Thursday 31 March 2016

Brent Council has ignored Community Asset Transfer expression of interest for Wembley Youth Centre claim - the Centre closes tomorrow

Jaine Lunn submitted this as a comment on my posting about tomorrow's closure of the Granville and Wembley Youth Centres LINK. I think it deserves a more prominent position.

The article in the Brent and Kilburn Times you referred to to in your earlier posting  LINK  is not factually correct: 
"Granville in Anson Road, Cricklewood, and Wembley in London Road, will close for good on Friday, after the town hall failed to find an outside organisation to take over its day-to-day running."
Wembley Crime Prevention submitted an expression of interest in a Community Asset Transfer in early February of this year for Wembley Youth Centre. Brent Council  confirmed receipt  and acceptance of the Expression of Interest but so far WCP have not received a  further response from Brent Council. 

Wembley Crime Prevention has been to every community meeting and consultation with regard to Youth Services Provision in the borough.  Muhammed Butt himself is well aware of how important Wembley Youth Club as a base for Wembley Crime Prevention's projects and WCP's  active campaigns "Just Don't" refering to young people carrying knives, and their petition to ban shops from selling knives to under 21 years old without ID, along with active involvment in mentoring and mediation in preventing gang activity in KFC and MacDonalds particularly in Wembley but over the whole borough.

I have also heard from a reliable source that Roundwood will close too, as only 3 staff have been retained for a further 3 months as a ploy to " make it look good until the dust settles" as I understand they have been discussions with the YMCA who wish to run this facility, which is the only way they may have a chance of getting any young people through the door.

Wembley Crime Prevention have, and were until yesterday, running most of the projects at Wembley Youth and Community Centre, along with Junior Collins who has been employed by Brent Council as Youth Leader at this facility for 25 years. Boxing classes for Male and Female Youth, Self Defence classes for Females, Taekwondo, Basketball , Football, Street Dance, Homework Club, Mentoring for Young People who have or are susceptible to being involved in Gang culture. The majority of assets housed at this Youth Club are owned by Wembley Crime Prevention charity, and they have consistently invested in upgrading the facilities such as installing a new kitchen and bathrooms a few years ago. 

These projects have and still are being funded and supported by "Children in Need" and were featured on the recent fundraising live programme on BBC1 in November 2015 aswell as BBC News London. WCP is also funded and supported by Wembley National Stadium, Sport England, Mayor of London Fund, Edward Harvist Trust, Grassroots, Asda Wembley, MacDonalds, Daniels Estate Agents and the now defunct Ward Working fund of Brent Council. All Youth projects have now been temporarily suspended as of yesterday because of Brent Councils decision. So where does that leave the young people of Brent? 

Will they go the Roundwood Facility? I doubt it. It is common knowledge, and it has been outlined at many community meetings, the only reason the Roundwood facility would be kept open as a hub is purely because of the financial implications incurred by Brent Council. Roundwood was funded by £4.997 million from National Lottery, and it would involve a payback the same as Stonebridge Adventure Playground if it were closed. Roundwood has never been popular or utilised by young people or ever would be for many reasons, one of which it is only open for 4 hours a week, 2 hours on a Monday and Friday and has more staff than patrons, runs no projects, and despite having "state of the art facilities", and where its situated.

However I do question the role of Brent Youth Parliament ( whom the council continue to finance at a cost of £60K per annum) who is purported to play a "valuable role within the Council's decision making process" surely we should have heard something from them, as it has been reported they would be part of the consultation process and strategy for the future. I would have thought they would be shouting from the rooftops " save our Youth Services" if only to protect their own existence. Sad to say I have not heard a whisper or seen any comments from anyone representing BYP.

Greens call for Parliament recall over Tata Steel crisis

The Green Party has added its voice to calls for Parliament to be urgently recalled in the wake of the potential closure of Tata Steel sites across the UK.

Caroline Lucas MP has written to the Prime Minister, to make the case for urgent government action to support the sector.

