Wednesday 30 December 2015

Extreme weather: where are the flood risk areas in Brent?

Dark blue 1/100 year chance  light blue 1/1000 years

Satellite view of same area showing housing, other buildings, road and rail in potential flood area

Tokyngton/Monks Park and River Brent
Satellite view
As a young teacher in Fulham in the late 70s I experienced flood practice as well as fire practice. It included tying down the lids of lavatories to stop sewage rising in the event of the Thames flooding. One member of staff was designated the contact person for the Council which as I remember included wading down to the council offices in the event of loss of telephone contact to update them on the latest situation.

That was all rendered obsolete when the Thames barrier came into operation in 1982.

In Brent the danger is not from the Thames but from the Silkstream and the River Brent and numerous brooks (Wealdstone, Wembley, Mitchell etc) some of which are underground in conduits but emerge at times of flood in places such as Brentfield Road.

The Brent itself has flooded in the past but culverts and flood plains have been created and the river 'naturalised' in places such as Tokyngton Park where underground storage tanks for excess water have been installed. Similar plans have been made for the Wealdstone Brook as it flows past Wembley Park Station and into the development area near Wembley Stadium, eventually meeting up with the Brent, but there has been little news on the proposals since they were first suggested. Meanwhile the amount of development in the area, including where there used to be a boating lake, has increased rapidly with much of the area paved over. In February 2014 Brent Council announced a programme of work aimed at flood prevention in the borough LINK.

There is no immediate threat of flooding in Brent but with increased severe weather events making nonsense of '1 in 100 years' flooding assessments, it is well to be aware of the areas that could be affected if we experience what the North West of the country has over the holiday.

In 1841 the Welsh Harp (Brent Reservoir) overflowed and water gushed down stream causing a number of fatalities. The dam was subsequently heightened and strengthened. In 1976 following the storms that ended the hottest and driest summer for years the sluice gates had to be opened at the Welsh Harp and there was flooding downstream involving the evacuation of many families from their homes.

One would hope that Brent Council has contingency plans in place after recent extreme weather events.

Meanwhile here is a more benign view of the River Brent from John Betjeman

 Gentle Brent, I used to know you
Wandering Wembley-wards at will,
Now what change your waters show you
In the meadowlands you fill!
Recollect the elm-trees misty
And the footpaths climbing twisty
Under cedar-shaded palings,
Low laburnum-leaned-on railings
Out of Northolt on and upward to the heights of Harrow hill.

This is the Environment Agency website. You can submit your postcode to see any flood warnings in your area:  LINK

LRC calls for a 'New Politics in Local Democracy'

In the light of previous postings on the question of Labour councillors implementing cuts and the Corbyn/McDonnell statement on setting legal budgets, this statement by the Labour Representation Committee throws light on the internal Labour debate.

LRC Executive Committee Statement:

Bring a New Politics into Local Democracy -

On the basis of a hasty and highly selective reading of the letter sent to Labour councils by Jeremy Corbyn, together with John McDonnell and Jon Trickett, some right-wingers are claiming that the leadership has endorsed their existing strategy towards implementing the cuts. Likewise some sectarian elements on the left have already begun to accuse the leadership of having made a demoralising climb-down on the issue.

In fact, it is a mistake to see this letter as closing down the debate. Instead, it represents an implicit critique of the failure of the previous leadership – under then Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary Hilary Benn – for failing to ensure that Labour councils across the country engaged “community campaigners, council staff who are under duress as a result of Tory spending cuts, local citizens and others in defending local services”. The letter opens up the whole question of introducing a new and more overtly political approach instead.

It is simply a matter of fact that in the absence of such a mass campaign any attempt to introduce an illegal budget would be liable to be overturned, with councillors debarred from office and spending decisions taken over by the council officers or the Secretary of State. But the letter precisely goes on to advocate building such a mass campaign. The role of the LRC and the Labour left is to pressure our local councils through CLPs and wider campaigning groups including Momentum, to make sure that the call for such a mass campaign is made into a reality, and develops to an extent which makes a bolder course of action possible.

