Sunday 30 September 2018

Brent rallies to Palestinian cause

In a move of great significance for the movement supporting the Palestinian's quest for justice
Brent  & Harrow Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Brent Trades Council organised a joint  meeting on 'Solidarity with the Palestinian People'. Local people crowded into the meeting addressed by national speakers showing the strength of feeling on the issue in our community. The meeting ended on a high note with participants urged to deepen and widen the Palestine solidarity movement.
Brent & Harrow PSC can be contacted at email to join the mailing list or for further information. New members welcome.

Hugh Lanning, Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign speaks, introduced by Mary Adossides, Chair of Brent Trades Council. 

Kiri Tunks President, National Union of Teachers section of the National Education Union.

David Rosenberg, Jewish Socialists' Group

Salma Karmi Ayyoub, criminal lawyer and external consultant for Al Haq, Palestinian human rights organisation

Graham Durham of Brent Central Labour Party

Questions and discussion part 1

Questions and discussion part 2

Thursday 27 September 2018

Solidarity with the Palestinian People - tonight Learie Constantine Centre 7pm - national speakers

Brent and Harrow Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Brent Trades Union Council have brought together a panel of nationally known figures for tonight's meeting at the Learie Constantine Centre.

Everyone is welcome to hear about the situation on the ground in Palestine and how people in Brent can take action in solidarity with the Palestinian people. The meeting in itself will assert our right to speak about these issues at a time when an atmosphere has been created that put this right at risk.

Brent NEU call on Brent Council to lobby for halting of Woodfield-Village Multi-Academy Trust

The following motion was adopted unanimously at the meeting of Brent National Education Union on Tuesday. It refers to the proposed Woodfield/Village Multi-Academy Trust:
‘We commend The Village staff on their ongoing campaign to fight against an imposed academy conversion. We note the [allegedly] corrupt practices that have been exposed in Woodfield academy and are subject to an Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) investigation. A further business consultant is now being bought in to work on finance at the school without any record of their business at Companies House. This was and is being overseen by both the former Headteacher and the existing Executive Headteacher.

We welcome the decision by the Labour Party at their Conference to halt all academy conversions and new free schools. We note with regret how out of touch the Brent Labour Party Chief Whip Sandra Kabir is, who pushed forward the academisation as Chair of Governors. This despite the overwhelming opposition by staff, parents, the community and local Labour Party members. The Conference vote underscores the fact that she did not, and does not, have Labour Party support for her stance.

There is still time for her to act and the proposal to be withdrawn. We hereby call on Brent Labour Council to lobby the Government and the DfE to halt the deeply flawed proposed Woodfield/Village multi-academy Trust. Should this not happen, we urge Brent Council to call on any new Labour Government to take The Village back into local authority control as a first priority.’

Labour adopts Green Party policy on academies but there is more to be done

There was a welcome move at the Labour Party Conference towards the Green Partys long-standing policy of opposition to academies and free schools and a commitment to reintegrating existing ones in the local authority school system. There is still a long way to go including the abolition of the SATs tests that narrow the school curriculum and stress both children and school staff unnecessarily, and the scrapping of Ofsted and its replacement by a peer-based method of school improvement such as that pioneered by the London Challenge and provided by Challenge Partners.

Unfortunately the change in Labour Party policy came after an article I had written for Green Left
s Autumn Conference Water Melon had gone to the printers. 

However, I think the following passage though is still relevant:

The concept of a National Education Service is relatively vague and still being worked on by the Labour Party.  At its worst it could be top-down, restrictive and bureaucratic at its best it could set up an entitlement framework across all sectors. 

Both Labour and Greens have to face the problem of the decline of local government both in terms of finances and democratic structures. The Cabinet system has meant very little open debate about local schools, which used to take place in Education Committees and scrutiny is often poor. Alongside this is a lack of public involvement with poor election turnout.

