Friday, 31 July 2015

Owen Jones "Are you a socialist?" Caroline Lucas "Yes, definitely."

Do you know about the Kilburn Mob and the Rudies?

Lloyd Mentore
Guest blog by Bethan Mentore

Family history has always interested me.  Stories of workhouses, coal miners and war heroes are always good for sharing round the dinner table at family reunions.  When I married my husband in 2007 I knew his dad, Lloyd Mentore, was well-known in Brent.

Lloyd had coached Brent Youth football and taught Judo at Poplar Grove on Chalkhill Estate.  His legacy was plain for all to see when 600 people attended his funeral in 1998.  A few months ago I decided to see what I could find out about my father-in-law on the Internet.

 A search via Google came up with Lloyd's name in a forum about skinhead fashion.    This was the post in the forum:

The Kilburn Mob was made up of Black and White Lads, My best mate at School..a Black Lad was Lloyd Mentor,RIP, we both used to go to Judo together in the mid 60s, he was always better than me ..and went on to become a 5th Dan, Lloyd use to work in a Cloths shop on Willesden Lane.. after school and Saturdays, He got me into Skinhead cloths, Lloyd had a Cousin Lenny V, He was a wild Rudie, and about the best dressed bloke in Kilburn and feared,

When we had a fall out with the Blacks, and was at War for a few months, My mate Lloyd kept out of it..also another of my Black mates Ollie a African lad who lived next door to me, Lloyds Cousin.Lenny, also kept out of it , not that he was worried, He was just one of these individuals, who was his own man.

One night we was walking down Kilburn High Road.. Along the High Street. was a Machine Arcade, Outside was a Black Lad.. everyone steamed over to have a go at him, It was my mate Ollie, I just stood with him, He was my School mate and lived next door to me.., Some of the Lads started to turn on Me, But i was not having it. Me and Ollie just walked home.

Lloyd died of a Brain Haemorrhage aged 42.
After reading this we were not only interested to find out who Cousin Lenny V was but also wanted to know more about the Kilburn Mob and the Rudies

If you can throw any light on this please comment below or send me an email at  and I will pass it on to Bethan

'My Kilburn' Then and Now photo competition

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Jeremy Corbyn talks to Salma Yaqoob on Prevent problems and the alleged failure of multiculturalism

Brent North nominates Jeremy Corbyn for leader

Rather unexpectedly, Brent North CLP backed Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader this evening. Yvette Cooper was in second place, followed by Andy Burnham with Liz Kendall last.

This completes the Brent constituences. Brent Central also backed Corbyn and Hampstead and Kilburn backed Yvette Cooper.

Fighting the Trade Union Bill inside and outside parliament - what are the options?

Corbyn mania was well in evidence at yesterday's Rally on resisting the Trade Union Bill. Corbyn supporters were leafleting outside the NUT's Hamilton House and pressing JC stickers on anyone and anything in the vicinity, almost as bad as the Jehovah Witnesses outside Wembley Park station!

Brent was well represented with LRC members of Brent Labour as well as former Labour councillor Jim Moher present along with Pete Firmin Chair of Brent Trades  Council, Michael Calderbank, chair of Brent Central CLP; Sarah Cox of the SWP, Brent Fightback, and Brent Save Our NHS;and yours truly from Brent Green Party and the Green Party Trade Union Group.

The Corbyn factor was evident from the beginning when Dave Prentis announced Unison was backing him for Labour leader and ended the rally when John McDonnell pledged that Corbyn would mount real opposition in this Parliament to the Bill and when elected to  power in 2020 would repeal all anti-trade union legislation.

Clearly Corbyn's campaign is still to be won and if he does win the problem of what to do about a Parliamentary Labour Party that failed to make a comprehensive stand against the Welfare Bill will loom large.

If he does not win and an austerity-lite candidate becomes leader what happens to the relationship between Labour and the unions?

Another issue that emerged during the speeches was the extent to which unions would be prepared to break the law. There was a sober warning towards the close about what happened previously when unions found their funds sequestered by a hostile Tory government.

Would the Labour Party back breaking an unjust law?

The details of the Trade Union Bill are still to come and there are likely to be amendments from both sides. The Green Party opposed previous anti-union legislation and are almost certain to oppose these both from within parliament and outside when they meet at Conference in September.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Huge chunk of Wembley Park to go to US company in Quintain deal

Quintain Estates and Development are recommending a  £700m bid by US private finance company Lone Star to shareholders. Quintain own land around Wembley Stadium and Wembley Arena as well as the London Designer Outlet.

