Friday 29 June 2018

Show some #NHSLove tomorrow & celebrate 70th anniversary

Message from Larry Sanders, Green Party Health Spokesperson

Tomorrow, I will be taking part in a demonstration in London celebrating the 70thanniversary of our wonderful NHS.

The event has been organised by a range of health and campaign organisations, including Health Campaigns Together (of which the Green Party is an affiliate), the People's Assembly and the Trades Union Congress.

We assemble at 12 midday at Portland Place, London and will march together to Downing Street.

The marchers will include Greens, including Deputy Leader Amelia Womack, as well as people of all parties and none. Together we will affirm our support for a publicly owned and properly funded NHS, that is free for all, and show our appreciation of our amazing NHS workers.

Yours in solidarity
Larry Sanders
Green Party Health Spokesperson

UNISON - 'It is time to re-build Barnet Council & start process of bringing services back in-house'

Today Barnet Council have published a financial report detailing three options for the two Capita contracts in Barnet LINK

The options are as follows:

  1. Maintain the status quo in relation to the CSG and DRS contracts;
  2. Re-shape the contracts to better align service delivery to the council and Capita’s strengths and priorities, within the context of the existing contractual structure; and
  3. Bring the partnership to an end, and either bring services back in house or re-procure them.
The senior officers preferred option is Option 2.

They have identified the following services to be brought back into Council control

CSG (Customer Support Group)

  • Finance and Accounting (excluding transactional services provided from the Darlington shared service centre)
  • Estates (Property Services, Building Services and Facilities Management)
  • Strategic HR
  • Safety, Health and Welfare
  • Insight
  • Social Care Direct
Re (Regional Enterprise Ltd)

  • Regeneration Commissioning (including commissioning the Brent Cross programme)
  • Highways
  • Economic Skills and Development
  • Cemetery and Crematorium
  • Strategic Planning
John Burgess, Branch Secretary of Barnet UNISON, said:

I could say we, told you so, and we did. However the Council is in a financially critical situation and now is not the time to for rhetoric. It is time to start rebuilding our Council. I welcome the report going to Policy and Resources Committee on Thursday 19 July 2018.
However, Barnet UNISON will be supporting option 3 with qualifications. We support bringing the partnership to an end, and beginning the process of bringing services back in house. It is simply not feasible to contain to peddle the Commissioning Council model. Pragmatism driven by the financial crisis has to mean that the Council needs to include in their business case a major restructuring of senior management across the Council including the Barnet Group. The Commissioning restructure 2012 is not fit for purpose. The Council need to look at how services best fit including those within the Barnet Group. There must not be a silo approach to insourcing. 

Footnote: On 26 June 2017 Capita share price was 705.50 now six months later the share price closed today at 202.09 which represents a 72% drop in their share price over a six month period.
On Wednesday 31 January, 2018 the Capita share price opened up at 347 and closed at 182.50 which represents a 47.53% fall in share price.

Damning report into EasyCouncil, Outsourcing including forward by John McDonnell
Below are three short video messages from Dexter Whitfield on his report.
Dexter Whitfield on campaigning against outsourcing
Dexter Whitfield on outsourcing failures
Dexter Whitfield on true costs of Barnet easyCouncil

Thursday 28 June 2018

CHANGE OF VENUE & TIME: Brent Stands Up to Trump! July 7th Harlesden TAVISTOCK HALL 12.30pm

Brent Momentum, Brent Stand Up to Racism, Brent Central Labour Party and Brent Stop the War  are holding a meeting from 12.30pm - 2.30pm  Tavistock Hall  25 High Street
London NW10 4NE
  on Saturday July 7th to organise support for the demonstration on Friday July 13th when Donald Trump comes to the UK.

Speakers include:

Cllr Muhammed Butt (Leader, Brent Council)

Sabby Dhalu (National Co-Convenor, Stand up to Racism)

Ian Hodson (McStrike/ President, Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union)
Shaka Lish (Brent Green Party & Greens of Colour)
Seema Chandwani (Haringey TUC)
Mary Adossides (Chair, Brent Trades Council)
The organisers are at pains to emphasise that attendance on July 7th is not restricted to Labour Party members.  Free places can be booked HERE

Tavistock Hall is 8 minutes walk from Willesden Junction or Harlesden stations. 18, 260, 266, 206 buses.

