Saturday 30 April 2016

After the 26 storey 'Twin Towers' a 28 storey block planned for Wembley

Readers with long memories will recall that the views of the new 'iconic' Wembley Stadium were to be protected but the Stadium is fast being hidden in a cluster of tall buildings.

This latest application going to Planning Committee on May 9th  is at the corner of Fulton Road and Albion Way, replacing Apex House and Albion House.

As with the 'Twin Towers' planners suggest that 'good design' makes up for the height the new Apex House, at 28 storeys two storeys higher than the tallest of the Twin Towers.

The new argument for this building and the replacement for Mahatma Gandhi House is that they fit in with the cluster of tall buildings around the stadium'

Apex House will be more private student accommodation with 558 rooms sleeping 580 students.

The lack of daylight is excused on the basis that their stay will be only temporary and 'consequently the impact of the proposal on the occupants of the building is considered to be acceptable.

This illustration of the development looking along Olympic Way tucks the new building  away behind the current 'cluster'.

The planners say LINK
The subject site is located within an area where tall buildings have been developed, and the proposal would add to the cluster effect of these tall buildings. Notwithstanding this, the site is relatively small and the proposed building height is taller than the surrounding context. The massing of the building, with a tower element and two plinths is supported as it ensures the building relates well to the surrounding context. The two plinths relate directly to the adjacent development and help to create an urban block. The materials have been chosen to reflect and compliment those on the surrounding buildings whilst the mass is concentrated at the corner of Fulton Road and Albion Way, terminating key views along Fulton Road. 
The buildings are close to the existing Danes Court flats which are situated in gardens close to the railway line.  They are beginning to be dwarfed by Quintain's redevelopment of the Wembley Stadium area.

Just down the High Road from the Twin Towers, close to Wembley Stadium station, plans have been submitted for Mahatma Gandhi House, the former Brent Council housing offices.
The building that will replace Mahatma Gandhi House
By comparison to Apex House, this  is a dinky 21 storeys high and has received objections similar to those for the Twin Towers.  A mixture of requested planning changes and viability assessments has chased the affordable housing element in the development down to 20.2% LINK
The applicant has now offered to provide 20.2% affordable housing (25 affordable rented and 15 shared ownership units) on a 63:37 tenure split on the site (accounting for 40 units) and this is the final proposal presented to Planning Committee. BPS have confirmed the revised FVA and sensitivity analysis supports this proposal. Officers recommend that this represents the maximum amount of affordable housing the scheme can reasonably and viable deliver, at a broadly policy compliant affordable housing tenure ratio, and I (sic) therefore supported subject to an appropriate s106 financial review mechanism to be triggered post implementation of the scheme, such that a contribution towards offsite affordable housing provision is made should market conditions and viability improve 

Objections are similar to those raised in the case of the 'Twin Towers':
             The proposed development will be very high indeed and will be visible from Dennis Avenue, proving that the proposed development is very tall, and not in keep with the other buildings in the area (21-storeys is too tall for the area but 11-storeys is acceptable and in keep with local surroundings)
             There are already a number of new recent developments, and new proposed ones which are planning in 'dwarfing' the current area and making it congested and claustrophobic.
             Privacy from bathroom window will be highly compromised as this will be in the line of view to the proposed development.
             Infrastructure around the area cannot cope - roads are already very busy and roads are suffering with large potholes.
             Proposed 202 residential units is far too much, coupled with new proposed developments in the area will have a massive affect on the already busting point of the local hospitals, schools and emergency services.
             Query whether our rainwater and sewage systems cope with such large proposed developments
             The area is already over developed and more pending with other developments such are SW Lands, Brent House, Cottrell House etc. Where will the residents park - Mostyn, Dennis and Linden Avenues are already full, and feel that a knock-on effect will leave the proposed development residents parking in the above roads.
             Traffic - there is already a major traffic issue in the area, and Wembley Stadium and the surrounding area are now encouraging the public to bring cars into the area. Previously when the Stadium was being built, we as residents were told that there is only going to be limited parking available for Stadium and SSE Area visitors as we want them to come by public transport. This has gone out of the window.
Public buses are already clogging up the roads, and with more residents, there will be a need for more public transport leading to a complete standstill of traffic. Buses are also terminating at Wembley Hill road (at the end of Linden Avenue). For cars trying to come out of Linden Avenue and take either a left or right turn at the junction is asking for a death wish as you cannot see past the terminated buses and cars are coming very fast. This should not be a termination point for buses
There were comments in favour:
The plans will be good for the area
             It will look nice
             Better than what is currently there
             Closer to shops
             Creating jobs for young people
             Better opportunities for young people
             Add something interesting in this up and coming area
             Good location - near stadium and the station
              Brings revenue into the Borough

Tokyngton and Wembley Central ward councillors have submitted no comments and neither has Wembley Hill Residents Association.
The Planning Committee will be a busy one as it is also considering the school extension and housing that led to the demolition of the Stonebridge Adventure Playground. LINK

Meanwhile residents of Roe Green Village are continuing to battle Powerleague Lucuzade's development on the Kingsbury High School.  They are at a loss to know why Wembley National Stadium, some distance from Roe Green, are statutory consultees for the planning application. Are the days of the temporary Powerleague pitches between the Stadium and Brent Civic Centre numbered?

A Planning Committee was cancelled last week, perhaps as a result of the disarray in the planning department following the loss of key staff LINK but there will be an additional Planning Committee a two days after this one on May 11th  (no agenda available yet). This could signal an attempt to get things through before the Labour Group's May AGM when committeee personnel and Lead Member may change.

There is an alternative: Parents Defending Education campaign – launch statement

As Nicky Morgan is booed by headteachers and they consider industrial action against her plans to force all schools to covert to academy status, parents set up their own organisation with an  alternative to the government's education White Paper.

Parents Defending Education campaign – launch statement 
The recent publication of the education White Paper has lifted the lid on government plans for education. The plans concealed from us before the election are now menacingly clear. We have had enough!  We want our children to enjoy and love learning. So we want to rescue our schools from the grip of a series of policies which have affected every aspect of education, from testing to funding, from nurseries to post-16. We also want an end to privatisation and austerity in schools. 

Our schools don’t belong to the government. And our schools don’t belong to the trusts, charities and academy chains. They belong to our children, to the community, to the parents, to the teachers and support staff and to future generations. We recognise government has an important role but it cannot impose its vision on our children without our consent.
Therefore we are launching a ‘Parents Defending Education’ campaign today in order to reassert the rights of parents and engage in the debate about what sort of education we want for our children. None of the plans outlined in the White Paper were put to the electorate at the last election. The government has no mandate. Accordingly we intend to campaign to defeat the White Paper and other key aspects of the government’s education policy. Parents need to stand up for education, stand up for themselves and stand up for our children.
Initially we have five main points:
  • No forced academies – no privatisation
  • No more ‘high stakes’ testing – take the pressure off our children
  • No more cuts – don’t impose austerity on our children
  • Ensure a good school place for every child – with a properly qualified teacher
  • Defend parents’ democratic rights in schools and at local government level
We know there are other very important and connected issues, such
as the impact on children with Special Educational Needs and from economically & socially disadvantaged families. We will work with parents to develop a response to these areas of concern.
We intend to create a delegate based steering committee which will help us unite and focus our campaigning work together to maximise its impact across the country. We also intend to broaden the basis of our campaign as quickly and widely as possible.  We want to work with all groups and organisations who share similar objectives. We will also discuss plans for a national campaign conference for parents and the possibility of a national demonstration.
We are delighted to announce that children’s author, Professor of Children’s Literature and parent Michael Rosen has agreed to be our first patron. We urge parents in every school, in every village, in every town and in every city to meet, discuss, and get organised in the next 4 weeks. We will provide resources to support this as quickly as possible via our Facebook page.
For further information about this statement and to register for the steering committee on 21st May please email:   Facebook: Parents Defending Education. If you can help, please contact us.

Why Brent and Harrow electors should vote Green in the GLA election on Thursday

This is what Jafar Hassan told the Harrow Times when asked why people should vote for him as the Green candidate for the Brent and Harrow constituency. LINK

Green Party candidate Jafar Hassan said:
"London is in an awful housing crisis and the Green Party are the only ones with a viable plan to support and protect renters, and ensure housing is genuinely affordable. 

"This city is becoming more expensive to live in, making it harder for communities to stick together, but also making it completely unfair for those travelling from the zones in Harrow and Brent. We are campaigning to introduce a flat fares system making it cheaper to travel if you're a part time worker or living in the outer parts of London. 

"Investment in cycling and speeding up the introduction of zero emissions taxis and buses. During the school rush on busy roads around Brent and Harrow it is a disgrace that children are being exposed to so much toxic air on a daily basis. I will be fighting for safer cycling routes and ensuring all of the bus routes in our boroughs are electric powered. 

"I've lived in north west London my whole life, I studied both my journalism degree and masters in politics in London. This city along with my upbringing has shaped who I am. My mum who came to this country from Iraq before even turning 20 raised my sister and I on her own. I learnt from her the importance of persevering through difficult times and never losing hope. I will fight to give London back to Londoners and give them the Green policies they want. 

"We absolutely need more Greens on the London Assembly. Your votes for the Green Party in London elections have ensured investment for Cycle Superhighway and Cycle Hire, helped create the London Living Wage Unit, meaning that 60,000 Londoners are now paid a Living Wage, and pushed new housing developments to have more affordable housing. If you only want to give us one vote make sure it is on the orange ballot paper, where if you vote Green, you get Green."

Vote Green on the orange ballot paper to increase Green representation on the GLA

Jewish Socialists' Group on the anti-semitism furore

Amidst the furore over allegations of anti-semitism this statement was issued by the Jewish Socialists' Group. I have known comrades in the JSG since cooperating in  the 70s and 80s over racism in schools and opposition to the activities of the National Front and other right-wing groups. I think their statement worth reproducing here as a calm and rational response as some of the backwash hits Brent:

Antisemitism exists and must be exposed and fought against in the same way as other forms of racism by all who are concerned with combating racism and fascism.

Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are not the same. Zionism is a political ideology which has always been contested within Jewish life since it emerged in 1897, and it is entirely legitimate for non-Jews as well as Jews to express opinions about it, whether positive or negative. Not all Jews are Zionists. Not all Zionists are Jews.

Criticism of Israeli government policy and Israeli state actions against the Palestinians is not antisemitism. Those who conflate criticism of Israeli policy with antisemitism, whether they are supporters or opponents of Israeli policy, are actually helping the antisemites. We reject any attempt, from whichever quarter, to place legitimate criticism of Israeli policy out of bounds.

Accusations of antisemitism are currently being weaponised to attack the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour party with claims that Labour has a “problem” of antisemitism. This is despite Corbyn’s longstanding record of actively opposing fascism and all forms of racism, and being a firm a supporter of the rights of refugees and of human rights globally.

A very small number of such cases seem to be real instances of antisemitism. Others represent genuine criticism of Israeli policy and support for Palestinian rights, but expressed in clumsy and ambiguous language, which may unknowingly cross a line into antisemitism. Further cases are simply forthright expressions of support for Palestinian rights, which condemn Israeli government policy and aspects of Zionist ideology, and have nothing whatsoever to do with antisemitism.

The accusations do not refer to antisemitic actions but usually to comments, often made on social media, long before Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership. Those making the charges now, did not see fit to bring them up at the time, under previous Labour leaders, but are using them now, just before mayoral and local elections, when they believe they can inflict most damage on the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn.

The attack is coming from four main sources, who share agendas: to undermine Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Labour; to defend Israeli government policy from attack, however unjust, racist and harmful towards the Palestinian people; and to discredit those who make legitimate criticisms of Israeli policy or Zionism as a political ideology. As anti-racist and anti-fascist Jews who are also campaigning for peace with justice between Israelis and Palestinians, we entirely reject these cynical agendas that are being expressed by:

• The Conservative Party
• Conservative-supporting media in Britain and pro-Zionist Israeli media sources
• Right-wing and pro-Zionist elements claiming to speak on behalf of the Jewish community
• Opponents of Jeremy Corbyn within the Labour party.

The Jewish Socialists’ Group recognises that ordinary Jewish people are rightly concerned and fearful about instances of antisemitism. We share their concerns and a have a proud and consistent record of challenging and campaigning against antisemitism. But we will not support those making false accusations for cynical political motives, including the Conservative Party, who are running a racist campaign against Sadiq Khan, and whose leader David Cameron has referred to desperate refugees, as “a swarm” and “a bunch of migrants”. The Conservative Party demonstrated their contempt for Lord Dubs, a Jewish refugee from Nazism, when they voted down en masse an amendment a few days ago to allow 3,000 child refugees into Britain while Labour, led by Jeremy Corbyn, gave total support to Lord Dubs and his amendment.

The Jewish Socialists’ Group sees the current fearmongering about antisemitism in the Labour Party for what it is – a conscious and concerted effort by right-wing political forces to undermine the growing support among Jews and non-Jews alike for the Labour Party leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, and a measure of the desperation of his opponents.

We stand against antisemitism, against racism and fascism and in support of refugees. We stand for free speech and open debate on Israel, Palestine and Zionism.

Thursday 28 April 2016

Brent Council clarifies communication issues over the death of Cllr Tayo Oladapo

I have had a number of messages and phone calls regarding Council communications about the death of Cllr Tayo Oladapo (Kilburn ward). The central concern is that Full Council voted to approve his continued absence from ill-health when he had been dead for several weeks.

His death was not announced by Brent Council until March 11th, more than 5 weeks later. LINK

This is what I wrote to Carolyn Downs, Brent CEO:
I have been contacted by a number of people who expressed concern that the true picture regarding the death of Cllr Oladapo has not been given by Brent Council.

The claims are:

1, Cllr Oladapo actually died in January 2016 (January 29th has been given as the date).
2. That almost a month later Full Council on 22nd February agreed to approve his continued absence from meetings on the grounds of ill health.
3. That his death was not publicly announced  by the Council until March 11th
4. That his body is still in a morgue.

2 and 3 are a matter of public record.

Could you confirm the facts and explain the misinformation of February 22nd and the delay in the death announcement. In particular what checks had been carried out by officers/Brent Council with the hospital or Cllr Oladapo's family before seeking approval for continued absence on 22nd February?
 I recognise that there may be family reasons for 4.

Many thanks,
Martin Francis, Wembley Matters
This is Ms Down's response:
 Dear Mr Francis,

Thank you for your email.

In response to the point you have raised:

1. I have not received any formal documentation to confirm the death of Cllr Oladapo but understand that he died in late January.

2. The report which went to the Full Council meeting on 22nd February was drafted as the Full Council report which went in January 2016 stated that Councillor Oladapo's absence would be reviewed at Full Council in February if required. We believed Councillor Oladapo to be alive as we had not been informed of his death and therefore required a further exemption on this basis.

3.  I can confirm that Cllr Oladapo's death was announced by the council on 11th March which was as soon as I had been able to obtain certainty as to Councillor Oladapo's state of health.

4. The arrangements in relation to Cllr Oladapo's remains are a matter for his family as you suggest and I don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment on this.

Kind regards,

Carolyn Downs
Although Carolyn Downs does not fully answer my question about checks carried out by Council officers ahead of the motion to approve continued absence, another source advises that Cllr Oladapo had reduced the number of visitors he received, not unusual in the seriously ill, and that the Royal Free Hospital had cited patient confidentiality when information was sought from outside the family.

School Solar Energy share offer will be launched tonight at QPCS

solar panels installed on a school

A new Brent community energy group are launching a share offer at an event tonight at Queens Park Community School. Brent Pure Energy are organising the event at the school in Aylestone Avenue at 7pm. MP Barry Gardiner is amongst the speakers attending.

Brent Pure Energy is a new innovative community-based project to bring cheap, renewable energy to Brent by putting solar panels on public buildings. Their first project will be at Queens Park Community School (QPCS). Speakers at the launch will be: Barry Gardiner (MP for Brent North), Giles Clark (Primrose Solar), Damian Tow (Brighton Energy Co-op), Mike Hulme (Head of QPCS) and the directors of Brent Pure Energy.

Ian Saville, Chair of Brent Pure Energy said:
We are seeking investors to support the installation of solar panels in local schools, and are delighted to launch our venture at QPCS. Our share offer is a great opportunity for people to invest in clean green solar energy which will benefit schools and the wider community. Shareholders can expect an attractive return of at least 4% on their initial investment - higher than current interest rates from banks or building societies, with the added bonus that the money will also benefit the community and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

We plan to raise £60,000 for the solar project at QPCS and anticipate that shares will sell quickly - so we encourage people to apply as soon as possible. The minimum investment is  £100.

All are welcome to attend this free event to find out more about Brent Pure Energy and how to get involved or invest. The event will take place at 7pm on Thursday 28th April in the Conference Room at QPCS, Aylestone Avenue, NW6 7BQ. There will be a bar and light refreshments available. For more information see or email

Wednesday 27 April 2016

May 3rd Children's Strike: Open Letter to Nicky Morgan from Let Our Kids Be Kids

Reprinted from Let Our Kids Be Kids website LINK

Open Letter from Let Our Kids Be Kids – the voice of tens of thousands of parents who want an end to SAT testing NOW.

Dear Nicky Morgan,

We are aware that you’ve been flooded with open letters recently but this one is a bit different. We’re writing from everybody. We represent the voice of parents across the country. Parents are everybody. They are teachers, they are junior doctors, they are steel workers, they are speech therapists, neuro scientists, academics, small business owners, stay at home mums. Parents aren’t people you can dismiss into a single box; parents are everybody that you were voted in to serve.
  • Children as young as 6 are labelling themselves failures and crying about going to school. We know this because we are parents.
  • The capacity for children of this age to actually learn the concepts you have asked them to learn is questionable. We know this because parents are also neuro scientists.
  • Children’s mental health is at risk because of the increased pressure they face through primary school testing. We know this because parents are also mental health nurses.
  • By the time these children reach secondary school they are turned off education. We know this because parents are also secondary teachers
  • Children who have been taught in a system obsessed with passing tests rather than learning for learning’s sake enter the world of work unprepared. We know this because parents are also business owners.
  • By the time children who have been through this exam factory end up at university they have to be re taught how to learn in a curious way. We know this because parents are also academics.
The other interesting thing about parents is that they aren’t employed or paid by you. You can’t dismiss our concerns as being about pay or holidays or pension plans… our priority is the happiness and wellbeing of our children.

You’ve said some interesting things about parents but rest assured that we are parents who would most definitely discuss the issue of education with you if you were to turn up on our doorsteps. We are parents who do feel that elections can be won or lost on educational matters. There are tens of thousands of us and we have reached the point when it is time for us to speak. We need you to listen.
We’re not convinced, based on your track record, that you’ll listen to just words so, to make it very clear how strongly we feel, we are also planning a day of action with a Kids’ Strike on 3rd May  (#KidsStrike3rdMay) which will see thousands of primary school children staying off school IN SUPPORT of teachers and schools and in protest at the DfE’s testing policies. We want an end to SATs NOW. Not in 2017, not in the future. NOW.

Perhaps the government hoped that this mass parental revolt would be extinguished following the shambolic cancellation of KS1 SPaG test? This has simply added fuel to the fire. It merely demonstrates how little thought goes into your decisions and shows that you do think teacher assessment is a good enough tool to use.

You have dismissed the concerns of pupil stress and anxiety caused by the SATs by blaming our wonderful teachers for not administering tests in an appropriate manner. We say to you that this is utter nonsense. Teachers would be insane to allow our children to face these tests unprepared. The new curriculum related to these tests demands that teachers teach a dulled down, test driven curriculum to our children for months in advance. Since you and your inspectors put so much emphasis on test scores for your league tables can you blame schools for trying to get the best out of our children? We don’t blame them. We blame you and your government’s ridiculous testing regime.

A marvellous quote was posted to our campaign page:
“Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If he is not interested, it is like throwing marshmallows at his head and calling it eating.”
Your government has effectively spent millions of pounds of tax payers’ money chucking marshmallows at our children’s heads. You’ve had some wonderful teachers trying their hardest to chuck these marshmallows about but no matter how hard they try they are still missing… because these children are in the vast majority of cases simply not mentally ready to learn the material you have placed in front of them. It’s a bit like teaching an 8 year old to drive a sports car or a 6 month old to walk… it’s not going to happen.

You have got it wrong. We give you a score of zero for this. You have failed. Please resit your submission for devising an appropriate testing system. Or you could just leave it to the experts in the field, the trained teachers, next time.

Conspiracies abound that this is all part of the enforced academies plan. Making SATs so hard that schools inevitably fail means that your academy business leaders can come in and rescue ‘failing’ schools… leaving them completely unaccountable to parents. You will never have to listen to us again! It’s good to have a plan… just not a plan which leaves millions of children as assets and the education of our children as a commodity… that would in fact be a truly awful plan.

Please take a long, hard look at this. Do you want your legacy to be the confident cancellation of unneeded and unnecessary SATS, showing you are listening to your electorate and the teachers you claim to support… or the overseeing of a shambolic testing regime desperately unwanted by millions of people to the point that this country saw it’s first open parent revolt?

You have the power to stop these tests. NOW. Our children, our teachers and our schools deserve better than this.

With sincere hope that you are listening, on behalf of the tens of thousands of supporters of ‘Let Our Kids Be Kids’.

North, South, East or West, Rashid Nix on why Greens are best for London

FoE's assesment of London Mayoral candidates' environmental policies

From Friends of the Earth (as this come from a politically neutral group it is unedited):

Friends of the Earth's assessment of the environmental policies of the candidates for London mayor
This mayoral election has been a race to the top on environmental issues, with candidates vying with each other to show that they have the greenest policies to improve Londoners’ lives.

Overall, our assessment shows that whoever is the next mayor, Londoners will benefit from greener policies than those of central government, which has torn up initiatives, from insulating cold homes to supporting solar energy.

All of the main candidates have signed up to policies including protecting the Green Belt, opposing Heathrow, and building high-quality, zero-carbon homes.

But on the critical issue of air pollution, the 2 frontrunners still need to toughen their plans if Londoners are to be protected from one of the biggest threats to our health.

The final scores

Our scoring of London mayoral candidates, showing Sian Berry and Caroline Pidgeon coming out on top, and Sadiq Khan narrowly beating Zac Goldsmith.

We’ve also published a full breakdown of how we scored each candidate on each issue [pdf].

Our 10 policy tests

Friends of the Earth asked the main mayoral candidates to tell us where they stood on 10 key policies  which our supporters ranked as the important tests of whether the next mayor will protect London’s environment.
Our aim has been for the candidates to make clear pledges to implement these policies.

Our analysis

Sian Berry (Green Party) and Caroline Pidgeon (Liberal Democrat Party) are the joint greenest candidates, with each committing to deliver all of our 10 key policies.

Sadiq Khan (Labour Party) and Zac Goldsmith (Conservative Party) are almost neck-and-neck on scores with Sadiq inching ahead by half a point.

Sadiq has committed fully to deliver more of the key green policies needed to protect the environment and Londoners’ health and economy, while Zac falls short in more areas.
All of the main candidates have signed up to strong policy on key issues which matter to our supporters, including powering London with clean energy, ensuring new homes are built to good standards; and protecting our green spaces.

However, Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith still need to tighten their policies in some areas, including, crucially, cleaning up London’s dirty air.

How did the candidates fare?

Sian Berry has scored a well-earned 10/10, with great policy on every single one of our top issues.
In particular, her air pollution policies are excellent, including a pledge to convert the entire bus fleet to electric or hybrid vehicles by 2020, and to bring London’s air pollution down to legal levels by 2020 - 5 years earlier than current government plans.

Caroline Pidgeon also scores 10/10, having committed to delivering all of our key policies.
Her cycling policies are particularly good, and she was the first candidate to support the London Cycling Campaign’s Sign for Cycling policies.

However, on some issues, a little more detail on how she plans to deliver would be welcome.
Sadiq Khan, scoring a respectable 8/10, has some very good policies on issues such as renewables, divestment, stopping fracking, and reviewing the London Plan in the light of the Paris climate agreement.

However, Sadiq’s strong support for a new runway at Gatwick is a significant weak point in his environmental policies.

In addition, his unwillingness so far to tackle cold homes by introducing minimum energy efficiency standards in private rented housing, and his lack of sufficient commitment to dealing with the air pollution which blights Londoners’ lives, have let him down. 

Zac Goldsmith, with 7.4/10, also has some very good policies on protecting nature, renewables, and keeping strong energy efficiency standards for new-build homes.

We particularly welcomed his recent promise to follow the other main candidates in supporting the divestment of the London Pension Fund Authority from fossil fuels, although he has not committed - as others have - actively to call for its divestment (a difference we think is important).

Zac’s promise only to back the purchase of clean buses is potentially very strong, but without clarification of the start date for this - which we did ask for - we can’t give him extra points for it.
In addition, his unwillingness to come out strongly against any new airport capacity in London, and his lack of commitment to strengthening the London Plan to ensure the city is a leader in tackling climate change, let him down.

Who does Friends of the Earth want to win?

Friends of the Earth is party politically impartial - we do not support any candidate. Our aim for the mayoral elections has been to ensure that all candidates have strong policies on the environment.
Our scoring reflects our assessment of each candidate’s policies on environmental criteria, and does not represent an endorsement of any candidate.

Green Brent and Harrow GLA candidate pledges support for 'Save the Bridge' campaign

The Green Party's candidate for the Brent and Harrow GLA constituency, Jafar Hassan, today put his party's weight behind the 'Save the Bridge' campaign.

  Jafar said:
As Green Party GLA candidate for Brent and Harrow I am strongly opposed to the closure of The Bridge in Harrow.  It is a vital service, one that is  a lifeline to many in the Harrow community.  Mental health problems are common and rising, often as a result of current widening inequality and economic uncertainty and we should therefore be protecting these professional services rather than cutting back. Greens support the 38degrees petition, calling on Harrow Council to reconsider the decision to withdraw this service.  We hope that the council acknowledges the strong public opposition and act accordingly.
The petition can be found HERE

This is what it says:

To: David Perry, Leader of Harrow Council 

Please don't close 'The Bridge', next to the Harrow Leisure Centre, in Christchurch Avenue, Harrow.

Why is this important?
The Bridge is a purpose built place for the Mentally ill people. It's an activity centre and a drop in centre with a cafe. The building is all on ground floor. There are gardens at the back and side for people to relax.

The activities include Arts and Craft, Music Learning, Guitar Learning group - 'Dont Fret', Tabla (Indian drums) learning, Library, Choir meeting -- 'More than Just a Choir', WhyFI - for Paranoia, Pilates, Yoga, 30 Clients with Personal Independence Budgets attend for therapy. People with depression, Bipolar, Schizophrenia etc. etc. attend with great benefits to their daily life. The Northwick Park Hospital's Mental Heath Unit refers clients for further support from the services available at The Bridge.

I had asked my family, two years ago, to take me to the Switzerland clinic to 'have me put down'. Then I heard of 'The Bridge' and attended the Choir -- ''More Than Just A Choir'' every Tuesday evening. This has turned my life around.

The people receiving a great deal of therapeutic benefits will have to revert back to the overloaded GP services and the NHS -- waiting list. The attempt to close The Bridge will end up costing the community far greater!

Nicky Morgan to be grilled on White Paper this afternoon

From the Petitions Team, House of Commons

Dear Martin Francis,

You recently signed the petition "Hold a public inquiry and a referendum over turning all schools into academies":

You may be interested to know that on Wednesday 27 April at 2.30pm, the House of Commons Education Committee will question Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, Secretary of State for Education, on the policies announced in the Department for Education’s White Paper: Educational Excellence Everywhere. This includes Government plans for all schools to become academies.

Talking about the session, the Chair of the Education Committee, Neil Carmichael MP, said:
As a Committee, we are determined to take a close eye to the Government’s latest proposals for education policies and this session provides an early opportunity for us to press the Secretary of State on her plans for all schools become academies by 2022. We will also want to pick up on a number of other significant challenges to the success of our education system today, including issues relating to teacher supply, school leadership, and school funding.
You can watch the session on live and on demand afterwards on Parliament TV:

You can find out more about the session on the Education Committee’s website:

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Larry Sanders: junior doctors are heroes in the fight for a high quality NHS

Commenting on the  junior doctors' strike, Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, said:
It is sad that junior doctors have been forced to this point by the obstinate approach of the health secretary, whose flat-out refusal to drop his insistence on imposing a new contract has scuppered any possibility of meaningful talks with the British Medical Association.

Industrial action is a last resort and I know from having spent time on the picket lines over recent months that junior doctors are taking this unprecedented action with a heavy heart.

The government must change the way it treats our NHS and reopen negotiations with the junior doctors. A caring health secretary would negotiate with the junior doctors to produce an acceptable contract.
Until then, I, and fellow Green Party members and supporters will continue to stand in solidarity with NHS staff as we fight for what’s right.
Greens supporting the junior doctors today
Larry Sanders, the Green Party's Health and Social Care Spokesperson and the brother of US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, added:
The Green Party supports the junior doctors’ strike because the new contract, if imposed, would have disastrous effects on patients and the NHS.

We are pleased that medical risks will be minimised by the back-up of senior doctors.

The junior doctors are heroes in the fight for a high quality NHS. They do not want to strike; their pride is in their work.
Jeremy Hunt is attempting to force a contract on them which puts patients at risk and reduces their pay. If he succeeds he will drive devoted doctors from the NHS. We already have too few doctors, nurses and hospital beds, with £22 billion of further cuts in the pipe line. A victory for Hunt would be an important step towards a profit-based NHS.

Monday 25 April 2016

NUT call for full DfE investigation into 'Panama to Kilburn' free school provider with off-shore connections

Wembley Matters covered the links between the Panama Papers and the Kilburn Grange Free School several weeks ago 'From Panama to Kilburn - time for some questions to be asked'  LINK

The NUT has now taken up the issue, uncovering further information which leads them to state that there are serious questions to be answered on the connection between Mossack Fonseca, Bellevue Education and Bellevue Place Education Trust, which among others runs Kilburn Grange Free School in Brent.

The NUT call for a full investigation and report by the Department for Education.

This is their dossier.  It is longer than normal articles on this blog but it is a thorough investigation that repays close study.  Brent Council currently has a policy of encouraging free schools in order to provide additional school places. They should pay particular attention and press the DfE about its due diligence in the free school application process.

Click on 'read more' to read the dossier in full.

Helping James Powney solve the Brent Councillor suspension mystery

James Powney, former Brent Labour councillor, writing on his blog recently remarked that  'Martin (Francis) is self-confessedly a strongly anti-Labour man, his comments always need to be taken with a hefty dose of salt.'

However, he followed up my story LINK  on the suspension of a Labour Councillor in the run up to the Labour Group AGM which will be held after the May 5th election.  Powney expresses doubt that Brent Council leader, Muhammed Butt, had no knowledge of the suspension and added:
What surprises me is that he has got away with this line on many previous occasions _ disclaiming any knowledge of sacking a former Chief Executive, closing Kensal Rise Library, closing the Stonebridge Adventure Playground, and many others.  It seems to be his default response whenever asked to defend a position.  We shall see if Labour councillors are content to continue putting up with this,
James Powney returned to the subject after the above posting, writing on Friday:
I have sought some clarity on the mystery suspension of a Brent Councillor I alluded to recently.  Apparently an application for a suspension was made, and a junior Labour Party official is said to have approved it.  Shortly afterward, Brent Labour Group was written more formally by the Labour Party and told there was no valid grounds for suspension.  therefore the councillor was restored as a member of the Group he should never have been removed from.

What is more interesting is why Cllr Muhammed Butt is engaging in such distractions during Sadiq Khan's campaign.  Barbara Pitruzzella is an excellent candidate and I would be shocked if the Kilburn by election turns out to be anything other than a solid win for Labour.  Although Sadiq Khan is leading in the polls, I am less certain of his winning.  The Tories smear tactics are desperate but there would be no point in sinking that low unless they thought they had a prospect of success.

It is odd for the Labour Leader of Brent Council to be trying to stir up problems in the Labour Group in the run up to such an important vote.
There is surely no mystery regarding the identity of the councillor in question when you consider the evidence available to anyone who follows this blog.  We know that Cllr Butt can be terrier like in his pursuit of those who get on the wrong side from a previous case. LINK

More recently Cllr John Duffy (Labour Kilburn) has stood up for residents and courted unpopularity with his leader in the process. The most recent stand was over the out-sourcing of litter penalty notices:

Below are some of the previous occasions on which Cllr Duffy raised issues which the leadership may have preferred to sweep under the carpet.

Jan 31, 2016 ... I understand that Cllr John Duffy, who last year claimed he stepped in to stop a flawed policy that would let Veolia pocket large sums in the multi ...
Jun 24, 2015 ... Councillor John Duffy (Labour Kilburn) reveals in his blog today LINK that he is snubbed by the Council's Labour leadership and some other ...
Sep 6, 2015 ... Kilburn Labour Party Party steps into Duffy dispute. Reliable sources inform me that Kilburn (Brent) branch of the Labour Party agreed at its ...
May 21, 2015 ... Amid the Tory Party infighting last night at the Brent Council Annual General Meeting there was a protest from Cllr John Duffy (Labour, Kilburn) ...
I hope this goes some way to help James Powney solve the mystery...