Friday, 22 March 2019

Council tenants' fury as water bills soar after Thames Water take over billing from Brent Council

Reports are reaching me of massive increases in water bills as Thames Water takes billing over from Brent Council. Water bills used to be incorporated into rent paid to Brent Council and then passed on to Thames. Now Thames are billing each dwelling for direct payment and some residents are reporting substantial increases.

The information coming is is from is from CAMS, which is Comber Close, Ainsworth Close, Banting Close and Mackenzie House in Dollis Hill.

One tenant said they were now paying £47 a month to Thames having previously paid Brent Council £6 a week as part of their rent. Local activist Alison Hopkins said that a tenant of a 2 bedroomed flat was paying more than she did for her three bedroomed house and garden.

To add insult to injury another tenant hoping to install a water meter to reduce bills was told that one might not be possible to fit as the flats are old:
I’ve just spoken to [Thames Water], they claim it’s worked out on the chargeable value of my property (which I don’t understand what that is) and waste water charge. I asked why has it almost tripled they said if you have a view etc or a big garden then that’s how it’s worked out???They said they don’t know if a meter can be fitted here either so I’m waiting for someone from Thames Water to call me back, Sod’s law being these blocks are old etc I won’t be able to have one fitted! Then the only option is to continue with the large payments per month! I’m still waiting for my new rent charge letter to come out from Brent, I bet it won’t be any different even without the water charge.
It appears that the problem may be to do with a miscalulation of the chargeable value* of the council properties and tenants have been urged to contact Thames Water to complain and seek a review of their bills. LINK

This is what Thames say about chargeable value:
Bills for unmetered properties, built before 1989, are based on the chargeable value of the property (also known as the rateable value).

The chargeable value was set by the Valuation Office at the Inland Revenue and represents the potential annual rent for your property. This is not related to your council tax banding.

Rateable Values were based on the size, location, access to local facilities and desirability of your property. For example, if your property had double glazing and the identical property next door didn’t your home would have been given a higher rateable value. This charge isn’t calculated from your actual water use.

We apply this value to calculate your water charges. There is one rate for water services and another for wastewater services. The rates you pay depend on where you live. You will also pay a fixed yearly charge.

You can find out more about your rateable charge in our charges leaflet.
Please let me know if your water bill has suddenly soared.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

UPDATED: Celebration as Bridge Park case referred to Attorney General

Campaigners to stop Brent Council from selling off the Bridge Park Complex won a round of the battle today when Brent Council's attempt to thwart the campaigners through a summary hearing at the High Court failed. The campaign has won the right to go to full trial over their claim that the Complex is protected by a covenant.

The judge referred the matter to the Attorney General and denied the Council the right to appeal. This does not mean the campaigners have won the battle to retain control of the site but it is a step forward. The community deserves recognition for their tenacity and resourcefulness. 

I was unable to attend the hearing as I was speaking at a meeting about climate change so please see the Kilburn Times website for full details. HERE

James Mastin's statement after the hearing on video HERE

Read the Judgment HERE  

Full report on the Guardian website HERE


Today, Friday, Dawn Butler MP for Brent Central told the Kilburn Times that she would not like to see the case go to full trial and would like to facilitate a mediation between the campaigners and Brent Council. She hopes to arrange an informal meeting next week. LINK 

There is no information on how much Brent Council has spent on the case so far but it must be considerable (see comments below). If the case can be solved through mediation it would save Brent council tax payers a lot of money that could be used for the benefit of the community.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Donoghue 'Dust and Danger' protest Friday: Time for Donoghue to move on'

Join Brent4Europe on the People's Vote March on Saturday

Brent4Europe has invited Brent residents to join them on Saturday March 23rd for the People's Vote March, demanding that the People must have the final say in the Brexit debacle.


The march will assemble on Park Lane southbound, north of the Hilton Hotel.

If travelling to the march via the Jubilee line, please change at Bond Street station and proceed to Marble Arch station before exiting and joining the assembly area. Be prepared for crowd issues which may make Bond Street easier to exit.

To take part in the accessible march / shorter march, please assemble on the marked point at Trafalgar Square.  The shorter march will filter in behind the front of the march as it passes, giving priority access to the accessible viewing area with step-free access next to the statue of Gandhi. WE  ADVISE ALL PEOPLE WITH ACCESSIBILITY NEEDS TO TAKE PART IN THE SHORTER MARCH.