This is how Business Insider reported a dealing frenzy this morning:

Quintain has planning permission to build 5,500 homes in the area and 835 are currently under construction.

Angus Dodd of Lone Star in a statement said:
The proposed acquisition represents a unique opportunity for Lone Star to gain further exposure to resdiential and commercial assets in London
Wembley Park is one of the largest and most exciting urban renewal projects in Europe and complements our experience in this segmewnt of the market.
We intend to contribute significant additional financial resources to help Quintain in its next phase of growth to accelearte delivery at Wembley Park, building more homes more quickly and continuing the creation of a cohesive and exciting new community.
I wonder how many of the new homes will be social housing?

It will be interesting to see how Brent Council, Quintain's development partner, get on with the new landowners.

Reuters report HERE

Another accident at Wembley ASDA junction tonight

I came across another accident close to Wembley Asda about 40 minutes ago.  Locals have become increasingly concerned at the number of accidents, including collisions, at this site.  Cars leave several lanes to exit from Asda to turn right into the southbound carriageway of Forty Lane.  Others turn left into the northbound carriageway, while cars also enter King's Drive from Forty Lane.

The satellite photograph above was taken before the opening of the new petrol station at Asda which resulted in a new road layout within the Asda site and increased traffic and the Click & Go facility has now had its hours extended.

The French School is due to open in September at the former Brent Town Hall and will eventually have 1100 pupils adding to the traffic.

At the timeof the school run and just after northbound traffic on Forty Lane is often bumper to bumper across the junction with cars exiting Asda trying to squeeze in when the lights change.

Thankfully injuries tonight appeared to be only minor but clearly this junction needs urgent review.

Brent Council 'cannot legally disclose any details' of Cara Davani leaving arrangements

Question to Brent Council Press Office on July 27th

I would appreciate answers to the questions below in response to concerns raised by residents on the Wembley Matters blog.

1. Can Brent Council confirm that there has not been, and that there will not be, any financial payment by the Council to Cara Davani in connection with her leaving the Council’s employment as Director of HR and Administration, other than her normal salary payment up to 30 June 2015?   YES or NO.
2. Can Brent Council confirm that it has not agreed, and will not agree, to pay any award of compensation, damages or costs made against Cara Davani personally, as a separately named respondent from Brent Council, in any Employment Tribunal or other legal proceedings in which she and the Council are named parties?   YES or NO.
Many  thanks,

Martin Francis

Answer from Brent Council Press Office July 29th

Dear Martin,
The council cannot legally disclose any details of arrangements relating to Ms. Davani’s departure.

Sufra food growing, fresh veg collection and cooking opportunities

Work starts ar St Raphael's Edible Garden

From Sufra NW London

Today Marks & Spencer launches a national campaign called Spark Something Good, which aims to encourage people to take action for social good. Over the next 24 hours, 24 projects across the capital will be transformed – and the derelict site on St. Raphael’s Estate is one of these projects.

Across the day, M&S employees will be joined by our own volunteers, as well as volunteers from Sudbury Town Resident’s Association and Brent Housing Partnership to clean up the site, build raised beds and plant the first seeds of what will become one of the largest communal food growing spaces in North-West London. We do aim high, don’t we!

It’s going to be a manic day, with volunteers working onsite till 10pm tonight. For regular updates on what’s happening on site, make sure you follow us on Twitter.

Fruit & Vegetable Collection Pilot

On the subject of food growing, tenants at Birchen Grove and Bridge Road allotments will notice that some unusually bright yellow bins have appeared on site. Across August and September we’re piloting a new initiative, encouraging allotment-holders to donate fresh produce to the food bank.

Every year, many tenants find that a successful harvest quickly turns miserable at the sight of wasted fruit and vegetables, which are surplus to their need. To reduce food wastage, and ensure that we can help vulnerable people maintain a healthy diet, we’re offering tenants the opportunity to share their harvest with Sufra.

Collections from both allotments will be on Tuesday mornings, so it’s best to pick your harvest as close as possible to the collection day. There are separate bins for soft and hard fruits/vegetables because there is nothing more depressing than an overgrown marrow landing head-first on a pile of tomatoes.

And Fahim will not be impressed, when he has to clean out the bins. Please don’t upset Fahim.

Summer Academy

Keeping with the food growing theme, we’ve had a lot of enquiries about our Summer Academy, an intergenerational project that celebrates food growing and experimental cooking. Each session includes a visit to Sudbury Court Drive Allotment where participants harvest fresh produce (courtesy of Michael and Patrick’s frantic efforts since early February) and return to Sufra to cook a delicious meal.