The election of a radical left leadership, with an overwhelming mandate from members of supporters of the Party, has changed the situation which the LRC faces. We are now not only defending the rights of individual councillors to raise the need for no-cuts budgets, and supporting them in the face of disciplinary measures – which we will continue to do. Rather, we now have the chance to develop and implement a strategy for the whole of Labour’s local government base to resist the cuts in practice. But only by mobilising significant sections of our communities will this become a practical option.

In no sense should the existing legal situation be used as an excuse to implement Tory cuts. If Labour’s new commitment to being an “anti-austerity” party is to be credible, we need to be demonstrating at a local level that we are willing in practice to challenge the imposition of these cuts.
It does not automatically follow that setting a legal budget means simply passing on the cuts to our communities. Since they have a disproportionate impact on women, disabled people and minority ethnic communities, cuts which would further widen existing inequalities must not be passed on. The LRC calls on councils to exhaust all available avenues under the law, including extensive drawing-down of reserves and use of prudential borrowing powers, to forestall the latest round of cuts while an effective mass campaign of resistance is built.

In the spirit of the decision to respect the genuine difference between MPs by giving them a free vote over the bombing of Syria, we also call for a radical overhaul of the Councillors’ Contract to ensure that individual councillors have the freedom to express their views over issues much closer to home. If the Party can relax the whip on issues of life and death, surely it might be relaxed on questions like cuts to essential social care?

At the same time we recognise the dangers of council leaders and officers interpreting the leadership’s letter as a green light for continuing with the cuts. Some Labour councillors appear to need reminding that they are political representatives and not just competent and compassionate administrators. If Labour fails to respond to the challenge of building a mass campaign of resistance to Tory-driven austerity at a local level, the whole question of our credibility as an “anti-austerity” party will be undermined. We will look like the kind of party who makes promises in opposition but fails to deliver on them in power. Worse, if we fail to build a mass campaign against these Tory cuts, we will have failed to create the political basis in public opinion for throwing out this government and getting a radical Corbyn-led Labour government elected.

We cannot stress enough the urgency of building a broad, united campaign against the Tory cuts which actively mobilises our communities behind mass resistance. This would open up new possibilities, including expanding and democratising the whole budget-setting process by introducing forms of community participation and deliberation over the needs of their own communities. This is not the end of the debate, it’s only the beginning. It’s high time that Labour brought a new politics into local democracy.

Tuesday 29 December 2015

WEEE collection at the Tricycle from Monday

From the Tricycle Theatre blog

Mobile phones, digital cameras, tablets, TVs and battery-operated toys – are all likely to figure high on wish lists this Christmas.

As a large proportion of those shiny, new gadgets will be replacing yesterday’s unwanted or broken models, the question facing their owners is what to do with the old ones?

We’ve teamed up with The Waste Minimisation Team at West London Waste Authority to host another free recycling bin for small Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, or WEEE., from Monday 4 January until Sunday 10 January 2016.

This event will provide local residents and visitors to the theatre with an opportunity to declutter their homes of broken or unwanted small electrical items such as alarm clocks, toys, kettles and hair dryers and dispose of them at a convenient location.

James Foran, our Operations Manager at the Tricycle Theatre said:
‘At the Tricycle we’re committed to becoming a more environmentally sustainable theatre, reducing our energy emissions and establishing green initiatives that reduce our carbon footprint.
This is a wonderful opportunity to work with West London Waste and the local community in Brent on an initiative which only takes a little effort for each individual but can have a real impact for all of us.’
Landfilling of WEEE can be particularly dangerous as it contains hazardous substances such as mercury, lead, beryllium and cadmium. Recycling these items means fewer raw materials need to be used in the manufacture of new goods and precious metals are used again.

So when you enjoy entertainment at the Tricycle Theatre in the New Year, take along your unwanted small electrical or electronic items to ensure it gets recycled and doesn’t end up in landfill!

