Thursday 25 February 2016

Greens call for arms embargo against Saudi Arabia

Greens in the European Parliament  today call for an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia in the wake of serious allegations of breaches of international humanitarian law by the country in Yemen.

Ahead of the vote in the Parliament today, Greens have put forward a motion condemning the Saudi Arabian-led coalition airstrikes against Yemen; calling for a halt to military confrontation and expressing deep concern that some Member States are still supplying arms to Saudi Arabia in breach of EU arms exports rules. Greens also say that ongoing licensing and direct military training by EU Member States should be considered complicity in war crimes.

Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South West, slated the UK government for initiating a secret deal with Saudi Arabia to ensure both states were elected to the UN human rights council and for being the largest arms supplier to the region since 2010; export licences to the kingdom under the coalition government of 2010-2015 totalled nearly £4bn. She said:

It is barbaric and totally immoral that we supply military equipment to a regime engaged in war crimes. Clearly Cameron sees the vested interests of the UK arms industry as more important than the lives of innocent children in Yemen. As for Saudi Arabia chairing the UN human rights council, this is an outrage that insults the many thousands of women, minorities and dissidents who have had their rights abused at the hands of this oppressive regime.
See also a full response to constituents who have contacted Molly regarding the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen.

Disabled children miss out on play opportunities - call for action

Last year Brent Council removed the funding from Stonebridge Adventure Playground and demolished it.  The playground had been the site of integrated play facilities for disabled and non-disabled children.

This report makes the case for play.

A report by the national deafblind charity, Sense, reveals the severe restrictions facing disabled children in accessing play. The report identifies failings at every level that result in disabled children missing out on play opportunities that are vital to their emotional, social and physical  development. A lack of attention by government, insufficient funding at a local level and negative attitudes towards disabled children and their families are all barriers highlighted in the report.

The report calls for urgent action to address these inequalities and to enable the Prime Minister to deliver on his recent call to improve the “life chances” of all children.

The report follows a three month public inquiry into the provision of play opportunities for disabled children aged 0-5 with multiple needs in England and Wales. Chaired by former Secretary of State for Education and Employment, Lord Blunkett, the inquiry was established in response to parents’ concern that they had fewer opportunities to access play services and settings than families with non-disabled children.

Chair of the Play Inquiry, Lord Blunkett, said:

We know that play is vitally important for children with multiple needs and their families, bringing a wide range of developmental and emotional benefits. However, our inquiry found that all too often the parents of children with multiple-needs point to barriers they face in accessing and enjoying play. It means that disabled children don’t have the same chance to form friendships, and parents are prevented from taking a break from caring. Both disabled children and their parents are excluded from their own communities.

I know that there is strong support across the political spectrum for addressing the findings of this report, and I look forward to working with colleagues from all parties to achieve real change for parents and families across the nation.
 Key findings from the report:

92% of parents felt that their child did not have the same opportunities to play as their non-disabled peers, and 81% of parents reported difficulties in accessing mainstream play groups and local play opportunities.

·         51% of children had been turned away from play settings by providers, failing to meet their legal duties under the Equality Act 2010.

·         95% of parents said that parents of children with multiple-needs require support to find ways to play with their children.

Majority of parents had experienced negative attitudes towards their child from other parents and most considered this to be the most significant barrier to accessing mainstream play.

·         40% of parents said that additional financial costs was a major barrier to accessing play opportunities

63% of parents said they didn’t have enough information on accessible play opportunities in their area, and word of mouth is commonly used in place of official sources of information.

Families feel there is a lack of specialist support that can be accessed locally, and many make long journeys to access play settings.

There is a lack of strategic approach to funding play for children with multiple needs at local and national levels across England, with no notional funding for special educational needs and provision in the early years

Key recommendations from the report:

National policy:

·         Greater investment in play as part of early years funding to support play in the home and in mainstream services.