Lucas said:
This week’s crisis in Port Talbot and elsewhere has not come out of the blue – Britain’s steel industry has been in trouble for a long time now.  Yet the government appears to have been asleep on the job. 
In December, the Business, Innovation and Skills committee of MPs noted, in its review of the government’s response to last year’s Redcar steel crisis, that other EU countries – including Germany, France, Italy and Spain – have done far more to protect their industries from the collapse in global steel prices, and the dumping of excess steel by China. 
Yet Sajid Javid has had the gall to blame the EU for not introducing tariffs on Chinese steel that is being unfairly dumped on world markets and putting higher quality European production at risk, when it was precisely the British Government that blocked higher tariffs proposed by the Commission.   No wonder some are concluding that ministers are refusing to protect our steel industry in order to attract Chinese finance for Hinkley Point and pretending it’s about free trade. 
The Prime Minister’s reluctance to contemplate public ownership shows yet again a government putting ideology above practical support.   Time is now of the essence.  Opposition parties need to collectively step up to the plate vacated by Tory ministers, and come together to formulate a plan not only for protecting the 40,000 jobs now at risk, but ensuring a long-term, low-carbon future for Britain’s steel industry.  That’s why I’m adding my voice to the increasingly loud and urgent calls for Parliament to be recalled.
The party’s leader, Natalie Bennett says her party “stands ready” to get behind an “appropriate” solution to the crisis.

Bennett added:
The government appears to be caught off guard by the potential closure, they knew the dire state of Tata’s finances, yet did nothing about it.

There is a growing perception that the government is putting its relationship with China above fighting for stronger anti-dumping measures to protect our industry.  The Prime Minister is failing this vital manufacturing industry at a time when the US is readily able and willing to introduce tariffs.

The Green Party stands ready to get behind an appropriate government-led solution that works with the steel works owners, unions and communities to find a solution that keeps the plant open, secures people’s jobs and the economic base of entire communities, while they advance towards more energy-efficient, modern production methods in which the UK could be world leaders.

Children's activities for Easter holiday at the Yellow Pavilion

 The Yellow Pavilion is off the pedestrianised Olympic Way opposite Wembley Park station

Yellow Pavilion Easter egg hunt with Lindt
Thursday 31st March ◦ 14:00-16:00 ◦ free ◦ booking not required
Follow our trail around Wembley Park and help the Easter Bunny solve clues to find hidden prizes. Starts at the Yellow Pavilion.  Children must be accompanied by an adult. All finishers will receive a special treat from Lindt. Contact  for details.

Fabric dyeing workshop

Friday 1st April ◦ 14:00-16:00 ◦ age 8+ ◦ free ◦ booking not required
Come and learn techniques for dying your own fabric. Create tie-dyed spirals, sunbursts and stripes; try watercolour effects with ice dying; and give the ancient Japanese technique of Shibori a go. Contact for more details.


Monday 4th April: 14:00-16:00 ◦ age 5+ ◦ adults £2.50, children £1.50 ◦ booking not required
Come and join us for a fun time, learn new skills, get your creative juices flowing and make new friends.
Decorate a cardboard or MDF item using a similar technique to papier-mâché, but with designer tissue papers.
Glass painting

Wednesday 6th April ◦ 14:00-16:00 ◦ age 5+ ◦ adults £2.50, children £1.50 ◦ booking not required
Come and join us for a fun time, learn new skills, get your creative juices flowing and make new friends.
Decorate a glass item for display using markers and paints.
Contact for details.
Fabric printing workshop

Friday 8th April ◦ 14:00-16:00 ◦ age 8+ ◦ free ◦ booking not required
Come along and learn some techniques for printing on fabric. Have a go at batik, simple screen-printing, block printing and more. Contact for more details.

Wednesday 30 March 2016

NUT Adopts new policy on Climate Change

NUT Conference passed the following Climate Change Motion


Conference recognises the following:

1. Keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or below is essential if human civilisation is to be sustained and there is to be a future for our children;
2. Doing so requires sharp cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions on a very rapid timescale;
3. This requires 75-80% of known fossil fuel reserves to be left in the ground;
4. The technology exists to make a transition to a sustainable carbon neutral society with gains in living standards for the majority of humanity at an annual cost little greater than the current cost of annual fossil fuel subsidies, but this is incompatible with high levels of inequality and a society based on aspiration for luxurious lifestyles;
5. That growth will have to be primarily in those areas of the economy that enable this transition to take place;
6. The world’s wealthiest countries will have to make cuts in emissions of 8-10% a year (on top of those made by exporting manufacturing and related pollution to China and other countries);
7. Governments will have to put our economies on a war footing and take charge of necessary investment in sustainable energy, transport and urban planning because the private sector is not doing what is necessary;
8. This will not happen while the needs of our planet and our civilisation are held to ransom by the short-term profitability of the fossil fuel industries; and
9. This has profound implications for the structure and content of our education system, both in terms of content and values.

