improved by increasing the capacity of the Shrubbery from 27 beds to more than 40.

Greens renew call for railway nationalisation after upgrading debacle

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett has renewed the Green's call call for the railways to be returned to public ownership and accused the government of “failing” on public transport after it announced it would delay or cut back several railway improvement projects.

Bennett said:
This government is already failing when it comes to public transport. It is failing the two-thirds of unemployed people who don’t have access to a car, the thousands who die prematurely due to air pollution, the rural poor trapped by the slashing of bus services.

The growing numbers of people who use our railways every day are increasingly dissatisfied with the service they are getting. If we want to encourage people to use public transport, to improve public health and reduce air pollution, we must invest.

Yet instead of making public transport accessible, reliable, convenient and affordable, the government is wasting money on expensive vanity projects like HS2 and the expansion of major roads.

The Green Party, along with 66% of the public, wants to see Britain’s railways back in public hands, so that profits can be invested back into improving services, rather than filling the pockets of shareholders. It’s time the government listened to the public, and delivered a railway service that works for passengers, not profit.

What's behind the offer of 'half price' school uniforms by free school?

The Kilburn Times this week LINK  publishes an article about a new primary free school, Kilburn Grange,  offering half prices uniforms to pupils entiled to free school meals.  The uniforms are complete with an old-fashioned 1950s style blazer.

Despite the positive gloss by the school it appears that this is a possibly desperate gambit because the Reception classes due to start in September 2015 are not yet full.  Given the shortage of primary places in the borough this is quite unusual. The closing date for this round of applications is today - Friday June 26th.

Another aspect of the 'offer' is that the school receives the pupil premium for chldren entitled to free school meals so in terms of accounting that means the pupil premium subsideses the school uniform discount. Currently the pupil premium is worth £1,300 per child.

Whether this is the best use of the pupil premium, designed to improve the educational opportunities and attainment of poorer children in order to 'close the gap' with better off children, is arguable.

A Scrutiny Committee Task Group recently published a report on good practice in Brent on the use of the pupil premium. LINK

They stated: 

The task group found that Brent schools are already very innovative and creative with their interventions on closing the attainment gap. There were wonderful examples of Brent secondary and primary schools trying unconventional interventions and being able to show impact and improved outcomes for children. 

This diagram shows the range of uses of the  pupil premium in Brent primary schools.

Subsidising a uniform is about easing access to a school with an expensive school uniform  school rather than spending it on teaching and other activities once the child is at school in order to close the gap in attainment.

Wednesday 24 June 2015

Duffy claims he was punished by Butt & Co for saving council tax payers up to £500k

Councillor John Duffy (Labour Kilburn) reveals in his blog today LINK that he is snubbed by the Council's Labour leadership and some other members of the Labour group scarcely speak to him. 

This is despite his vigilance over the green waste contract that was out-sourced to Veolia.  Duffy successfully challenged a clause that gave Veolia any income from the scheme once the collection target of £400k had been achieved. His claim that this would be illegal was eventually supported by the Chief Finance Officer despite Duffy initially getting the brush off from the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council when he raised concerns.

Duffy says:
You may think Brent Council Labour group thanks me for this. No the leadership of Brent Council Labour group are unforgiving that I forced this amendment, they took me off all committees; many of the Labour group hardly talk to me or shy away. They seat me next to the Tory group (a fate worse than death) as they believe by forcing the amendment I undermined their authority. One member of the Cabinet accused me of bullying officers because I would not let it drop. I am not allowed to speak at full council. If I do members of the cabinet heckle me.
Cllr Duffy claims that the Council could benefit by up to £500k  in contrast to the council tax money that Veolia would have handed to the contractor. He is concerned, however, that the additional money will be spent on Council vanity projects rather than supporting vital services.

Concluding his posting Duffy says he is going on holiday but on his return will  reveal why St Patrick's Day may not be coming to Brent and 'the tale of the missing nomination'.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Dawn Butler gives Brent FoE her views on pressing environmental issues

Brent Friends of the Earth have issued the following account of their meeting with Dawn Butler, Labour, Brent Central, when they lobbied her over Climate Change.
Six members of Brent Friends of the Earth (Brent FoE) met with Brent Central MP Dawn Butler at the House of Commons this Wednesday 17th June as part of a climate change lobby of Parliament.