What’s more, there are no chefs and no recipes! It’s truly experimental and a chance for people to learn cooking skills from one another. Or watch, and be entertained. The Summer Academy is open to young people aged 11-19 years and older people aged 60+ years... but we’re happy to slip in a few eager beavers. You can attend as many or as few sessions as you like, so why not give it a try?

The sessions run from 10am to 4pm on: Tuesday 4 August, Thursday 6 August, Tuesday 11 August and Thursday 13 August. To take part, download a Registration Form here. There are no spaces remaining on the first session (sorry, but you should have registered early!).

Food Academy for Young Carers

Sometimes experimental cooking doesn’t quite hit the mark!

We know that many young people who care for a disabled or unwell parent or sibling, often face the challenge of having to cook for the family. In partnership with Brent Carers Centre, we’re organising a special week-long Food Academy for young carers from Monday 24 August to Friday 28 August.

Across the week, young carers will learn how to cook 10 different dishes, as part of an accredited certificate in cooking. We’ve also thrown in a visit to King’s Cross Skip Garden (we’re really getting into this food growing malarkey) and a workshop on healthy eating run by a nutritionist. Participants who complete the accredited outcomes will be treated to a night out at Jimmy’s Restaurant at Wembley Outlet Centre to sample a world buffet.

If you know a young carer who would benefit from the course, get in touch or download a Registration Form here.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Cabinet approves Tudor Gardens changes despite impassioned plea by relatives and carers of vulnerable residents

The speech by Ken Knight on behalf of relatives and carers of Tudor Gardens residents
The deregistration of the Tudor Gardens Residential Home was the most emotional issue discussed at yesterday's Cabinet. The proposals were covered in an earlier posting HERE.

There was a calm but passionate presentation by Ken Knight whose sister is a resident at Tudor Gardens.  He sought to demonstrate that an original Equality impact assessment which had found a negative impact on residents of the proposed changes had been changed to a positive one, with the original not made available to Cabinet.

He said the change went well beyond 'updating' as a result of further consultations, although that was contested by Phil Porter, Strategic Director of Adult Social Care, and suggested the documentation had been 'doctored'.

In a briefing pack  supplied by Knight he contrasted: The policy will have a positive impact on residents because it will promote independence and give choice and control how they live their lives. to the original 'This policy will have a negative impact on clients who have no capacity to make decision.

Knight noted, 'Relatives and carers don't believe any resident has this capacity, Aga Ambroziak thinks some might. We want high quality, objective, functional asessmewnts (like the WHO ICF), carried out by an independent clinical psychologist, to settle matters before anything else happens.

Knight said that  the residents who had the mental capacity of a 3 to 4 year old, did not need to be given any more 'choice' than they had in the home already: they needed safeguarding and the 24-7 care that they had already.

He said the manager of Tudor Gardens had already left because as a result of the changes she would have lost £20,000 in salary. Other care workers stood to lose £10,000. Protection through TUPE regulations did not apply as  most workers were on fixed term contracts. The proposed new contractor had boasted that their staff were on zero hours contracts.

Cllr Mashari said that she was concerned about the Equality Impact assessment and asked if it was usual for them to go from a negative to positive impact in the public domain.  Christine Gilbert said that there were attempts to mitigate the negatives revealed at the first stage of the assessment but did not know about a move from negative to positive.

Cllr Hirani, lead member for Adult Care said that savings were on housing costs, residents would be entitled to Housing Benefits under the new arrangements, and not on care. He recognised the importance of safeguarding.  He said that the Council needed to reduce spending and at the same time cater for more people. The Council would help the residents apply for allowances that could give them £4,000 more income annually. They would also have security of tenure.

Cllr Southwood asked for reassurance around the safeguarding of vulnerable adults and was told that there would be a team to monitor the required standards and that the changes should have no impact on the quality of care.

Cllr Mashari appeared to still have doubts. She asked if there was a detailed record of the 'journey from negative to positive' and suggested that in the light of the issues involved the item should be revisited.

Cllr Pavey said he did not think that was necessary and that officers would supply a note on the Equality Impact Assessment changes.

Cllr Mashari asked for an update on progress in six months time.

Ken Knight summed up the relatives' and carers' case to the Cabinet:
Right at the beginning of this process relatives and carers said they were opposed to supported living and wanted the residential care home to stay as it is BUT that if change was forced upon us we would do our best to ensure the best possible future for the residents of Tudor Gardens. this remains the case. in return officers promised transparency, openness, honesty and that we would be working together. I leave you to judge if this has been delivered.