Conference instructs the Executive to call on the Government for:

i. The production of national plan for the most rapid possible transition to a carbon zero economy, including an immediate reversal of the current Government’s withdrawal of support from wind and solar energy;
ii. The most rapid possible retrofitting of all school buildings to make them as carbon neutral as possible (as part of a concerted plan for all publically owned buildings);
iii. An end to restrictions on solar panels by heritage considerations;
iv. A re-examination of the curriculum to put sustainability and the values of a sustainable society at the heart of it;
v. An immediate abandonment on fracking domestically and an embargo
on the import of any fracked gas or tar sand oil from any other country;
vi. The most rapid possible transfer of fossil fuel subsidies to sustainable energy generation and the phasing out of coal power without Carbon Capture Storage by 2023; and
vii. The most rapid possible socialisation of power generation.

Conference further instructs the Executive to:

a. Negotiate with the DFE on a new curriculum and seek support from other education unions;
b. Convene a working party of all interested teachers to work with relevant campaigns, like Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and Campaign against Climate Change, to find all the aspects of the current curriculum that can be developed to draw out a sustainable content and to examine those areas or values that need to be challenged and changed and produce model alternatives; making 2016-17 the year of the Green Curriculum;
c. Work with these campaigns on developing termly themes that link educational content with active citizenship and encourage our members to push them in schools;
d. Encourage union bodies at all levels to support national and local demonstrations and campaigns against fracking and climate change, negotiate with local authorities to make our schools carbon neutral solar power stations and press governing bodies to adopt a green school plan of action;
e. Take this issue up with other unions through the TUC, our international counterparts bilaterally and through Education International, supporting initiatives like the German TUCs new ‘Marshal Plan’ for Europe; and
f. Affiliate to the campaign against climate change:

Campaign Aims and Objectives

The Campaign against Climate Change (CCC) exists to push for the urgent and radical action we need to prevent the catastrophic destabilisation of global climate.
The destabilisation of global climate has become the very greatest threat to our planet and everyone on it – with the possible exception only of all-out war with modern weapons of mass-destruction. We do not know how much irreversible damage we have done already but we know that if we do not act now the effects will be many times more devastating still.
1. The CCC exists to secure the action we need - at a local, national and, above all, international level - to minimise harmful climate change and the devastating impacts it will have. To that end the CCC seeks to raise awareness about the gravity and urgency of the threat from climate change and to influence those with the greatest power to take effective action to do so with the utmost speed and resolution. Where ignorance, short term greed and vested interests stand in the way of the action that is urgently needed, the CCC exists to fight against all of these things.
2. In particular the CCC brings people together for street demonstrations, designed to get together the greatest number of people possible, and to create a mass movement to push for our goals.
3. The CCC seeks a global solution to a global problem and aims to push for an international emissions reductions treaty that is both effective in preventing the catastrophic destabilisation of global climate and equitable in the means of so doing. To be effective such a treaty needs to secure such reductions in the global total of greenhouse gas emissions as are deemed by the broad consensus of qualified scientific opinion to be necessary to prevent harmful climate change. The CCC aims to campaign against those with the greatest responsibility for preventing or delaying the progress we urgently need towards an international climate treaty.
4. The CCC recognises that the issue of the destabilisation of global climate has enormous implications in terms of social justice and global inequality. The damage to the earth’s atmosphere has so far been done mainly by the rich nations but it is the poorest who will suffer the greatest and most immediately. The CCC recognises that any solution to the problem must be as fair as possible, incorporating principles of social justice and not exacerbating global inequalities.
5. The CCC aims to bring together as many people as possible who support our broad aims of pushing for urgent action on climate and reducing global emissions. The CCC does not therefore campaign on the important but more detailed questions of how best to achieve these emission reductions and recognises that supporters will have different and deeply held views on these issues.

Granville and Wembley Youth Centres to close on Friday

I published this on Brent Council's Youth Service cuts on October 9th 2015:
The proposed retention of the Roundwood Centre means that there will be less money for other aspects of the youth service and the Wembley Youth Centre and Granville will no longer be funded  from April 2016.  They will be handed back to the Council's Asset Management Service and presumably sold off. The running costs of the Poplar Grove Centre will in future be met by Brent River College.
Today the Kilburn Times LINK reports:
Brent Council is to close two youth centres and the remaining two will change the services it will offer.

Granville in Anson Road, Cricklewood, and Wembley in London Road, will close for good on Friday, after the town hall failed to find an outside organisation to take over its day-to-day running.
I am afraid that there was never a real chance that an outside organisation would run the centres without funding and I suspect the Council knew this.

Look out for regeneration proposals at the two sites.

