Saturday, 19 January 2019

FA claims Wembley events in 2017-18 contributed £150m to Brent's local economy

The FA has circulated a report on the economic impact of the Wembley Stadium 2017-18 season. One local resident immediately said, 'Do you belive any of this? I am sceptical.' I leave it to readers to make up their own minds and welcome your comments.
I wanted to share with you the Wembley Stadium economic impact study we commissioned on the back 2017/18 season – a unique season for Wembley Stadium marking the 10 year anniversary of the new stadium, welcoming our 10 millionth stadium visitor and of course hosting Tottenham Hotspur FC for a full Premier League season. 
We entrusted Deloitte to analyse the economic impact of the stadium during this period – 58 major events, which, in addition to football, saw boxing, Rugby League, NFL and music concerts come to London.
We are looking forward to building on these successes with some of the biggest events in world entertainment, such as UEFA EURO 2020 and UEFA Women’s EURO 2021, just around the corner.

Report Summary
§  The 2017/18 season at Wembley saw a record 58 events and was the first time a Premier League football team had taken residency at the stadium. This higher number of event days resulted in an unprecedented amount of visitors to Wembley Stadium and the surrounding area.
§  Findings shows that Wembley’s events led to a boost of £150m to the local economy of Brent, £424m to London and £615m to England.
§  The 58 events attracted 3.8 million spectators, including 350,000 visitors from overseas. The project therefore reaffirms Wembley’s status as one of the leading event venues in the world that attracts significant numbers of visitors to England, London and Brent.
§  Deloitte’s analysis shows that the economic impact from the 58 events supports 1,800 FTE jobs in Brent, 4,900 across London and 6,100 across England.
§  Gross Value Added (GVA) is a common way to look at the value added to GDP by the production of goods and services. The GVA contribution of the 2017/18 event season was £83m to Brent, £231m to London and £334m to England as a whole.
The full report is below. Click bottom right for full screen version.

Confusion over alternative education provision at Roundwood Centre

On Thursday I published an article on the Counci's plans for the Roundwood Centre which, according to the Budget Scrutiny Panel  included the building accommodating a Pupil Referral Unit  to be run by the Brent Special Academy Trust LINK.  This would mean handing over the £5m asset to the Trust. The Panel must have got this information from somewhere because the original budget documentation merely said:
Site to be used for an Alternative Provision educational setting with evening and weekend activities being provided by the voluntary sector. 

There could be community concerns about the future arrangements. However the transformation of the Roundwood site to an educational setting with a wrap-around activity offer will mitigate community concerns.
According to several sources at the Labour Party meeting on Thursday evening Cllr Muhammed Butt said that the PRU (Alternative Provision) would be run by the Local Authority and was not suitable for a school.  He then muddied the waters by vaguely commenting that the authority was part of a consortium looking to set up a free school.

I sought clarification from Muhammed Butt asking:
I've heard that you told LP meeting last night that PRU at Roundwood Centre will be run by the LA and not a MAT. Is that correct? If so does Roundwood remain the property of Brent Council? I'd like to put the record straight if the Budget Scrutiny Report was wrong.
Butt replied, somewhat unhelpfully, that he never discussed Labour Party matters externally.

I have requested clarification from Brent Council's Press Office.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Barnet Trades Council and Barnet Alliance for Public Services 'dismayed' over Brent Council's Capita contract

Barnet Trades Council amd Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS) have issued the following statement LINK regarding Brent Council's decision to renew its business rates collection contract with Capita which we reported earlier today LINK
Barnet Trades Council and Barnet Alliance for Public Services are concerned and dismayed that Brent Council wants to renew its contract with Capita. Our experience of Capita is that it has delivered appalling service and therefore we, together with our local Labour Party, are campaigning for all services run by Capita for Barnet to be brought in-house forthwith. #kickoutcapita is our grass-roots campaign.