Contact The Waste Minimisation Team at West London Waste Authority on 0208 825 9468, or

Engineering to combat climate change - predictions for 2016

I get a lot of press releases sent to me, few of which I use as the basis for articles.  In the context of the Paris talks and the current focus on climate change as a consequence of the floods, I thought this was worth publishing (unedited). Perhaps particularly pertinent in the light of the Quintain developments around Wembley Stadium.
A team of experts at leading environmental engineering firm Max Fordham have compiled a list of their predictions for the coming year, with a focus on reducing energy consumption and ensuring that building designers put the health and wellbeing of the people who use that building first.
The full list of Max Fordham’s predictions is as follows:
Infrastructure-scale solutions to climate change
Governments will be forced to tackle the problems caused by climate change by introducing infrastructure-scale solutions. Hopefully these will give way to exciting examples of urban design, such as the $335 million scheme to upgrade Lower Manhattan’s storm defences.
A “Trip Advisor” for buildings
The development of a ‘Trip Advisor’ for buildings and building comfort. Users will be able to rate office, retail and hospitality buildings on a number of criteria such as temperature, daylight, acoustics and ventilation that will then be fed back into the building management systems for efficiency based on big data. Enabling consumer pressure to drive improved performance.
More plants on buildings
The increased use of living roofs on commercial and domestic buildings, and an increased awareness of the role buildings can play in maintaining biodiversity.
Global harm tax on fossil fuels
The introduction of a global harm tax on both the extraction and use of fossil fuels which makes visible the damage caused by these sources of energy and also encourages the development of alternative forms of energy production.
Population control
The need for action on global population growth will be addressed by ensuring universal access to contraception. This will provide positive impacts in terms of both economic growth and public health.
Wider awareness of carbon impact of construction
In design and client teams, we’ll see a wider appreciation and understanding of embodied energy and the total carbon impact of the construction process.
In-building energy storage
The development of In-building energy storage systems or daily heat stores to spread the peak energy demand of a building over a day.
Energy Performance Contracts become the norm
Energy Performance Contracts become expected for more new builds. Better prediction of actual energy consumption and then having to deliver on this in practice. It will put a much better focus on the way we design and the way we build.
Death of “tick box” sustainability
The death of BREEAM and ‘tick-box’ sustainability with a move to a more appropriate choice. We will see an even greater rise in the employment of sustainability matrices such as the one developed by Max Fordham.
Greater recognition of the impact buildings have on health
Comfort, health and well-being will become a much larger part of considerations when designing and building non-residential, commercial lettings.

The predictions were assembled by the team including engineers Thomas Greenhill and John Gunstone, sustainability consultant Elinor Huggett, and Phil Armitage and Guy Nevill, both Senior Partners at the Practice.

The predictions include the development of a kind of “Trip Advisor” for buildings, where users rate how comfortable they are in terms of temperature and acoustics, which is then fed back into the building management system.
Large scale infrastructure projects will become necessary to combat the effects of climate change and to avoid a repeat of the flooding recently seen in the north of the country.

A global “harm tax” should be introduced on both the extraction and use of fossil fuels to make visible the damage caused by these sources of energy and also encourage the development of alternative forms of energy production.

Earlier in December this year, leaders from every country agreed to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than 2C. Currently, around half of the UK’s energy consumption is used in the heating of buildings and so developing more sophisticated and efficient insulation systems and reducing the amount of energy used in construction could play a key role in ensuring the UK meets its targets.  

Guy Nevill, said: “While the COP21 agreement is a tremendously positive step, we still have lots of work to do in terms of reducing our carbon emissions, as well as building schemes to protect ourselves from the inevitable consequences of climate change. Engineering is crucial to ensuring we are able to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and minimise the effects of the damage we have already done to the planet.”

Other predictions include the use of in-building energy storage systems, wider appreciation and understanding of embodied energy and the total carbon impact of the construction process and the widespread use of Energy Performance Contracts.

Phil Armitage, Senior Partner at Max Fordham said: “Some of our predictions are quite optimistic, but they are intended to highlight the problems we face and some of the ways engineering can be used to help solve them.”

It's time to re-launch a campaign for decent public toilet provision - it's an equality issue

A student teacher colleague, a vicar's daughter, had an unfortunate experience with a Clapham Junction infant class on a long coach trip, when on the motorway, they all started wailing that they wanted a 'wee'.  Red cheeked she remonstrated that she had asked them if they 'wanted to go' before the trip and nobody had said yes.  It turned out that she had asked them if they wanted to 'spend a penny'. None of them were familiar with the genteel phrase - hence the crisis.