Kilburn By-election May 5th 2016 - details

Tuesday 29 March 2016

UPDATED: Now a Monster 'Twin Towers' for Park Lane/Wembley High Road

Having recently posted LINK a story about the 'monster' that Barnet Council and Barratt Homes have erected on the banks of the Welsh Harp it pains me to see that Brent Council are proposing a 'twin towers' development in the heart of Wembley in which the highest tower is only 3 storeys lower than the West Hendon development.

The developer's, The Hub Group. in their own illustration of the proposed scheme LINK cut off the upper storeys but it is clear that the new buildings will dwarf the Wembley High Road and as I showed with the West Hendon building will dominate the local landscape. I fear it will loom over Park Lane Primary School and King Edward VII Park which are further up Park Lane.

The Officer's Report LINK states that despite the issues around height they support the application in the wider context of regeneration and ongoing changes to the local buildings profile:

As with the Brent House application the planners recognise that the amount of amenity space in the development is deficient but tolerate that on the grounds that it is a town centre development with space constraints.

The report has a long section on the issue of 'affordable housing' on the site and viability studies. The proposal that emerged is that the North block will have affordable housing consisting of:

33 units at London Housing Allowance levels (LHA)

35 units at 80% of Open Market Rents (OMR)

The other units in the block would be let at open market rents:

35 units at  private sector rents - full market rents (PSR)

The 136 units in the South Block will be sold on the open market.

The officers contend that this is better than the initial 43% 'affordable' offer from The Hub Group because that offer was time limited and the eventual agreement is in perpetuity.

Whichever way the 50% affordable target has not been met.

The report notes that no representations have been received from councillors in the affected wards of Preston, Wembley Central and Tokyngton.

Ground floor plan (added in response to a comment below)

Monday 28 March 2016

Michael Rosen spatchcocks SPAG

Government testing demands create a testing industry

Michael Rosen, broadcaster and children's author, has offered the text below to anyone campaigning on the current revised SATs and curriculum for primary schools.  I know SPAG is causing great stress for pupils and teachers, as well as those parents trying to help their children:

Nick Gibb has been on talking about how they've brought grammar back into schools. Please feel free to use any or all of the below as part of any campaign to oppose the Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar tests. 

1. Grammar was hardly taught in state primary schools in the 1950s. it was saved till secondary schools and then it was mostly in grammar schools,and top stream in secondary modern schools i.e. for about one third of all pupils, max.The most that was taught in primary schools, when I was at school, was noun, verb, adjective, adverb - not even subject, verb, object. I publicly call on him to show otherwise, by referring to the 11plus exams of the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s. (I have now provided an example of these in another post here on Facebook. It confirms that many of the terms used in the SPaG were not used in the 1950s and that the questions were, as I remembered them, 'filling in the missing word' and identifying words that exemplified the most common terms.)

2. The grammar that was taught in grammar schools in the 1950s and early 60s was discontinued because after 25 years of O-level exams no evidence was found that teaching that kind of grammar was helping school students to write better. The evidence for this was in the O-level exam results themselves where no correlations were found between the 'grammar question' and the 'composition' question.

3. The grammar that Nick Gibb et al have introduced into schools is not there because anyone can or has shown that it improves children's writing. All it can ever show is that pupils incorporate elements of the grammar into their writing in formulaic, mechanical ways e.g. by random and artificial insertion of 'fronted adverbials', 'embedded relative clauses' and 'expanded noun phrases'.

4. The grammar they have introduced was only introduced because the Bew Report of 2011 said that it produced right/wrong answers in test situations. This is not true. It doesn't, as evidenced by the number of questions that produce several possible answers.

5. This kind of grammar is not directly related to how children and adults are using words and language as a whole. A good deal of it is made up of artificial sentences which children have to use to spot parts of speech. There is an alternative to this. It involves observing real language in use, how writers and speakers are using it to communicate and express themselves. It then can involve a combination of imitation, adaptation, invention and a limited amount of naming of parts.

6. Several of the categories in this government directed grammar are heavily disputed by grammarians. It's dishonest to pretend to children and teachers that they are not. It is also dishonest to pretend to children, parents and teachers that there are people who produce a fault-free way of speaking and writing. We all make errors and slips. We vary from each other in how we speak and write. That is because language is one kind of human behaviour so there is no reason to expect that it will be any more uniform than our clothes or our ways of dancing.

7. Our children are being put under stress to get difficult, abstract concepts learned off for these tests. It is very doubtful that many of them will understand the concepts being taught. This is evidenced by the fact that people who write the test papers and the homework booklets themselves don't appear to understand all the concepts involved. Part of the problem here is that the concepts themselves are nowhere near as watertight as it is claimed. `Language is far from suitable as a site for coming up with yes/no, right/wrong categories. Most linguists know this.