Stewards will be located near Westminster Tube Station street level lift exit to provide direction or assistance to people who will be attending the rally but not the march. They will be stationed here for a limited time only – times TBC – for more information, please see the accessibility policy for the event at

NOTE – stewards will be in green hi-vis jackets, not yellow ones.

Brent4Europe teams will meet up in advance on Saturday 23rd March.

Join up with our teams at:

11 am at Wembley Park, on Southbound met/Jubilee line platform

11 am outside Kensal Green station [Bakerloo line]

11.15 am outside Willesden Green station

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Scrutiny to consider Carlton-Granville proposals after 7 councillors call-in the Cabinet's decision

Leader of Brent Council, Cllr Butt, confronts David Kaye who was making representations
 about the proposals

The Cabinet decision of 11th March 2019 on South Kilburn has been called in. The Cabinet had approved a scheme to allow 23 social homes to be built on Granville Carlton site and The South Kilburn Trust to be given management of the entire site.

A special meeting of the Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee will be held on Wednesday April 3rd at 7pm to consider the call-in. 

Seven councillors made the request for a call-in, including the three Kilburn Councillors, Cllr R Connelly, Cllr F  Hussain and  Cllr A Abdi.

In his request for the call-in Cllr Abdi said:
I would like to suggest that we do not part develop this site. The population of South Kilburn is increasing and this decision risks the future use of the site as a community facility. I am in favour of option 4 of the report presented to the cabinet. 
Any shortfall of social housing can be put right by increasing the number of social homes on the Peel site, which is approximately 20/30 metres from the Carlton-Granville Centre. The proposed number of homes on the Peel site is 308, of which 42 properties  are at social rents.

I suggest that we find alternatives ways of investing and making the Carlton and Granville Buildings fit for purpose.
Residents and campaigners  working to keep Granville Carlton as multi purpose community space run by an Alliance of community organisations have welcomed the  opportunity to present their full arguments against the Cabinet decision to the Scrutiny Committee.

Leslie Barson who has worked in Granville Carlton for over 26 years said:
We are very pleased this decision has been called in with the support of our three councillors. With the population of South Kilburn planned to more than double  and with no new multi purpose community spaces planned  we are determined to keep Granville Carlton site for the community.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Brent Council to consult on revoking byelaw that prohibits cycling in parks & open spaces

General Purposes Committee on Tuesday will consider a proposal to consult on revoking a byelaw that prohibits cycling in 55 out of 90 of our parks and open spaces.

The consultation will be preceded by a survey of parks and open spaces to assess suitability and mitigation measures that will be required to protect other park users, a speed limit of 5 mph is envisaged.

Brent Cyclists, the local branch of the London Cycling Campaign had raised the issue and pointed out how it contradicted the Council's policy to encourage cycling and exercise.

Other byelaws would still be available to deal with people who cycled dangerously.

A final decision on revocation would be made at the July Full Council meeting.


Greta Thunberg responds to the critics: '...Please stop asking your children for the answers to your own mess.'

Following Friday's world-wide schoolchildren's strike Greta Thunberg has responded to her critics on Facebook. This is what she says:

On Friday March 15th 2019 well over 1,5 million students school striked for the climate in 2083 places in 125 countries on all continents.

The favorite argument here in Sweden (and everywhere else…) is that it doesn’t matter what we do because we are all too small to make a difference. Friday’s manifestation was the biggest day of global climate action ever, according to It happened because a few schoolchildren from small countries like Sweden, Belgium and Switzerland decided not to go to school because nothing was being done about the climate crisis. We proved that it does matter what you do and that no one is too small to make a difference.

People keep asking me ”what is the solution to the climate crisis.” And how do we ”fix this problem”. They expect me to know the answer.

That is beyond absurd as there are no ”solutions” within our current systems. No one ”knows” exactly what to do. That’s the whole point. We can’t just lower or heighten some taxes or invest in some ”green” funds and go on like before.

Yes there are many many things that are very good and necessary, and improves the situation. Such as solar- and wind power, circular economy, veganism, sustainable farming and so on. But even those are just parts of a greater picture.

We can no longer only focus on individual and separate issues like electrical cars, nuclear power, meat, aviation, bio fuels etc etc. We urgently need a holistic view to adress the full sustainability crisis and the ongoing ecological disaster. And this is why I keep saying that we need to start treating the crisis as the crisis it is. Because only then - and only guided by the best available science (as is clearly stated throughout the Paris Agreement) can we together start creating the global way forward.