I was reminded of this in Hammersmith at the weekend when there was a queue for the public toilets at '50p a pee' with some families debating with their children whether they could 'hold it in' and others pushing kids under the turnstile and risking them going inside on their own. In fact 50 pence is cheap in comparison with some public toilets which can go up to £2. One teenager in the queue remarked to her disgrunbtled friend, 'If you want a decent toilet you have to pay for it.'

But the issue is not just the cost of public toilets but whether they are available at all and what this means for people with young children, pregnant women, the disabled, the elderly - and in Wembley the football fans who have had several drinks too many before the match.

British and Irish humour has a rich tradition of 'toilet humour', my grandfather taught me the song 'Oh, dear what can the matter be, three old ladies stuck in the lavatory, they were there from Monday to Saturday', a cleaner version of the Irish 'Seven old ladies etc' LINK.  But actually this is no joking matter for people who find their quality of life, and in some cases their freedom to go out of the house for long periods, severely affected by the lack of public lavatories. I have heard from parents that the lack of public toilets in some of our parks, such as King Edward VII in Wembley, means that they do not use the park for extended visits, picnics etc.

Back in the 80s many public toilets were sold off and turned over to other uses - I remember an architect's studio in Fulham and a basement billiards club on Shepherds Bush Green. Despite various campaigns over the decades they have not been replaced.

A petition LINK was launched to the Coalition government in 2012 with a simple demand:
The law currently allows, but does not compel Local Authorities to provide toilets. The situation is worsening; 40% of Public Toilets have closed in the last decade.

Many people lead restricted lives because they cannot rely on access to a Public Toilet in the places and at the times required. There are rarely sufficient toilets for women, resulting in lengthy queues; elderly and disabled people cannot always find accessible toilets; provision for babies and children is inadequate; many toilets shut at inconvenient times. Lack of toilets can lead to street fouling; a major public health issue. "Community toilets" (toilets in private business premises) do not meet everyone's needs.

Good public toilet provision will enable everyone to participate fully in civic life and will attract visitors and boost local economies.

We want a law requiring Local Authorities to provide and maintain suitable, safe, clean and appropriately located Public Toilets with realistic opening hours.
As long ago as 2004 the London Green Party made it a campaign issue and as the situation has deteriorated since then I think we should once again make it an issue. There is little in the statement that does not still apply:  LINK
According to [the] report, entitled ‘Toilets going to waste", London is suffering from a severe shortage of public loos, and nowhere more so than in Islington, which has fewer public facilities per head than any other London borough.

In London as a whole, the number of toilets open for more than 12 hours a day has decreased by half since 1995, causing severe difficulties for thousands of elderly or incontinent people or those with young children.

Greens believe all levels of government should act to reverse this decline, making good toilet provision a statutory requirement.

There is a huge disparity in the number of toilets per head of population within London boroughs, with Greenwich in the lucky position of having one facility for every 5,000 people and Islington at the other end of the scale with 58,000 people fighting for the use of each public loo.

“Everyone needs to use a public toilet at some point," says Jon Nott.

"This report shows what a dreadful state London’s public conveniences are in, particularly in Islington, where you clearly need a bladder of steel. This is a serious problem and if not addressed could lead to our streets becoming a major health hazard.”

"In many parts of London, such as Islington, the only option for people is the less civilised one," adds Noel Lynch, who compiled the report. "Our streets are becoming an urban toilet, clearly unbefitting for a world-class city."

Where toilets do exist they are often in an appalling state of repair or are inaccessible to many due to their positioning. Often toilets are  located down steep fights of stairs or are lacking the space to make them a feasible option for disabled people. Greens want to see local councils putting money into new toilets that are accessible to all members of the public.

"Poor toilet provision is an inconvenience for anyone but it is an  issue of discrimination for all those people who cannot gain access to toilets due to thoughtless positioning," says Noel. "I have heard from lots of people whose lives are restricted by the lack of toilets in London."