Sunday 27 March 2016

The monstrous block that has vandalised the Welsh Harp

In 2013 there was a cross party campaign opposing the redevelopment of the West Hendon Estate in Barnet which borders on the Welsh Harp. The biggest scandal of course is the treatment of social housing tenants on the existing estate. Despite an amazing resistance they have effectively been socially cleansed to make way for a luxury development.

There is another scandal which has changed the local landscape for ever. A luxury multi-storey block now dominates that end of the Welsh Harp and while its residents enjoy a wonderful natural landscape from their flats, those on the other side of the reservoir are greeted by a huge tower block on the edge of a nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest.

There was cross-party opposition to the development  from Brent Council LINK but Barnet went ahead supported by Eric Pickles who was the Communities and Local Government Secretary at the time, as well as Boris Johnson, the London Mayor.

Three years on the extent of Barnet Council's social and environmental vandalism is clear as the development steams ahead. Campaigners warned that the proposed multi-storey block was completely out of character with the surroundng area, suited more to a development in the City of London that outer-London suburbia. The fear is that this will set a precedent for further develpment on the banks of the Welsh Harp.

Saturday 26 March 2016

Brent out-sourced Dumping & Litter Patrols called-in for Scrutiny and some vital questions

Bath time at Randall Avenue, NW2
The Scrutiny Committee will consider the proposal for uniformed patrols to provide on the spot fines for environmental offences such as litter, dog fouling, fly-tipping, spitting, fly posting and graffiti at problem areas across Brent at its April 5th meeting.

Although  the 12 month contract to  Kingdom Security was approved by Cabinet the proposal has come in for criticism on several grounds, the most important of which are:
·      The terms, pay and conditions of the people who will work on patrols, and their relationships to officers working on enforcement currently working in the Council
·      The lack of consideration of an in-house option
·      The process by which Kingdom was chosen as a partner for the trial period
·      Some of the costings contained in the report 
  The Kingdom Security Enforcement Officers would be paid £9.40 per hours for a 40 hour week which would include weekend and evening work. Working pay out at 52 weeks a year this comes to £19,552 for each operative plus extra if one is a foreman. The current Council Waste Enforcement Officers employed by the Council are on  £31,360-£33,660 a year. The former, despite being on slightly above the London Living Wage of £9.40 an hour, will be worse off than similar employees whose jobs have been cut , as well as well below  the rate (and working conditions etc) of the Council’s own employees.

The Council Officers to justify this on the grounds that the roles are different:
The Waste Enforcement roles attract a salary of Pay Scale PO1 (currently £31,368- £33,660); however, these directly employed officers undertake very different work. They use investigatory powers to administer enforcement cases through the formal process right up to and including representing the council in court, which accounts for the higher job evaluation outcome. 
The work that Kingdom is being asked to do is very much intended to complement and not replace the work of the existing in house team, who do not have the capacity, and are not equipped to carry out pro-active litter enforcement patrols. 

The Officers’  Report admits that no job evaluation has been done for the out-sourced workers so it is hard to see how a comparison can be made.

The failure to consider an in-house option is justified on the grounds that this is a 12 month pilot project and has less risk attached than if the operatives were directly employed by the Council.  They also rely on the claimed  positive experience of Ealing Council with Kingdom. 

However, this does not directly answer the general local government principle, which the Council enforces on schools for example, that three bids should be sought for contracts. This has not been done by the Council which instead went straight to Kingdom.

The costings assume the employment of 4 operatives issuing  5 Fixed Penalty Notices each per day for which the Council will pay Kingdon £46 per Notice.  Thus, as the FPNs will be for £80 each the sum is not equally shared between the Council and Kingdom. On the basis of 5,200 FPNs annually this gives Kingdom an income of £239,200. Equivalent to £60,000 per operative before wages and other costs - not a bad return. However, an additional report to Scrutiny Committee suggests that there will also be a supervisor and admin staff.

This is not the end of the matter however as it is assumed, based on the Ealing experience, that only 70% of the fines will be paid. Kingdom will receive £46 for 100% of the Notices but Brent Council £34 for only 70% pf them.  This gives a total income of 3,460 Notices (70% of total) x £80=£291,200.

Once Kingdom has been paid its £239,200 this leaves Brent with £52,000.

Scrutiny will need to consider whether this represents Best Value for residents, the issue of what will be done to recover the 30% of unpaid Notices, and whether an in-house solution will be considered after the 12 month pilot period and indeed what Kingdom's reaction will be to a move to in-house if they have successfully delivered the contract.