·         Developmental play services such as Portage should become a statutory service for disabled children under the age of two, with an increased emphasis on children with multiple needs.

·         Play should be a key strand of the Government’s policy on parenting and should be an explicit part of government-funded parenting classes.

·         The Equality and Human Rights Commission should investigate the exclusion of children with multiple needs from mainstream play settings, and take action to enforce the Equality Act 2010.

Local policy:

·         Local authorities should be required to take action, as necessary, against settings which intentionally exclude disabled children and fail to meet their legal duties under the Equality Act 2010.

·         Local authorities should take a lead on increasing awareness and understanding of the general public and other parents about disabled children. This could be centrally funded but locally delivered.

·         Local authorities should consider whether there could be a modest retraining of existing health professionals to enable them to provide the support needed to help families of children with multiple needs to play.

·         Local authorities should provide easily-accessible information for parents to help them to find out about existing play and support services.

Play settings:

Settings should ensure that play staff have received training on disability to help improve the way they support children and families.  This should include responding to medical needs and communicating with children with specialist communication needs.  The training should also enable them to create an environment and ethos which is inclusive and developmentally appropriate.

·         Every play setting should have a play policy statement which stresses the inclusion of every child.

·         Settings should plan carefully prior to the admission of every child in order to ensure their needs are met and that they will be welcomed and understood by other parents and their children.

·         Voluntary sector organisations should do more to share their significant experience of supporting children with specific impairments and multiple needs with public and private play settings.  This could include offering training and toolkits on inclusive play.

Sense Deputy CEO, Richard Kramer, said:

Play is critical in giving children the best start in life and improving outcomes for children and their families. The report makes clear, however, that where a child has multiple needs, the barriers they face to accessing play settings and activities are also multiplied. We hope that local and national policymakers, as well as play professionals, reflect on today’s recommendations, and make the necessary changes that will make access to play a reality for all children.
Sense will use the inquiry findings to campaign for changes to the way play services are designed and delivered. They plan to produce a series of toolkits for parents, providers and commissioners of play.

The full report can be downloaded at:

Wednesday 24 February 2016

Strong support for joint strike at College of North West London

A UCU officer reported strong support for the joint UCU and Unison strike at the College of North West London today. This was part of a joint national strike across all English colleges demanding £1 per hour extra for all.

UCU said that they are in dispute with college employers because they failed to agree a pay claim aimed at achieving a fair deal for all further education (FE) staff.

Unions claim that the £1 per hour increase is fair, reasonable and not excessive and would go some way to recover the value of pay lost over recent years.

The the Association of Colleges (AoC), however, recommended all of their member colleges to freeze the pay of staff and subsequently declined to re-open talks, despite the recent governmenrt spending review decision to protect core funding for 16-19 year-olds and adult skills would be protected.

Since 2009 Fe workers claim they have received a cut in real terms  of over 17%.

UCU said:
FE has been hit hard by cuts and UCU and others in the sector have campaigned to defend funding. However funding cuts don't tell the whole story, colleges still make choices.

Colleges are deliberately choosing to spend less of their income on staff. Staff are asked to work harder and longer while colleagues lose their jobs and see other terms and conditions cut.

Without the ability to retain and motivate experienced and committed staff, colleges will find it hard to deliver education to our communities.
On Saturday March 5th there will be a conference on Defending Further and Adult Education at SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H OXG.

The conference is supported by UCU, NUS, Action ESOL, NATECLA and the Learning and Work Institute.

Book online HERE

Brent activists join great crowd supporting the Heathow 13 as they receive suspended sentences

A Heathrow village resident, a poet and the Green Mayoral candidate speak out for the Heathrow 13 - not to mention the singing!

Locals joined Plane Stupid actvists, environmentalists and many independents to support the Heathrow 13 when they attended Willesden Magistrates Court to received their sentences. They received a rousing welcome as they arrived and calmly put the case for direct action to combat climate change on the steps of the court.