In order to halt the trend in declining numbers of public loos the report makes the following recommendations:
  • The government should place councils under a legal duty to provide good toilets.
  • The mayor should ensure that all the spaces in his 100 Public Spaces Programme have well-equipped, accessible toilets.
  • Boroughs should identify those areas that need the new or refurbished toilets and embark on a 5-year programme to re-open, re-furbish or install new toilets.
  • Boroughs should ensure that new developments include good quality toilets and secure agreements with the owners of large stores and pubs to make their toilets open to the public in return for council sponsored cleaning.
An Equalities Impact Assessment would show that the lack of public toilet facilities impacts disproportionately on particular groups of the population but more broadly it is an indicator of the deterioration in public provision and the impact of privatisation over since the 70s.

This is the case the British Toilet Assocation LINK set out and one I think we should support:

Why do we need more and better toilets?

There are an increasing number of specialist user groups, whose lives are affected by the state of Britain’s public toilets. These include people with mental or physical disabilities and their carers; the infirm or elderly; people with babies or young children and people of all ages who are coping with a range of medical conditions.

  • Britain’s population has an increasingly significant ‘ageing’ profile
  • Residents travel more within the country, and the number of visitors to Britain increases each year, placing added pressure on our existing toilet facilities
  • Public health and hygiene, as well as environmental issues, are constantly in the news, with increasing media interest in all matters relating to public toilets
  • Public toilets are the ‘shop window’ for any area or establishment – where first and lasting impressions of levels of customer care are made

What are the British Toilet Association’s Objectives?

  • To focus attention on issues relating to the provision of public or ‘away from home’ toilets
  • To campaign for appropriate legislation relating to the provision of public toilets by Local Authorities
  • To campaign for high standards of public or ‘away from home’ toilets in all areas, including municipal locations, health, education, transport, leisure, hospitality and retail establishments
  • To campaign for the provision of an adequate number of facilities for women, in relation to the number of facilities provided for men.
  • To campaign for adequate facilities for specialist user groups, such as wheelchair users, the elderly, babies and young children and people with medical conditions.
  • To campaign for the provision of secure, fully attended public toilet facilities, with extended opening hours.
  • To campaign for the eradication of all types of social misuse and vandalism in public toilets.
  • To provide a forum for public toilet providers, contractors, suppliers and users to share concerns and ideas and communicate best practices.
  • To provide consultancy and information services to Association members on a range of relevant subjects.
  • To establish links with similar Toilet Associations in other countries

Thursday 24 December 2015

Unintended consequences of counter-terrorism legislation

Thanks to Robin Richardson for forwarding the following extract which I think contributes to our discussion on this blog about the Prevent Strategy and its impact in Brent.

Unintended consequences of counter-terrorism legislation
Extract from Living with Difference: diversity, community and the common good, the report of the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life, published on 7 December 2015.

8.22      Counter-terrorism legislation and strategies are a proper responsibility for all governments and have rightly been a priority in Britain and other western countries since the outrages in New York (2001), Madrid (2004) and London (2005). More recently, major atrocities have included murders in Woolwich (2013), Paris (2015) and Tunisia (2015). Governments have a clear responsibility to prevent such outrages. Also, as with the whole spectrum of crime and disorder, they have leadership tasks in relation to fear of terrorism, and to fostering security not only as objective fact but also as subjective feeling. According to the Pew Research Center, between 2011 and 2015 the percentage saying they are very concerned about Islam-related extremism in their country increased by 38 percentage points in France, 29 points in Spain, 21 points in the United Kingdom, 20 points in Germany and 17 points in the United States.[1] Within the overall pattern of public opinion in Britain it has been found that fear of Islam-related terrorism is higher amongst older people and people living outside London, and in particular parts of the electorate.[2]
8.23     The ways in which anti-terrorism policies operate in practice can have, however, unintended consequences. In particular, significant numbers of citizens may come to feel they are viewed as Other, namely as people who do not truly belong and cannot be trusted, 'them' rather than 'us', suspects or potential suspects, not ordinary citizens with the same values as everyone else. Counter-terrorism policies and measures may then not only fail to achieve their objectives but actually may make matters worse, such that both terrorism and the fear of terrorism increase, and both security and sense of security are diminished.[3] At the present time it is Muslim communities in Britain that are most directly and obviously affected. All people, however, are of course affected by increases in fear and feelings of insecurity, as also all people in a society are affected by the ways in which majorities and minorities see and approach each other.
8.24     To decrease the danger of unintended harmful consequences in counter-terrorism measures against Islam-related terrorism, the following five points need to be carefully considered:
a)      The government needs to engage with a wide range of academic theory, research and scholarship about the nature and causes of terrorism. Amongst other things, this means it should encourage and promote, not seek to limit, freedom of enquiry, speech and expression, and should not loosely use words and concepts which scholarship shows to be controversial and unclear. Such words and concepts include 'ideology', 'radicalisation', 'extremism' and 'Islamism'.[4] 