Examples of Capita’s misdemeanours in Barnet include:
  • A two million pound fraud carried out by a Capita employee, Capita’s lax and opaque processes completely failed to detect
  • A call centre which has consistently failed to answer residents’ calls in the required time
  • Incorrectly withdrawing travel passes from disabled and vulnerable people
  • Actually cost taxpayers more money than in-house services would, through extra charges and “gainshare” payments designed to maximise their profits at public expense
  • Performed extremely poorly in audits of the council and brought down the overall standards of council services
We urge Brent Council not to renew its contract with Capita. Capita, along with other failed and failing outsourcing giants like Carillion and Interserve have proved to be entirely failed models. We want to Kick Out Capita from Barnet and bring all services back in-house and under local democratic control. Brent Council should do likewise. The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell has spoken brilliantly about how properly funded, democratically accountable in-sourced public services are the future for the country and we agree. Together we are stronger.
--> -->

Privatisation marches on with PRU academy/free school at Roundwood Centre in Willesden

The multi-million Roundwood Centre
Readers will know that Brent Council cut their youth service leaving only the Roundwood Centre in Willesden which does not operate at full capacity and thus impacts on the council's revenue budget.

The Centre only escaped closure because Brent Council would have faced potentially having to pay back up to £5m representing the Lottery Grant that was awarded via the government's Myplace programme to fund the building. The fact that it resembles a group of white elephants is purely coincidental!

The proposal is to hand over the site to an academies trust with youth provision being delivered by an an external provider.  This could be the Brent Youth Foundation, a voluntary organisation  that was originally set up to help existing voluntary youth organisations apply for funding. It is funded itself via the Harrow School foundation arm, the John Lyon's Trust. Running youth services directly  would be a departure from the original remit. The Budget Scrutiny Panel suggested an examination of the long-term viability of funding from John Lyon's and the City Bridge Trust, presumably before the council makes a commitment.

In addition the council proposes that a PRU (Pupil Referral Unit) be set up in the Centre. This would provide for pupils temporarily excluded from school. It would be classified as a new school and as such would have to be a free school or part of a multi-academy trust. It is proposed that it be run by Brent Special Academies Trust (currently consisting of Manor and the Avenue special schools).

Given Labour's policy of not creating any new free schools and academies this is controversial within the local Labour Party. This is not only about the issue of lack of public democratic accountability of academies but also the very ad hoc way special needs provision is being developed in Brent and the backdoor privatisation of most of the borough's non-mainstream special needs provision. A practical issue is whether the BSAT has any relevant experience in running a PRU -  a different kettle of fish from managing special schools.

The Budget Scrutiny Task Force recognised this dilemma stating:
It is far from ideal in our opinion, that this new school would be a free school, but unfortunately the law ensures that new schools opening are always outside of local education authority control. Perhaps a change of central government policy [a Corbyn government?] in future may allow the school to one day become part of the Brent family.

The arrangement is also not perfect for Brent because the asset would transfer to Brent Academies Trust meaning any additional income they derive from hiring out other rooms on site would not be retained by the council, However we will retain some oversite (sic) of the organisations as a senior officer will sit on the Trust's board.
An asset worth £5m handed over in the form of a very long-term lease.

So far no academisation proposals have beend made for the local authority Phoenix School on St Raphaels which specialises in provision for autistic children and of course staff at The Village School are fighting academisation. If academisation went ahead there another multi-million Brent asset would be handed over to a Multi-Academt Trust.

I would argue that democratic accountability is even more important in special needs provisoon because of the particular needs and potential vulnerability of special needs pupils.

Brent grants permission for 8 extra events at Wembley Stadium up to May 2019

Fans leaving Wembley Park station for the stadium
Tottenham Hotspur will be able to play 8 additional matches at Wembley Stadium following a decision by Brent Planning Committee last night.  Up to three events will be up to 90,000 capacity and five at a 62,000  between 15th January and 12th May 2019. The 62,000 capacity crowd will now be able to use the upper tiers of the stadium.

Originally 17 events had been requested of which 10 were capped at 62,000 and 7 up to full capacity.

The Planning Committee approved the plans unanimously after receiving assurances about mitigation measures. 62 residents had objected to permission being granted along with a local residents association. Wembley Traders Association supported the application.

A substantial number of objections were from people living in the new Quintain development and the rest were spread fairly evenly in the area around the stadium.  Committee members expressed concern about the impact of mid-week evening matches at Wembley Park station when commuters and fans combined. Cllr Maurice said that there was over-crowding at Baker Street station on such event days. He was told this was outside the remit of the Planning Committee but that TfL had not submitted any concerns. Furthermore, when he told the Committee about the concerns of a fellow councillor in Harrow about the impact on Stanmore, when fans parked there and came into Wembley via the Jubilee line, he was told that this should be taken up with Harrow Council.

The Committee were told that action could not be taken against local residents who let their drives out to fans but that action was being taken over 'rogue parking lots', particularly in the industrial estate bordering the stadium. One appeal had been successful and the Council were taking it to the High Court. Officers did not mention that they were taking action against local schools that let their playgrounds out for parking to earn much needed additional income at a time of cuts.

If Spurs move to their new stadium early in the period the Committee were told that the additional events granted could not be transferred to another organiser.

Note: During the meeting I tweeted concern that the toilets at Wembley Park station have been closed for some time on the recommendation of the Metropolitan Police because of 'anti-social behaviour.' My requests for information on when they will re-open have not been answered.

The recording of the Planning Committee Meeting can be found here

Labour Brent Council awards contract to Capita as Tory Barnet consults on getting rid of them

Brent's Labour Council has awarded Capital a further 5 year contract, worth up to £3m, to collect its business rates at the sasme time as Tory Barnet Council is consulting LINK on ending its partnership with Capita (popularly known as Crapita in the borough) and bringing its services back in-house.

In November 2018 Capita agreed to pay Barnet Council £4.12m as compensation for poor performance LINK.

Capita's press release celebrating their new contract with Brent Council quoted Deputy council leader Cllr Margaret McLennan:
Thanks to the big improvements to business rate collection rates, we have been able to invest more in frontline services to make Brent a great place to live and work. The new contract we have signed with Capita will increase the level of business rate collections in Brent and enable us to deliver more efficient services to our residents.
In December Barnet's Kick Out Capita Committee had marked Capita's possible demise with a special Christmas song:

Butt offers Raheem Sterling meeting on Bridge Park in Twitter exchange

In a series of Tweets exchanged with former Brent and Kilburn Times editor Lorraine King, Brent Council leader Muhammed Butt, offered to meet with Raheem Sterling's team over provision at Bridge Park.  This follows an article in the Daily Mail where the Council was painted as less than helpful regarding Sterling's plans for a football academy on the site. LINK

Cllr Butt  returned to Twitter in December and at present only has 236 followers. He has recently had a tetchy exchange with Michael Calderbank of Brent Central Labour Party over the Time to Talk meeting on Brexit. Calderbank felt that that the meeting was constituted in a way that left no space for debate about the case for leaving the EU while Butt said that was not the purpose of the meeting.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

UPDATE: Brent library hours cuts 'off the table for now'

Brent Council's deputy leader, Cllr McLennan, told last night's Scrutiny Committee that cuts in library hours has been 'taken off the table for now'. Questioned further she said that even though it was off the table this did not mean that the proposal was not being looked at in the background and it may have to be considered in 2020. With those cuts off the table the council will have to look for cuts elsewhere.

Cllr Nerva pressed the Budget Panel's case for consideration of transferring libraries to a Trust in order to save money without reducing hours, as well as handing some services over to volunteers to prevent closures.  Cllr McLennan did not rule out consideration of these proposals.

Philip Bromberg of Preston Community Library commented to Wembley Matters after the meeting:
If I understood Margaret McLennan correctly, all of the proposed cuts to the Library Service (which included the possible closure of one library as well as cuts in opening hours) are now 'off the table'. That's very good news. Unfortunately the committee seems to have felt obliged to recommend alternative savings. Their first two recommendations would amount to a radical transformation (yes, really) of the library service and, as I said at last night's meeting, would probably prove more controversial than the proposed cuts in opening hours.

I asked where their recommendations had come from - who had they consulted, and what evidence had they considered? The surprising answer was that these recommendations for major changes in library policy had arisen from 'discussions among the members of the budget scrutiny panel'. (Discussions which, incidentally, are held in private). Had they asked their own library service? No, they had not (even though the library service had looked at - and rejected - the idea of a trust three years ago). Had they consulted any of the existing volunteer-run libraries in Brent? Or elsewhere? No, they had not. But they had discussed it among themselves. And that, evidently, is how policy gets made in the London Borough of Brent.

But, for the time being, the threat of further cuts seems to have been averted. And, as I said, that is good news.
Philip Grant adds:
I am strongly against the suggestion that Brent's libraries (and Museum & Archives?) should be hived off to a charitable trust. Although this might appear to provide savings for the Council, the increased administration costs which would have to be incurred by an "independent" library organisation mean that the funds available for the front-line service would be greatly reduced. Brent's Libraries/Museum & Archives play an important part in delivering a range of Council services to local residents, and should be kept "in house".'

My opposition to such Trust arrangements is based partly on the experience of a member of my family, who was working for a local Council museum service in the Midlands. The City Council decided to transfer its Museum and Art Gallery to a Trust, for similar reasons to those put forward in the Brent Libraries proposals. 

Because it was now an independent entity, the Trust appointed a Chief Executive (of course, on a salary higher than any of the existing Museum staff), who then "had to have" a personal assistant, and staff to look after finance, HR etc. 

The end result was that they had to make big savings in other staff costs, and a number of existing front-line museum staff, providing key services for the public and ensuring that the museum objects and displays were properly looked after, were made redundant.
So, Brent beware of transferring Libraries to a Trust!

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Brent Meeting: Parents' Mental Health & Wellbeing February 12th

Brent Council and Brent Clinical Commissioning Group have organised an event for parents in Brent on Tuesday 12 February 2019 to find out more about emotional wellbeing and recognise mental health issues which they or their children may experience.

The evening, which will be in the Grand Hall at Brent Civic Centre in Engineers Way, Wembley,  will feature talks by parents, discussion and offer information about emotional wellbeing and mental health. The event, part of the It’s Time to Talk series run by the council, is for parents or carers in Brent but other family members over 18 are also welcome. It will start at 7pm and finish at 8.30pm.

To register for the event, parents can book a ticket on Eventbrite, or email or call 020 8937 1068.

Barry Gardiner on the immigration aspects of the Brexit debate

Barry Gardiner, MP for Brent North, made a very long speech in the Brexit debate yesterday. The full speech is HERE but I thought people in Brent would be particulalrly interested in what he had to say about immigration:

I move on to immigration, which was a key part of the referendum debate. Like many Members, I was outraged by the dog-whistle politics of the Vote Leave campaign’s very own “Project Fear”: that millions of Turkish citizens would be queueing up for entry into the UK. That was a lie, and those Members who associated themselves with that campaign should feel ashamed.
I also want to express my disgust at those who have sought to paint leave voters as ignorant racists; it is that sort of demonisation of our fellow citizens that is so damaging to the discourse around Brexit. It precisely obscures some of the real concerns that leave voters did express, and had every right to. Their concerns were about the lack of housing, the strains on the NHS, and being undercut in the workplace by unscrupulous employers who often exploited migrants and paid them less than the minimum wage. All those issues are about public services and domestic enforcement. They will not be solved by our leaving the EU, but they will also not be solved by our remaining. What is needed is a change of Government policy, or, better still, a change of Government.
Immigration is a vital element of our economic growth, and of our trade and trade negotiations. We need migration. The Government’s own economic assessment shows that European migration contributes 2% of GDP to the UK. The Government’s proposed £30,000 salary threshold would actually preclude three quarters of EU migrants. I am not referring simply to seasonal agricultural workers or careworkers; even some junior doctors do not earn more than £30,000 a year. The Government’s supposed skills threshold is really a salary threshold, and it would do serious damage to our economy.
The irony is, of course, that EU net migration is coming down. Statistics published just last month record the number as 74,000. The Government have been complaining that free movement gives them no control over those people. Presumably they mean the sort of control that they have always been able to exercise over migrants coming from the rest of the world. Is it not strange, then, that the figure recorded for net migration from the rest of the world is 248,000?
This is why politicians are not trusted. They tell people that we need to abolish freedom of movement to bring migration down to the tens of thousands when our own rules, over which the EU has never had any say, are allowing three times that number. What we should be explaining to people is that net migration should go both up and down in line with the needs of our economy. As long as we have fair rules and competent and reasonable management of migration, this country will be better off. The trouble is that we have had lies, arbitrary targets that bear no relation to our economy’s requirements, and, frankly, administrative incompetence.
As with regulatory alignment, so with the exchange of people. The deeper the trade deal we want, the greater the need for an exchange of people. Foreign companies that invest in the UK want and need their indigenous workers to get visas, and the harder we make that process, the less investment we will secure. When the Prime Minister went to India two years ago to secure a trade deal, she was rebuffed on precisely that issue. The Times of India summed it up on its front page with the headline “You want our business. But you do not want our People”.
Students should never have been part of our net migration figures, and immigration should be proclaimed loudly by every Member to be an important and hugely beneficial resource for our economy. Yes, free movement of people will end when we leave the EU, because it is a function of the treaties of the EU, but that does not mean that we should not operate a system of immigration controls with the EU that allows broad and reciprocal access to all our citizens in a way that maximises the benefits to all our economies. That is what our businesses need: access to skills.

Brent Council seeks to reassure EU residents amidst Brexit chaos

The leader of Brent Council, Cllr Muhammed Butt, the Cabinet Member fort Social Cohesion, Cllr Tom Miller and Brent CEO Carolyn Downs all sought to reassure EU citizens living in Brent that they were valued and welcome members of the Brent community at last night's Time to Talk session on Brexit.

Cllr Butt said, 'We value every member of our community. Look at our workplaces, look at our high streets, look at our schools.'

Cllr Miller spoke about the 60/40 referendum vote for Remain in Brent and said that public opinion had since shifted further in favour of Remain.  This was why Brent Council had recently recorded its support for a People's Vote on the deal Theresa May had negotiated.  He condemned the fact the EU citizens had been denied a vote on their own future in the Referendum. EU families had been put in a precarious position, unable to plan for their future in terms of housing, work and their children's education.

He said that the Council intended to voice its concern over Brexit, ensure that Brent remains 'open' during the transition period, work with representative EU citizen organisations in the borough and continue to support a public vote on the final deal.

Carolyn Downs, addressing EU citizens directly said, 'We will stand by you and stamp on any inappropriate behaviour towards EU nationals.'  She added that the concerns of the  40% of Brent voters who had voted to Leave should be explored and addressed by the council.

The Time to Talk session was not as well attended as organiser may have hoped with open a small number of young people and not as many EU nationals as I would have expected.  It was interesting that although there were a number of people present who I know to be supporters of Lexit (a Left Brexit) they did not air their views in the main session, although the format of the meeting may have been against them:

Attendees were tasked with discussing their concerns in  groups and reporting one issue back to the full meeting. These are some of the concerns mentioned:
  • young people were not given an appropriate voice
  • the direction that the UK will take after leaving the EU
  • emerging tensions and discrimination in the community - how do we claw back community cohesion
  • will EU citizens with settlement status in  the UK become victims of 'Windrush 2' in the next 10-20 years?
  • need for support for public services such as health and education if EU citizens leave
  • the retirement entitlements of EU citizens in the future
  • EU nationals in poorer circumstances may not be aware of and able to access the application process for settlement status
  • the need to prioritise human rights in the new situation in  which the country finds itself
  • impact of leaving on the cost of living
  • deterioration in food and animal rearing standards outside of the EU
  • impact on import and export of food
In the panel discussion a further concerns was raised about the access of people with disability to the settled status application process and more broadly to discrimination against disabled people becoming more prevalent in the post-Brexit atmosphere,

Mandy Brammer, head of the Brent Registration Service gave details of the EU settlement scheme that would give EU nationals access to work, healthcare, schools and public funds.  A 5 year continuous residence will be required and an 85 page document gives details of the process to gain settled status.  It does not apply to Irish citizens.  The cost is £65 for an adult and £32.50 for children. It is free for Looked After Children,

If EU nationals do not apply it will be illegal for them to stay in the UK, they would have no right to work and no access to vital services.  The process starts on the 30th March 2019 through to December 31st 2020.

Regarding contacting affected residents I suggested that the Registration Services speak at Parent Forum meetings in local schools about the settlement process and Mandy Brammer confirmed that they would be able to do this.

The presentation by Cllr Miller and the one by Mandy Brammer are below and can be found on the Brent Council Brexit web page  along with other vital information HERE Click on bottom right corner for full size version

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Brent Budget Panel opposes reduction in library services and suggests handover to a charitable trust and more use of volunteers

Brent Council may be relying on local people having short memories regarding the above options for cuts to library services but they did promise back in 2011, when Brent libraries were 'transformed' by closing half of them, that opening hours would be increased and there would be enhanced service provision in the remaining libraries. Certainly the promise to extend opening hours was kept.  In addition after the very bad publicity and damage to the council's relationship with the local community, a change of political leadership brought a more sympathetic attitude to local library campaigners and some support for volunteer led libraries.

However the budget proposals for reduced hours or another closure  may well bring back bitter memories and accusations that the 2011 promises have not been kept.

The Budget Scrutiny Panel have come out in opposition to the proposals but suggested an alternative which was abandoned before, of handing over the libraries to a charitable trust. This will also prove controversial as it reduces democratic control and is contrary to Brent Council's recent love to bring arms-length and out-sourced services back in-house. They also recommend increased use of volunteers.

This is what the Panel had to say:

CWB006 proposes to reduce library hours and offers no argument that residents will benefit from a better service if this is implemented. We do not agree with this proposal and believe it should have been place in the “Most Difficult” appendix. 

We are pleased that residents in Brent know they have six council-run libraries in the borough that they can go to seven days per week. Scaling back on this universal service would undermine the trust the council has slowly rebuilt with the community following the closure of several libraries before 2014. We also believe there is a real danger that demand will be dampened if people become confused about which libraries they can go to at certain times and which they can go to at others.

There are other options we feel the council could consider before passing this proposal. The first of these is transferring the library service to a charitable trust as other authorities – including Glasgow, Luton and Fife - have done. If our library service were run in this way, the six buildings could become eligible for business rates relief of at least 80 per cent, presenting significant savings without a loss in the service. 

We recommend that the council gives serious consideration to this idea. 

Secondly, the largest mistake, in our view, that the council made before adopting its proposal of library closures a few years ago, was refusing to give local community and volunteer groups any opportunity to run the service. We recommend that this time every effort should be made to see if volunteers can take over some of the services to prevent closures. We are aware that some libraries require a permanent security presence and that this work cannot be done by volunteers, but this is not the case in every library and so should not prevent a volunteer team from keeping these branches open. 

Thirdly, we recommend that Brent explore all options which help to maximise the use of library buildings and extract additional financial value from them. For example, residents in flats above shops often struggle to get hold of council recycling bags for their waste. If they could collect these easily from their local library this would be easier for them and give the library further status as a local hub for council services. Likewise, there is much potential to rent out event space in some of our libraries, like the upstairs floors in Harlesden Library, and we think more work needs to be done to sweat those assets. 

This are just some starting ideas, but it is our fundamental belief that any alternative to make savings in the service are considered before we resort to the drastic step of partial closures. 

Pros and Cons on Library Trusts can be found HERE

Contribute to the Budget consultation HERE

Task Group tackles crisis of so-called 'affordable housing' in Brent

A Task Groupn on Affordable Housing will report to the Public Realm Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday that most Brent families cannot afford so-called 'affordable' housing at up to 80% of market rents or the 'shocking' fact that many social rents are already too high for them.  The report does not say this but it raises questions about the amount of 'Build to Rent' construction being carried in the Quintain development around Wembley Stadium which is clearly out of reach of the great majorityof  local people. As suggested by Wembley Matters in the past, it would be helpful if Brent planners were clear about which definition of 'affordable' they are using in their reports to the Planning Committee. 80% of market rent is not affordable.

Affordability in Brent

Brent’s housing market, as with much of London, faces distinct pressures. There is high demand, a shortage of genuinely affordable housing, a diverse mix of households - including large numbers of multigenerational households, above average levels of overcrowding and many households living in temporary accommodation.

To begin to understand “affordability” of housing in Brent, it is necessary to understand the relationship between average income levels and the level of rents locally. To this end Brent Housing Department commissioned Cambridge University to carry out a study in 2017.
The report reached some shocking conclusions, most notably that social rents are already too high for a significant proportion of Brent social housing tenants.

The researchers found that over half of current working single people or couples allocated social housing in Brent were struggling to afford Brent rents for 1 bedroom flats, and that 90 per cent of families with 2 children couldn’t afford the rent for a 3 bed property (affordability here being judged by the income that a household requires in order to be able to afford the rent without the need for support from Housing Benefit).
With higher average rents the situation is even worse for tenants renting from Registered Providers.

The report concluded that the council faced a choice in the future between building a smaller number of social rented units (due to factors including the lack of subsidy available, restrictions on and cost of borrowing, and land values) or a larger number of units at “affordable rents” (in this case 65 per cent of market rent) where many more tenants would be reliant on housing benefit support to meet the rent.

We should be mindful here that the landscape has shifted since the 2017 report was commissioned, given the recently proposed lifting of the HRA borrowing cap.

Private sector rents and income levels

In Brent the acute pressures on housing are compounded by high private sector rents combined with relatively low income levels in much of the borough, when compared with London as a whole.

In September 2017 the average private rent in Brent was £1,557 per month, which represents a 15 per cent increase from five years earlier and a figure only 8 per cent lower than the average of £1,685 for London. Whereas full-time workers in Brent earned an average gross weekly pay of £576.20 in 2017, compared with the London average of £692.50, a difference of 20 per cent.

Brent private sector residents therefore face paying rents at a significantly higher proportion of their pay than the London average. Many people in work also need housing benefit to enable them to pay their rent.

It is worth noting that while private rented housing does not meet the definitions of affordable housing, many tenants that rent from a private landlord can only afford their housing costs because they receive housing benefit. Such households aren’t counted in calculations of the “need” for affordable housing (as housing benefit enables most of them to afford their housing costs), but if housing benefit support was reduced or if there wasn’t sufficient private rented housing available at a price they could afford, then this would inevitably and significantly increase the need for affordable housing.

This highlights the degree to which Government investment in housing has switched over time from capital expenditure on “bricks & mortar” to the housing benefit bill.
 The detailed report LINK should be read in full for an explanation of each of the 18 recommendations as well as complex issues such as viability assessmments.
Affordable housing targets and viability
1. In the new Local Plan for Brent the strategic target of 50 per cent for affordable housing in new developments should be retained, with an expected tenure split of 70 per cent social rent / London Affordable Rent to 30 per cent intermediate affordable housing.
2. Brent Council should adopt the Mayor of London’s 35 per cent “fast-track” threshold approach to viability (with 50 per cent on publicly owned land and for industrial sites). Through this the council would forego the requirement for a financial viability assessment and/or a late stage viability review in the event that a developer guarantees delivery of the requisite percentage of affordable housing across the entire development (with the 70 per cent social rent / London Affordable Rent to 30 per cent intermediate tenure split applicable). The policy should be subject to review.
3. To help meet the need for larger affordable homes in the borough, Brent should continue to require a minimum of 25 per cent of new affordable rented homes to be three bedrooms or larger, accommodating at least a household of six (2 people per bedroom). However, this approach must be combined with a clear and effective under- occupation strategy, enabling and incentivising down-sizing in order to release more existing larger homes for re-let.
4. The council should continue to use the “Existing Use Value Plus” (EUV+) method for determining benchmark land values. Any other uplift in value should be captured for the public.
Corporate approach to affordable housing delivery
5. Future council policy with regard to the setting of rents for affordable housing should continue to be based on the traditional social rented model (like the mayor’s London Affordable Rent model) and should not be linked to volatile and irrational market rents rather than incomes.
6. Brent Council should create a cross-departmental Board of officers, reporting directly into the Corporate Management Team (CMT), to ensure a ‘one council’, joined-up,
sustainable approach to the delivery of Affordable Housing. The board should have high level responsibility for programme management and monitoring of an Affordable Housing Action Plan and associated suite of Key Performance Indicators. The Board should include senior officers from Brent’s Planning, Housing, Regeneration, Property, Finance and Legal teams.
7. Brent should consider adopting a land assembly, master planner approach, working with key partners and designating Land Assembly Zones in its Local Plan. Where attempts to encourage and incentivise voluntary land assembly do not succeed, Brent should commit to extend its use of compulsory purchase powers in these zones, where the law allows.
8. Brent Council should maximise resources available through the mayor’s fund, RTB receipts and borrowing to support direct delivery within its own capital development programme with a primary focus on rented homes at social rent levels and on larger homes (3 bedrooms or larger).
9. Brent must adopt a clear policy on access to shared ownership in the borough, making the product accessible to people on incomes that are as low as possible and ensuring the policy is designed to enable keyworkers to take advantage of it.
10. All new homes in Brent should be marketed locally first, as per the Mayor of London’s planned “first dibs” policy. Brent should investigate how such a requirement could be implemented.
11. Brent Council should explore all the options highlighted in this report for innovative partnering arrangements and delivery models with Registered Providers.
Estate regeneration
12.Future estate regeneration projects in Brent should use the South Kilburn Regeneration Programme as a model of good practice and make a clear commitment to ensuring there is no loss (in quantum terms) of social rented affordable housing and to resident ballots.
Land owned by public authorities
13. Brent should actively promote partnership working on publicly owned land with other public bodies, as promoted by the Naylor Review (One Public Estate), e.g. Network Rail/TfL sites such as potential over station and over rail land developments, as part of the Local Plan.
Industrial/employment sites
14. Brent must adopt a proactive approach to identifying opportunities where surplus commercial space, underused retail sites and car parks may have significant potential for housing development, both strategic industrial land sites and smaller commercial land sites, and in particular where sites have potential for mixed-use developments.
Small sites
15. The council and its agents should proactively explore partnerships with developers and RPs on small sites to maximise the amount of affordable housing across the borough. Brent should identify potential opportunities and funding mechanisms for increasing
development of small sites, including any further opportunities for infill development. It should be prepared to invest the necessary resources.
16. Developers of small sites with capacity for 10 or fewer units should be expected to pay a commuted sum, wherever possible, based on a consistent tariff, to Brent as a contribution to the fund for affordable housing to be built elsewhere in the borough. All affordable housing in small developments should be included in Brent’s periodic performance stats.
Community led housing
17.Brent should investigate and promote opportunities for community led housing projects, such as “Community Land Trusts” and “Self-Build” projects, which will protect homes and assets at affordable levels in line with local incomes for future generations.
18. Brent should explore setting up of a CLT model on publically owned land and encourage developers to do the same.