How will national government, local government and governing bodies interact in the future and how can democratic accountability be enhanced?
This is the statement issued by the Anti Academies Alliance:
Angela Rayner’s bold speech has put an end to the era of ‘cross party consensus’ on academisation that has dominated the education policy of the main parties for over a decade. In a move that will send shock waves through the board rooms of MATs and academy chains, there is now a realistic chance that the whole privatisation bandwagon will be halted.

Rayner’s speech to the Labour Party conference highlighted many of the problems and gave a glimpse of solutions through creating a democratic and locally accountable National Education Service. She tore into ‘fat cat’ pay and obscene profiteering. She put the needs of children and their families back centre stage of the debate. It was a genuinely refreshing vision. At last a politician has stepped outside the Westminster bubble and started listening.

Some may worry that there is insufficient detail as yet, but a new direction of travel has been set. Our job is to work together to help build this vision of a National Education Service, to help solve the detailed problems of “de-academisation” and to help carry the news of this important change into every school community.

That means challenging every academisation proposal. No school should academise this side of the next general election. It would be a costly, reckless and probably futile decision. The process consumes resources that would be better spent on ameliorating the effects of cuts to school budgets. Governors should refocus on real school improvement and local councils should scrutinise all plans for academisation and propose alternatives.

But it is also time for some introspection from the fat cat CEOs. The writing is on the wall. The least they could do is acknowledge how inappropriately they have been rewarded and offer serious pay restraint. But the likes of Sir Dan Moynihan, Sir Steve Lancashire and other fat cat CEOs should get out of education altogether. Their model of leadership has corrupted public services values in education. We need leaders in our school system who are committed to a National Education Service, who welcome local democratic accountability and who refuse to line their own pockets with exorbitant salaries. We need education for the many not the few.
Statement of Interest: I am a member of the Steering Group of the Anti Academies Alliance and a member of the National Education Union

Wednesday 26 September 2018

Greens hail jailed Frack Free 4 as heroes

VIDEO Jailed anti-frackers speak out HERE

Responding to the news that four environmental campaigners have been jailed for peacefully resisting fracking in Lancashire, Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP and a vocal critic of the policing of fracking protests, said:

The frack free four are heroes. These people put their lives on hold to defend our environment and climate from the destruction imposed on it by a government blindly committed to fracking at any costs. The latest cost being the liberty of three peaceful protesters whose only crime is resorting to peaceful direct action to resist an industry after every democratic route of opposition was ignored and overturned by the government. The people of Lancashire and their democratically elected representatives repeatedly said no to fracking.

It has been almost a hundred years since Britain jailed its last environmental campaigners. Since then, the theory goes, we have developed into a mature liberal democracy that can accommodate dissent. Today's decision blows that myth wide-open; authoritarianism has become a favourite tool of a minority government that lacks the public's support to force through its environmentally destructive agenda by any other means. Any government that conspires with the dirty fossil fuel industry against its own people is rotten to the core.

Dissent is not a crime in any country with a political system fit to be called a democracy. Consequently, the sentences handed to the frack-free four are chilling.

Tuesday 25 September 2018

Missing cycle storage on new Capitol Way development

Brent Council is following up what appears to be a failure by a developer to deliver cycle storage space outside the new shops in Capitol Way, Colindale.

Brent Cyclists alerted the Council on Twitter:

There is no cycle parking apparent outside these brand-new shops in Capitol Way, Colindale (but a vast amount of car parking). Hasn’t this been specified in the planning process?
Brent Council Customer Service replied:
Thank you for raising this. A 32-space public storage room for bicycles was approved alongside the car park through the planning process. It does not appear to have been provided and we will be chasing this up with the developer.
It makes you wonder if there are other developments where developers failed to deliver unnoticed by Brent Council.

Metroline bus driver wins right to wear her Rastafarian colours

Marcia Carty with fellow Unite members
Marcia Carty, the Metroline bus driver suspended for wearing her red, gold and green Rastafarian colours at work has been reinstated. (Original Wembley Matters story HERE)

Earlier today Kingsley Abrams tweeted:

Am delighted to report a great result on this issue. Metroline have caved in and are letting Marcia Carty display her Rastafarian sacred colours of red, gold and green.This follows the powerful public petition and @UniteLondonEast press release and threats to escalate.