But that can never happen as long as we allow the ”yeah-but-what-about-nuclear-power-then-debate” to go on and on and on. This is wasting our time. This is climate delayer-ism. We need to keep a great number of thoughts in our head at same time and yet move forward with the changes at unprecedented speed.

Nuclear power, according to the IPCC, can be a small part of a very big new carbon free energy solution, especially in countries and areas that lack the possibility of a full scale renewable energy supply - even though its extremely dangerous, expensive and time consuming. But let’s leave that debate until we start looking at the full picture.

Some people seem so desperate to go on with the comforts and luxuries of their every day life that they tell others to not have any children. As children, speaking for our little sisters and brothers, we don’t find that very encouraging. It is not us or future generations who have created this. And yet - once again - you blame us.

If not even the scientists, politicians, media and the UN currently can speak up on what exactly needs to be done to ”solve” the climate crisis (in other words, dramatically lowering our emissions starting today) , then how could we, some schoolchildren, know? How can you leave that burden to us?

Once you have done your homework, you realize that we need new politics. We need a new economics, where everything is based on our rapidly declining and extremely limited carbon budget.

But that is not enough. We need a whole new way of thinking. The political system that you have created is all about competition. You cheat when you can because all that matters is to win. To get power. That must come to an end. We must stop competing with each other. We need to start cooperating and sharing the remaining resources of this planet in a fair way. We need to start living within the planetary boundaries, focus on equity and take a few steps back for the sake of all living species.

We are just passing on the words of the science. Our only demand is that you start listening to it. And then start acting.

So please stop asking your children for the answers to your own mess.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Brent Council v Bridge Park judgment expected on Thursday

The judgement in the case that has galvanised the Stonebridge and Harlesden communties  in the defence of Bridge Park Complex will be announced at the Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday.

The 'Mayor and Burgesses of the London Borough of Brent versus Leonard Johnson (Trustee of Harlesden People's Council) and the Stonebridge Community Trust' is timetabled for 11am on Thursday 21st March and will be held in Court Room 15, 7 Rolls Building, Royal Courts of Justice, Fetter Lane, EC4A 1NL before Deputy Master Rhys.

It is expected to last 2 hours.

Brent's drive to improve educational achievement of Black Caribbean boys under scrutiny on Monday

Monday's Community Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee will be considering a report they requested from the Strategic Director for Children and Young People on the Council's efforts to improve the educational achievement of boys of Black Caribbean heritage. This is a welcome move, not only because this is a long-standing issue but because it marks an increased level of interest in education by the committee which called for the report after being given the statistics at an earlier meeting.

A close look at the reports above will reveal the main dimensions of under-achievement.

Although Brent secondary schools are mainly academies, while most primary schools remain with the local authority, the Council retains an interest in all schools through the Brent Schools Partnership (BSP).

Although white disadvantaged boys are the most 'under performing' group nationally and locally, Black Caribbean boys in Brent  are the only group that has continued to underperform over the last few years.

The BSP set up the Black Caribbean Strategy Group, chaired by the headteacher of Chalkhill Primary School  which has become the BSP Specialist Centre for Black Caribbean Achievement. Chalkhill was chosen because of the quality of its work with Black Caribbean boys and their families. Over the last 2 years  the Centre has shared their best practice with other schools through training, school visits and shared activities including aspirational careers events and advice.

The report states that the project has undertaken:
·      A supported rigorous and robust analysis of the performance of pupils of Black Caribbean heritage and the effectiveness of key aspects of schools’ practice to ensure the pupils achieve well.
·      The designation of a Black Caribbean Achievement Champion in every school in Brent for a period of two years. The Champion will lead on the school’s plan to improve outcomes for pupils of Black Caribbean heritage, including monitoring its impact and engagement with parents/carers.
·      A programme of half termly training for Black Caribbean Achievement Champions to ensure high levels of skills and competencies to deliver their role effectively, leading to real impact on outcomes in schools.
·      A programme of training for groups of staff and for school governors.
·      The development of online resources for parents on strengthening their role and contribution to improving their children’s learning and progress, and reducing the likelihood of their children being excluded from schools. This would provide links to opportunities for accreditation, face-to-face advice and workshops. The resources will draw on the experience and expertise of local community groups.
·      Leadership and management of the overall Black Caribbean Strategy, including regular collation and analysis of the attainment and progress of pupils of Black Caribbean heritage.

 Gail Tolley, Strategic Director for Children and Young People notes:
The project is very much focused on ensuring the best possible provision for every boy. It is important to state that over 40 per cent of the group are meeting national expectations for results at the end of the primary and secondary phases, and their success must be celebrated alongside the success of the majority of pupils in Brent. This project is aiming to ensure that the boys in the 20 percentage point gap also attain their full potential. The evaluation of provision in each school will identify the factors that affect the group and individual pupils which may vary across the borough. It is important to avoid any over-generalisation of the factors that may be affecting the boys who are underperforming. The Champion is instead expected to monitor the data for every boy which includes their attendance and progress data (that school leaders usually collect from teachers every term), and to put in place the appropriate actions and interventions that address any individual boy’s underperformance.
The late Basil Bernstein noted decades ago that 'education cannot compensate for society.' By that he meant that schools alone could not solve society's problems. It is worth remembering that when so much is expected of schools, although of course they work extremely hard to give pupils an equal chance and this project is a big step forward.

It was with Bernstein's quote in mind that I suggested at a recent Governors' Briefing on the Black Caribbean Strategy that the Council needed to situate the initiative in a wider context which would include addressing some of the issues where the Black Caribbean community feels it is not being fairly treated. The most high profile example at the moment is the future of the Bridge Park Complex but there are others including the closure of Stonebridge Adventure Playground, the cuts in the youth service and the closure of Children's Centres. Nationally the Windrush Generation scandal and Theresa May's hostile environment have increased uncertainty and disaffection.

Schools don't exist on a sanitised island.

The Scrutiny Committee takes place on Monday 18th March, 6pm at the Civic Centre, Wembley Park and is open to the public.

The full report is HERE

Thousands march in London on World Against Racism Day

I made a video of yesterday's march to show the range of people and organisations that took part. The Islamophobic terrorist attack in New Zealand was particularly in people's minds along with the rise of the right in Europe and domestically. David Rosenberg's speech at the end of the video addresses some of these issues.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Storm Gareth fells a few more of Brent's trees

Wellspring Crescent beside Wembley Asda car park
A second tree on Wellspring Crescent
Storm Gareth felled a number of street trees in Brent including the two above on Wellspring Crescent which are along the pedestrian avenue that links the Lycee (former Town Hall) steps to Chalkhill Park.  Both trees are comparatively young.

This is an ornamental cherry on Salmon Street, Kingsbury. It is the second to be lost on that street, another was knocked down by a lorry backing out of a building site for a house rebuild. Other cherries have been lost on the nearby Pilgrims Way and may have been reaching the end of their natural lives.

Trees on the east side of Fryent Country Park, which are mainly hedgerow trees, have survived better than I had expected but the one above did not escape.

A number of large mature trees have been blown down on Eldestrete, the footpath at the bottom of Barn Hill.

However, the tree below is a living example of the adage 'a creaking gate hangs the longest.' Hollowed out by woodpeckers, parakeets, woodlice and other insects it still stands in an exposed position on top of Barn Hill near the pond. A neighbouring tree in a similar condition came down a year or so ago.

If you have news of other trees in the borough please comment below.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Brexit: What now? St Lukes West Kilburn Tuesday March 19th

From Kensal and Kilburn Better 2019

Three days of motions and amendments in the House of Commons have concluded this evening, and the question posed by our event on Tuesday 19 March feels more relevant than ever...

Brexit: what now?
Zoe Williams The Guardian and member of the national committee of Another Europe is Possible (p.c.)
Eloise Todd Chief Executive, Best for Britain  
Laura Parker National Co-ordinator, Momentum

Ahead of the 'Put it to the People' march on Sat 23 March, come and hear the latest news from the front line of the anti-Brexit campaign. 

Free to attend.  Share this event on Facebook and Twitter.We hope you can make it.Best,Kensal & Kilburn Better 2019

Butt pledges no council evictions due to Universal Credit rent arrears

Counihan Campaign in Brent 2012
I understand both Cllr Eleanor Southwood, Brent Council lead member for Housing and Cllr Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council, promised that there would be no evictions of council tenants in rent arrears due to Universal Credit delays, following the unanimous approval of the motion below at Brent Constituency Labour Party GC.
This GC notes the clear evidence that where Universal Credit has been rolled out more people are made homeless as a result of rent arrears. The main causes of arrears are the five week delay in first  payment of Universal Credit and other delays caused by DWP error.
We therefore call on Brent Labour Group to follow the lead of Camden Council in refusing to evict tenants in such circumstances and to urge registered social landlords and private landlords to do the same.


The demand was first made at the meeting on Universal Credit held at Chalhill Community Centre on November 18th 2018.  Report on Wembley Matters HERE


Brent Council to consult on closure of Roe Green Strathcona School

Extravagant thanks to the staff of Roe Green Infants School for providing extra places for primary children over the last 6 years cut little ice at Cabinet on Monday when it was decided to consult on the phased closure of the Strathcona site in Wembley which has been run as part of Roe Green Infants under an Executive Headteacher.

Roe Green Infants had come to the aid of the local authority at a time of rising primary school rolls and agreed to run a 5-11 school on a separate site in Wembley.  They are now faced with making staff redundant and as the two sites are run as one school in terms of staffing this will affect both the Infants and Strathcona.

The report to Cabinet stated:
The proposals, if implemented, are likely to impact on the required staffing for Roe Green Infant School; the proposal would lead to a reduction in overall staffing levels which would, therefore, result in the possibility for the need to consider redundancies. The number of staff affected will depend on the nature of a phased closure. There may also be opportunities to reduce the impact on staff, for example, by transferring existing staff to the main Roe Green Infant School site. The school would need to follow the Managing Change in Schools policy and procedure including consultation with affected staff and trade unions to effect the changes in due course.
Gail Tolley, Strategic Director of Children and Young People, said that in 2015-2016 GLA projections had still indicated a rising roll in Brent's primary schools but migration, Brexit and statistical issues meant that projections for 2018-19 had been reduced. There had been a need for Strathcona at the time but it was no longer required as neighbouring schools could absorb the displaced pupils. The report gave the following figures. The key information is in Reception places comparing in the first column the number of available places (PAN - Planned Admission Number) and in the second the number of reception children actually in the school in  October 2018. It can be seen that some of the controversial expansions (see previous articles on this blog, ) created with considerable building costs, have not been successful in attracting pupils and that there are 208 spare places in Strathcona's local area. This is equivalent to a one form entry primary school.

Hidden behind the figures is of course the impact of an uncertain future on the school staff and upset for children and parents who will have to find a new school, depending on when the Strathcona site closes. This will be a matter for the consultation the Council will launch but they have said that new admissions will cease from 2020. 

Leader of the Council, Cllr Muhammed Butt, said at the meeting that the local authority had to look at provision and start a discussion with the school and its stakeholders. He said that they would make sure concerns regarding the staff were taken into consideration. The authoirty had to make best use of its resources and the spnding of the Direct Schools Grant.

It is likely if the trend continues that more primary schools will be affected and that the Planned Admission Number (PAN) will be reduced to take account of the demographic changes.  The new Ark Somerville, to be built in the York House car park in Wembley, has been reduced from 3 forms of entry to two and will not take pupils until the demand from new developments in the Stadium area emerges.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Barry Gardiner to address Momentum-Trades Council-Peoples' Assembly meeting on austerity on Thursday

Barry Gardiner MP has agreed to speak to Thursday's meeting on austerity.  With the political situation so fluid (this has been written at 16.20 on Tuesday) a General Election may have been announced by Thursday!

Carlton-Granville debate continues on Twitter

Reactions to yesterday's Cabinet discussion of the Carlton-Granville Centre proposals rumbled on this morning on Twitter.  I am grateful for the partipants copying me into the exchange. Here is a selection:

Monday, 11 March 2019

Bellowing Butt loses his cool and sees red over South Kilburn

David Kaye of Kilburn Labour Party clearly hit  raw nerve when he began his speech at tonight's Cabinet Meeting. He had begun to say that a problem with the Brent Cabinet (all Labour Party members) was that they didn't, on the South Kilburn issue and others follow Labour Party policy.

Hardly were the words out of his mouth then Muhammed Butt bellowed across the room, 'THIS IS NOT A PARTY POLITICAL MEETING!' When Kaye tried to elaborate a furious Butt continued to shout him down.  Eventually Kaye made his contribution moving on to the details of the South Kilburn Carlton/Granville scheme and the feeling of the local community that their views hadn't been taken into account ,and the role of the South Kilburn Trust (Watch video below)

However, in apparent contradiction of his earlier claim, at the end of the contributions from the public Cllr Butt did allow Cllr Miller to make a speech about Labour Party policy in reply to what David Kaye was not allowed to say!