Brent Green Party, Brent Momentum and Brent Friends of the Earth as well as independent Brent activists were all present demonstrating unity in the face of the threat posed to the planet by climate change.

The unity was also demonstrated by the presence of both John McDonnell, depury leader of the Labour Party and Caroline Lucas, Green MP.

The Heathrow 13  avoided jail  receiving 6 week sentences suspended for 12 months plus community service.

STOP TRIDENT March Saturday Noon Marble Arch

Supported by:
People's Asembly
Green Party
War on Want
Friends of the Earth
Campaign Against Arms Trade
Fellowship of Reconciliation
The Methodist Church
Pax Christi
The Church of Scotland
and many more

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Heathrow 13 Demonstration on Wednesday in Willesden details

Heathrow 13 Demonstration tomorrow morning from 9am Willesden Magistrates Court. 448 High Road, NW10 2DZ Neasden or Dollis Hill Tube

For all those joining us WEAR RED, and together we will form a massive #redline on aviation expansion!! solidarity

Final line-up from 9am to 12 noon
9:00-9:25 Heathrow13 interviews, singing, solidarity
9:25-9:30 Heathrow13 Statement
9:30-9:45 Heathrow13 Go in to court
9:45-10:23 Speeches
9.45: Intro by John Stewart
9.47: Caroline Lucas, MP
9.51: John McDonnell, MP
9.55: Tracy Howard (Heathrow resident)
9.59: Andy Slaughter
10.03: Wretched of the Earth
10.07: Sian Berry, Green Mayoral Candidate
10.11: Christine Taylor, Jane Taylor (Heathrow residents)
10.15: Asad Rehman, Friends of Earth
10:19: Neil Keveren (Heathrow resident)
10:23+ Live updates for supporters who can stay outside until sentencing, expected 11.00-12.00.
+ music, samba and much more!!!

Scrutinising Brent Council' new scrutiny arrangements

The Wembley Matters reader who scrutinised Brent Council's new scrutiny arrangements in 2014 LINK  looks at the proposals which were adopted by Full Council yesterday evening in this Guest Blog:

On the positive side, it should be welcome that Brent Council has acknowledged that a single scrutiny committee with a very limited ability to set up Task & Finish Groups to investigate issues in depth has failed to deliver. It would have been more honest, though, if the committee report had not claimed that ‘the disadvantage of a single Scrutiny Committee structure could not necessarily have been foreseen’. The fact that Brent Council alone of all the London Boroughs thought it could manage with a single scrutiny committee with a very limited ability to do work outside of committee meetings ought to have been flashing red warning signals from the outset.

The overall objectives set for the new system are fine, but whether the new arrangements will be able to deliver those objectives is questionable. The proposals are still very committee-oriented ─ but experience over the years from elsewhere shows that Members develop a thorough understanding of key policy and service issues (one of the stated key objectives) best through in-depth Task and Finish Working Groups. There is no indication that more officer time will made available to resource such Working Groups.

More alarmingly, the report says that “Strategic and Operational Directors would still be expected to take a central role in developing the work programme”. This is contrary to the standard good practice of scrutiny being a Member-led function. It is Members who should be taking the central role in developing the work programme, while calling on and using the advice of, amongst others, strategic and operational directors. The danger here is Members are channelled to look at only what Directors are comfortable with Members examining, rather than what really needs a spotlight being shone on it.

Two final points: why is a review of scrutiny arrangements concerning

strategic matters such as budget setting and policy formation delayed until later in the year? And there is no stated commitment to review how the new system is working so that changes might be made to correct any imbalances or deficiencies in its functioning.

Marks out of 10: five.

Mini expenses revolt by two Labour backbenchers

Labour backbencher and former Executive Member Keith Perrin told Full Council last night that he could not vote for an increase in councillor expenses at the same time that the Council was putting up Council Tax. He voted against the proposal and was joined by Cllr Long. They are two of a total of 56 Labour councillors.  I understand that Cllr Helen Carr, Lib Dem, also voted against the increase.