The  petition started by Lee Jasper calling on Sadiq Khan, Transport for London and Metroline has reached more than 19,000 signatures. LINK

This was the case set out by the petition:

Marcia Carty, a Londoner and a devout member of the Rastafarian faith, has been driving London’s buses for over a decade. Throughout that time, she’s worn a head wrap that has displayed her Rastafari sacred colours of, red, gold, and green without a problem.

This summer (2018), Marcia was approached by her manager at the Metroline Bus Company and told that while she could wear a head wrap, she must no longer wear her sacred colours.  Marcia was deeply upset but nevertheless was prepared to compromise, and with the support of her trade union union, Unite, offered to wear a company regulation, blue head wrap, with a small pin representing the colours so important to her faith.  That was refused and Marcia is now facing the sack if she does not comply with the order. Metroline was awarded the title ‘London Bus Operator of the Year’ at the prestigious London Transport Awards.

The irony is, that thousands of members of the Rastafari movement and their families constitute a huge percentage of London’s bus and tube drivers. Metroline is the only company who is insisting on introducing this new rule. Marcia has been off ill with the huge stress, she has faced since the beginning of disciplinary action against her.

Rastafari is not recognised as legitimate faith by UK law having been described in the Court at the time, by the then government representative, Lord Meston as  nothing more than  a relatively short lived “sect, cult or movement” with “quasi political and religious tenants”. 

As a result, Rasta’s employed in the private and public sector’s have no protection against religious discrimination in the workplace or in school. This is unacceptable for a  modern, multicultural, city like London where the contributions of Rastafari and Windrush  generations are rarely formally acknowledged.

We  say this is unacceptable and we call upon the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan to intervene  directly and issue instructions to Transport for London that henceforth Rastafari workers must enjoy the same protection, from religious discrimination in the workplace, as extended to all other recognised faiths groups. Rasta’s are currently allowed to wear their colours by London Transport. Remember Harvey Mitchell ? 

London is a diverse, and multicultural city and is important to recognise and value that complex diversity,  and ensure that all ethnicities, faith groups and other protected minorities, all enjoy robust protection from religious discrimination in the workplace.  

We call upon the Mayor of London to end this anomaly and ensure that Marcia no longer suffers religious discrimination and can return to work wearing the colours of her faith. 

One Love. 

Capita Barnet Scandal: 'Never mind Brexit, it's time for Capzit!'

From Barnet Unison

Grant Thornton was commissioned by the London Borough of Barnet (the Council) to provide support in its response to the discovery of an alleged fraud.

On Friday 21st September 2018 Barnet Council published the Grant Thornton (GT) review LINK
The GT review looked the two Capita contracts below.

Contract 1: The London Borough of Barnet and Capita (BRDS) Limited relating to the provision of Development and Regulatory Services signed 5th August 2013 “DRS”
Contract 2: New Support and Customer Services (NSCSO) Partnering Agreement between the London Borough of Barnet and Capita Business Services Limited. “CSG” contract commenced September 1st 2013.

The combined worth of both contracts over a 10 year period £424 million.
GT review reported:
“The individual is believed to have committed a fraud to a detected value of £2,063,972 by directing CPO payments to personal bank accounts.”

“Our view of both contracts has identified a number of significant weaknesses which may have resulted in contractual breaches. We have identified and reported what we believe are fundamental weaknesses in budgetary control and financial accounting.” 

“We note both the DRS contract and the CSG contract detail consequences for the Service Provider of Persistent Breach”.

“Lack of effective review of controls over financial ledgers.”

“The monthly and annual budgetary control process provided by CSG Finance for capital projects in Re lack sufficient rigour to challenge unusual transactions and journal entries.”