At the very least, and before you vote on it, can this process be paused for internationally recognised functional assessments to be done by an independent clinical psychologist, with full involvement of relatives, cares and Tudor Gardens staff.

Voting for supported living now means paying people to make decisions for residents who can't do it for themselves by virtue of their lack of mental capacity. It obviously won't give them 'more independence, choice and control' - it'll just hand it over to different people. Those who exercise this power now on their behalf have proved themselves care, trustworthy, altruistic, reliable and competent. That's why we want to keep them. There are no guarantees we will if supported living goes ahead.
It seemed very clear from last night's discussion and a conversation with the Tudor Gardens Unison representative that the retention of staff trusted by residents and their relatives and carers is unlikely.

The Cabinet approved the proposal.

Anger as thriving Preston Community Library faces curtailment

Preston Library campaigners went to Cabinet last night to raise concerns over the School Expansion report which will mean the Preston Library Community Hub restricting its activities to weekends from September.  The Council has decided that the former library building is needed for primary classes from Wembley High School as building work there is behind schedule.

Philip Bromberg from the campaign told the Cabinet that he was not convinced that there was no alternative buildings available (the report lists the former Anansi Nursery as available from July 2016 until July 2018 but states 'this building is no longer required').

He told the Cabinet about all the activities that are available at the Hub, including a cinema, with visitor numbers doubling. He said that the Community library was doing things that the Council had pulled out of and 'doing them very well'.  He told the Cabinet that if the Council could not succeed in cooperating with a large and successful group such as the Community Library and Hub, he could not see its strategy succeeding elsewhere.

After an optimistic letter from Cllr Mashari about joint design of the new facility in April little had happened with the promised collaborative approach and now the use by Wembley High was being discussed just 3-4 days before their licence ended, with no direct word to the Library from the Council.

A local film maker told the council about the sucecss of the cinema which had been funded with a £4000 grant from the council and had become a vital part of the local community with all showings at capacity. The grant would be a waste of money if the Library did not  continue.  He invited councillors and the governors of Wembley High School to visit the Community Hub. Campaigners were keen to establish as positive a relationship with Wembley High as they'd had with Preston Park Primary but this had not happened yet.

Michael Pavey agreed to amend the term 'pop up' used in the report about the library when a speaker said that it was a fully fledged community library with 663 visits in June.

Cllr Margaret McLennan, responding to the delegation, said the Council had always made it clear that the priority needs of the borough were school places and housing. These came ahead of the policy to bring buildings back to life. She substituted a new paragraph for one in the report which would now say that there was no prospect of disposal of the Preston library building until 2017-18 and options would be looked at for commercial or community disposal in August 2017 at the earliest.

To protests from campaigners Cllr Mashari said that she did not appreciate Philip Bromberg's claim that the council had reneged on a deal and had not responded to campaigners. She said that they had made it 'extremely clear' before the election that school places were a priority and the building had never been promised to one particular group. She concluded that the library supported 'fantastic community activities - but don't misquote us'.

Philip Bromberg asked for a right of reply to what he saw as a personal attack but Cllr Pavey refused.

Cllr Ruth Moher, lead member for Children and Families, said that places were needed so that schools had a 5% vacancy rate as required by the government. At present the soare capacity in Brent schools was only 2.3%. She was not expecting things to get any better in the near future but would eventually like to see buildings used as the community desires.

This is a relatively new requirement (I am not sure of its statutory basis) which is claimed to enhance parents' choice but also has the knock-on effect of increased pupil mobility, particularly in less popular schools, making it harder for them to improve.

Resisting the Trade Union Bill Meeting Tomorrow

Cabinet warned over 'dealing with a convicted fraudster' in Bridge Park development

Cllr Dan Filson, Chair of Scrutiny,  made a dramatic intervention in the discussion of the Bridge Park redevelopment at last night's Cabinet meeting.

He drew attention to a paragraph in the report about the Council's development partners:
General Mediterranean Holdings SA and Harborough Invest Inc are both in overseas ownership and not registered at Companies House, As such the process for carrying out financial checks on these companies cannot be completed in the normal manner and the required financial information in an appropriate format is awaited. Finalisation of negotiations and entering into Heads of Terms with these companies will be subject to confirmation of satisfactory financial standing.
 Filson pointed out that the companies were not registered at Companies House but instead were overseas registered, a Luxembourg Holding Company and the British Virgin islands. This meant that the usual financial checks could not be carried out.

