If you'd had a fit of sneezing at the Brent Cabinet meeting yesterday you would have missed the decision to go ahead with the £17.8m public realm improvement to Olympic Way using Community Infrastructure Levy monies.
The officers' report included the phrase 'Re-examine the funding decision for Olympic Way improvements.' There was no re-examination in the meeting just a reiteration of the report's recommendations in the event of new stadium owenership and a 2 minute address by backbencher Cllr Shafique Choudhary (Labour, Barnhill) who asked why the Council had to spend the money to the benefit of Quintain and not to the that of the majority of Brent residents.
It is hard to believe that he was the only one of Brent's 57 Labour councillor with doubts about the scheme and willing to represent residents who would rather have the money spend on much needed improvements to Brent's deteriorating roads and pavements
Cllr Tatler, Lead Member for Regeneration, Highways and Planning, (Labour, Fryent) said that the scheme was not just about the replacement for the pedway but for the whole walkway from Wembley Park station and that the business plan involved would involve Brent Council benefiting from a share of the net income generated by the scheme.
The contribution is contingent on:
Quintain not pursuing development of the site next to the Civic Centre to the extent previously given outline permission by the council. Instead the council want Quintain to help 'deliver a development that better complements the role and setting of the Civic Centre, in particular creating a significant new square outside the Civic Centre Library.'Rather than coming back to Cabinet a decision on the adequacy of the level of funding from the Wembley Stadium owner was delegated to the Strategic Director of Regeneration and Environment in consultation with the Cllr Tatler. It is significant that despite this attempt to secure funding the report notes that 'it is confirmed the total contribution to Olympic Way improvements will be up to £17.8m. Caolyn Downs, Brent CEO, confirmed that this amount was inclusive of VAT.
A business plan between Quintain and the council (as above) for future sharing and reinvestment of the net income generation through 'assets' on Olympic Way.
Securing up to one third funding ccontribution from the Wembley Stadium owners.
The whole cabinet meeting, including other decisions on appointments to committees, NNDR rate relief, introduction of a flexible car club to Brent (cars can be left anywhere rather than designated spaces) and a contract for children's mental health services, took only 20 minutes in total.
It seems clear that the new cabinet will have even more of a role rubber stamping decisions made elsewhere than even the previous ones. The holding of the meeting at 4pm on a Monday afternoon reduced the possibility of any significant public attendance.
The decisions notice for the meeting is HERE
The landslide local council election victory has clearly given the cabinet, to paraphrase the slogan on the stadium above, the go ahead to 'dare to do', whatever residents may think.
On a related matter I have been in correspondence with Cllr Tatler about Neighbourhood CIL, monies that community groups can apply for to improve their area. A consultation about CIL ends tomorrow and I have been pressing the council for details of the schemes that were awarded grants in Round 2 of applications. A process that has been completed but the results not published. The reason given for the delay is that the final agreement for one project has still to be drawn up:
From Cllr Tatler:
I replied:The survey went out on 9 May. The survey will close on 23 May.
The list of round 2 projects shouldn't really have any bearing on the survey (round one is currently available on the web) - we ask if the priorities are correct, feedback on the application process, feedback on the criteria etc vs have we funded the right projects.In any case, the list of projects should be published now. We were waiting on one organisation to complete the legal paperwork.
Cllr Tatler asked me to let her know if there are any groups that need extra time.Thanks for your response. I think the Round 2 list is pertinent to the survey. As you say yourself 'feedback on the criteria etc have we funded the right projects.’ To see whether the right projects have been funded we need to know what projects have been funded and whether Round 1 is representative of future funding. Round 2 would provide that evidence.I have checked the CIL website and Round 2 has not yet been published.
I am concerned that the Round 1 list of projects funded include many that are really internal applications from Brent Council or semi-independent bodies partly funded by the council or working in close partnership with them, rather than autoomous communoty groups. See the list HERE
So Labour Councillors promise to give away £17.8 million of public money to a private developer for a project which that private developer claimed that they would pay for over 10 years ago. We are then told that the money is not just for the Wembley Stadium steps (a Stadium just about to be sold for at least £600 million) but for some unspecified "net income" that would arise from some "business plan" which has not yet been prepared or evaluated. This sounds to me like that brilliant Labour idea of giving away of the large Council owned car park behind the old Willesden Library and the promise of sharing in the profits of the luxury flats built and subsequently sold of to investors in Singapore. There was just one BIG problem with the Labour Willesden Library Car Park sell off scheme - Brent Council did not receive a single penny from the profits from the sale of the flats. And... oh, yes, the Labour Leader of the Council is warning of another £60 million of cuts in local services as already evidenced by the Council failing to cut the grass verges across large parts of Brent. And the only Councillor brave enough to challenge this financial incompetence is Councillor Choudhary. I think can expect an exciting 4 years under this Labour Dictatorship.
Cllr Choudhary is my local Barn Hill ward representative & I've called upon him a few times for various issues & I've always found him to be incredibly helpful & immediately responsive to my issues. He truly is one hell of a bloody good Councillor & I'm not surprised that he was the only one who showed balls in saying what he said in the Council meeting. I feel quite blessed that I have him as my local Councillor. We could do with a lot more Cllr Choudhary's running Brent believe me!