Monday 22 February 2016

GLA put Land Value Tax on the political agenda with Old Oak in the spotlight

The GLA today publish a report on the potential of a Land Value Tax in London. LINK
The report was commissioned by the GLC Oversight Committee in September 2015 to look at the case for and against the Tax.

In his foreword rapporteur Tom Copley, Labour AM says:  
The greatest challenge facing the next Mayor will be achieving a step change in the level of house building in London. Last year we built fewer than half the number of homes the Mayor’s own estimate says is needed to solve the housing crisis over 20 years. Clearly, new and bold thinking is required. 

This report seeks to offer the next Mayor a potential solution, by examining the argument for and against introducing a Land Value Tax in London. Land Value Taxation provides incentives for bringing land into more productive use, and discourages keeping land empty or derelict. Thus, it would have serious potential to bring more land forward for development, including for
housing. There are examples from cities around the world that have brought in Land Value Taxation that suggest this would indeed happen. 

Our conclusion is that the next Mayor should fund an economic feasibility study and, subject to a positive conclusion, request the powers from the Government to trial a Land Value Tax in part of the city. 

The potential of introducing Land Value Taxation in this country has been discussed for more than a century, and has supporters from across the political spectrum. Economists like the fact that it is highly efficient, with minimal distorting effects on the market. Of course, we recognise that making such a radical change to how we tax land and property would not be without difficulty. 

This report looks at both sides of the argument, and offers the next Mayor a clear course of action to pursue.
The report is particularly concerned with bringing land into use for much needed housing but the arguments for LVT in terms of a more progressive tax to replace Council Tax are also noted:
  Proponents of LVT argue that by replacing council tax and business rates with LVT, not only would the public sector secure returns on its investment in infrastructure, the average tax payer would actually pay less. The tax base would be broader and owners of vacant or underused property would pay more than under the current system.
The Land Value Taxation Campaign LINK make the case for LVT thus: 
A single-issue non-party/all-party organisation based in the UK, we propose that the rental value of land should be collected and used as the principal source of public revenue, as a replacement for present taxes on wages, profits, goods and services. This policy is a prerequisite if chronic economic problems are to be eliminated.

How? Nearly every country in the world is affected by poverty and unemployment; widening divisions between rich and poor; boom-slump cycles; housing shortages; inadequate infrastructure; and damage to the environment. These economic ills persist, seemingly intractably, despite unprecedented developments in science and technology. All of them are ultimately related to the different economic behaviour of 'land' in contrast to man-made consumer and capital goods, whose supply can be, and normally is, varied and transported in response to demand.

Land is otherwise. No more can be made: each plot of land is unique and immovable. Its total supply is fixed. Consequently, the market in land behaves differently from the market in products. Land value comes from the natural and man-made advantages of location, which derive from the presence and activities of the community as a whole.

It follows that the value of land, its rent, is peculiarly suitable as the basic source of public revenue. This is not really taxation, but payment for the right to occupy land and enjoy the benefits of occupation; however, the policy is usually known as "Land Value Taxation" It operates as an annual charge on the rental value of land, assuming that each site was in its optimum permitted use. Since the idea cuts across all political divisions, the Campaign has no party political affiliations.
The GLA report suggests that 'theoretically' the Old Oak and Park Royal Development,  which already gives the London Mayor additional powers, could be the site for him or her to trial LVT.

Brent Council Meeting tonight could be lively...

There are a number of issues on the agenda at Brent's Full Council Meeting meeting tonight that could make it more lively than the usual ritualistic affair.

A 3.99% rise in Council Tax forms part of the budget along with cuts in youth provision that have rather late in the day led to protests by the Mosaic and Granville Youth Centres. The Council retained the funding of the Youth Parliament but cut the actual youth service. A bit like closing a hopsital but keeping the Patents' Forum.