“Significant financial control weaknesses”

“Poor accounting controls

“Weakened scrutiny over regeneration scheme KPIs” 

The GT review goes on to develop five broad themes and referred as control ‘Pillars’. GT had this to say about their ‘Five Pillars’
“In our view, if any one of these controls Pillars was functioning effectively at any point during the period (July 2016 to December 2017) on question it should not have bene possible for the individual to perpetrate the fraud…”
John McDonnell Shadow Chancellor said:
The Grant Thornton (GT) review of the two Capita contracts in Barnet provides yet more evidence of the folly of privatisation of public services. When I read “significant financial control weaknesses…“poor accounting controls” in the GT review it summed up what I have been saying about the current Tory government. They have failed our economy by rewarding their friends in big business, leaving our communities and public services to suffer at the hands their brutal austerity policies. I want to send a personal message of solidarity from the Labour Party Conference to Barnet UNISON and the residents who have fought side by side against a right wing mass outsourcing ideology. I fully support your campaign to #KickOutCapita from Barnet and bring services back in-house.

Professor Dexter Whitfield who recently published a joint review entitled “’Future Shape’ ‘easyCouncil‘, ‘One Barnet’= Failure” with Barnet UNISON on both Capita contracts had this to said
The Grant Thornton audit reveals very serious flaws and inadequate operational practice in both the Capita regeneration and back office services contracts. The fact that it took a fraud case to reveal the full nature and scope of these flaws is a damming indictment of Capita and Barnet Councils contract management and monitoring.
Furthermore, implementation of the remedial action plan may address the current inadequacies but gives little reassurance that there are no other serious flaws that remain to be exposed. The audit provides further significant evidence for the Council’s review of both contracts and a decision to terminate the Capita contracts and return to in-house provision as a matter of urgency.

John Burgess, Barnet UNISON Branch Secretary said

I am shocked but not surprised at the content of the GT review of both Capita contracts. Barnet UNISON predicted that service quality would suffer once the services were privatised however there is little comfort in saying “we told you so” for the hundreds of local jobs in Barnet that were lost as a direct result of Capita winning the contracts. What is surprising, is that it took a fraud, to deliver the forensic scrutiny we have long demanded.
Over the past five years frontline in-house services have endured vicious cuts whilst the two Capita contracts have drained badly needed public money, in order to satisfy the needs of Capita shareholders who put profit before quality services to residents. When Capita issued a dramatic profit warning on 31 January 2018, why did the Council not begin discussions to bring services back in-house. It seems clear from the GT review that even at an early stage there were serious endemic financial and budgetary issues. The Council is currently preparing a review of both Capita contracts.
It is my view that in light of the GT review, it is untenable that the Council could even consider allowing Capita to run any of their services again. The relationship between the Council and Capita is in my opinion irreversibly broken, it’s over, and now is the time to end it, no expensive divorce bill, Barnet Councils services, and residents have tolerated enough of the mass privatisation ideology. Never mind #Brexit it’s time for #Capzit”.

Monday 24 September 2018

Assisted Dying Campaign Group launches in Brent on Tuesday September 25th - Willesden Green Library

A new group campaigning to change the law on assisted dying is due to launch in Brent on Tuesday 25th September 2018.

The group is encouraging local people to come along and get behind their campaign to allow terminally ill people the right to die on their own terms. They meet for the first time on Tuesday at Willesden Green Library at 7pm and anyone is welcome to attend.

Brent is the latest group to join a network of 40 across the country which supports Dignity in Dying in campaigning for a change in the law to allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults the option of an assisted death.

Dignity in Dying has been supporting Noel Conway, a 68-year-old man from Shropshire who is living with terminal motor neurone disease, to challenge the current law on assisted dying. He fears that without a change in the law he may be forced to suffer against his wishes, and hopes his case will be heard at the Supreme Court in the coming months.

Francesca Hall, Campaigns and Outreach Officer at Dignity in Dying, said:
We believe that terminally ill people in Brent and beyond should be able to die on their own terms, peacefully, at a time and place of their choosing – but right now, they can’t. People are taking drastic measures at home and abroad because the law denies them true choice and control over their death.
If you agree that this is unacceptable, please join us and come along to our first local meeting on the 25th of September at Willesden Library to find out more about Noel’s case, the campaign, and how you and your community can be part of it.