Scrutiny may also be interested in looking at the wider costs in the contract for Brent Council in terms of the support they are offering which presumably will come out f the £52,000, as well as what appears to be additional Kingdom staff (admin support and senior supervisory officer):

The typical responsibilities to be undertaken by both the council and by the contractor are set out below:

·      Provide authorised officer identity cards to all Enforcement Officers working to the direction of Brent. 

·      Provide stationery and meet postage costs in respect of the service. 

·      Arrange for Enforcement Officers to be authorised to issue FPNs on behalf of 

·      Provide guidance as to areas to be patrolled and times of patrols. 

·      Provide workstations for administrative officers employed by the contractor 
(essentially, the Council will be required to provide an administrative base for Kingdom’s operatives at the Civic Centre. Such staff will attend on an ad-hoc basis, and such arrangements will be facilitated locally within the Environmental Services Department). Kingdom will be required to sign a licence covering any such ad hoc occupation as set out in paragraph 8.7. 

·      Manage and administer the appeals process

·      Issue FPNs to anyone caught committing an environmental offence. 

·      Provide fully trained, to Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) standard, 
Enforcement Officers, admin support and a senior officer for supervision. 

·      Provide uniform agreeable to Brent. 

·      Ensure Enforcement Officers carry out enquiries to ensure accurate identity 
details have been obtained from offenders before issue of FPNs. 

·      Provide statistical information and other reports, including equality monitoring.  
 Not issue an FPN to a person under the age of 18 or those suspected of suffering 
      mental ill health
In addition Brent Council is considering extending the contract. The viability of this seems doubtful given the amount of littering and fly-tipping in the borough:

Once established- and if successful, the scope of the contract may be expanded during the course of the pilot to incorporate other offences, such as:
·      Graffiti and Flyposting – Section 43 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 

·      Dog Fouling – Section 3 Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1990 

·      Exposing vehicles for sale on a road - section 6 of the Clean Neighbourhoods 
and Environment Act 2005
·      Carrying out restricted works on a motor vehicle on a road - section 6 of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005
The Officer's report goes further to suggest other 'Added Value' benefits:
In addition to on-street enforcement, the contractor is also able to provide the following: 
·      ‘No cost’ provision of back office support and administration 

·      Trade waste and residential waste investigations 

·      Dealing with juvenile offenders and education through schools. 

·      Delivering a bolt on service aimed at investigating failures to recycle domestic 
waste correctly. 

·      Positive contribution to the reduction of street litter by intelligence-led patrols 

·      Working with the police to target other types of antisocial behaviour. 

The four enforcement officers (plus or including a senior officer) and admin support staff look as if they will be very busy.

Thursday 24 March 2016

Don't let them silence the Green Party

The Green Party has launched a campaign to make an unofficial Party Political Broadcast (PPB) to ensure the Green voice is not silenced from political debate.

Earlier this year the BBC denied the Green Party a PPB. Over the course of extended correspondence, the Green Party appealed the initial decision to allocate three PPBs to the Liberal Democrats and UKIP each, and none to the Greens. The decision came despite more than 25,000 people signing a petition calling for the BBC to include the Greens. The Green Party contends that the public broadcaster’s decision does not fully consider and recognise the pattern and direction of electoral support in England and thereby fails both the electorate and our democracy.

Amelia Womack, Green Party deputy leader who, alongside deputy leader Shahrar Ali, handed in an appeal letter to the BBC Trust, said:

The BBC’s decision means over a million people will not be given the opportunity to hear from the party they voted for last May in a PPB in 2016. It means we are the only party with an MP that is not being given the chance to be heard on national television in England. You don’t need to be a Green to think that’s unfair.

Despite the knock-back, the Green Party is determined to roll with the punches. With your help we will make the PPB they didn’t want you to see.
Shahrar Ali said:
The Green Party is committed to ending business-as-usual Westminster politics and delivering the real change for the common good that people desperately want and our planet desperately needs - that’s why we will do all we can to continue to make sure people are able to hear and share our values and policies.
By helping fund this PPB you can contribute towards a broadened political debate. Ahead of this May’s elections, the Greens stand on a fresh, distinctive platform. We are the only party that places environmental sustainability at the heart of everything we do; we are united in opposing Trident; and only the Greens are presenting a viable alternative to our stuttering economic system which is insecurely grounded on unequal pay and long hours.
In their upcoming - and separate - Party Election Broadcast (PEB), the Green Party will ensure that the Greens' voice is heard ahead of the London Assembly, Mayoral and local elections in May 2016.

