Friday, 20 September 2019

Brent launches their participation in Global Climate Strike with rally at Civic Centre

Brent launched its participation in the Global Climate Strike today with a rally outside Brent Civic cemtre addressed by school student Sean Bradley; Brent NEU co-secretary, Jenny Cooper,; Dawn Butler MP; Cllr Krupa Sheth, Lead Cabiner Member for Environment; Richard Lynch, President of the Hendon branch of the GMB and Brent Friend of the Earth's Andrew Lawrence.

Dawn Butler paid tribute to Brent Friends of the Earth confessing that many had been slow to heed their warnings, over years, of the dangers of Climate Change.

Sean Bradley (Centre) with Richard Lynch (Left)

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Join the Global Climate Strike rally outside Brent Civic Centre tomorrow - then on to Millbank

Brent environmental activists, politicians and trade unionists will be joining Council staff demonstrating solidarity with the Global Climate Strike on Friday morning with a rally outside Brent Civic Centre in Wembley.

They are answering the call from Greta Thunberg and other young climate activists for the older generation to support the campaign  for urgent action on the climate emergency.

Brent Council has given permission for Brent Council workers to join the rally with manager’s permission as long as their attendance does not affect service provision.

Brent citizen’s who recognise the threat posed by climate change are invited to join the Rally from 9.30am to 10am to show their support and to hear speeches from a broad range of speakers including a local school student.  Home made placards particularly welcome.

After the rally many of those attending will move on to the main solidarity event in Central London at Millbank, Westminster.


Climate Strikers invite you to Green New Deal workshop September 26th Preston Library

The youth climate strikers would like to invite you to attend a workshop about the Green New Deal on Thursday 26th September as part of their national week of climate action. The UK Student Climate Network are organising this workshop for local people and grassroots organisations in London in order to:

  1. Explain what the basic principles of the Green New Deal are
  2. Discuss how we can spread knowledge of a GND within our organisations and communities
  3. Brainstorm ideas about what a GND could mean for us - both on a national and local level

The workshop will be taking place at Preston Community Library (Carlton Avenue East, Wembley, HA9 8PL) from 6-8pm on Thursday 26th. If you would like to attend this workshop, please RSVP by purchasing a FREE ticket on our Eventbrite page below. We ask that tickets are limited to 2 per organisation, as we want to make sure we have a good variety of different groups.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Consternation at threats to health provision in Brent voiced at Council meeting

Dawn Butler MP for Brent Central took the unusual step of addressing last night's Council meeting on the threat to cut the overnight hours of the Urgent Care Centre at Central Middlesex Hospital. A 24 hour UGC had been promised to compensate for the closure of Central Mid's Accident and Emergency service. She spoke about the distances that would have to be travelled by people needing urgent treatment at night time and the dangers involved.

Cllr Ketan Sheth, chair of Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny, spoke about his Committee's attempt to hold Brent and Barnet Clinical Commissioning Groups to account over their proposals to close the Cricklewood Walk-In Centre and other councillors referred to the Pembridge Hospice closing its doors to new admissions and the financial difficulties of the St Luke's Hospice.

Cllr Nerva said that he was a keen supporter of the NHS but could not stand by while the service was whittled away in front of our eyes. It was unacceptable that people had to wait for more than a year for an operation or that access to a consultant was being reduced. He said other areas were not being affected to the same extent and called for an explanation of how the NW London NHS Trust had got into this predicament.

The motion proposed by Cllr Mary Daly (Sudbury) was passed unanimously:

Our Community. Our Health Care 
This Council notes: 
·      The Government has presided over the longest funding squeeze in the NHS’ history; deepened by cuts to Public Health Services and Adult Social Care.
·      There are currently over 100,000 staff vacancies in NHS England, including 41,000 nurses and nearly 10,000 doctors. This figure could easily rise to 350,000 by 2030 according to research conducted by The King’s Fund, the Health Foundation and the Nuffield Trust.
·      There are similarly 17,000 fewer hospital beds now than in 2010.
·      The impact of Conservative cuts to public services and rising poverty are evident in the new Long Term Plan, with NHS England calculating that socioeconomic inequality causes £4.8 billion a year in greater numbers of hospitalisations.
·      Nine years of austerity, cuts and privatisation have resulted in nearly 2.8 million people waiting over 4 hours in A&E last year, over 540,000 patients waiting over 18 weeks for treatment and NHS waiting lists growing to over 4.3 million.
·      The underlying deficit of nearly half of the NHS trusts which provide secondary care to patients referred by a GP is close to £5 billion.

This Council further notes, the consequences of these swingeing cuts:

·      North West London Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) face a significant deficit in the forthcoming year, with a projected deficit of £112m. The clinical commissioning group for Brent represents £9m of this debt.
·      While North West London’s population has grown by 5%, funding is stagnant, and worsened by unplanned emergency care rising by 25%.
·      In 2018, London North West Healthcare Trust received a second Requires Improvement report from the CQC.
·      Proposals to merge eight CCGs in North West London into one CCG by April 2021 will lead to yet more re-organisation, change and ultimately disruption to residents.
·      Public Health funding for Brent services such as smoking cessation and alcohol recovery treatment have again been cut by the Government, by £0.5m for the next year.
·      Age UK states there is a “perfect storm” in the Adult Social Care sector with parts facing “total collapse”; with £8 billion needed to stabilise the system and tackle increasing complex care. The latest promised Government green paper on the sector has been delayed at least six times over the last 18 months.
·      According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Mental Health Trusts have less money in real terms to spend on mental health now than in 2012 and the number of mental health nurses has fallen by 4,000.
·      IFS analysis indicates that if we leave the EU, the public purse is likely to lose enough money each year to fund the whole of NHS England for 3 months.

This Council believes:
·      The NHS belongs to the people; it is Labour’s proudest achievement, designed for universal healthcare for all on the basis of need, free at the point of use - the NHS should always have the resource to provide a comprehensive system, where everyone counts.
·      The NHS should work across organisational and geographical boundaries, to facilitate services for every resident.
·      The Government has passed the buck with cuts to public services delegated to our local NHS, resulting in a hollowing out of services in Brent and the surrounding area.
·      Residents and members of the Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny committee are concerned about the stymieing of access to GP services across the borough and upon its boundaries: with Cricklewood GP Centre under consultation to cease its walk-in provision; and Central Middlesex Urgent Care Centre consulting to curtail its hours of operation; and Pembridge Hospice in Ladbroke Grove closing its doors to new admissions.
·      The reduction of services from Central Middlesex UCC will impact on our poorest residents, without access to their own vehicles, with alternative services involving lengthy journeys by public transport at night, upwards of an hour.
·      These changes will be felt far and wide across the health economy, as more residents seek support through accident and emergency or via their general practitioner.
·      The sustained reduction in the ability of the NHS to provide essential services affects everyone, young to old and certainly those most vulnerable.

The Council resolves: 
To work with Brent’s Members of Parliament, to voice our opposition to any future arrangements in which alterations to local NHS services threaten the safety of patients or residents alike, and re- affirm the need for health services to put people at the heart of any future plans.

Performing for the Environment - Harlesden, Friday 27th September - workshops and performances

Brent-based voluntary organisation BTWSC is calling on local organisations, projects, and youths to get involved in The Environment & Performance Session event. This free community event, which takes place Friday September 27, 6.15-9.30pm at Tavistock Hall in Harlesden, is an opportunity for organisations to take a stall or the microphone to publicise what they do, whilst young people can either join a workshop to prepare performing the 'Look Around The Environment' song on stage with rapper/singer Kimba, or perform a family-friendly song in the open mic slot.

The event aims to repeat the nice community atmosphere generated at the July 1 International Reggae Day event at the same venue by bringing back lovers rock singer Melo D, reggae veteran Prince Jahkey and local gospel singer Patreecia, plus The Brent Factor will be singing their soon to be released anthem, and author Shaun Cain will conduct a reggae quiz.

Kimba will be performing songs from BTWSC's It's Cool To... environmental projects, which creatively engage young people with environmental issues, particularly recycling, littering and flytipping. Workshop participants can learn the song by (above) and Kimba's rap version at

For more details, contact Awula Serwah,, and to

Monday, 16 September 2019

Brent Council nows faces further strikes as well as Call-in Scrutiny over Roe Green Strathcona closure decision

Encouraged by the support of Brent councillors who, as reported first here, have called-in the Cabinet's decision to close Strathcona School for further scrutiny, determined NEU members voted unanimously today to resume their strikes.

In the background both groups have been heartened by the support of Barry Gardiner MP who write to Brent Council back in July opposing the proposed closure LINK. This is a key section of his letter:
If council officers had actively been trying to prepare a case for the closure of the school, these are precisely the measures they might have taken. First ensure nobody knows about the place and even when they live next door, refer them to another school. In fact the head teacher has said that she has several reports of prospective parents who asked for their child to come to the school actually being told by council officers that the roll at Strathcona is full and they can take no more children. I would ask that the cabinet investigate these allegations which, if true, represent a serious breach of trust on the part of public officials.
Of course much of this might be more understandable were the school underperforming. In fact despite all the problems it has experienced, Roe Green Strathcona School is an excellent School, with their first cohort of Year 6 students achieving progress in the top 3% of Schools in England this academic year. This is particularly remarkable when one considers the extent of mid year admissions. In the public meeting held at Roe Green Strathcona on 6th June 2019, which was attended by local councillors, many parents testified to the quality of teaching and the quality of pastoral care that the school provides.
Just 3 years ago Council officers made an urgent recommendation that Roe Green Strathcona School become permanent by September 2016. They are now trying to persuade councillors that the school is not viable. What was then a saving is now said to be a financial drain on the council. What was then required to cope with the primary admissions crisis is now said to be part of an unnecessary and unsustainable surplus. What was then said to provide parental choice into the future is now having its very existence airbrushed from the Council admissions website.
Teachers and staff at the Roe Green School are rightly proud of the progress that has been made since the creation of the Strathcona school five years ago. In a borough where children had been out of formal education for many months, the School has added significant value to the educational development of every child that has entered its classrooms. They have served the council well. If the cabinet were to rubber stamp the proposal to launch a formal consultation for the closure of the Strathcona School site. I believe they would be betraying that service and acting arbitrarily.
Brent Council did launch a formal consultation. In over 300 responses only one supported closure but the Cabinet have gone ahead with closure plans.  Brent North's Labour Party MP is rightly holding his Labour colleagues in the Brent Cabinet to account.

For the NEU this is a much wider issue than just Brent. It is the first attempt at urban school closures since the 70s and 80s when falling school rolls led to school closures and amalgamations and indirectly to some of the super-sized schools that we see today. Brent Labour Council is setting a precedent that if successful, other councils may follow. This is why it is important to win this particular battle.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Strathcona closure decision called in for further scrutiny

The faces of parents, staff and pupils in my photograph above says it all about how they feel about the proposed closure of their much-loved school.

Now there is a little chink of light as a group of Labour councillors have called in the Cabinet's closure decision for further scrutiny.

Cllr Butt addressing a teacher and parent lob by in June
I attended the Cabinet meeting and it was clear that concerns about flaws in the officer's report were not addressed and the Lead Member in responding did no more than read out passages from the report. Cllr Butt's justification of the closure was rambling, incoherent and often irrelevant. LINK

This is an opportunity to move away from mere rubber-stamping and explore the issues involved in depth.

Guest Author Event at Preston Community Library on Tuesday September 17th

Saturday, 14 September 2019

'Wembley Park' deny that they intend to install facial recognition cameras but restrict political leafleting

'Wembley Park' Ltd (how did they manage to take over the name of our neighbourhood?), estate managers for the Quintain development have emphatically denied rumours that they intend to install facial recognition on their estate around Wembley Stadium.

In response to an enquiry from Wembley Matters they said:

We do not operate cameras with facial recognition and have no intention of installing them.

This is good news as installation of facial recognition cameras in the Kings Cross development has been extremely contoversial both in terms of their intrusion into privacy but also because of their inaccuracy.

The issue does highlight how much of what was once public space has been privatised and access open to restrictions.

This was brought home to me last weekend when I was part of a Brent Green Party group leafleting for support for the Climate Strike on September 20th. We were giving out postcards about the strike to passersby on the space between Olympic Way and Wembley Library and were  approached by a 'Wembley Park' security guard who asked us for our licence or written permission to leaflet. When we said we had neither he asked us to move out of the area. We could only leaflet on the narrow pavement on Engineers Way. Later when we leafleted on the pedestrianised road (Boulevard) that leads from Engineers Way we were again told to move on.

Not only have they taken over our neighbourhood's name but also our freedom to interact on political matters with local people.

The security notices define what is prohibited on the estate but end with a catch-all statement that gives 'Wembley Park' total control of what happens in the area:

When we queried this with 'Wembley Park' they replied:
Like every well-managed estate, we ask anyone who wants to distribute leaflets in #WembleyPark to approach our estate team for approval and to obtain the appropriate licence from Brent Council.
We responded:
There was a lot of controversy over the Brent Council leafleting licensing scheme. It was agreed the leafleting for political purposes was exempt:
Our leafleting was for political purposes as defined by Brent Council. We were encouraging support for the September 20th Climate Action
We believe that leafleting for political purposes is a 'civic freedom' and vital for a healthy democracy. We hope you and Brent Council agree.
There has been no  further response from 'Wembley Park'.

Discover Roe Green Walled Garden at free Open Day today & learn about volunteering opportunities

The brilliant and hard working Barn Hill Conservation Group have their Open Day at their Roe Green Walled Garden today.

Apart from running the garden the volunteers do invaluable conservation work in Fryent Country Park. They also run other activites in the park. Like any such organisation they can always do with more volunteers. This is an opportunity for you to help preserve a valuable green space, get healthy outdoor exercise without the expense of going to a gymn, and meeting like-minded people.

See the Group's full programme below:

Friday, 13 September 2019

Brent to stand in solidarity with youth climate activists on September 20th - please join in

“This is not a single-generation job. It’s humanity’s job... Let’s all join together, with your neighbours, co-workers, friends, family and go out on to the streets to make your voices heard and make this a turning point in our history.” Greta Thunberg and 46 youth activists from the international school strike movement
Local environmental activists, including Friends of the Earth and Divest Brent; trade unionists, politicians and parents are planning to answer the call from Greta Thunberg and other youth activists  adults to support the global climate youth movement by assembling at Brent Civic Centre at 9.30am on Friday September 20th in a display of support and solidarity. There will be a wide range of speakers united in recognising the urgent need to address the climate emergency.

Brent Council has given permission for staff to join the rally for 30 minutes as long as they seek their manager's permission and there is minimal impact on service provision.
Brent recently adopted a motion declaring a Climate Emergency and is planning to set up a a Citizens' Panel on Climate in October,

Brent National Education Union is urging its members to take creative action on the day:

After the rally many activists and supporters will move on the Central London to join the youth strikers at Mill Bank:

Further information:

UK Student Climate Network

Campaign Against Climate Change

Friends of the Earth

'Change your body; change your mind; change your life' - Author event at Preston Community Library

By Kazuaki Obazaki; numbered limited edition shikishi card print

From Preston Community Library
Tuesday 17 September 2019 at 7.30pm

Please join us for an evening with Julian Daizan Skinner Roshi, the first Englishman to go to Japan and become a Zen master in the rigorous Rinzai tradition, and artist and meditator Lazz. They will be talking about and reading from their new book, Rough Waking.

Daizan is also the teacher of Samantha Warrington, Preston Community Library's yoga and meditation teacher.

Rough Waking is a project to raise funds for and awareness of people who are homeless or in prison, and to provide them with yoga and meditation, under the motto:


Prize-winning photographer and meditator, Lazz, uses words and images and an intimate knowledge of homelessness to illustrate his path through brokenness to creativity.

Inspired by Zen Master Shinzan’s joke that Zen life combines prison and homelessness, “Autumn in the monastery and other poems,” by Julian Daizan Skinner depicts pains and joys arising through his three decades in the Zen world.

Zen artist Kazuaki Okazaki who, after 18 years incarceration on death row was executed last summer, contributes a sequence of images depicting a spiritual journey from lostness and wandering, through the intense confinement of Zen training, and then onwards into a new homelessness – a vastly expanded realm of liberation and service.

The whole book underscores the Zen emphasis on direct confrontation with reality and how for all of us that alone leads to liberation

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Capitalism cannot solve the Climate Crisis - John McDonnell & others address the issues

John McDonnell MP

 Cllr Roxanne Mashari
Many thanks to Peter Murry of Brent Green Party who filmed the meeting for Brent FoE and Brent Trades Council

Friends of the Earth is a non-party political campaign but in the current febrile atmosphere with expectations of a General Election in the Autumn it was perhaps inevitable that a bit of party politics entered last night's meeting on Green Jobs which was addressed by John McDonnell MP. The meeting was co-organised bt Brent FoE and Brent Trades Council.

In fact a consensus emerged about what was required to enable a transition to a zero carbon economy with much much shared by eco-socialists in the Labour Party, the Green Party and those affiliated to no party.

Perhaps the main point of agreement was that capitalism, based as it is on exploiting finite natural and material resources for profit, cannot solve the climate crisis. We should look to a different economic system to meet the climate emergency and transform society so that lives are actually better whilst not destroying the planet. The Green New Deal is a starting point for such a transformation based as it is on a just transition to a zero carbon economy and environmentally sustainable and socially useful production.

Aaron Kiely of Friends of the Earth

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Northwick Park: How your community garden has grown!

I popped into Northwick Park Community Garden last sunny Sunday to see how it was progressing and was truly impressed. This great community project, using permaculture principles to produce an environmentally friendly edible garden ,is supported by many volunteers and is a great tribute to the local people - growing community as well as plants!

To visit alight from Northwick Park tube and leave via Westminstre University/Hospital exit and turn  sharp left and follow the wildflower meadow to the corner of the park.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Labour Council votes to close top perfoming local authority school

Speaker after speaker, parents, teachers, other staff and supporters passionately made the case for Brent Labour Council not to close Strathcona School at tonight's meeting of the Labour Council's Cabinet. They pointed out flaws in the officer's report: incorrect data, the failure to consider the school's case for additional provision at the school and pointed out Brent's failure to market the school to address spare spaces. The Council itself had asked Roe Green Infants to operate on two sites with additional classes at Strathcona and the staff had fought hard to meet the challenge to make the two-sites operate efficiently despite them between 10 minutes drive apart. Now the Council was citing the expense of maintaining two sites, and the additional funding needed, as the reason for closing one of them.

The crowded public gallery at the Cabinet meeting
The Strathcona school is in the top 3% of schools for pupil progress and speakers read out heart-rending messages from pupils expressing what the school means to them. Mary Adossides, speaking on behalf of Brent Trades Council, challenged the Council, asking why a Labour Council was ignoring Labour's manifesto commitment to supporting state schools. Cllr Daniel Kennelly (Preston) attacked the poor report being presented to the Cabinet raising Council leader Muhammed Butt's ire and also asked what a Labour Council was doing closing its own schools.

Apologies for the shaky video at times - there was standing room only at this point in the meeting!

In a closing statement Butt made a speech that became a rant citing the leadership's responsibility to make 'hard decisions' and voice rising began to throw everything into the pot including the proroguing of Parliament in an increasingly incoherent justification for the closure. The headteacher of the school rose from her seat in the public gallery to inform him that as a school leader she knew what leadership really was and that it was not leadership that she has seen from Cllr Butt this evening.

The Cabinet voted unanimously for closure but with determined parents, staff and union we may not have heard the end of it yet.

Brent Green Party backs striking Strathcona School staff

Peter Murry, Trade Union Liasion Officer for Brent Green Party and the London Federation of Green Parties has issued the following statement about today's strike:
Brent Green Party and London Federation of Green Parties send support and solidarity to the staff of Strathcona School  who will be going on strike today with the support of the NEU to oppose the closure of the school.

This closure which damages the education of students at Strathcona and the communities which it serves, is happening in spite of numerous objections from students' parents and other members of the public. Brent council should be acting to defend local authority education and not diminish it.