When: Tuesday 25th September at 7pm
Where: Willesden Green Library, 95 High Road, Willesden NW10 2SF

Saturday 22 September 2018

Why aren't we worrying more about global warming? Meeting with Natalie Bennett Tuesday September 25th

Natalie Bennett will be speaking at this timely meeting organised by Kensal Kilburn A Better 2018 on Tuesday September 25th  7.15-8.45pm at St Lukes Church, Fernhead Road, W9 3EH.

In 2017/18, the Arctic had its warmest winter in the last 40,000 years. The old frozen Arctic is gone, and will never come back for centuries. We know this, but we do not seem to be talking about it, or what it may mean for our future. Are we reacting by going into denial? What are the facts? What are the implications? And what can and should we be doing, and asking our politicians to do now?


Natalie Bennett
was the leader of the Green Party of England & Wales from 2012 to 2016. As a scientist, journalist, activist and politician she has been deeply involved with these questions over many years. She will share her insights with us, and engage in discussion and debate.

Dr. Nicholas Smith
from the University of Westminster explores social representations of climate change. He has also worked as post-doctural researcher with the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the Liveable Cities Project.

Roger Hallam is a climate activist and theorist and was an organic farmer for 20 years. He has most recently been involved with campaigns such as Kings College Climate Emergency, Stop Killing Londoners and Vote No Heathrow.
You can book for the meeting on Eventbrite HERE

Nearest Station Queens Park (London Overground and Bakerloo)

Friday 21 September 2018

GREAT NEWS! Pensioner's power is back on

Shortly after I posted the story below that John Healy was still without power and tweeted the link to Wates Group and Brent Council an electrician from Jaylec visited John late tonight and has restored the power. John had made the appointment before the South Kilburn Housing office closed at 5pm.

John told me, 'That should be the end of my 'leak saga' which lasted exactly three weeks. The kitchen is almost dry but my carpet will probably take a week to dry out. It is nice to have everything working, even though my fridge is empty.

I am glad for John but I do hope that councillors will review this case with Brent Council and Wates Living Space to see how their communication and procedures could be improved in such an emergency.

48 hours after leak repaired pensioner still without power

Disabled pensioner John Healy is still without power in his flat in William Dunbar House in South Kilburn 48 hours after the leak which flooded his kitchen was repaired.

He was expecting a visit from Brent Council's out-sourced repairs service, Wates Living Space, to assess the situation and hopefully restore the power but they have not called.

He is without full power in his kitchen and also in his sitting room and bedroom.  He first reported the leak more than two weeks ago.

Foxy mystery in Willesden Green

A friend in Willesden Green has told me about mysterious goings in in her garden. In a clearing in her woodland garden, frequented by a local fox, she has found over a number of days a soft toy where she leaves out eggs and Vegemite sandwiches for the fox.

When she told me that a toy rabbit had been left I said, 'You watch, it will be Eeyore next.' It was.

The soft toys have that distinct smell of fox and when I visited today Eeyore and Rabbit had been washed and were hanging out to dry on a very blustery day.

I am hoping that a grateful fox won't be dragging Christopher Robin into the garden next.

Speaking exclusively to Wembley Matters the recipient of the foxy gifts said:
I think this is the fox's way of saying 'thank you' for the food and leaving me with a gift in exchange. Rather than mangling the soft toys it is obviously holding them very gently in its jaws as there is little damage. The arm of one of the bears has been torn a little but that may have already been done so, apart from the smell, they are fine.

It may be that a lonely fox has been taking them from a child's garden as companions although it does seem to get on well with the local cats.

There may be a child in the neighbourhood who is sad and missing her much loved soft toys. Now that they have been washed, they are ready to be returned to their owner and I hope his or her parents will see this story and get in touch with Martin.
If you think that the toys belong to your child please get in touch with me at with a note giving some clue of a name etc on the label of one of the toys.

Brent Council should reinstate the role of Allotments Officer to tackle overgrown plots and poor billing

The overgrown allotment next to my plot at Birch Grove, Kingsbury
I was pleased to see Cllr Janice Long take up the issue of Brent Council's allotments at the recent Full Council meeting. It is a subject that has been covered on Wembley Matters several times.