International Reggae Day Sunday in Willesden

Wednesday 27 June 2018

UPDATED-PLANS APPROVED Brent Planners blagging for blocks in Wembley Park

Olympic Way today

I have suggested here before that Brent planners seem rather too accommodating to developers and the report for the Olympic Office Centre development application by Network Housing (Planning Committee July 4th LINK) has a number of examples of the developer getting the 'benefit of the doubt.'

The application is by a housing provider but contains only 30% affordable housing by household - the report claims 35% affordable but this is based on rooms occupied rather than the housing unit.  A slight difference perhaps, but significant.

A part 21 storey,  part 15 storey development will replace the present 8 storey building on the site bordered by Fulton Road, Rutherford Way and Olympic Way.

The new development
The existing 8 storey building is on the left. It will be replaced by a 21/15 storey building wedged up against the Unite Student building on the right

The report reveals a difference of opinion between Brent Labour Council and the Labour GLA in whether more affordable housing should be expected from what was once seen as a social housing provider. Out of the 253 units 34 will be a London Affordable Rents level (the use of this definition is welcome) and 43 shared ownership where the rent should not exceed 40% of net household income.

The rest will be private and presumably at market rents. The officer's reject the GLA's argument (Para 54 onwards of report LINK ).

A new  strategy is to cite the 'high density', 'densely built', 'highly urban' nature of the area - all consequences of what I consider poor planning decisions in the past but now used to justify more of the same. 

The cumulative impact of proposed schemes from Wembley Park station
Here are just some of the quotes from the officers (my emphasis):

Whilst the bedroom windows on this side of the development would see a lesser standard of privacy than other windows in the development, the windows on to which they face serve student flats occupied by transient populations not warranting the same level of protection as permanent residences. Furthermore, it is conceded that the general scale of development in this highly urban part of Wembley would inevitably necessitate some tighter relationships between buildings in places and given that this is the only relationship between another building and the proposed development which falls short of standards, the relationship is considered to be acceptable.

Overall, the impact of the proposal on surrounding daylight and sunlight levels for existing and emerging buildings is considered acceptable. There are instances where reductions would be felt (and they would be noticeable in some cases). However, the overall number of discrepancies is considered to be relatively minor considering the scale of the development. Your officers are of the view that given the benefits associated with the development of this site (the provision of a number of new homes in the borough) and the dense urban nature of the subject site and surrounding sites, the benefit of the proposed development was considered to outweigh the harm associated with the loss of daylight and sunlight. It is not considered that the matter would warrant a reason for refusal 

The LPA (ie the Local Planning Authority - the officers) agree (with the developer) that the availability of nearby open space and emerging social infrastructure will be numerous and that such provisions would justify a shortfall in total provision of play space. The lack of full onsite adherence to playspace is to be expected with the high density of the scheme proposed. 

The current offer of 35% affordable housing per habitable room falls below the 50% Local Plan target. However, it is a strong offer and Network Homes have improved the affordable rented provision as requested while maintaining the total original provision despite it being agreed by all parties that the scheme results in a financial deficit. Officers and BNP Paribas view this revised offer as the maximum reasonable amount of affordable housing the scheme can deliver, in line with planning policy, subject to securing an appropriate post-implementation financial review mechanism in the s106 agreement. 
Considering the benefits of the scheme, it is considered that the small reduction in the visibility of the eastern part of the arch is an acceptable consequence of this development and it is noted that the western part of the arch is already obscured to broadly the same extent, helping to bring symmetry to the view of the Stadium along the Olympic Way corridor. 
 (We've already messed up the view on one side so let's make it symmetrical.)



Brent Council: 'Grass verges have been growing faster than anticipated'

Brent Council has pointed residents concerned about the lack of grass cutting on verges and in parks to the following statement on its website:

The council has recently started to reduce the frequency of grass cutting in parks and on verges in the borough, allowing grass to grow taller, with the aim of boosting biodiversity and enabling a better use of our resources.

However, due to the early summer weather this year, grass verges in particular have been growing faster than anticipated and we have allocated additional resources to address these concerns. Cutting schedules for June have now been revised. See when verges on your road will be cut:
Please note that wet weather can impact on the progress of the grass cutting teams and these schedules will be updated during this period to reflect any changes to the timetable. If we experience an extensive period of rain, the increased cutting schedule may be extended into July.