b)      The government needs to meet and engage with a wide range of Muslim groups and organisations, and to show that it understands, even if it does not agree with, the views about the nature and causes of terrorism that they hold. It cannot otherwise gain the trust and confidence of significant opinion leaders, and therefore cannot otherwise rely on their support and assistance. Their support and assistance are essential, however, if counter-terrorism strategies are to be successful. In its selection of organisations with which to engage the government must guard against the perception that it is operating with a simplistic good Muslims/bad Muslims distinction, or between ‘mainstream moderates’ and ‘violent or non-violent extremists’.

c)       There is no causal or inevitable link between conservative or orthodox theological and moral views on the one hand and propensity to violent and criminal behaviour on the other. Nor, more fundamentally, is there a simple, one-way causal link between a worldview, ideology or narrative on the one hand and specific actions and behaviours on the other.[5]

d)      There is no simplistic us/them distinction or clash between western or Enlightenment values on the one hand and the values of other cultures, countries and civilisations on the other, nor between Christian values and those of other religions.

e)      Political leaders should seek not only to promote debate and deliberation about the causes of terrorism but also to challenge misunderstandings and negative stereotypes in the population at large and in mass-circulation newspapers – they have a duty to lead public opinion, and not only to reduce fear and insecurity in the majority population but also to give principled reassurance and moral support to groups and communities which feel vulnerable to violence or discrimination.

8.25     These concerns were well summarised in the September 2015 report of Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. The report listed 15 issues raised by the government’s new measures on countering extremism and commented that the issues matter because ‘they concern the scope of UK discrimination, hate speech and public order laws, the limits that the state may place on some of our most basic freedoms, the proper limits of surveillance, and the acceptability of imposing suppressive measures without the protections of the criminal law’. The report then issued the very important warning that ‘if the wrong decisions are taken, the new law risks provoking a backlash in affected communities, hardening perceptions of an illiberal or Islamophobic approach, alienating those whose integration into British society is already fragile and playing into the hands of those who, by peddling a grievance agenda, seek to drive people further towards extremism and terrorism’.[6] There is a severe danger, to put the same point in different words, that the vision of a society at ease with itself, sketched at the start of chapter 3 of this report, and frequently referred to throughout the following chapters, will be harmed not helped by government action. It could be harder not easier, as a consequence of government action, for the citizens of the UK to live with their differences. It is essential that forthcoming proposals on countering extremism should be scrutinised with the maximum possible care and amended accordingly if appropriate, and that subsequent operations when they are enacted should be monitored with a very high degree of diligence.
Anderson, David (2015) The Terrorism Acts in 2014: report of the Independent Reviewer on the operation of the Terrorism Act 2000 and Part 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006. London: Williams Lea Group.

Choudhury, Tufyal and Helen Fenwick (2011) The impact of counter-terrorism measures on Muslim communities. EHRC Research Report no. 72. Manchester: Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Christmann, Kris (2012) Preventing Religious Radicalisation and Violent Extremism: a systematic review of the research evidence. London: Youth Justice Board for England and Wales.

Francis, Matthew (2012) ‘What causes radicalisation? Main lines of consensus in recent research’, Radicalisation Research, 24 January.