Cllr Long said that she was receiving a lot of complaints about the state of our allotments: the billing process is disorganised, the council does not therefore know who no longer requires their allotment and the result is that many are left overgrown - 'a mess.'

She went on to say that the Council had got rid of its Allotments Officer (something I campaigned against) and the work had  'been dumped on someone in the parks department.'

Long mistakenly said she thought that allotments had been converted to self management, in fact allotment holders except for one site turned this down but the Allotments Officer was nevertheless made redundant. There are however allotment representatives who can liaise between allotment tenants and the council.  There used to be an incentive of free plot rental for people taking on this role but I am not sure this is still the case. My allotment site at Birchen Grove has recently elected a new representative and I hope this will result in some improvement. However I think the problem will only be resolved if Brent Council decide to reinstate the Allotments Officer position - there is a lot of potential income in those plots that are not currently being cultivated.

Cllr Krupa Sheth, lead cabinet member for the environment, responding to Cllr Long said, 'We definitely want to get the best out of our allotments. I'll take this back to the parks team and make sure the billing is done properly as well.'

Watch out for major traffic delays in Wembley area Saturday evening

Major emergency works to a collapsed sewer at the junction of Wembley Park Drive and Wembley Hill Road and Joshua v Povetkin boxing at the stadium (gates open 5.30pm) means that there are likely to be major delays to traffic, including local buses, during the evening, restricting local residents' ability to move around the area,

Event Day parking restrictions will apply.

UPDATED: Brent Civic Centre, or Quintain billboard?

Brent Civic Centre from Olympic Way (from the 2018 Open House website)

This weekend (22 and 23 September) it’s the annual London “Open House” *. One of the buildings you can visit and tour as part of this event is Brent Civic Centre, but if you rely on the outside view of the building shown on their website, you may be in for a disappointment. 
The reality of the view, as shown by this photograph taken by a local resident earlier this week, and shared with me (thank you), is rather different. Parts of Brent’s highly praised Civic HQ may not be the most picturesque architecturally, but do they really need to be covered up with a huge advertisement?
The advertisement, for Quintain’s Tipi Rental flats, makes a striking addition to the area, but is this what public buildings are meant to be for? For some reason, it makes me think of the Soviet Union during the Stalin era. Is that an appropriate image for our Civic Centre to project?
You may, like me, wonder how this use of a prominent Wembley Park landmark was allowed to happen. The answer lies in application no. 17/4177, which was dealt with by Brent’s Planning Officers, not its Planning Committee, in October 2017. This was an application for advertising consent, for the ‘installation of a non-iIlluminated advertisement banner to the side elevation of the Brent Civic Centre.’
The application drawings showed that the proposed banner would be 30.25 metres high and 9.45 metres wide. They also included an elevation drawing, showing what the proposed banner advertisement would look like:-

I have researched the law on advertising consent recently, in connection with the adverts which have covered the tile murals in the Bobby Moore Bridge subway, at the Wembley Park Station end of Olympic Way, since 2013. The law is set out in the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007.  Regulation 3 says that:
‘A local planning authority shall exercise its powers under these Regulations in the interests of amenity …’ and that,
‘… factors relevant to amenity include the general characteristics of the locality, including the presence of any feature of historic, architectural, cultural or similar interest.’  
By inviting visitors to the Civic Centre for Open House week-end, Brent Council would appear to claim that the building is a feature of, at least, architectural interest, but this does not seem to have carried much weight when it exercised its powers ‘in the interests of amenity’.
That does not come as a surprise to me, however, as when it considered a similar application LINK , it failed to take into account the historic and cultural interest of the tile murals, a major piece of public art welcoming visitors to Wembley Park, which it allowed to be covered with adverts! I may write more on that subject, another time.
The decision letter of 20 October 2017 on application 17/4177, was addressed to a Mr Welbourne of Leeds (who I presume was acting as agent for Quintain) and signed by Brent’s Head of Planning. It granted consent for an advertising banner on the side of the Civic Centre for a period of 5 years. The reasons for giving consent were:
‘The proposed development is in general accordance with policies contained in the:
Brent’s Development Management Policies (and)
Council’s Supplementary Planning Guidance 8.’
I have not checked through all of those planning policies, so can’t say whether or not I agree!
You may think that at least Brent Council is getting some income from allowing this advert to be displayed on the side of the Civic Centre. But perhaps not. I have heard (unofficially) that the part of the building with the advert attached actually belongs to Quintain, as part of the deal with Brent for building the Civic Centre. Can anyone confirm whether that is true or not? Is it our Civic Centre, or just a Quintain billboard?