More information

We are responsible for maintaining grass verges on the public highway, including on roundabouts, compounds, central reserves and roadside verges, to ensure that people can use roads and pavements safely.

We do not cut grass that is privately owned or on properties or estates owned by groups other than us.

We will:
  • cut grass verges six times a year.
  • make sure that all grassed edges are trimmed back to the grassed areas.
  • remove all grass clippings that fall outside the grassed area immediately after cutting (grass clippings will lie where they fall on grass areas).

Report overgrown areas

You can also request grass cutting via our Cleaner Brent app.
Once you have reported your inquiry we will arrange for the grass verges to be cut, if necessary, within ten working days of your report.

Brent Council announces deal for high-speed broadband by across the borough by 2020

Press release from Brent Council

Just in time for the Euro 2020 games, residents and businesses across Brent will be able to enjoy some of the fastest broadband speeds in Britain, aiming to deliver up to 1 gigabit per second broadband by 2020.

Brent Council has given the go ahead to high-speed broadband provider Hyperoptic to roll out its full-fibre broadband to an estimated 14,500 council homes and a number of businesses in the borough.

But it's not just residents in council-owned properties that will benefit. In total around 80% of all residential properties will have access to the new network as well as 50% of businesses across the borough.

Community centres in the borough will benefit from free broadband connections, where digital Inclusion training sessions will be held for residents and businesses. The training sessions will give people the tools they need to get online and teach them different ways to access digital services.

Offering broadband at more affordable prices than many Internet service providers, Brent residents will be offered some of the fastest broadband speeds in the country.

The council is also in talks with other providers to offer residents a wider selection of Internet providers to choose from, giving them the chance to shop around and find the best deals.

Cllr Margaret McLennan, Deputy Leader of Brent Council, said:
As Britain steps into an increasingly digital future, the need for fast broadband has grown rapidly over the past decade. I'm thrilled that Brent is leading the way in providing access to high-speed broadband for residents and businesses in agreement with Hyperoptic. We want to offer residents and business better choices when it comes to getting online, and access for those who may otherwise be unable to afford it.

The council works hard to ensure ease of access for everyone who uses our services, regardless of whether they're online or not, but we know the vast majority of people are online now. That's why we're bringing access to a high-speed broadband network to the majority of residents and businesses in the coming years. We believe that for many, access to the Internet isn't just a luxury, but a necessity.

Tim Huxtable, Head of Public Sector and Social Housing, Hyperoptic said:
Hyperoptic has been committed to Brent for many years, consequently it is already one of the better connected boroughs in the UK. We commend Brent for being such a strong, forward-thinking council and for appreciating the added economic and social benefits to be gained by providing the option of a full fibre broadband connection to both its social and private constituents and businesses.

Designed to deliver hyperfast speeds by delivering fibre optic cables direct to buildings, Hyperoptic aims to rollout broadband speeds of up to 1 gigabit to the majority of Brent in the coming years.

If you go to Roe Green on Saturday, you are in for a big surprise

If you have never been to Roe Green Village in Kingsbury you are in for a big surprise if you pop into the Centenary Village Day on Saturday - there really couldn't be a bigger contrast to the blocks of Wembley Park even if the two places were hundreds of miles apart. In fact Roe Green is about three miles from the Stadium.

Roe Green Village in 1920 (courtesy of Brent Archives)
Roe Green Village today

 Get there at 12 noon to support the youngster of the Brent Concert Band and either take a picnic or choose from  Caribbean, Indian vegetarian or Greek food while you enjoy the performance.

There will be plenty for children to enjoy including Punch and Judy and children's games and there will be a fly past by a De Havilland Tiger Moth biplane at about 3pm.

Visitors from other parts of Brent will be very welcome, but please travel by public transport (302 bus to the Grove Park stop is the nearest, or Jubilee Line to Kingsbury Station or 183 / 204 bus to the Valley Drive stop, then 10 minute walk across Roe Green Park). 

Background from local historian Philip Grant HERE

Brent councillors sign unity petition following the 15,000 strong 'Free Tommy Robinson' protest

From Stand Up to Racism. I understand that so far the petition has been signed by the following Brent Councillors: Tariq Dar, Krupesh Hirani, Margaret McLennan, Claudia Hector and Thomas Stephens.