Hickman, Mary J, Lyn Thomas, Henri C. Nickels and Sara Silvestri (2012) 'Social cohesion and the notion of suspect communities: a study of the experiences and impacts of being suspect for Irish communities and Muslim communities in Britain', Critical Studies on Terrorism, 5/ 1, 89-106.

Home Office (2015) Counter-Extremism Strategy. London: Home Office.

King, Michael and Donald M. Taylor (2011) ‘The Radicalization of Homegrown Jihadists: A Review of Theoretical Models and Social Psychological Evidence’, Terrorism and Political Violence, 23/4, 602-622.

Poushter, Jacob (2015) Extremism Concerns Growing in West and Predominantly Muslim Countries: Worries Especially Widespread in Western Europe and the U.S. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center.

Notes and references  

[1] Poushter (2015), p. 2.

[2] A 2014 survey of 2,083 British adults found that 79 per cent of respondents deemed Islamic terrorism to pose an important threat to the country (rising to over 90 per cent of Conservative and UKIP supporters and those over age 60). 46 per cent of respondents thought the threat posed was critical. YouGov (2014).

[3] See, for example, Mohammed (2015); Hamid (2015).

[4] See Harris, Bisset and Weller (2015).

[5] For reviews of various proposed models of radicalisation which highlight the multiplicity of factors that can be involved, see, for example, Francis (2012); Christmann (2012); King and Taylor (2011). The Radicalisation Research website produces and collates research on these issues,

[6] Anderson (2015), p. 65.


Only 'Limited Assurance' for Brent Council data protection in ICO Audit

The Information Commissioner's Office recent audit of data protection at  Brent Council resulted in a 'Limited Assurance' grade - the second lowest.

The report LINK Executive Summary states:
There is a limited level of assurance that processes and precedures are in place and are delivering data protection compliance. The audit has identified considerable scope for improvement in existing arrangements to reduce the risk of non-compliance with the Data Protection Act.
Among the areas for improvements are (bold is my emphasis):
At present the[Council] have not implemented any endpoint controls which would restrict the import and export of data using portable devices resulting in the risk that an individual could download personal information without authorisation or potentially introduce malware into the council's network.

There is currently no formally establised programmes of data protection security or information security related refresher training in place, with the last training of this nature being delivered via e-learning in 2012. Staff who commenced employment at the council prior to the last refresher course in 2012 may not have had data protection or information securioty refresher training for a significant period of time.

[The Council] reported a 64% subject access compliance rate during 2014. This increased to 78.6% during January - May 2015, and are targeting 80% during 2015 and 95% for 2016. The ICO belives this latter target is more appropriate and (The Council] should also ensure that they prioritise requests which are in danger of falling outside the statutory 40 calendar day period.

[The Council] have aimed to raise awareness of data sharing through a combination of methods which include e-learning and use of the intranet. Despite this, awarness of specific data sharing policies and / or guidance amongst operational staff was low, with interviews unable to make reference to specific polices.

There are inconsistencies in the use and completion of the Data Sharing Agreement (DSA) template and no specific provisions within the DSAs viewed as part of the audit to distinguish between fact and opinion within shared data.  In addition not all the DSAs and supporting procedural documentation specify retention periods for shared data or prescribe that the recipients of shared data must destory or return that data once the relevant purpose is served or any relevant retention period expires.
There is an Appendix attached to the report showing that although Islington and Barnet Councils achieved the higher 'Reasonable Assurance' grade (second out of four grades) other councils also achieved the Limited Assurance.  An Action Plan is tabled LINK and the ICO will conduct a desktop check within 6 to 9 months.

Brent Budget Scrutiny Panel recommend Council Tax rise to protect the most vulnerable

In a report to be discussed at the Scrutiny Committee meeting on January 6th 2016, Brent Budget Scrutiny Panel recommend that the Council raise Council Tax by the maximum of 2% which is allowed without a referendum as well as the 2% ring-fenced rise for adult social care.  Last year there was much controversey when Cllr John Duffy proposed an increase in Council Tax. LINK

The Panel  also call for the proposed 10% cut in road and pavement repairs to be abandoned.