The founder and chairman of General Mediterranean Holdings is Sir Nadhmi Shakir Auchi. In 2003 LINK Auchi was convicted of fraud following his involvement in a $504 million corruption scandal centred on the French oil company Elf Aquitaine which Wikipedia says was described as 'the biggest political and corporate sleaze scandal to hit a western democracy since the second world war.'

Auchi was given a $2.8 million fine and a 15 month suspended jail sentence. Filson warned that the council is dealing with a 'convicted fraudster'.

Earlier Philip Grant had posted this comment on an earlier blog LINK:

As Martin suggests, this article did attract my interest.
When offshore companies are involved, that will always raise suspicions about who is really behind them, and whether tax avoidance may be involved, although in this case you can read a little about GMH on Wikipedia:-
'The General Mediterranean Holding (GMH) is a financial holding company established in 1979 in Luxembourg City, in southern Luxembourg, founded by Anglo-Iraqi businessman Nadhmi Auchi.
GMH is a diverse business group with activities in Banking & Finance, Real Estate & Construction, Hotel & Leisure, Industrial, Trading & Pharmaceuticals, Communications & IT and Aviation.'
The (publicly available) details do not say in which overseas territory Harborough Invest Inc. is incorporated, or resident for tax purposes.
By chance, I have come across GMH's "agent", Nick Shattock, before, when I was an Inspector of Taxes, and he was a director of Quintain Estates and Developments Plc (having previously been a partner in a firm of City solicitors). That information is on public record, and (of course) I cannot disclose anything which happened when I was responsible for dealing with the Quintain group's company tax affairs, because of Civil Service confidentiality.
As a (past) director of Quintain (the developer behind Wembley Park), it is likely that Mr Shattock has already had dealings with Brent's Strategic Director of Regeneration and Growth, Andy Donald. The report to Cabinet proposes that negotiations over the "deal" between Brent and GMH should be left in the hands of Mr Donald (as the "deal" with Galliford Try over the Willesden Green Library Centre redevelopment was).
I have written before about Andy Donald's philosophy LINK but it is worth bearing in mind this particular comment of his:
The decision makers are never going to read all that text. There is a massive disconnect between the decision makers and the officers.
Andy Donald was unwell yesterday but the decision makers, the Cabinet, went ahead and approved the Bridge Park report.

I had pointed out in my earlier posting that the Officer's report made the Appendix on the sliding scale of affordable housing restricted so that the public are unable to see it. Cllr Margaret McClennan said that the developers had offered 10%  (50 homess out of the 500 planned) against the Council's target of 50%. She said that Brent Council wanted at least 30%. Cllr Pavey said the despite the gain of a leisure centre and swimming pool officers should be pushing for a greater amount of affordable housing.

Cllr Mashari said that the Cabinet should not get so caught up in the detail of affordable housing that 'we forget the marvellous facility that Brent would get through the development.'

Questioned about the fear that the housing would be sold abroad as had  happened at the Willesden Green Library development Cllr McClennan said that the Council would demand that the homes be first marketed locally.

The Recommendations adopted by the Cabinet 'delegate authority to the Strategic Director of Regeneration and Growth (Andy Donald) in consulation with the Chief Finance Officer and Chief Operarating Officer to enter into negotiations, finalise and enter into a land sale agreement with General Meditteranean Holdings SA and Harborough Invest Inc.'

Asked about how any issues that might arise from the negotiations and financial checks would be dealt with the Cabinet were told that the lead member, Margaret McClennan, would be consulted.

The fear that several members of the public were left with was that, given the overseas status of the companies involved,  Brent might be able to do little to persuade them on the proportion of affordable housing and marketing front.

Charities win right to challenge legal aid cuts to prisonsers

Two charities have today (Tuesday 28 July) won the right to challenge legal aid cuts for prisoners after the Court of Appeal ruled there was a risk that the system could be unfair and unlawful.

The Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners’ Advice Service (PAS) have been inundated with requests for help from children and prisoners since the cuts were introduced in December 2013.

The cuts have coincided with an unprecedented deterioration of safety standards in English and Welsh prisons and a rise in suicides, compounded by staff shortages.

A challenge by the Howard League and PAS was blocked by the High Court in March 2014 – but that decision was today overturned by Court of Appeal judges Lord Justice Leveson, Lord Justice Tomlinson and Lady Justice Sharp.

The Court of Appeal’s decision means that the case can now proceed to a full trial. 