The campaigners joined thousands of concerned people from all around the country to take part in 'For the Love of' – a mass lobby to urge MPs to take urgent action on climate change. The Brent group focussed their views on fracking, solar schools, fuel poverty, and airport expansion, and found much common ground with their newly-elected MP.

On fracking, Dawn is now as signatory to Labour MP Geraint Davies' “Fracking (Measurement and Regulation of Impacts) (Air, Water and Greenhouse Gas Emissions) Bill”, which hopes to stop fracking through making the contamination of water used and the emissions created by the process illegal. Fracking uses vast quantities of water along with toxic chemicals to extract shale gas. Forcing companies to clean this up would make extraction too expensive. She supports Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham MP in calling for a moratorium on this controversial technology in order to concentrate efforts on supporting renewables. Both Wales and Scotland already have moratoriums in place.

Viv Stein, Spokesperson for Brent FoE says, “With a decision due next week on whether to approve the UK's first fracking site in Lancashire, it is vital that we put a stop to fracking now. Giving the go ahead to this dirty fossil fuel there could pave the way for more fracking up and down the country, including a proposed site at Park Royal in Brent. It would also reduce the chance of preventing irreversible climate change. We need to leave shale gas in the ground and invest in renewable energy instead.”

“Fracking companies and the Government need to know they will find huge opposition wherever they plan to drill. We were pleased that Dawn Butler agrees that we should put a stop to fracking now, and that renewable energy is the way forward to secure our energy needs.”

On renewable energy, Brent FoE have been instrumental in setting up a local community energy co-operative, 'Brent Pure Energy', to put solar panels on schools and public buildings. Dawn favours extending the scheme to local churches and a mosque in Willesden Green, and she is also setting up a 'Green Cabinet' to focus attention on sustainability in Brent.

Dawn this week was voted Vice Chair of PRASEG, the All Party Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group - a group of MPs and senior industry stakeholders working together to promote issues around sustainable and renewable energy in Parliament. As Vice Chair Dawn will play a leading role in helping PRASEG hold the government to account and ensuring the UK plays a leading role worldwide on energy and climate change.

Ensuring warmer homes and ending fuel poverty is also a particular concern for both Brent FoE and Dawn. As a Magistrate she sees many people in court penalised for defaulting on energy bills. She wants to end the high tariffs charged by pre-payment meters, and to encourage landlords to insulate homes. NHS budgets will also benefit as cold homes mean poor health.

Dawn Butler, Labour MP for Brent Central says, “Ending fuel poverty and protecting tenants against excessive fuel bills are high on my agenda. I'm on board - Friends of the Earth are pushing on an open door with me on this, but it's not so open it's letting all the energy out!”

On airport expansion Dawn opposes the proposed expansion at Heathrow, but is not convinced that future expansion might be needed based on 'the business case'. She supports London Mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan, who has come out against Heathrow. FoE believe airports should not be allowed to expand, and that most of the extra capacity is for transfers so would not make much impact on UK business. The group did not agree with Dawn's belief that there are 'greener' planes. We believe the only 'green' plane is the 'solar impulse' a solar powered plane, which recently paused its round the world flight. Flying still remains the most carbon-intensive form of travel.

The lobby of Parliament is was organised by the Climate Coalition – the UK's largest group of people dedicated to action on climate change. For more details see http://fortheloveof.org.uk/. Brent FoE has a website at www.brentfoe.com. To sign FoE's urgent petition to keep Lancashire frack free go to https://www.foe.co.uk/act/psfl.

Brent Labour fail to grasp nettle of Davani pay-off

I missed last night's Brent Council meeting but checking the Twitter feed it is clear that Labour made no attempt to address the issue of a pay-off to Cara Davani, controversial head of Brent HR, who resigned recently:

Ahead of the meeting Philip Grant had writtent the following email to his ward councillors:

Dear Fryent Ward councillors,

You have probably heard that on Wednesday a Council spokesperson confirmed that Cara Davani, Brent’s Director of HR and Administration, is leaving the Council at the end of June, to take a career break. If you had not heard, you can read the announcement, and reaction to it, at:
While the Council’s statement praises ‘the significant contribution that Cara has made over the last 3 years’, it does not mention Ms Davani’s misdeeds, such as her vicious actions against a Brent employee as shown by findings of fact in the Rosemarie Clarke Employment Tribunal case. That case has already cost Brent Council probably a six-figure sum in legal fees, and will land the Council with a further bill, quite possibly a seven-figure sum (i.e. more than £1 million) in compensation, damages and costs when the remedy hearing makes its decision (likely to be in about three months time).
Given this background, and the serious damage done to Brent’s reputation by the finding that the Council “racially discriminated” against Ms Clarke, I am seriously concerned (as are many others) about the financial terms on which Ms Davani may be leaving the Council’s employment. She is leaving at the end of June, and I would not seek to interfere with her salary entitlement up to that date (even though any decent person would have resigned when the judgment was published last September, and any other Chief Executive would have either insisted on that resignation or taken immediate action to dismiss her for gross misconduct). However, that last salary payment should be the only further financial reward that Cara Davani receives from Brent Council.
There should be no other “payoff” or leaving payment of whatever description made to her. If Ms Davani has been “persuaded” to leave now, there is talk of a possible “compromise package” - which, I understand, following changes made to HR procedures during Ms Davani’s reign, would normally be agreed on by either the Director of HR or the Chief Executive. As she is the Director of HR, the Chief Executive (Christine Gilbert) is her friend and former colleague from Tower Hamlets Council and Ofsted, who she helped to bring into Brent in 2012, the interim Director of HR is to be Mildred Phillips (another former colleague, first brought into Brent as an interim consultant, then given a permanent position and promoted by Ms Davani to be her deputy), it would not be possible for the amount of any payment, even if one were deserved (which it most certainly would not), to be arrived at on an arm’s length basis. It may be that she is leaving now, while she still has “friends in high places”.
[And please don’t suggest that the terms of any payment might be agreed instead by Brent’s Principal Employment Lawyer - Ms Davani’s personal and business partner, Andy Potts - or by its Chief Operating Officer, Lorraine Langham, another former colleague of Ms Davani and Ms Gilbert at Tower Hamlets and Ofsted. It is the extent of this “cronyism” at high levels in Brent Council that has previously allowed Ms Davani to get away with her actions against Rosemarie Clarke, and other now-former employees of the Council.]
The is another financial aspect of Cara Davani’s leaving Brent which councillors need to ensure is handled properly. The full title of the Rosemarie Clarke Employment Tribunal case is Ms RC Clarke v. 1) The London Borough of Brent and 2) Ms Cara Davani. Ms Davani is a separately named respondent in the case, even though it appears that she did not have separate legal representation at the full Tribunal hearing, with Brent’s barrister (at Brent’s expense) effectively defending her as well. There should be no agreement made under which Brent agrees to pay, or indemnify Ms Davani in respect of, any award of compensation, damages or costs made against Cara Davani personally as the second respondent in the case. I also believe that Brent should make clear to Ms Davani that she will need to arrange and pay for her own legal representation in the case after she leaves the Council’s employment at the end of June. 
At first sight, this may sound vindictive, as the case relates to actions she took while Brent’s Head of HR (although she held this role up to 31 March 2013 as a self-employed interim consultant) and as interim, then formally appointed, Operational Director of HR. However, it is clear from the evidence and findings of fact in the Tribunal judgement that her actions against Ms Clarke were totally contrary to the Council’s HR policy and practices, and that her victimisation of Ms Clarke was done for reasons of personal spite, as a result of Ms Clarke complaining of being bullied and harassed by Ms Davani. Her actions were therefore not in the proper performance of her duties, particularly when those duties were of Brent’s most senior HR officer, who should have been leading by example.
I hope you will agree with the two propositions which I have highlighted, and that you will take early action to see that these are put in place. I would suggest that you could ask for “Departure from the Council of the Director of HR and Administration” as an item to be put on the agenda for the Full Council meeting on 22 June, with the current Chief Executive (or her representative, if Ms Gilbert is not available to attend) making a statement about Ms Davani’s departure, and then giving members the chance to comment or ask questions. The Chief Executive should give at least outline details of any planned payments, over and above her basic salary to 30 June 2015, which are proposed, and in particular, be asked to confirm that Ms Davani will be personally liable for any award made in respect of her as the second respondent in the Rosemarie Clarke Employment Tribunal case, and that Brent will not pay, or indemnify her in any way, in respect of such an award against Cara Davani personally. I am copying this email to the Chief Executive, for her information.
Please acknowledge receipt of this email, and let me have at least a brief response to my comments, which reflect the views of many people, even though I am the one articulating them to you. Please feel free to forward this email to any of your fellow councillors, if you wish to seek their views before deciding what action you should take in response to it. Thank you. Best wishes,
Philip Grant