Buried in the budget report is a statement  that I passed on to South Kilburn residents last week and that was picked up by James Powney on Sunday LINK
The South Kilburn Regeneration programme has slipped behind schedule in 2015/16. There is a masterplan review of South Kilburn Regeneration; this means it is being fundamentally reviewed to determine how best to deliver the programme and realise benefits of regeneration for South Kilburn and for its businesses and residents. This review will reconsider the fundamental approach, including whether it is better for the council to retain the South Kilburn Housing Assets, or continue to dispose of them.
Clearly this has far reaching repercussions and Kilburn councillors may well want further detail. James Powney suggests this is a matter for the Scrutiny Committee but an investigation into the South Kilburn regeneration is already supposed to be on their agenda. South Kilburn resident Pete Firmin made a presentation to the Committee in December LINK

The proposal to have two Scrutiny Committees with allowances for each member, as well as the introduction of conferences expenses and a 1% rise in the basic councillor allowance are likely to be controversial.
The removal of the deputy leader's allowance from the Brondesbury Park Conservatives and the allocation of a leader's allowance to the Kenton Conservatives will lead to some bitter exchanges between the two groups to the glee of Labour councillors.

Proposals to change the structure of Full Council Meetings  LINK deserve serious consideration but may not escape the usual Punch and Judy politics.

Sunday 21 February 2016

Self-managed allotments- local control or a cover for cuts?

Brent Council is holding a consultation meeting with allotment holders on 'Allotment Associations and Self-Management: The Future of Your Allotments?'  on March 2nd.

As part of the Food Growing and Allotment Strategy LINK tenants will be consulted on their views of self-management:
Councils across the UK are looking at different styles of management with the aim of running allotments more effectively. Having an Allotment Association os the first step to taking more ownership of your site and in its most extreme (sic) form, this means that Allotment Associations lease the sites from the Council and take on the full financial, administration and maintenance management of their sites.
In Brent one allotment site is already self-managed but other sites lack an Allotment Association.

Speakers include:
Richard King, Barnet Allotment Federartion on 'The Barnet experience'
Clare Fuchs, self-management in Hammersmith and Fulham
Richard Wiltshire, the National Allotment Society
Derek Osborne, Chair of the self-managed Old Kenton Lane Allotment Association
In my chats to fellow allotment holders there seems little appetite for self-management but I expect attitudes will vary across the borough.

'Full financial , adminstration and maintenance management' sounds like a considerable amount of work that will be transferred from council officers to volunteers.  Major maintenance such as control of trees, fencing and drainage will clearly be potentially very expensive although water bills, toilet lighting etc will be paid through regular rental income.

There are whole borough issues such as management of waiting lists where people may be interested in plots at more than one site and initiatives such as wildlife friendly gardening, sustainable and chemical free gardening, where the present Food Growing and Allotment Offfcer has performed a vital role, which would be lost if the post is abolished as a result of self-management.

I hope the meeting is well attended and the issues given a good airing.

Could you be an 'Independent Person' to uphold Brent Council standards

At long last, after nudging by Wembley Matters contributor Philip Grant, Brent Council has advertised for three 'Independent Persons' LINK  Closing date for applications is Sunday March 6th:
--> Background Information:
Under the provisions of the Localism Act 2011 the way that Brent Council will deal with conduct complaints about its elected and co-opted members in its area is changing.
The statutory regulatory framework has been abolished and the Council is responsible for deciding how to deal with conduct issues at a local level, including adopting its own local code and determining what arrangements it will adopt to deal with complaints. 

The Act provides that the Council must appoint an Independent Person or Persons to assist the Council in promoting and maintaining high standards of conduct amongst its members.
Independent Persons are consulted on decisions to investigate complaints and before a decision is made on an investigated complaint. The Independent persons may also be consulted on other standard matters, including by the member who is subject to an allegation.