Shafique is a good bloke. I first met him long before he was a councillor, when he and I were among the co founders of the coalition fighting Brent Cross. He says what he thinks. I do wish more of them would follow his example.
Thank you for your report on what happened over this item at the Cabinet meeting on Monday. I did write to Cllr. Tatler (one of my Ward councillors) about the Olympic Way funding the day before the meeting.
I will include what I wrote (see my Olympic Way "cover-up" guest blog for more of the background) below, for information. Cllr. Tatler has yet to acknowledge my email, let alone respond to it.
FROM EMAIL OF 20 MAY, headed: "Cabinet Meeting on Monday - Item 10, Olympic Way":-
'I am writing to you now because there is an important local history matter, which is relevant to item 10 on the agenda for tomorrow's (Monday 21 May) Brent Cabinet meeting.
Carolyn Downs may already have forwarded to you a copy of the letter which Wembley History Society sent to her last month, about the tile murals on the walls of the Bobby Moore Bridge subway. In case you have not seen it, I am attaching a copy here.
Aktar Choudhury's report to Cabinet on the funding decision for the Olympic Way improvements mainly deals with "Zone C", but the points raised by the Wembley History Society letter are relevant to consideration of the "Zone B" (Wembley Park Station to Fulton Road) funding agreement with Quintain.
- Para. 2.3 makes clear that the Zone B funding is contingent on agreement with Quintain on 'future sharing and reinvestment of the net income generated through assets on Zones A and B of Olympic Way';
- Para. 3.4 repeats the 'key outcomes that the Olympic Way improvements' are meant to deliver (as agreed by Cabinet in July 2017), which include two that returning the tile murals to public view will achieve, namely:
*'Significantly enhancing Olympic Way reflecting its importance as the arrival point and processional route for millions of visitors and its place making role for new residents, students and businesses occupying the developments in Wembley Park Regeneration'; and,
*'Create an attractive and desirable route that is itself a destination, leaving lasting memories to its visitors.'
- Para. 5.4 refers to the current position over the agreement with Quintain (see Para. 2.3 above) and seeks 'delegated authority ... for the Strategic Director Regeneration and Environment in consultation with the Cabinet Member of Regeneration, Highways & Planning to agree final terms and enter into an agreement reflective of Members decisions.'
As an active member of Wembley History Society (often working, voluntarily, with Brent Council departments to promote an interest in our local history) I hope that you will ask your colleagues at the meeting tomorrow to allow you (and Amar Dave) to include consideration of putting the tile murals back on public display, as part of the agreement with Quintain over Zone B.
There are good grounds for doing so, as the Officer's Report to Cabinet on Olympic Way in July 2017 and the Officer's Report to Cabinet over the advertising agreement with Quintain in January 2018 BOTH failed to mention the tile murals. An important part of Wembley Park's heritage was therefore overlooked when those Cabinet decisions were made.'
NOTE: Brent Council officers and Cllr. Tatler should be aware of Olympic Way's history, because I wrote an article for them about it last year, which has been on the Council's website since November 2017:
I can only think that when they rebuilt Wembley Stadium they left the Pedway for history as they had already run down the Palace of Arts and the Palaces of Industry but they kept the pedway because it was iconic, not pretty but to the millions of Football supporters that worship the game it is everything from the first moments they walk up Olympic Way, they are Home, Olympic Way they feel at home of English Football. They would get into the spirit that they now finally reached Wembley. As they walk down the steps from Wembley Park Station, smile and acknowledge all that has gone before, viewing the beautiful Tile murals showing all the legendary sports, events and faces of all who have ventured on to the hallowed ground. They walk, and can stand at the gateway raise their arms and take a pic like they holding up the arch, sing their heart out "Football's coming home". Yes it's sentimental but it is part of the culture. Yes CULTURE having won the accolade of Borough of Culture 2020 this is one of the things we must keep. Philip is right, why is this covered up? Why are we kowtowing to the Quintains of this world. This is our heritage. People of Brent wake up everyone who backed the bid should now stand up and stop this fiasco. Stand up, be counted voice your opinions loud and clear. No to financing the Pedway or getting rid of it, No to continous cover up of our Culture the Tile Murals, and No to the sale of Wembley National Stadium to a Private Corporation. Cllr Tatler and CEO Carolyn Downs you should hang your heads in shame of selling us the residents out.
Without going over the top and giving him more credit and praise than is necessary,
I will say that having met Cllr Choudary on a number of occassions,
I found him to be a very polite, warm, welcoming, approachable, patient, humble and down to earth man.
I believe that he has a good heart and tries to give his all on behalf of the people in his ward.
However, the Labour cabinet is a mixture of individual cllrs
some who lack the qualities that Cllr Choudhary has and I believe that they are the ones that make it difficult for tenants views to be heard from cllrs like Shafique.
I must say that I agree with much of what Jaime Wrote because
why should Brent council be able to effectively throw away £17.8 million on something which is really a vanity project?
I say that some of that money would be better spent on fixing the roads and pavements which are in a terrible state of disrepair.
I also want to say that it was hypocritical beyond belief for the CEO Carolyn Downs to have spent so much time encouraging Brent residents to have their say in the recent local elections
only to ignore the views of those voted and opposed the council plan to give away 'our money' to a property developer.
Where is the spirit of democracy to be found in that?
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