Hundreds of teachers tell Government it has bitten off more than it can chew on academies

Brent officers propose removal of councillors from Independent Person interview process

The issue of the Independent Person/s who take part in the process of complaints against Council members  has been discussed on this blog  (See LINK including comments) and new appointments were due to be made this week.

However  Mildred Phillips, current Director of Human Resources, has made a recommendation to the General Purposes Committee for a change in the interview procedure:
On 16 December 2015, the Committee, amongst other things, approved the recruitment process for the appointment of new Independent Persons. It was proposed that the role be advertised and thereafter the Director Human Resources, the Leader and the lead Member for HR matters (i.e. the Deputy Leader) short-list applicants, conduct interviews and to recommend appointments to Full Council for approval. 

Subsequently, on 19 February 2016, the vacancies were advertised and the closing
 date for applications was 13 March 2016. The next stage therefore is to short-list and interview suitable candidates.   

On reflection, having regard to the dual role of the Independent Person (i.e. to give views in the context of Member code of conduct complaints and the dismissal of certain statutory officers) as well as the fact that the appointments have to be approved by Full Council, it is proposed that the shortlisting and interviews be conducted by officers only. Namely, the Director Human Resources, together with two Strategic Directors.
As this report does not go to the General Purposes Committee until March 31st the appointment will be delayed.  Councillors Butt and Pavey are members of the General Purposes Committeee along with some other members of the Cabinet and Cllr Kasangra (Conservative).

Meanwhile this afternoon interviews are being held for the post of Director of Human Resources. The Panel consists of Cllrs Butt, Pavey, Hirani, Mashari from the Cabinet and Cllr Kasangra (Conservative)


Rebel Tulip Siddiq vows to keep fighting on HS2

The first stage of the HS2 route was approved by the House of Commons yesterday in just 37 minutes. Keir Starmer (Holborn and St Pancras) and Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn) rebelled against Labour's three line whip  and voted against the £56bn project.

In a message to constituents yesterday Tulip Siddiq said:
Today in Parliament, I voted against the High Speed Rail 2 (HS2) Bill that will devastate areas of Camden and Brent.

I have campaigned against HS2 for the past seven years as I believe it is an ill-thought out scheme that will lead to bedlam on our roads, disruption to the education of school children and a compromised local environment.

Further, these plans will cost taxpayers billions of pounds. I believe this money could instead be spent on projects that will actually bring real improvements to living standards across the country.

Having spoken against this Bill at the Select Committee, and again in today’s debate, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank residents who engaged with the lengthy and costly petition process. Though the Bill received support from across Parliament, it is your voice that will force HS2 to fulfil its assurances to compensate and mitigate the worst of the impacts.

My first priority as the MP for Hampstead and Kilburn is to protect residents in Camden and Brent. Therefore, I am proud to have voted against High Speed Rail 2 today in Parliament.

The scheme have now been granted permission by parliament, but I will keep fighting for mitigation for constituents.
This is what Keir Starmer had to say in the debate:

New clause 22 deals with Euston, which is in the middle of my constituency. It is not easy to convey to the House the devastating impact that HS2 will have on my constituency, but let me try. HS2 will come into Primrose Hill and crash through to Euston, destroying everything in its path.

Let me give the House the sheer numbers affecting my constituency: 2,986 people live within 60 metres of the construction site, a further 3,186 live within 120 metres, and 11,414 within 300 metres. That is 17,568 people in my constituency within 300 metres of the construction site. Some 220 family houses will be demolished, and up 1,000 people will lose their homes. Unless there is a plan for an integrated station at Euston, there is the risk that another 150 family homes will be lost, affecting another 600 people—1,600 people are at risk of losing their home.
Many of the family homes that are not destroyed will be affected by noise, and according to HS2’s own figures, 1,025 family homes—that is 4,000 people—will be affected by noise that requires mitigating measures. Measures are already in place to consider up to another 850 homes and another 3,400 people. Some 7,000 people in my constituency could need noise mitigation measures because of what will happen with HS2 at Euston.

That is not the end of it. If Euston is redeveloped, 3.5 million tonnes of spoil will need to be removed from the site, which is the equivalent of 26 miles of tunnelling for Crossrail. All that must come out of Euston, and there is no guarantee or assurance that that will be done by rail. The net effect for my constituents is the risk of 800 two-way lorry movements a day to remove that spoil, and 90% of those lorries will be HGVs.

That brings me on to air quality, which is notoriously bad in London. It is particularly bad in the Euston area, and the HS2 environmental statement indicates that HS2 will have a substantial impact on nitrogen dioxide levels in a third of locations in the Euston area. If that was not enough on its own—it will have a devastating impact on the constituency—let me throw in two further factors.

The first factor is time. The original HS2 Bill was premised on the completion of a new HS2 station at Euston by 2026. For my constituents, that seemed like a long time. In September 2015, the Government lodged “Additional Provisions 3”, their current plans for Euston. A new station is now to be developed in three phases. Stage A, to the west of the existing station, involves the construction between 2017 and 2026 of six platforms needed for phase 1. Stage B2, the construction in the second phase of further platforms within the existing station but not all of it, is intended to be completed by 2033. The redevelopment of the existing station, stage B2, is unfunded and unplanned, and may begin before or after 2033—half a station in twice the time.

Another factor—there are more I could add to this litany of devastation in Holborn and St Pancras—is that even in 2033, having endured a construction site for the best part of 20 years, my constituents will not see a complete and integrated station in their constituency. On 1 December 2015, Tim Mould QC, HS2’s counsel, outlined to the Select Committee that a new integrated station at Euston is:
“not deliverable within appropriate funding constraints” and that this is the assessment of
“the government, the Chancellor, the Prime Minister”.
There is no timetable for Government funding to complete the final phase. As a result of the lack of planning and integration, Crossrail 2, which hopes to have an integrated station, is now planning on the basis that it may have to build part of its station in Somers Town, removing 150 buildings and displacing another 600 people—half a station in twice the time, with twice the damage.

A child born next year in my constituency will grow up and leave home knowing nothing but construction work. A pensioner beginning retirement at 70 next year will live out their entire retirement knowing nothing but construction work around them. It is no wonder that at every meeting and everywhere I go in my constituency, anxiety is etched on the faces of everybody who talks to me about HS2. It is an appalling situation, one that is wholly unacceptable on any basis.

I was elected to represent the people of Holborn and St Pancras. It is my privilege to do so; it is also my duty. I speak to each and every one of my constituents when I say that I will stand with them and fight with them to resist the wholly unacceptable damage that HS2 will bring to our communities.

Wednesday 23 March 2016

London Councils statement on forced primary academisation

SOS: SAVE OUR SCHOOLS Westminster Cathedral 5.30pm tonight - we can defeat these plans

I hear teachers will be joined by some head teachers and governors, as well as hundreds concerned that their schools are being stolen, at this evening's protest against government plans to force all schools to become academies. Unfortunately a Brent Council briefing meeting for head teachers and chairs of governors is being held at the same time so I won't be able to go.  I hope thousands turn out to show the government that their plans will be met with resistance - not only to defend democratic oversight of education but also to prevent privatisation of our schools.

It is important to stress that the plans are only at White Paper stage, they are not legislation, so heads and governors should not be panicked into premature action. The proposals are being opposed by the Local Government Association, Tory shire counties, the NAHT and parent groups, and (see below) the Financial Times and even David Cameron's own Tory local lead on schools. It is a battle that can be won.

A petition calling for a public inquiry and referendum on the plans has already gained 130,000 signatures and organisers hope for even more. 100,000 earns the possibility of a House of Commons debate on the issue. Please sign LINK

Meanwhile the Financial Times has raised doubts about the plans:

Even the Tory lead for schools in David Cameron's home country has denounced the plans as 'Big Brother Gone Mad':

The last word goes to cartoonist Ros Asquith:

Monday 21 March 2016

Disabled People Against Cuts protest March 23rd

From Disabled People Against Cuts


 Dear friends,

Protest at Parliament
10am onwards Wednesday 23 March
London SW1A 0AA
Westminster tube

Please come to this protest called by Disabled People Against Cuts to press MPs against cuts to disability benefits.  We’ll be there! And we don’t want them to put the squeeze on pensioners now instead...  Please let us know if you can come, email back or call us on 020 7482 2496.

From Disabled People Against Cuts:

URGENT Call Out for Wednesday March 23rd

Many apologies for the very short notice which we know will make it impossible for some people to get to this. Due to the unexpected events of the last few days and the sudden resignation of IDS and what seems to be an increasing number of Tory MPs that the attacks they’ve made against disabled people for the last 6 years are unjust means we feel it is important we have a presence in parliament before PMQs.

Please meet at visitors’ entrance to parliament at 10 am or inside the main lobby if arriving later.

If you can definitely get to this could you please drop us an email to

Later on Wednesday there is the prptest against forced academies 5pm Assemble, Westminsstre Cathedral