You can  join them by signing the petition HERE

The 15,000 strong violent far right protest to ‘free Tommy Robinson’ on Saturday 9 June has raised major questions for all those who value our diversity.

The racist right—from hardcore Nazis, through the FLA/DFLA to ‘For Britain’ and UKIP—are using Robinson to re-organise. Nazi salutes and Islamophobia were at the centre of the mobilisation.

This is the first serious attempt since the collapse of the English Defence League (EDL) to develop a racist street movement and give it a political form. It is supported internationally by notorious figures including Geert Wilders from the Dutch Islamophobic right and Steve Bannon, former adviser to Donald Trump.

It is absolutely vital that all who oppose this come together in a united mass movement powerful enough to drive these new developments on the far-right back.

Donald Trump has played a major role in galvanising the racist right. We will take to the streets for the Together Against Trump demonstration coinciding with his visit on 13 July. And when Robinson’s supporters take to the streets again on 14 July, we will protest against them too.

Wherever the far right’s support grows so does racism and violence. Let's come together to defend our multicultural society from those who spread hatred and division.

Initial signatories include:

Diane Abbott MP, Shadow Home Secretary /John McDonnell MP, Shadow Chancellor / Len McCluskey Unite the Union General Secretary /Dave Prentis, Unison General Secretary Talha Ahmed, Muslim Council of Britain Treasurer  Mohammed Kozbar, Finsbury Park Mosque Chairman / Rabbi Lee Wax / Michael Rosen, poet / Kevin Maguire, Journalist / Thurston Moore, Musician / Sabby Dhalu and Weyman Bennett, Co-Convenors, Stand Up To Racism / Ged Grebby, Show Racism the Red Card Chief Executive / Richard Burgon MP, Shadow Justice Secretary / Laura Pidcock MP, Shadow Minister for Labour / Cat Smith MP, Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs / David Lammy MP / Emma Dent Coad MP / Marsha De Cordova MP / Andrew Gwynne MP / Lord Peter Hain / Claude Moraes MEP / Julie Ward MEP  Jean Lambert MEP / Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary / Kevin Courtney Joint General Secretary NEU / Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary / Dave Ward, CWU General Secretary / Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary / Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary / Ian Lawrence, NAPO General Secretary / Steve Gillan, POA General Secretary / Manuel Cortes, TSSA General Secretary / Mick Whelan, ASLEF General Secretary / Claudia Webbe, Labour Party NEC & Islington councillor / Rakhia Ismail, Islington Councillor / Gerry Gable, Editor/Publisher, Searchlight / Julia Bard, National Committee, Jewish Socialists’ Group / Salma Yaqoob / Kate Hudson, CND General Secretary / Lindsey German, Stop the War Coalition / Shahrar Ali, Green Party Home Affairs spokesperson / Kerry Abel, Abortion Rights Chair / Asad Rehman, War on Want Executive Director / Sam Fairbairn, People's Assembly Against Austerity / Maz Saleem, anti-racism campaigner/ Stand Up To Trump / Dr Siema Iqbal Co-founder of AVOW (Advancing Voices of Women against Islamophobia) / Phyllis Opoku-Gyimah, UK Black Pride Executive Director / Roger Huddle and Red Saunders, Rock Against Racism founders / David Rosenberg, Author / Alan Gibbons, author / Tony Kearns Deputy General Secretary (postal) CWU / Ian Hodson - BFWAU National President / Harish Patel, Unite the Union National Equalities Officer / Margaret Greer Unison National Race Equality Officer / Steve Hedley, RMT Deputy General Secretary / Jane Loftus, CWU Vice President / Denis Fernando, Rainbow Coalition

Angry scenes as Swaminarayan parents protest against school closure

Things turned ugly at Swaminarayan School yesterday evening as parents gathered in the school hall to protest against the shock news of its closure.

A Brent Council spokesperson said: “Brent Council has no role in the decisions of independent schools, including the decision by the Ashkar Educational Trust to close the Swaminarayan School. 

“Any parent, resident in Brent, who is seeking a school place for their child can contact the Brent Schools Admissions Service by emailing or by calling 020 8937 3110. 

“In November 2016 the Department for Education approved a proposal to open the Avanti Free School, an all-through (primary and secondary) free school. Under DfE rules, a new school can only be open when a permanent site is identified by the Education and Skills Funding Agency, who are responsible for securing sites for new free schools.”