See the Open House website LINK  for details of all the interesting Brent buildings and architecture available to visit this week-end.


Asked for a comment on Philip's article a spokepserson for Brent Council said:
“With Government funding to Brent being cut in half, we’re having to find new ways to generate income to help meet that shortfall, which can then be spent on protecting services that matter most to residents, so this isn’t just an adverting sign, it’s a sign of the times.

“To get the most out of the space on the side of the building, we are partnering up with Wembley Park who, as well as having excellent contacts with Wembley event organisers, also offered the council the most amount of money in a competitive tendering process to use the space, under an agreement which will also ensure that adverts displayed there are in line with Brent values.”

Wednesday 19 September 2018

Standing together against racism and Islamophobia in Dollis Hill

The T-shirt says: There are two types: they are either your brothers in faith or your equals in humanity
Standing together in solidarity
Local people, including members of North West London Stand Up To Racism, received a warm welcome tonight at the Al-Majlis and Al- Hussaini Centre in Dollis Hill when they visited to express support and solidarity after the previous night's attack. The Chair and Secretary of Brent Trades Council were amongst the visitors.

The group were invited in to share in the celebrations and the atmosphere was positive with clear determination that such episodes would not be allowed to divide the community.

I was struck particularly by a very articulate lower secondary boy who was keen to explain his faith and at the same time emphasise his respect for all religions by explaining the meaning of the slogan on his T-shirt.

Women visitors were welcomed with  food and sweets and speeches were made thanking them for their support.

There was a low-key police presence at the Centre in Edgware Road as well as effective stewarding by the Centre itself.

Earlier Brent Council had issued this statement from Cllr Muhammed Butt, leader of the council:
Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have been injured and all those affected by the serious act of violence which took place outside the Al-majlis Al-Hussaini Center last night.

We are in close contact with the police who are looking into this as a possible hate crime. However, we are reassured that the police do not believe there is an ongoing threat to Brent's Muslim community. There is absolutely no place for hate in our borough. Violence like this will not be tolerated.

We visited representatives at the centre this afternoon and will give them all the help they need.

Brent has one of the most diverse communities in the UK and we are extremely proud of this. We will not allow cowardly acts like this to spread fear and hate amongst our residents.

Wembley sewer collapse will mean severe traffic delays for up to two weeks

From Brent Council

Due to a sewer collapse on Wembley Park Drive near the junction with Wembley Hill Road, Thames Water are doing emergency works and four way, four phase temporary traffic lights have been set up to control traffic. Clarendon Gardens has also been closed to assist with traffic flows.

It is estimated that these works will take up to two weeks to complete and delays in the area are expected to be severe, especially during peak times. There will be clashes with events at Wembley Stadium, the boxing on Saturday and potentially Spurs v Barcelona.

Repair carried out at pensioner's flooded flat. Power still off.

The good news is that after two weeks the repair to dry risers at William Dunbar House on the South Kilburn Estate  that caused John Healy's flat to flood has at last been carried out. There was a residual amount of water that continued to drip from the ceiling but that has now stopped.

Unfortunately the flat will need to dry out before power can be restored and meanwhile John has no heating or hot water. Wates will need to visit to assess when power can be safely switched back on.