In addition, the Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) Regulations 2001 (the 2001 Regulations) and the Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 (the 2015 Regulations).  The 2015 Regulations, which came into force on 11 May 2015, amend the way that Brent Council will deal with the disciplinary and conduct complaints against the Chief Executive, Chief Finance Officer and Monitoring Officer. 

The decision to dismiss the officers has to be taken by the full council but not before full council has considered, amongst other things, any advice, views or recommendations from a ‘panel’ (comprising of ‘independent persons’ appointed in accordance with certain statutory rules).
The Council now wishes to appoint three Independent Persons to assist in discharging these responsibilities.  Full details of the role and responsibilities of the Independent Person are included in this Recruitment Pack.

A fixed allowance of £419 per annum is payable together with reimbursement of travel expenses. The appointment will be for a fixed term of 2 years

Skills and Competencies:
The Independent Person will have:
·     a keen interest in standards in public life.
·     a wish to serve the local community and uphold local democracy.
·     the ability to be objective, independent and impartial.
·     sound decision making skills
·     leadership qualities, particularly in respect of exercising sound judgement.

The Independent Person will:
·     be a person in whose impartiality and integrity the public can have confidence.
·     understand and comply with confidentiality requirements.
·     have a demonstrable interest in local issues.
·     have an awareness of the importance of ethical behaviours.
·     be a good communicator.
·     Be a person with unspent criminal record (Rehabilitation of Offenders Act applies)

Desirable additional criteria are:
·     working knowledge/experience of local government or other public service and/or of large complex organisations and awareness of and sensitivity to the political process.
·     knowledge and understanding of judicial/quasi-judicial or complaints processes.

Means of assessment will be by application form and interview.

NOTE:  You will be required to be contactable during normal working hours by telephone or by email and to be available to attend hearings, some of which may be held in the day time and at relatively short notice.

Eligibility for Appointment
A person cannot be appointed as an Independent Person if they are or were within a period of five years prior to the appointment:
·     a member, co-opted member or officer of the authority.
·     a member, co-opted member or officer of a parish council in the District Council’s area,
·     or a relative or close friend of the above. 
Any involvement in political activity or campaigning, particularly at local level, may affect public perceptions of independence.  Applicants are asked to indicate the nature of such activity and whether it may affect public perception of independence.  
Regulations do not prevent Independent Members who previously served on the Council’s Standards Committee from being eligible to apply for the role, as this can assist with continuity of experience and therefore assist in the work of the Committee.

Show your solidarity with the Heathrow 13 facing jail - Willesden Magistrates Court on Wednesday

Rob Basto is one of the Heathrow 13 who face being jailed on Wednesday for fighting for climate justice.

There will be a solidarity demonstration for the Plane Stupid activists outside the Willesden Magistrates Court  from 9am on Wednesday February 24th

TTIP: The Death of Democracy

As the EU Referendum debate gets under way and TTIP (Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership) begins to get some mentions it is worth watching this video in which David Malone reveals the inner workings of TTIP and its repercussions for democracy.

It is a long video, recorded a year ago, but I think deserves wider viewing.

Saturday 20 February 2016

Save Mosaic LGBT Youth Club From Local Government Cuts

From Mosaic LGBT Youth Club due to close at part of Brent Council's overall cuts in the youth service LINK .

 Save Mosaic LGBT Youth Centre from closing down

The Mosaic LGBT Youth Centre in Kilburn is a local government funded LGBT youth centre. It is one of few left in the whole of the capital, it supports teenagers who identify as LGBT or are questioning their sexuality and/or gender identity.

The proposed new structure of the Youth Service would mean that Centre will be closed and only youth clubs still in operation would be just local youth clubs that we never access and don't want to access as they are not meeting our needs as LGBT young people. We do not need or want a space where we have to 'come out' every time, we want space like mosaic where we can be ourselves and be fully accepted, not just tolerated.

This new proposal is a complete disregard to the needs of our community and results of consultation that clearly identified LGBT youth provision as a priority to be safeguarded in the new restructure; even third sector youth organisations agree as they recognise that complexity of that work cannot be met in just any youth club - one size does not fit all!

At the times where schools are still bastions of homophobia and streets are rife with growing homophobic hate crime and parents making LGBT kids like me homeless by kicking them out Mosaic LGBT Youth Centre is something more then just a hang out space, it is home, it is community, it is a listening ear and often non-judgemental advice that we wouldn't otherwise get.

The huge problem with the removal of this Centre would be the impact on the LGBT youth, Mosaic educates us on LGBT history, current community issues, sexual health as well as many other topics. None of these services are currently provided in schools and therefore Mosaic is a vital service which cannot be demolished.

If the Council were to remove the funding for Mosaic who would support a community where 40% of us consider suicide, who would give a community which has a high HIV rate sex education, who would help those struggling to accept their sexuality?

The answer is no-one, as a gay teenager I can tell you that school won't support LGBT students in any significant way and it seems that Section 28 is a piece of legislation that has been repealed, but it is very much alive and well in schools today.

For these and many other reasons that I can't go into here Mosaic LGBT Youth Centre cannot be closed down!

Your sincerely,

Mosaic LGBT Youth Centre Members

Petition HERE

Kensal Rise Library housing units start at £475,000 for a studio

In the same week that the Kensal Rise Library campaign announced a 'night of poetry and readings' by famous actors and writers to help raise £100,000 running costs for their community library in the Kensal Rise building, a studio flat in the building went on sale for £475.000.

The studio is one of two in the building along with one one-bedroomed duplex and 2 two bedroomed duplexes.

In pre-redevelopment attempts to sell the whole building, prices asked were between £1,150,000 and £1,120,00.

Along with the  Willesden Green Library redevelopment LINK it is clear that the 'Brent Libraries Transformation Strategy'  has been very lucrative for developers.

More information on the studio (bedsitter?)  HERE

This is the floor plan:

Foxtons do not mention the community library space in their property details.

New Brent HR Director must ensure equalities are upheld as more job losses loom

Yesterday was the deadline for applications to be the Director of Brent Council Human Relations. The post was of course extremely controversial when held by Cara Davani with the Employment Tribunal judgment finding that the Council racially discriminated against against a member of staff,  victimised her and constructivelyly dismissed her. LINK

Cara Davani later left the Council's employment and attempts to find out the amount of her pay off were unsuccessful.

The new Director will be managing further reductions in Council  staffing  which will have equality implications as this extract from the budget report  LINK shows:

.        8.8.  Driving Organisational Efficiency is proposed to save £4.8m. Transformation of the design and delivery of Early Help will streamline Early Help, focusing on a one family, one worker approach to help build resilience and independence, saving £0.9m. Reviewing staff structures and spans of control across Community Services will save £2.3m. Reviewing support service costs: HR, legal, IT, business support and finance for greater efficiency will save £1m. Other savings totalling £0.6m are shown in Appendix D(iii). Service user and staff consultation will of course be essential to shape the detailed plans of how to achieve these savings, but the current expectation is that they will not impact significantly on the delivery of front-line services.
.        8.9.  Many of the proposals will have an impact on staff, especially where the majority of the saving proposals are made up of staffing costs. Given the scale of staffing reductions, there is potential for these proposals to have a significant impact on the workforce, particularly in Community Services and Resources. The majority of the workforce is from ethnic minority groups (broadly reflecting the ethnic profile of the Borough); there are also some services that due to their nature consist of predominantly female or male members of staff, and it is important that changes are not disproportionate in terms of their impact. Brent’s Managing Change Policy and Procedure provides a framework to be followed during times of organisational change to minimise the risk of a negative impact on any equality groups. The Managing Change Policy requires that staffing changes undergo EA to ensure that the restructure process is conducted in a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory manner.