The charities argued in court that there were seven key areas of work cut from the ambit of legal aid that carry an unacceptable risk of unfairness. These included:

·         cases where prisoners appear before the Parole Board about their suitability for a move to open prison (but not release);

·         cases about pregnant prisoners being allocated to mother and baby units;

·         segregation;

·         access to offending behaviour work;

·         having a suitable home to go to on release from prison.

Unlike other cuts to legal aid, where a safety net was introduced to allow people to apply for legal aid in exceptional circumstances, the cuts for prisoners were absolute: there is no lifeline for even the most vulnerable or incapacitated prisoner to apply for legal aid for prison law matters.

In its detailed decision, the Court of Appeal recognises the risk of systemic unfairness as a result of the legal aid cuts to prison law. Lord Justice Leveson concludes: “The question of inherent unfairness concerns not simply the structure of the system which may be capable of operating fairly, but whether there are mechanisms in place to accommodate the arguably higher risk of unfair decisions for those with mental health, learning or other difficulties which effectively deprive them of the ability effectively to participate in, at least, some of the decisions to which [the applicants’ counsel] Ms Kaufmann refers.”

Lord Justice Leveson adds in the judgment that the Howard League and PAS are “pre-eminent in this field” and have “the very highest reputations”. 

In the year following the cuts, calls to the Howard League’s advice line increased by 45 per cent. The legal team, which provides the only dedicated legal service for children and young people in prison in the country, is overwhelmed with requests from young people with nowhere else to turn.

Prisoners’ Advice Service (PAS) represents adults (over-21s) and receives thousands of letters and calls each year. The charity simply does not have the physical or financial resources to deal with the large amount of requests that it now receives for pro bono assistance and representation.

The first key point of the case argues that the removal of legal aid for a small number of important Parole Board cases is unlawful. These cases affect prisoners on life sentences and imprisonment for public protection (IPP) sentences who can only progress to open conditions if the Parole Board advises that it would be safe for them to do so. This is important because, once in open conditions, prisoners can apply to work and receive education in the community. This step is key for prisoners’ rehabilitation and public safety. Making prisoners go through this stage without legal advice and representation is counter-productive and increases the risk to the public.

The second argument concerns the removal of legal aid for prisoners facing particular difficulties such as mothers threatened with separation from their babies, children and disabled prisoners who need a support package so they can be released safely, and mentally ill prisoners held in isolation. Managing people through long prison sentences is a skilful business which needs to be handled with extreme care so that they can resettle safely into the community.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said:
“We welcome today’s decision, which offers hope to children and young people in prison.

“The Howard League’s legal team has represented many hundreds of children in prison and we want them to thrive inside and on release. Legal aid gets them the best help to achieve that.”

Deborah Russo, Joint Managing Solicitor at the Prisoners’ Advice Service, said: “We are delighted with the outcome of today’s hearing. The legal aid cuts to prison law have resulted in prisoners’ access to justice being severely curtailed with the consequence of further isolating an already very marginalised sector of our society.

“We therefore welcome today’s judgment, which now allows for a full hearing of the case and are thrilled to be now given the opportunity to put forward our case for legal aid for the most deprived and disadvantaged of prisoners.”

Brent Cabinet under pressure on three fronts

In the absence of Muhammed Butt, Cllr Michael Pavey presided over yesterday's Cabinet meeting with all the jaunty aplomb of the driver of the Dundee bound express as he approached the Bridge of Tay on 'the last Sabbath day of 1879, which will be remember'd for a very long time.'

The Cabinet was marked by a bitter exchange over the Preston Community Library,  an accusation that an officer's report had turned negative comments into positives in the Tudor Gardens consultation, and a warning that in the Bridge Park development Brent Council was dealing with a 'convicted fraudster'.

Even if Pavey was breezily unaware of what was happening the Brent Communications Team certainly were. No sooner had the meeting ended then the Brent and Kilburn Times reporter, seated in the front row of the public gallery, found three members of what appeared to be the Communications Team, looming over her.

They quickly whisked her off for a post-cabinet briefing in what appeared to be a damage limitation exercise.

As she disappeared with her escorts into the innards of the drum I called out, 'Publish and be damned!'

I hope she does but meanwhile keep an eye on Wembley Matters for more on last night's meeting.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Preston Community Library likely to be weekends only from September until Christmas

From Preston Community Library Campaign

We are holding a meeting in the library at 2.30 this Thursday to update our volunteers, library users and supporters about recent developments, and to discuss the future of the library. All readers of this mailing are welcome.