On Council Tax their reasoning is set out as follows:

.        7.1  The minimum legal requirement on the Council this year is to set a balanced budget and a level of Council Tax for the forthcoming financial year. As noted above, we are satisfied that they will do the former, but we anticipate much further debate around setting the level of the latter.

.        7.2  During the last Parliament, the government offered a freeze grant to local authorities who froze or reduced their basic level of Council Tax. This was the equivalent to a 1 per cent increase in Council Tax in each financial year. Along with most local authorities, Brent accepted this grant in every year of the last Parliament and never increased its level of Council Tax.

.        7.3  The advantage of this policy was that the Council were able to receive some additional funds without asking local people to contribute any more through the Council Tax system.

.        7.4  This disadvantage was that the Council’s overall tax base would decline each year, as the additional funds provided could not increase cumulatively. Accordingly, The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has estimated that had Council Tax risen in line with the Retail Prices Index measure of inflation of the course of the last Parliament, average council tax bills would be £168 higher next year, yielding an extra £2.8bn in funding for local authorities. This amount is equivalent to the entire road maintenance budget for the UK or the public health grant for local authorities.

.        7.5  In their Local Government Settlement announced before Christmas, the government announced both that the freeze grant would henceforth be abolished, and that Councils would continue to only be able to raise Council Tax up to 2 per cent without having a run a referendum.

.        7.6  We feel that these dual announcements leave the Council with little option but to increase Council Tax by the maximum allowed in this budget. It is understandable that the Council has decided not to increase Council Tax in previous years to protect residents, but in accepting the freeze grant, Brent has left its Council Tax base at a level several years out of date, and if action is not taken soon this baseline will be far behind what is required to run services in the future.

.        7.7  We also understand that this will have an impact on our residents. We therefore recommend that the Council reviews its Council Tax support scheme including any potential increase which might need to be made to protect the most vulnerable in the borough.

.        7.8  Likewise, the government have also announced that they will allow Councils to increase Council Tax by a further 2 per cent if the money is ring fenced to spend on social care. We feel that this option should also be carefully considered by the Council as a way to prevent the most drastic of cuts in this area. 

The recommendation on road and pavement repairs states:

.        6.4 ….we are very concerned about proposal MGF002, which proposes to cut the core budget for core highways maintenance by 10 per cent. It was noted that the list of potential risks associated with this item was longer than many others, something particularly alarming in light of the overall saving being relatively low at £50,000.
.        6.4  The report notes openly that this cut will lead to fewer active repairs, something which could be dangerous for residents, but also severely damage the reputation of the Council, particularly at a time when Council charges and taxes may be set to increase. It also risks additional costs in litigation arising from possible accidents arising as a result of poorly maintained roads and pavements.
.        6.5  We recommend that this proposal be dropped and that instead the Council examines if alternative ways to repair the street scene will decrease the need for reactive action in the long term.
.        6.6  For example, it was noted that tarmacking or concreting pavements leads to more even surface than paving slabs and does not give space for plants to grow upwards and damage the surface. Prioritising such alternatives may help to save the authority in the long term rather than always replacing paving stones on a like-for-like basis.
.        6.7  Another idea raised was to seek an outside partner to doggedly pursue illegal rubbish dumpers in the borough. The partner would be incentivised by being able to keep a large percentage of fines generated but the Council would realise long term savings as levels of illegal rubbish dumping – and associated clean-up costs – decrease. A similar approach could also be taken to people who drop litter or who do not clean up after their dogs.
The Panel  calls for Scrutiny Committee involvement to be much earlier in the budget making process and makes an overall critique of the package:

.        4.4 Our main broad critique of the package is that it lacks a common thread or philosophical story. The package instead appears to be a collection of disparate ideas brought together in order to reach the final figure required.
.        4.5  A clear example of this would be in the DOE001 proposal to increase the take up of direct payments for home care and community support. This is simply presented as a savings proposal rather than as part of the Council’s long-term vision of how to deliver care.
.        4.6  We feel that setting out the Council’s concrete vision at the start of the process, and ensuring that each proposal made aids progress towards that vision, rather than stalling it, would be an approach which would better ensure this continuity of purpose in future years.
There is much else of interest in the full report that can be found below: