Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Duffy back on the attack over Kingdom contracts procurement

In a circular to fellow councillors Cllr John Duffy has raised further concerns over the  awarding to Kingdom of Brent Council's fixed penalty notice littering contract and additional ones after the company was awarded a BHP security contract LINK.

He wrote:

Following on from the council meeting and my new role as a member of the Scrutiny committee.I have further reviewed the Kingdom Securities (KS) figures from 16 June 2016- 26 Jan 2007.The figures (see bottom of the page) show that  the council have received £227k in Fixed Penalty notices (FPN). We have paid Kingdom Securities £201K leaving us with £26k to paid all the on costs. It's likely after all on costs we will have less that 10k to invest in much needed environmental improvements, while KS have walked away with over £100k profit.

Within that £201k we have already written off 388 FPNs at a cost £18K .These 388 FPNs were written-off by the council because they were not either legally issued or the person who dropped the fag-but gave a wrong (Mickey Mouse ) name. However under the scheme introduced by Cllr Southwood and the cabinet the council still  has to pay £46 for every Mickey Mouse ticket.

The figures will change the more people who will pay and we have some awaiting court and no doubt we write off more tickets given to Mr Mickey Mouse,but that is the position today. The issue is how was this scheme allowed without either allowing a VFM assessment or an in-house bid.

This to me is a typical way that some companies have in the past hoovered up local government contracts. When I was a senior officer, companies would approach me all the time with schemes they wanted to by-pass any legislation or Value For Money (VFM) comparisons. They did not want to prove VFM or get involved in any competitive process. They would try and persuade naive politicians that they should be given the contract without looking at the service needs. In Brent there was never a great service need for fag-butts fines , what we needed was a well trained mobile enforcement team, dealing with dumped bags, fly-tips, paan spitting and other environmental problems.

What really worries me is not the hundreds of thousands of pounds of environmental investment the lead member and the cabinet gave away.

What worries me is the fact that KS have just won a service contract for BHP, if this contract was awarded on the piggy back of the FPN contract which itself was awarded to them without any proper VFM assessment or competition that is a concern. If that contract has officers from the environment supporting their bid as a VFM bid and if there is a link I would also be very concerned. However the main issue is that the Scrutiny Committee call this report in  to see if it's value for money and I understand from the chair of scrutiny that meeting will take place in March, if environment officers have given the green light to KS before the Scrutiny Committee, we as Councillors are all wasting our time.

I believe there needs to be an investigation into how the original contract was developed and if there has there been any link between both the FPN and BHP contracts and ensure the council followed all the proper guidelines to achieved VFM for the residents of Brent.

Below are the present figs for the FPN contract.

Keep up the pressure on Trump's Muslim Ban - Saturday US Embassy 11am

Dawn Butler's Article 50 residents' meeting tonight in Wembley Park - will she follow Tulip?

Dawn Butler, MP for Brent Central, is holding a meeting this evening on Article 50 at a restaurant and bar venue in a retail park near Wembley Stadium. The event is now fully booked.

On her Facebook she states:
I will be hosting a residents meeting on the Article 50 vote this evening. We are now at full capacity.
However to ensure I engage with as many residents as possible I will be livestreaming the meeting on this page from 8pm tonight. Do tune in, I will also be answering questions taken from the stream.
Her Facebook address is https://www.facebook.com/DawnButlerBrent

Butler's colleague, Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn) has resigned from the Labour front bench over the Labour three line whip on the issue.

What will Dawn do?

In a message Butler blamed the high cost of hiring meeting rooms at Brent Civic Centre for not holding this 'incredibly important' meeting at a larger venue.

If this is the case where does that leave any resident who wants to hire space?

Sunday, 29 January 2017


Donald Trump has imposed a ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.

That includes people who helped the US army. That includes people on holiday trying to get home via the United States. That includes people trying to be reunited with their dying parents.
it also includes Britons with dual nationality. Like our national hero Mo Farah. Even the Iraq-born Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi.

Theresa May has decided to ally herself with Donald Trump's bigoted, misogynistic government.  It is not only weak, it is a matter of national shame - disgracing our country across the world.

There are moments of terrible injustice throughout history where we look back and rightly ask - what did people do? Future generations will look back at the targeting of Muslims - as we look back at the targeting of Jews - with disgust, horror and shame. If we do not speak out, we are complicit.

Theresa May has betrayed her own people. That doesn't mean we have to. Let's stand in solidarity with those targeted by Donald Trump's hateful government, including the people of this country, outside Downing Street and all over Britain.

Other governments - like Canada, like France, like Germany - have spoken out. Our weak, cowardly government has refused to. Let's not have the same cowardice and betrayal as our own government.

A demonstration was held opposite Downing Street from 6pm-9pm on Monday.

Wembley residents need to get down to Chalkhill on Monday re Spurs proposals on stadium events increase

Councillors have received little notice of this meeting and the public even less.

The proposals will make a big impact on Wembley as Jaine Lunn outlines below.

Wembley resident Jaine Lunn has not been impressed by the proposals.  This is the comment she made on my earlier blog about the meeting:

Meanwhile back in the real world. Local residents will be treated to more disruption to there daily routines as once or maybe even twice a week, 75,000 people visit Wembley Stadium (an international destination renowned the world over).

To the soundtrack of Spurs fans chanting the attributes of Harry Kane, whilst traipsing along the high road, swigging cans of beer, decorating every road within a 1,000 metres of the stadium with litter, overflowing waste bins, using every conceivable nook and cranny as a public urinal. Bumping along the pot holed roads, rattling sinking drains and the mangled manhole covers. Jostling for space amongst the HGV's and Skip Lorries removing rubbish and delivering plant works and materials to all the new developments in process of being demolished or built, of which Brent House, Chesterfield House, and Curtis Lane just to mention a few. Adding to the already daily occurence of gridlocked Wembley, where is takes more than half an hour to drive several hundred metres at peak times.

All the while ensuring the already overcrowded Public Transport system is bursting at the seams, TFL and the Mayor failing miserably in delivering their promises of more buses, less pollution, better air quality. Oh the anticpation of what's to come, I can't wait, but I won't be the only one standing in the queue for the soap box telling you "I told you so". However there will be some winners to this scenario, look at all the overtime Veolia and the Police will be entitled to. Not to mention all the people who work in the Fast Food outlets along the high road, pubs, and security personnel required to keep the peace!

Roll on 2017 a very happy New Year to one and all.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Duffy rubbishes Council litter contract but does he know about BHP?

Cllr John Duffy, elected to the Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee by the Labour Group on the evening of the tube strike, has lost no time in setting out his stall in an email to fellow councillors.
Dear All,

As you know I have been elected to the scrutiny committee, albeit the leadership of the Labour party wished to rule my nomination out of time so the leader could play musical chairs with who he wanted to scrutinise the cabinet decisions or council contracts.

Now that I have been endorsed by the full council. I wish to state my view on scrutiny. I believe that just as a puppy, is not just for Christmas, Scrutiny is not just for committees. Members of the committee are duty bound to raise issues of waste and financial mis-management by the Cabinet.

Therefore I listen to Monday night's full council meeting, which seemed to allow cabinet members to make statement without explanation. They were also allowed to avoid questions by saying the problems were caused by a lack of resources. Whereas I believe many problems are caused by government cuts. However the cabinet has to take responsibility for bad polices making which undermining our ability to be efficient and use our limited resource’s to ensure service improvements. Those who care about these issues should read on and those who do not should stop reading now.


On Monday Cllr Southwood, said we have successfully taken 50 residents to court for non-payment of June 2016 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) for mostly smoking related litter. However as far as I understand the true number is 41. The problem of smokers litter around tube stations and bus stops is an easy way to make money from FPNs as a smoker about to go into a tube station or get on a bus have no alternative but to put out their fags before boarding their train or bus, particularly as we have no cigarette butt disposal bins place close by.

The government in the middle of devastating cuts to service,did however allowed L/As to keep the 100’s thousands of pounds income from those FPNS and was this was one of the only ways councils could raise money for environmental protection.

Unfortunately and bewilderingly Cllr Southwood and the cabinet decided not to use the money for environmental protection. Instead the cabinet decided to outsource the service to Kingdom Securities (KS)  therefore ensuring the majority of the income was not used for Environmental protection but was paid in profits to the private company. KS introduced the service using cheaper less qualified staff and ensured the council agree certain conditions.

(i) They received £46 for every ticket issued, whether the fine was paid OR NOT.
(ii) Residents were not allowed a discount if they paid early unlike all other fine given out by the council.
(iii) The council meets all the costs of appeals and legal support and reviews.
(iii) The service did not undergo a VFM review

These conditions were introduced purely to increase KS's profit and is the cause of the council having no increased resources to deal with other environmental enforcement .The figs show-using June (the period Cllr Southwood mentioned) as an example. The council have received £49k and paid £35K to KS (approx. £25k pure profit a month for KS), whereas the council makes £9k a month after write –off, costs of admin and legal costs, work stations, free use of our car pool etc.


I believe that bad policy making by the lead member and cabinet has cost us £25K+ per month of income and  has had the effect of ensuring that we have no strategy or resources for other environmental enforcement. Whereas dog–ends concerns were less than 1% of complaints that are 99% of our enforcement (FPN) strategy.

For example, when Cllr Crane on Monday night rightly raise the issue of dumping behind shops in a private area by the Hyde in Colindale on behalf of his residents.Which is an ongoing issue which has caused concern from residents about the unpleasant and nasty conditions they are forced to live with.They also complaint the place was overrun with rats.

Cllr Southwood reply (I think) went something like this saying we have not the resources or trained officers to deal fly tipping on private land and was therefore was difficult to deal with. Cllr Southwood reply ignores the reality of the situation. There is legislation EPA (S59 private land) where the owner of the land can be fined £5000 if they do not clear the land and £500 a day if they fail to comply.There are also ways of working with the Environment Agency  to ensure any companies using the alley way for fly-tipping are dealt with.However you need qualified, trained officers with a full understanding of legislation, to carry-out surveillance, interviews and ultimately prosecutions. However the cabinet policy of introducing cheap (LLW) unqualified officers has left us deprived of well trained officers to deal with issues as well as ensuring we have no resources.

I believe Scrutiny committee should be asked to look at the way we organise our enforcement section, to ensure VFM, flexibility ,priorities and increased investment.They should also look at the way the FPN are issued and why 154 (20%) are written off, remember we already paid KS over £7k   for the issuing of those ticket and writing them off is a direct lost  and if that is constant over a year it would mean a loss of £84k per year.

I intend to talk to the Chair of Scrutiny to see if there are ways the committee can  review and recommend service improvements.
Cllr Duffy may also be interested in the contract awarded to Kingdom Security on Brent Housing Partnership's estates.  This is Kingdom's own account - they don't seem aware that BHP is soon to be taken back in-house by the Council.:
Kingdom is pleased to have won a new contract with Brent Housing Partnership (BHP) to help tackle anti-social behaviour in north west London on their behalf. The new contract will start on 9th January 2017.

Kingdom’s Environmental Protection Division will be providing a reception & concierge service in some of BHP’s properties, and will also be carrying out uniformed patrols, both of which are intended to provide reassurance to residents that anti-social behaviour is being tackled and that the lives and properties of residents are being protected.

Anti-social behaviour is something that can affect the lives of a great many people, making their day to day existence a real misery and leaving them feeling helpless, desperate and with a reduced quality of life. It often includes but is not limited to the following:
  • Vandalism
  • Graffiti
  • Fly-posting
  • Nuisance neighbours (noisy or abusive neighbours)
  • Intimidating groups taking over public spaces
  • Acting in a rowdy or inconsiderate manner
  • Littering
  • Being drunk in public or street drinking
  • Aggressive dogs
  • Prostitution
  • Begging
  • Abandoning vehicles
  • Using vehicles inappropriately
  • Trespassing
We have previously written in detail about tackling anti-social behaviour – our in depth article on the topic, including more information about what it is, who to contact to tackle it, and what action agencies and individuals can take can be found here.

Kingdom will be acting on behalf of Brent Housing Partnership (BHP), an arms-length management organisation (ALMO) and community housing company owned by Brent Council. In 2013 BHP signed a 10 year management agreement with Brent Council. The council owns the homes and takes responsibility for housing policy and strategy, whereas BHP is responsible for day-to-day management of housing services to over 9,500 council tenants and 3,000 leaseholders.

'Sergeant Major' with 'good voice' required to direct detentions at Michaela School - true or a spoof?

Is it a wind-up?  So hard to tell with the Michaela Free School, but this is what appears in Times Education Supplement jobs this week.  It is not currently advertised on the Michaela website and it is unusual to request a CV rather than an application form to be completed with full qualification and employment history as well as safeguarding declaration.

Hoax or real Michaela will get some publicity out of it and headteacher Katharine Birbalsingh (above)  enjoys that as can be seen from the school website.

It says something about the school and its methods that it is hard to tell whether the ad is genuine.

The Chair of Governors of Michaela is Suella Fernandes, Conservative MP for Fareham.

Job details

Job details
Employer Michaela Community School
Location Brent
Salary £22k to £35k – with up to 14 weeks holiday per year
Contract type Full Time
Contract term Permanent
Job dates
Posted New this week
Closing date

Days are 7:30am to 5:30pm, with Friday ending at 3:30pm
Do you like order and discipline?
Do you believe in children being obedient every time?
Do you believe that allowing children to make excuses is unkind?

If you do, then the role of Detention Director at Michaela Community School, could be for you.
This role isn't suited to a would-be counsellor or to someone who wants to be every child's best friend. This role is for someone who believes children need clear, firm discipline. This role is for someone who believes tough love is what children need to become better people and grow into responsible young adults.

We want someone who will analyse data, organise detentions, line-manage staff, be a sergeant major in the detention room, ring parents, be extremely efficient with time and paperwork, have heart-to-heart conversations with pupils and be inspirational.

You do not need any experience, but must be willing to learn on the job. You will need reasonable spoken English, but your written English does not have to be excellent. You must also be
hard-working, willing to get stuck in and own the job like it is the most important thing in the world to you.

We will train you if you are the right person for the job. So don't imagine you cannot do it. If you have presence, passion and a good voice, then we want to meet you!

The salary we are offering is far higher than a job like this would normally pay. This is because we want someone who is truly excellent. Even if we start you at the bottom of the range, the pay will rise quickly if you are good.

You are welcome to visit the school anytime, so please call us on 020 8795 3183 to arrange a visit.
To apply, please send a full CV with a covering letter to info@mcsbrent.co.uk.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Citizen scientists' findings on Brent's deadly air pollution problem

Four Brent community groups have been monitoring air pollution in the southern part of the Borough as part of a citizen science project across London. Four more voluntary associations have now joined forces with them in a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of air pollution and improve air quality in Brent. Brent Council are supporting this effort.

In late 2016 Transition Town Kensal to Kilburn (TTK2K), Transition Willesden (TW) and Queens Park Area Residents' Association (QPARA) put up “diffusion tubes” to monitor nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in their areas. They surveyed main and residential roads, outside schools and in parks. The results are shocking: three quarters of the twenty sites the Transition groups tested exceeded legal limits for the pollutant. This complemented a similar survey of Chamberlayne Road NW10 by Kensal Rise Residents' Association (KRRA) in 2014. All the findings are consistent. They demonstrate that the closer you are to busy routes the more exposed you are to illegal pollution levels.

All eight groups, now including Brent Friends of the Earth (BFoE), Aylestone Park Residents’ and Tenants’Association (APRATA), Kensal Triangle Residents' Association (KTRA) and Brent Eleven Streets (BEST), met last week with Queens Park Cllr Ellie Southwood, Cabinet Member, Environment. They now plan to campaign together and work with others in the community to alert residents of the dangers of air pollution, show how people can reduce their exposure to it and improve air quality. This work builds on a successful track record of residents' associations coming together to energise and engage the Queens Park ward community on air pollution.

Air pollution is a health hazard. It is estimated to be responsible for the premature death of 9,400 Londoners a year and many serious illnesses. This compares with 127 deaths from road accidents in London in 2014. There were 112 early deaths in Brent from air pollution in 2010. Medical research shows that air pollution is linked with cancer, strokes, heart disease and respiratory problems. The main pollutants are nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, particularly from diesel vehicles. The principal source of air pollution in Brent is road traffic, though emissions from heating systems also contribute.

Viv Stein from Transition Willesden says, “Not surprisingly we found the highest levels of NO2 pollution along busy main roads – Cricklewood Broadway down to Kilburn High Road, with many other areas also above what's considered safe. In view of this we are pleased to learn that greener buses will be coming to this heavily polluted route under the Mayor of London's Low Emission Bus Zones, though we will have to wait till at least 2018.

“Though our findings show only a snapshot of pollution over a short period, results are in keeping with other studies across London. We would like to do further monitoring, and involve schools, businesses, residents, health providers and the Council to raise awareness and take action on this public health issue. Along with other local groups we are now planning to raise awareness about vehicles idling, and about the damaging impact of all diesel vehicles, including diesel cars which now make up nearly half of the cars on the road.”

Janey McAllester from Transition Kensal to Kilburn says, “Pollution affects us all. Drivers need to be aware they and their passengers are breathing in a lot more pollution inside their cars than walking or cycling. The less time we spend in cars, the better for everyone. We want to encourage more cycling and work with the Council to help people cycle and walk more.”

Souraya Choukeir from QPARA says, “Air pollution is not something you can see so people are often not aware of how bad it is or of the harm it does. But there are things that we all can do to reduce it and protect ourselves from it such as switching to cleaner, non-diesel vehicles, driving less, and, where possible, walking on less polluted side streets.”

Cllr Ellie Southwood says, “It was great to see residents’associations and green groups coming together to share hard evidence about the problems of air pollution in Brent. I look forward to their helping us develop actions to deliver the Borough’s new Air Quality Action Plan and I am looking forward to working with them to make a positive difference to the air we breathe in Brent."

The two Transition Town groups each set up ten diffusion tubes to monitor NO2 in their areas between September 24th and October 8th. They also tested for particulate matter at a number of sites. This was part of the Cleaner Air 4 Communities programme run by the London Sustainability Exchange (LSx). QPARA monitored ten sites around Salusbury Road in August and October. BFoE have also started monitoring this month.

The groups' findings will add to Brent Council's own monitoring data which measures NO2 at 27 locations across the Borough. Much of Brent is designated an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) as clean air standards are not being met. The Council's new Air Quality Action Plan will be going out for consultation soon. The voluntary groups hope that the plan will engage with their efforts, and make all residents and those who work in Brent aware of the need to combat this serious threat to our health and well being.

To find out more about the Transition groups' project, see their results and join in, see http://ttkensaltokilburn.ning.com/group/air-pollution-monitoring. More on QPARA's project is at http://www.qpark.org.uk/action-groups/environment/.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Times changing for the better at the BKT?

This week's edition
Our local newspaper the Brent and Kilburn Times will be without News Editor Lorraine King  by the end of next week and reporter Nathalie Raffray has already gone to the Ham and High. Lorraine will become Editor of the (deep breath!) Barking and Dagenham Post, Newham Recorder and the Dockands and East London Advertiser. 

Where does that leave us in Brent?  As part of Archant's shift towards digital and its cut back in jobs a junior reporter (we used to call them 'cub reporters' in the old days) will be all that is left. He will face the daunting task of reporting on a major London borough of 325,000 people (and growing), one of the most diverse in the country, with great potential as well as major social problems, covering huge and often controversial regeneration projects, and an almost 'one party' Council that needs fearless scrutiny.

Some people  have told me of their envy for Camden residents who have the lively Camden New Journal and say we need a local paper like that in Brent.  Local papers are under financial pressure through loss of readers, loss of advertising and competition from the social media, but they also need good management and excellent distribution. Both the latter appear to be missing. I was told by a newsagent on Kilburn High Road only last week that he had stopped stocking the Brent and Kilburn Times because distribution was so unreliable. It is given away at some supermarkets,  stations and  estate agents but there are no longer house to house deliveries and the paper is often not to be found in newsagents.

All that said, local newspapers need to be supported by residents, not only through buying them but through writing letters, phoning in stories and encouraging a robust attitude towards upsetting local big wigs.

As someone remarked to Lorraine on Twitter, 'If you don't put some backs up you are not doing your job.'

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Old Oak/Park Royal Development community event on Tuesday Jan 31st

The Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) is holding an event to talk to the community about the plans for the area, hear the outcome of the Mayor’s review and to meet Victoria Hills (Chief Executive Officer of the OPDC). 

Details are:
Date: Tuesday, 31st January 2017, 6.30 - 8.30
Venue:  Cumberland House, 80 Scrubs Lane NW10 6RF London, London, England, GB, NW10 6RF

Please sign up for the event online so that they can keep a track of numbers HERE

Ark DID hit the rocks in Barnet last night

Vin-dic-tive - Deviant Art

Guest blog by Jenny Brown

The pubic gallery was packed at Hendon Town Hall last night as residents, teachers, school governors and teaching assistants listened to the councillors question and discuss the issues regarding the Education Funding Agency's application for the building of an all-though Ark Pioneer free school on green belt land. LINK

Barnet Planning Committe rejected the planning application for the  Free School proposed by ARK PIONEER.

The EFA/ARK can appeal but the fact that Barnet council turned down the ARK PIONEER application for planning permission has  particular reference to Free Schools in general.

The decision from Barnet shows how important it is to get involved at the planning application stage and to have local councillors working with residents and resident associations.

The proposed site is in a Labour ward with active hard working councillors. Conservative supporters lobbied their councillors  too so the Conservative dominated planning committee was not prepared to pass this over-development so near to other primary and secondary schools that have scope for expansion.

The message from Barnet is that we (parents, residents, governors and teachers) expect the recommendations and legal guidance for outside play space, safety and standards, to apply to Free Schools as they do to other buildings.

This stand from Barnet should be widely shared to empower other areas to defend themselves from Free Schools especially  ARK PIONEER and their low level of education and building design.

Shortage of land for free schools is no excuse for not planning additional housing along with school places and infrastructure.

Last night the EFA /applicant for ARK argued that lack of outside play space was acceptable since in some free schools children play on roof tops. I think this one comment, tipped the balance against the whole project and the public were genuinely shocked.

Need for school places was especially relevant because the proposed site is green belt. The EFA and Tory councillors  tried unsuccessfully to argue that although it is a site on green belt, there are officers, toilets and football stands built in the recent past. Even in leafy Barnet, air quality samples are too high and at the proposed site, Barnet Friends of the Earth  found that it was high at the site.

Residents and councillors were unimpressed by the EFA  offering to purchase roads, widen them and install traffic lights. which would increase air pollution from stationary vehicles at red lights.

Areas with unsound short term arrangements for schools, should let national education organisations such as CASE know.

CASE is aware of these issues for example at Kingston Community School children are in an unsafe building surrounded by main roads with no fire assembly point possible and no plan to get children to safety should there be any type of emergency.  Buildings that are unsafe or unsuitable should not be accepted as schools. CASE would like to hear from anyone in the Kingston area who would like to help this particular school. Please visit the CASE website and consider joining.

Finally just to say that Barnet teachers and governors of local schools are shocked at the EFA's proposal to misuse the education budget by spending on roads, especially at this time.  Although this issue was not raised last night, as not relevant to a planning  committee, nevertheless the waste of money by the  Education Funding Agency is utterly unacceptable especially as the amount is enormous. CASE is working on the figures to be released soon.  Please consider looking for information on CASE. LINK

Barnet Labour Party  LINK published the following statement after the decision LINK

Plans to build an all-through Ark Academy school for up to 1,680 pupils on the Underhill Stadium site have been rejected at Barnet Council's Planning Committee (25 January).

Councillors on the committee ruled that the size and bulk of the school was too big for the site, that traffic and parking resulting from the school would have an unacceptable impact, and that there were no exceptional circumstances to allow the school to be built on greenbelt land.

The plans for the school have caused controversy and concern amongst residents living near the Underhill Stadium site, many of whom were worried about the size and scale of the school, and the parking and traffic problems it will cause.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, had also advised Barnet Council in October that the school's planning application as originally submitted did not comply with the London Plan.

Labour Underhill councillors had organised a public meeting for residents in September so they could hear direct from Ark representatives and Barnet council officers about the plans for the school. Over 150 residents attended, and at the end of the meeting an indicative vote showed an overwhelming majority were opposed to the plans.

Underhill councillor, Paul Edwards, who spoke against the planning application at the committee said:
I am very glad that common sense prevailed at the committee last night.

The committee's ruling reflects the concerns that residents raised at the public meeting we organised four months ago.

Their main concerns include the size and height of the school buildings; the resulting traffic problems that will inevitably paralyse Mays Lane and surrounding roads; and the development of local Green Belt land.

The development is excessively large given its very close proximity to local housing.  It will take more than three times as many pupils as the Totteridge Academy, which has a much larger site and could accommodate further expansion.

The size of the building means the school will undoubtedly invade the privacy of the  homes and gardens surrounding the school – regardless of any of the fine words in this document.

The arrival of more than 120 teaching staff and 1800 pupils every day will exacerbate a traffic problem that has already reached unacceptable levels for local residents. 62 parking spaces is going to lead to increased street parking and will inevitably lead to future calls for a CPZ.

The residents who live in close proximity of this development do not want to see this scale of development in their back gardens, nor would I suggest would any member of the committee.

Secret Plan to cut almost 8,000 NHS jobs and slash services in NW London.

From SoH  (Save Our Hospitals)

Plans to slash NHS jobs and services have been developed in secret by NHS bureaucrats and only been uncovered thanks to a Freedom of Information request by a Brent health campaigner.

This revealed the NW London Delivery Plan for the STP Oct 16 labelled "strictly confidential not for wider circulation" and unseen even by some of the councils involved.

The plans include
  • The loss of 3,658 NHS jobs in NW London next year 17/18 - rising to 7753 job losses by 20/21
  • Almost 50,000 planned admissions and 222,370 outpatient appointments cut by 20/21. Already patient waiting times for planned operations are at record levels - these plans will only make things much, much worse.
  • The loss of 500 - 600 hospital beds with the closure of Charing Cross and Ealing as major acute hospitals
  • A reduction in A&E attendances by 64175 in the next 5 years.
More very ill patients have arrived at the remaining A&Es in NW London this year than ever before - there is NO evidence that there will not be a need for these departments and acute beds in the future. Merril Hammer, Chair of Save Our Hospitals, said ‘These plans threaten patients' lives. We need more beds and more staff, not ongoing cuts.’

The cost of planning this massive cuts and closure programme is spiralling out of control with many millions pocketed by private management consultants. 

Faced with this crazy set of damaging proposals for NW London's health services it's no wonder Tracey Batten Chief Executive of Imperial NHS Trust (and the highest paid NHS CEO in London) resigned yesterday. Dr Batten is leaving her £340k job at Imperial to return to Australia. Imperial controls 5 hospitals across NW London. As Merril Hammer also said ‘Our campaign fears that Imperial management will spend months looking for a new CEO when they should be tackling the unprecedented A&E, bed capacity and treatment crises.’

Re Jobs
STP Do Something Summary Appendix A Xcel spreadsheet plan for job losses of 7753 by 20 - 21
From 48258 now,
losing 3658 by 17/18, 
5222 by 18/19,
6592 by 19/20,
7753 by 20/21

Re Outpatients
STP Do Something Summary Appendix A Xcel spreadsheet
Cut by 222,370 by 20/21

Re Elective Admissions
STP Do Something Summary Appendix A XCel spreadsheet
Cut by 34,437 by 20/21

Re Non Elective Admissions
Source NW London Delivery Plan for the STP Oct 16 p8 
Cut by 64175 by 20/21

RE Costs
Source App A Excel spreadsheet Investment requirements tab:
Re non-recurring revenue costs now up to £303m on top of £845m of gross capital costs up to 20/21.

Brent holds no information on tree losses and plantings in its parks

Trees on BHP's Kings Drive Estate, Wembley
As the importance of trees for cleansing the air attracts attention following recent  'Red Alert' air pollution days in Brent and the rest of London, it is surprising to find that Brent does not keep a record of tree losses and replanting in its parks, and that Brent Housing Partnership has not replaced trees lost on its estates.