Don't let the government off the hook for meaningless platitudes on housing

Tim Clark of Construction News writes some straight-talking updates for the sector and today's is no exception:

Is there any part of the industry that has seen more false dawns over the past decade than the housing sector?
I ask this following this morning’s unprecedented visit to the National Housing Federation’s annual conference by the prime minister, where she gave a speech making all the right noises.
Theresa May got a standing ovation for a speech full of platitudes, faint praise, promises to understand social housing needs, and an announcement of £2bn in extra cash.

Unfortunately, promises made on the stump are often too good to be true.

While this announcement was billed as genuinely new cash rather than recycled spending, it still comes with a catch: the £2bn will only be available from 2022.

Call me a cynic, but if a company chief executive stood up in front of their staff and said, “Great news: you’re all getting a raise… in four years’ time”, how many of those employees are going to whoop in delight?

Following May’s announcement, how many development managers will call a meeting to plan how to use this new cash?


Because there’s absolutely no guarantee this money will ever actually be available. You might as well place a bet on the 2022 Grand National.

No parliament can bind its successor, and the PM’s promises today are empty because she cannot guarantee she’ll be heading up the government for the next decade.

Right now you’d be brave to bet on May surviving beyond Christmas, let alone 2022.

Even then, this £2bn has been pledged for a period of time for which departmental budgets have not even been set out yet. May knows that we can have no idea how this money will fit in with the overall social housing settlement for 2022-28, or how it will compare with the £9bn in total funding committed for 2015-21 – not to mention the pre-2010 level of £3bn-a-year.

This all falls far short of the PM’s claims to be providing clarity for the social and affordable housing sector.

Of course, the government has also broken promises before.

At the NHF conference in 2015, the then communities minister Greg Clark struck a historic deal with the sector that opened up housing associations to right to buy. This meant HA stock was set to be sold off for the first time.

The sector agreed to the plan because it feared what the then Cameron government would devise if it did not.

The government promised that homes sold would be replaced on a one-for-one basis. New figures show this has not happened – in fact, fewer than a third of the 60,000 homes sold by councils since 2012 have been replaced, mainly due to lack of funds.

It often feels that the housing sector suffers from a form of collective amnesia, happy simply to be given attention and lap up the warm words. 

An announcement of real cash to build real homes right now would be welcome, but this is not it. We shouldn’t let the government off the hook for giving out meaningless platitudes. 

Vigil tonight 9pm outside Cricklewood Islamic centre after last night's attack by a car mounting pavement

Cllr Tom Miller, lead member for Brent Council for Stronger Communities, speaking about the incident last night when a car drove into the crowd outside  Al-majlis and Al- Hussaini halls on Edgware Road, Cricklewood, said:
It's not clear that Islamophobia was the actual reason why the incident developed, but it may have had a role as it went on. There's not much more information for now, but I'd just like to reassure that we don't believe Muslims are being deliberately targeted.
The Guardian reported:
Three people have been injured after a car ploughed into a crowd outside a north London Islamic centre, in an incident that is being treated as a hate crime.

The collision took place at Al-Majlis Al-Hussaini centre at the junction of Oxgate Lane and Edgware Road in Brent, which had been hosting a religious event.

Simon Rose, the local police commander, said at 12.30am voluntary stewards and members of the security team challenged a group of people who were in a car park around the corner from the centre. 

The volunteers and stewards were allegedly subjected to Islamophobic and racist abuse and there was an altercation.

 “The people who had been challenged then drove at members of the community in a car,” Rose said. “The car mounted the pavement twice and two people have been seriously hurt. Their injuries at this time are not believed to be life-threatening.”

He added: “It’s being dealt with as an Islamophobic hate crime. It is not at this time being dealt with as a terrorism incident, although that is as always subject to continuous review.”
A spokesman for the Hussaini Association, which organises Islamic lectures at the centre, told ITV News : "We are in deep shock at such an attack taking place on our community but remain proud to live in a diverse and tolerant society."

There will be a vigil outside the centre tonight from 9pm:

North West London Stand Up To Racism urged local people to join the vigil in solidarity with the victims. Vigil at 9 p.m tonight at Al-majlis and Al- Hussaini halls, 403-405 Edgware Road, NW2 6LN.