This is the advertisement on PM Jobs for the HR post:

--> HR Director

LB Brent • to £122k

Right now, there’s no more exciting place to be than Brent. Recent years have seen an unprecedented transformation in what we do, how we do it, and even (with the completion of our remarkable new Civic Centre) where it’s done. This sustained infusion of energy and collaboration has resulted in a singularly ambitious strategic vision, making Brent Just Better: Better Locally, a Better Place, and Better Lives. With strong growth projections for the borough over the years to come, our resource position is stronger than most; and we believe there’s the potential to do more here than at any other council.

Our ambition for the HR service is similarly stretching, and we’re determined that the department will play an increasingly important part in the success of the whole organisation. The role covers the full operational and strategic gamut, and there will be some absorbingly complex issues (such as delivery models and structures) on your desk from day one. We’re open-minded about the options, and are committed to thinking differently – but sound evidence, a full business case, and total alignment with our strategic objectives must underpin everything you do.

Candidates will have been consistently outstanding in their career to date, with excellent practical and conceptual abilities, and a strong grasp of the complexities inherent in our operating environment. You should be intellectually strong, with good communication skills and the ability to forge positive working relationships with everyone from elected members to trade unions; a particular strength in communicating and embedding strategic HR priorities will be a definite advantage. Issues such as traded and shared services, culture change, leadership development and workforce planning will all come into sharp focus over the next 12-18 months, and applicants should be able to bring a demonstrable understanding of these and many other aspects.

Friday 19 February 2016

Labour Friends of Palestine condemn government's attack on local authority ethical policies

I don't normally publish press releases from the Labour Party but this might be of interest to readers and local councillors in the context of previous postings on this blog regarding proposed government curbs on the rights of councils and other public bodies to make ethical choices regarding procurement and pension fund investments.

This statement was released today by Labour Friends of  Palestine and the Middle East:

This week the Cabinet Office (17/2/2016) published new government guidelines intended “to stop inappropriate procurement boycotts by public authorities.”

Principally aimed at the Palestine supporting BDS campaign it intends to remove the freedom from local authorities and other bodies to refuse to buy goods and services from companies involved in the arms trade, fossil fuels, tobacco and other products.

The change in policy has been condemned by politicians, charities, campaigning and church groups and in the press. Many pointed out that these rules, as intended, would have blocked many groups from supporting the campaigns against Apartheid South Africa.

A spokesperson for Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn MP stated:

People have the right to elect local representatives able to make decisions free of central government political control. That includes withdrawal of investments or procurement on ethical and human rights grounds.

During the General Election LFPME asked candidates to sign up to our 6 election pledges, one of which was - ‘Illegal Settlements: Call for a complete freeze on illegal settlement growth in order to save any hope for a viable two state solution, and end all trade and investment with illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory.’

Boycott campaigners have reacted to the new guidelines as simply re-stating existing policy, which will not stop groups from following an ethical procurement policy that discriminates against companies based on their human rights record or compliance with international law.

Grahame Morris MP Chair of the Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East said:

We have reached a contradictory situation in which we in the International Community economically sustain a major obstacle to peace—the illegal settlements.

Settlement products are the proceeds of crime. They are illicit goods, the product of a brutal occupation and the exploitation of the occupied and their resources. By trading with those who produce them, we financially encourage them.

Those settlements are built on the foundations of immense suffering—that of the Palestinians who have seen their homes destroyed, have been expelled from their own land and are living under brutal oppression—yet we make the illegal settlement enterprise profitable for the occupying power.
That seems to me a gross injustice.
Commenting about the BDS movement, Mr Morris added:

We should not have to boycott settlement goods; we should not be allowed to buy them in the first place. I am appalled that the government are more focused on preventing boycotts and disinvestment from the illegal settlements rather than attempting to end settlement trade.
This undermines their commitment to international law, human rights and resolving the conflict.