At the moment, it seems very likely that from September until Christmas we will be sharing the building with a school and that the library will operate at weekends only. The future beyond Christmas remains very uncertain. I wish I could tell you more - the fact is that our current licence expires on 31 July and, with just four days to go, we are still waiting for anything in writing from Brent about what will happen after that.

This evening's meeting of Brent's Cabinet will be asked to extend school use of the Preston Library building until July 2017. The report states that  "Proposed future school use will take account of the local aspiration for this community library to continue in some way."  I will leave you to judge for yourselves whether this constitutes a strong commitment to the future of our library. The Cabinet meeting is at 7 tonight, 27 July, in the Civic Centre; members of the public are free to attend.

This Saturday there will be a plant sale from 1 until 5 at the library; plants for sale will include cannas, scented- and coloured-leaved geraniums, roses and several kinds of chillies. There will also be books for sale. All proceeds will be used to fund the library.

Our next quiz will be on Monday 10 August at 7.30 in The Preston. As usual we aim to start the quiz promptly at 8. The following quiz will be on Monday 21 September, same time, same venue.

Finally, four years ago Rosie Hayes reported on Brent's library closures for Last week she returned to the scene of the crime, and her report can be seen here:

Brent Council: South Kiburn Trust did not apply for music licence in time for the Festival

Contrary to reports that Brent Council has revoked the live music licence for the South Kilburn Festival at 5pm on Friday, the day before the Festival, a Brent Council spokesperson said today that the  South Kilburn Trust had not applied for the licence in time for the festival.

The live music was transferred from the park to the OK Club on Saturday.

Community Mental Health Service changes to be discussed by Brent Cabinet tonight

Plans to restructure Brent Community Mental Health services are on the already crowded for tonight's Cabinet.  The current budget is £5.4m and the proposals account for £350k of the £500k reduction tabled for 2015-16.  The model is the outcome of partnership wotk between Brent Council, Central and NW London NHS Foundation Trust and NHS Brent CCG.

The Report LINK gives the views of users and staff:


· The service needs to be genuinely holistic, taking into account all health and community support needs.
· The service needs to be person-centred, with the service user setting their own goals.
· Better information should be available at the point of referral about what services are available, and how they are accessed.
· Assessment and Brief Treatment needs to be improved – assessments aren’t timely enough and brief treatment is not always provided.
· Community services for those who are not in acute crisis need to be improved so that support doesn’t drop away when an individual’s mental health starts to improve.
· The service needs to be better linked with the third sector in order to address broader needs.
· There needs to be clear information for service users on what they should do if they go into crisis and they need emergency support.


· There should be fewer handoffs between teams and service users should move less between teams.
· There should be clarity around third sector services in Brent and how service users can access them.
· The single front door, with senior people carrying out the first assessment, should be more effective than it currently is where services find they are “playing catch up” with the core assessment – eliminate the need for more than one assessment.
· Bureaucracy should be reduced in the new model
· The advantages and disadvantages of generic care coordinators should be considered – new skills have been learned, even if social care assessments aren’t as good.
· The continuity of care should be improved.
· Staff may feel unsettled if they don’t like the new structure – Brent already has recruitment and retention issues
· The service should have sufficient capacity to manage demand
· Links to other services, such as Housing, need to improve
· Effective discharge planning with service users is essential.
· The implementation plan has to be well thought through. The impact on service users has to be considered as services are reorganised and staff moved around.
· Ensure specialist functions aren’t lost in the reorganisation.
· Interfaces shouldn’t be replicated elsewhere, such as between Primary Care Plus and the secondary service

The report recognises that a change of culture is required in the proposed new model:

Barnet Unison vs Capita Tribunal starts today

Message from Barnet Unison
Employment Tribunal starts TODAY 27 July 2015 

Barnet UNISON members may remember the following awful headlines:



UNISON call on Capita to reverse mass redundancies in Barnet LINK

130 Capita CSG redundancies is far too many....... LINK

Barnet UNISON represented members throughout the redundancy process after which UNISON submitted a claim against Capita. The legal process does take a long time, but finally the date of the hearing has been set.


The Tribunal will start on Monday 27 July 2015 at 10:00am at the Watford Employment Tribunal at the following address: Radius House, 51 Clarendon Road, Watford, Hertfordshire, WD17 1HP.


The case is due to last until Friday 7 August 2015.


For staff/members/public interested in this case Tribunal Hearings are open to the public

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Council's Bridge Park deal with developers indicates little affordable housing & no transparency

The site including Unisys, Bridge Park, Technology House and car breakers
Last week the Planning Committee discussed how to increase the amount of affordable housing provided by developers to meet the 50% affordable target and to make the issue of Viability Assessments mores transparent LINK.