Maintenance of parks and BHP Estates is out-sourced by the Council to Veolia. The lack of information on parks may need further investigation to ensure that there is not a net loss of trees. The Council will soon take over BHP and I hope they will adopt a ;olicy of tree replacement.

I deliberately excluded Fryent Country Park and the Welsh Harp Open Space from the request as they are natural rather than formal open spaces.

This is the Council's reponse to my FoI request:
1. The number of a) street, b) BHP & other social housing estates and C) park trees (excluding Fryent Country Park and Welsh Harp Open Space) removed by the council and its contractors from January 1st 2016-December 31st 2016. 

a) (Street) - 220 (approx)
b) (BHP) - 62
c) (Parks) - The Council does not hold this information 

2. The overall pattern of reasons for removal (eg safety, redevelopment, disease) expressed as an approximate percentage. 

a) (Street) -
End of life (dead/decayed/diseased) - 60% Damage to pavements, walls etc. - 30%
Other (insurance claims, vandalism etc.) - 10%

b) (BHP) -
Unsafe 12 trees 19%
Rot/decay 22 trees 35%
Dead 28 trees 45%
c) (Parks) - The Council does not hold this information 

3. Of those trees the numbers where stumps were left.
a) (Street) - Almost all but no precise figures available. b) (BHP) - 62 (all)
c) (Parks) - The Council does not hold this information 

4. Of those trees the numbers where they were replaced by a) semi mature trees b)saplings
a) (Street) - All replaced by saplings, 155 in the last season but this runs from September and is not recorded by calendar year
b) (BHP) - None
c) (Parks) - The Council does not hold this information 

5. The number of new trees planted: a) street trees b) social housing estates c)parks and d) new developments/regeneration (eg Wembley Park, Alperton, South Kilburn) in the stated period. 

a) (Street) - 155 in last season
b) (BHP) - None
c) (Parks) - The Council does not hold this information

d) (Regeneration) - 240 (mostly funded by S106 money)

I think 5a is probably a mistake as 155 is the same number as street replacement trees. I wanted the figures for new planting in addition to replacement.

Call for public inquiry as 78 CNWL students lose out to fraud

The UCU branch at the College of North West London (CNWL) is calling for all merger negotiations with the College of Westminster (CoW) to be called off pending a Public Inquiry by the College Corporation into a fraud by college subcontractors.

Click to enlarge

The college accounts give a sum of £139,000 lost in the fraud but staff calculate that the total could be at least £256,000 and at most £356,000 over two years.

A branch member said:
The 78 students who fell victim to this fraud should be offered compensation as well as provision being put in place that is twice as good as before, so that they can fulfil their once held aspiration to further their life chances. Any public enquiry should place them at its heart, some of them have probably been forced to seek employment instead. The majority of them are from the diverse community we serve.
The union has posed some key questions over whether steps have been taken to recover the lost monies under its fraud policy and how the college audit committee's monitoring as well as that of the Skills Funding Agency and Ofsted failed to uncover the  fraud.

Indro Sen, the CNWL Branch Secretary, is currently suspended from teaching, but is continuing to represent members.
I may be sacked but not silenced. I will keep defending our members in which ever forum they choose to fight and continue to be true to our students and believe the best judge of me remains the trade union movement and my students.
A public meeting will take place on Wednesday 24 February from 6pm to 8pm at Willesden Library,.  The meeting will  focus on trade union victimisation, the merger of the CoW  and CNWL as well as the UCU branch's ongoing fraud investigation.

CNWL UCU members took half day strike action on the 19 January between 8am to 2pm following a 95% yes vote on an ERS ballot for industrial action on a turnout of about 60% ballot return, the dispute dispute being suspension and dismissal threat against the Branch Secretary.

Members also took 1/2 day's strike action on the same day between 2pm to 9pm following a 90% yes vote on a concurrent but separate ERS ballot for industrial action on a turnout of about 54% ballot return, the dispute being compulsory redundancy a member whose internal appeal against compulsory redundancy was heard on the 17 January 2017 and who was represented  by Indro Sen her at her hearing.

Both ballots remain live.

No Metropolitan and Jubilee trains again this weekend

More events and larger capacity at Wembley? Exhibition Monday at Chalkhill Community Centre

From Wembley National Stadium Limited

As part of its preparations for the 2017/18 season, Wembley National Stadium Limited (WNSL) has submitted a planning application to temporarily increase the number of full capacity events at Wembley Stadium.

The application seeks to establish a temporary cap to accommodate up to an additional 31 THFC sporting events at Wembley Stadium between 1 August 2017 to 31 July 2018 where the available spectator capacity is increased from 51,000 to up to 90,000.

This would allow up to 36 full capacity THFC home games may be played at Wembley during the season with 5 of these accommodated under the existing event cap. In practice however, the number of games is dependent on progress within knockout competitions and whether fixtures are drawn to be played at home or away. In reality, based on recent averages, the total number of home games likely to be hosted at Wembley Stadium is expected to be in the region of 30.

The application also seeks the associated removal of a limit on temporary traffic management events (Condition 33), to enable effective event day travel planning;

Summary Planning Document:


The application has been submitted to Brent Council where it is to be assessed on its own merits against the prevailing planning policy.

The FA and WNSL are responsible for ensuring that local residents and the wider community are a key consideration in the organisation of any events that take place at the stadium. A consultation process is underway and further discussions will be held prior to the determination of the application.
Local residents and businesses are invited to attend an exhibition at Chalkhill Community Centre on Monday 30 January 2pm until 9pm to learn more about the planning application and what it entails.

Brent Central LP calls on Brent Council to oppose STP alongside Ealing & Hammersmith Councils

At a crowded meeting in Harlesden, the Labour Party in Brent Central condemned the cuts being made to the NHS services that people in Brent depend on. Labour Party members voted unanimously to call for Brent Council to reject the plans drawn up by NHS officials to reduce hospital services across northwest London.  The motion requested that the Council's Labour Leader, Cllr Muhammed Butt discontinues any negotiations over the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) and any other proposed cuts to the NHS budget.  The meeting also called for unity with Hammersmith and Ealing Councils who have also opposed STP.

NHS bosses across England are required by the Department of Health to produce these plans, known as “Sustainability and Transformation Plans” or STPs. The plans rest on the idea that large numbers of patients could be looked after more cheaply in the community instead of in hospitals. However, doctors at the meeting said that GPs and other community services are already stretched to breaking point and would not get enough extra staff or money to take on the additional work this would involve.

The plans include closing the 24/7 A&E Departments at Charing Cross Hospital and Ealing Hospital, turning them into Urgent Care Centres.

In 2014, when Central Middlesex Hospital had its A&E Department downgraded to an Urgent Care Centre, Northwick Park Hospital was supposed to take on all the extra emergency patients. Instead patients waited far longer to be seen because Northwick Park was overwhelmed by the needs of the extra patients. Not enough had been done to prepare Northwick Park Hospital for the surge, and funding and staff numbers were nowhere near enough to handle the number of people coming through.

The NHS is already in crisis over long-term funding cuts imposed by the Government, and the plans for further cuts to hospital services are a serious threat to the health of the public, health campaigners told the meeting.

Butt said that Brent Council had not accepted the STP and has demanded assurances on funding and risks from the Government before it could be agreed. Brent Council is currently considering their next steps relating to the plans covering the borough.

At the Health and Wellbeing Board on Tuesday Cllr  Krupesh Hirani said that it was the issue of the adequacy of out of hospital services that kept him awake at night.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

High Speed Rail Project can't deliver low speed public notices to those affected by test drilling in South Kilburn

This image does not necessarily  reflect the views of our guest blogger
Guest blog by Pete Firmin, resident on the South Kilburn Estate

Just a few notes from the exhibition event HS2 held in South Kilburn studios on Monday, which might be useful for those who couldn’t make it (and even for some who did).

As ever, lots of boards with maps and lots of HS2 people standing around waiting to sell you their  pet project. Though whenever I asked a question it was never the person I asked who could (attempt to) answer it. We, of course, are expected to understand every aspect of what is going on. While I was there (late afternoon) there were not many members of the public (maybe 6 during the 3/4 hour I was there). As ever, this may well get portrayed as a lack of interest, taking no account of the fact that of those who heard about the event (see below) many would have felt there wasn’t much point in going, or couldn’t make the times (3-7) it was held. Funny how they could send everybody a letter (twice) by recorded delivery saying they might need to CP0 their property, yet can neither rescind these notices (by sending everybody a letter) nor ensure delivery of letters they consider less important).

My first question was about distribution of the notice of the event, knowing that I only knew about it by other means and at least some others in Gorefield House had not had notice. First reaction – as always – was to say it had been delivered, then to retreat into “I know there was at least one block the contracted delivery firm couldn’t get into and we asked for them to send them via Royal Mail, I will check if that happened”. I pointed out that I live on the ground floor with direct access, but that didn’t seem to compute. I also said that it was bit late if they found out now that it never happened.  This is a recurring problem, whether with the Council direct or others (such as the film company last year). They either don’t bother to deliver, or do not check if it has happened.

Another issue which comes up regularly is the maps that are used (people may remember that at the parliamentary enquiry into HS2 we pointed out the inaccuracy of their maps). In this case it seemed questionable as to whether they recognised that Canterbury Road does not continue on to Coventry Close, but that there is a section which is just footpath. Cathedral walk was certainly not named on any of their maps. Maybe this is why some people seem to think it is okay to drive vehicles along the footpath.

Part of the significance of Cathedral Walk is that during their test drilling, and later during the main work, they may find they have problem with utility pipes etc, in which case they would need to do work on them, which could mean taking up part of Canterbury Road and Cathedral Walk, something they will otherwise not need to do.

This event was primarily just about the test drilling, not the main construction. Even so, I was able to ask again about lorry movements etc. This will be of particular interest to people in Albert Road and Canterbury Terrace. For the main construction there will be 100 heavy lorry movements a day (50 in, 50 out). They will enter the site along Albert Road from the Queens Park end, entering  the site through the railway entrance at the end of Albert Road. They will leave through Canterbury Works and turn into Canterbury Terrace and back down Albert Road. When I raised (again) the issue of the narrowness of Albert Road to take these vehicles, I got the response from the “traffic guy” that he had just realised this and they would need to look at how they overcame the problem! We’ve only been pointing this out for years, after all. One thing they will probably do is make Albert Road one way (for other traffic, not HS2) with a diversion.

Their plans also show the loss of 15 parking bays on Albert Road during construction. When I asked where those people were expected to park, I was told wherever they can. No provision will be made for alternative parking. When I pointed out the lack of parking spaces in the estate already, I got a shrug of the shoulders. I also asked where site workers were going to park and was told they would be `expected’ to use public transport. When I asked `yes, but what if they do bring their cars”, he said they would need to pay for parking. And what if they use residents parking bays, as was a constant problem with the construction site on Alpha Place? `That’s up to the Council to enforce’. More wry laughter from me.

An issue of particular concern to many of us is working hours and enforcement of them. I was told that working hours are restricted to 8-6, BUT that they are allowed half an hour each side for preparation. They said they would also take account of the fact that they would be next to the school, but I could not get an answer as to what this concretely means. From bitter experience, I asked how all this would be enforced and was told “these are top tier contactors who will know that have to keep to the rules”. I pointed out that Wilmott Dixon is also considered a pretty “top tier” construction company and had repeatedly flouted the rules, I was told this wouldn’t happen with HS2. When I asked about enforcement, I was firstly told the Council (wry laugh from me!) and that people could send in reports and photos of infringement. As if we hadn’t been doing so for years with no effect. They gave me a copy of their “Residents Charter” and their “Code of Construction Practice”, but we have seen such promises before. Hopefully these are worth more than the paper they are written on, but we will obviously need to keep a close watch.

Lastly, I have been asking at every opportunity for years whether it creates problems that they will be tunnelling for HS2 underneath the Bakerloo line and never got an answer. Finally spoke to someone who knew what he was talking about, who said, yes, there are particular issues and `we will need to monitor whether our tunnelling causes the Bakerloo tunnels to sink. We don’t expect them to, and we don’t foresee having to close the Bakerloo line (or the mainline nearby) at all’.

Harrow Hill Trust's case against Harrow School development published at last

From Harrow Hill Trust:

22 Jan 2017 — Harrow Hill Trust undertook a detailed assessment of the hundreds of pages of application documents submitted to seek planning permission. (Harrow School's development on Metropolitan Open Land) This assessment included many pictures and constructive ideas and was dated 11 June 2016 and was hand delivered. Despite being hand delivered, two phone calls in the summer, which included the case officer, a further hard copy and a letter of complaint it finally appears 7 months late on the Harrow.gov.uk website. This is of course now after the first public planning meeting of 16 November. The assessment can be seen at the Harrow by searching for application P/1940/16 . Your support is appreciated. Thanks

The Harrow Council Planning Website is not exactly user friendly so I have reproduced the full submission below. Click on bottom right corner for a full page.

How London school budgets will suffer under the National Funding Formula changes - London Councils

From London Councils. Clearly we need to campaign to preserve London school funding and for an increase in the total amount spent on schools so that children outside London receive fair funding.

The National Funding Formula (NFF)will remove £19 million of funding from London’s schools.

Taking this into account as well as the increased cost pressures identified by the National Audit Office, London’s schools will need to make savings of £360 million in the first year of the new national funding formula (2018/19) to balance their books. No school will gain enough funding from the NFF to compensate for increased cost pressures due to factors such as inflation, pensions and national insurance.

As around 70 per cent of a school’s budget is spent on staff salaries, funding reductions are likely to result in fewer teachers and support staff posts in schools, as well as increased class sizes.
This is significant because top quality teachers who are motivated and highly skilled are the main reason that children make progress and achieve good results in their education.

Without the right qualifications and skills, London’s children will be unable to access jobs and contribute to the national economy. Over 60 per cent of jobs in inner London require a degree and around 45 per cent of jobs in the rest of the capital require a degree.
Analysis of the NFF shows that:
  • 70 per cent of schools (over 1,500) across the capital will face budget cuts.
  • The impact is widespread – 802 schools in inner London and 734 schools in outer London stand to lose funding due to the NFF.
  • At least one school in every London borough will experience a reduction in funding.
  • 19 London boroughs are set to lose funding, with losses ranging from 0.1 per cent to 2.8 per cent.
Combining the impact of the introduction of the NFF and wider cost pressures, headteachers at London schools will have to make savings totalling £360 million in the first year of the NFF (2018/19).
The savings required are equivalent to:
  • 17,142 teaching assistant posts, on an average salary of £21,000.
  • 12,857 qualified teachers, on an average salary of £28,000.
  • This amounts to cutting 7.5 teaching assistant posts per school or cutting 5.6 qualified teachers posts per school, given that there are 2,297 mainstream schools in London.

If the government’s proposals are brought into effect, 70 per cent of schools in the capital will face budget cuts, on top of pre-existing funding reductions. London will also see larger reductions in funding than anywhere else in the country.

This comes on top of National Audit Office figures showing that educational standards across the country could plummet as schools in England face an 8 per cent real-terms cut per pupil by 2019/20 thanks to wider cost pressures.

Taking everything into account, London’s schools will need to make savings of £360 million in the first year of the new national funding formula in order to balance their books.

But at a time when UK schools are seen as underperforming by international standards, and when businesses based in London are facing massive uncertainty about recruiting skilled staff, there is an urgent need to invest in schools in London and across the rest of the country.

London Councils' Key Asks:
  • That all children receive a great education – every child in the country deserves this.
  • That the government finds an additional £335 million for the schools that stand to gain through the National Funding Formula without taking money away from other schools.
  • That the government revises the draft National Funding Formula to better reflect London’s needs and to avoid a decrease in educational standards.
    Key facts about London Schools 

     The figure is 94% in Brent
    London’s schools are the best in the country

  • In London 89 per cent of schools are currently judged to be good or outstanding by Ofsted, the highest percentage of any region in England.
  • Last year London’s schools helped pupils to achieve 60.9 per cent five A* to C GCSEs including Maths and English, the highest rate for any region and above the national average of 57.3 per cent.
London’s schools promote social mobility
  • London has the highest attaining cohort of pupils on Free School Meals in the country – 48 per cent of young people on FSM in London achieved five good GCSEs as opposed to only 36.8 per cent of the same group nationally.
Recruitment and retention of teachers is a challenge in London
  • Around 50 per cent of headteachers in London are approaching retirement. Schools must act now to ensure teachers in senior leadership roles are ready to become headteachers.
  • Living costs are higher in London. One example of this is private sector rents, which are more than twice the national average according to the Valuation Office Agency. Schools are therefore under pressure to ensure salaries reflect this reality.
School places:
  • Between 2010-2020 the school age population in London is anticipated to grow by almost 25 per cent
  • 110,364 new school places will be needed in London between 2016/17 and 2021/22 to meet forecast demand. This consists of 62,934 primary places and 47,430 secondary places.
  • At least £1.8 billion will be needed to provide sufficient school places in London between 2016/17 and 2021/2
 Resources on London school places and funding can be found HERE

More on the situation of schools in Brent HERE