Tomorrow the Cabinet will discuss a report LINK on the Unisys-Bridge Park-Technology House development which admits that the amount of affordable housing will be much lower than 50% and where an Appendix with a 'sliding scale' of affordable house is 'restricted' and not available to the public.  The scheme consists of c500 homes, hotel and leisure centre.

The scheme is rather similar to the Willesden Library development where the Council gets a piece of infrastructure in exchange for providing land. As readers will know the Willesden Green flats contain no affordable units and were sold to overseas investors by Singapore agents. In exchange we got a small 'Cultural Centre' which by coincidence is due to open tomorrow. The community lost a good local bookshop, a cinema and an open space.

At Bridge Park a new leisure centre will be built with a much needed swimming pool, but other features of the current centre will not be provided.

Among the lost facilities will be the function hall, small business units, nursery and meeting rooms for faith groups.  PLIAS Resettlement , a community based not for profit organisation that provides services primary targeting offenders and ex-offenders to enable them to integrate them back into society, will lose its base.  They join Stonebridge Adventure Playground and the Welsh School that lost their premises through the redevelopment just up the road. The report admits that despite a pledge to Cabinet in June 2013 to help the nursery find new premises, that has not been done.

The report's Equalities Assessment claims that a positive aspect is:
With a high young population, the provision of new housing in the local area which the population could take advantage of is a positive in that it provides the opportunity for young people to move out of their family home bit also provides the opportunity to stay in the local community.
Even the officers seem to recognise that this might be seen as disingenuous:
However, it is not known if new housing would be affordable, especially given that Stonebridge ranks as the lowest ward in terms of median household incomes.
Of course it won't be affordable, which is presumably what your secret Appendix says!

Another aspect that might set the noses of ex-Tax Inspectors Dan Filson and Philip Grant twitching, are the developer and finance details.

The ex-Unisys site is owned by Harborough Invest INC (Harborough) to whom General Mediterranean Holdings SA (GMH) are a parent company).  The Council will sell part of its own site (Technology House) to Harborough/GMH.

In June 2013 the Cabinet agreed to pursue this option with a different subsidiary company of GMH: 'Tucan, a special purpose vehicle proposed for the purposes of this development'.  GMH now say that Tucan Investments is no longer in the picture and the Council state 'GMH have explained that it would be sensible for the landowner to be party in the agreement rather than a new development vehicle.'

The main report Financial Status Checks (4.6) states
General Mediterranean Holdings SA and Harborough Invest Inc are both in overseas ownership and not registered at Companies House, As such the process for carrying out financial checks on these companies cannot be completed in the normal manner and the required financial information in an appropriate format is awaited. Finalisation of negotiations and entering into Heads of Terms with these companies will be subject to confirmation of satisfactory financial standing.
Another aspects is of course ensuring that the Council (or rather we residents) are getting value for money. The reports says (3.6):
Since the June 2013 Executive, negotiations with GMH have been ongoing through their agent Nick Shattock Real Estate (NSRE) (now Chainwork Capital) [another change of name] to ensure that the Council receives best value for its lands. As a result the Heads of Terms have changed and it is proposed that the Strategic Director of Regeneration and Growth concludes negotiations and enters into Heads of Terms with GMH and Harborough Invest Inc in substantially the form set out in Appendix 3 of this report [which is restricted].
The Council employed Deloitte LLP in June 2014 to see if the disposal of their land to GMH represented 'best consideration' - Deloitte concluded it did not. the report goes on (4.4)
Deloitte LLP re-engaged with GMH, via their agent NSRE to seek in principal agreement to the various development costs, revenues and timescales. This exercise resulted in the Council receiving a revised offer from GMH as at September 2014. as a result of the discussions between DRE and NSRE, Deloitte LLP conclusion was that whilst they did not necessarily agree with all of the points raised in the NSRE offer letter, the Revised GMH offer for the Land at Bridge Park was above that of Deloittee revised opinion of value (Appendix 4) [yes, restricted of course].
The report goes on (5.6)
Through pursuing a deal with GMH the Council is not releasing the option of disposing of the Council land to the market and not giving other organisations the chance to bid for the opportunity if this had been available  on the open market. The land price has been robustly tested in order to align with best market price and external consultants to Brent have undertaken detailed development appraisal, valuation and sensitivity resting work confirming the GMH & Harborough proposal to represent best value.
The consultant's report has not been published.