In a nutshell the community wanted the Cabinet to approve Option 4 for the Carlton-Granville site which would contain community space and no housing. The Cabinet were  recommending Option 3 which would build 23 social housing homes on the site. Leslie Barson thought that the combination wasn't practical and that complaints about noise from the community centre by the new neighbours would curtail its activities and make in unviable. There was less community space in the proposals then there had been before and the new developments on the estate already did not provide enough community space.

Not for the first time the issue of the South Kilburn Trust came up. Pete Firmin for the local tenants' association put it succinctly: 'The problem with the South Kilburn Trust is that South Kilburn residents don't trust it.' It had no elected representatives on its board and was not truly independent of the Council. Contrary to the views of residents it had supported the installation of an HS2 vent in Canterbury Road.

A speaker from South Kilburn Trust claimed that of the 8 trustees three were local residents and one was the former tenant of South Kilburn Studios. After the Cabinet had, inevitably, approved Option 3 there was an altercation in the public gallery when residents challenged the Trust on this claim - they were appointed, not elected, and not representative. This conflict has arisen elsewhere in the borough when such organisation appear to be a non-elected buffer between residents and councillors.

Lesley Benson, head of Granville Nursery Plus, said that the school had eventually accepted demolition of its prize winning extension as part of the development plans. She said that she was no cheer leader for the Council but they had been involved with other stake holders in an innovative way of working where 'robust' conversations had taken place.

As with the Kings Drive 'residents garages replaced by home's controversy there was a tension between the need to build new homes  for those on Brent's massive waiting list and the impact of the new homes on existing residents and their facilities. Such conflicts are likely to increase as Brent Council continues its policy of in-filling on estates.

Cabinet members said they had taken notice of residents' concerns by discarding a proposal for a denser build of 63 homes on the site. Residents asked why they had not ensured that the hundreds of other homes being built on South Kilburn were not  let at social rent.

As we left the Civic Centre we were surrounded by the huge blocks and towers of Quintain's unaffordable Tipi 'built for private rent' development advertised by pseudo Russian Revolution style posters...

THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING - free screening of Naomi Klein's documentary Tuesday March 12th 7pm

Time: March 12, 2019 from 7pm to 10pm
Location: Kingsgate community centre, NW6 2JH
Street: 107 Kingsgate Road
City/Town: London
Website or Map:…
From Transition Kensal to Kilburn 
Join us for a free screening of Naomi Klein's documentary, This Changes Everything.

Filmed over 211 shoot days in nine countries and five continents over four years, This Changes Everything is an epic attempt to re-imagine the vast challenge of climate change.

Directed by Avi Lewis, and inspired by Naomi Klein’s international non-fiction bestseller This Changes Everything, the film presents seven powerful portraits of communities on the front lines, from Montana’s Powder River Basin to the Alberta Tar Sands, from the coast of South India to Beijing and beyond.

Interwoven with these stories of struggle is Klein’s narration, connecting the carbon in the air with the economic system that put it there. Throughout the film, Klein builds to her most controversial and exciting idea: that we can seize the existential crisis of climate change to transform our failed economic system into something radically better.

After the screening we will be discussing how the struggles of our local community relate to those depicted in the film. We will reflect on the ties between us, the kind of lives we really want and why the climate crisis is at the centre of it all.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

CIPFA shows how important Brent libraries are to residents

The CIPFA report into public libraries compares the London boroughs with each other. In these tables Brent is 'h' with a black graph block. Brent controversially closed half its libraries creating two major hub libraries at Wembley and Willesden Green and four smaller libraries. Kensal Green, Barham and Preston are run by volunteers while Cricklewood is getting increasingly impatient with developer Octavia Housing as volunteers wait to start running a volunteer library there. (Note: CIPFA do not make judgements so all comments are my own.)

As can be seen from the diagram above Brent has far fewer libraries than the average borough but a slightly higher than average population.

I have long argued that Wembley Library has vastly inflated visitor figures because the electronic counters count Civic Centre staff who use the library entrance off Olympic Way as a short cut to their offices. Apart from entering and leaving at the start and end of the day, some also enter and leave for their lunch break.

As a result although Wembley has the highest number of visitors Willesden green has the highest number of borrowers. Watch our for media claims that Wembley Library has a record number of visitors:

Due to the closures Brent has a low number of what CIPFA call service points:

Overall Brent children borrow more books than average with 5 times more fiction than non-fiction borrowed. Primary class visits to the libraries will account for some of this. Adult fiction book issues is below the average but non-fiction higher which may reflect the large number of students who use the libraries.

 One area of concern is the low number of housebound readers. Some boroughs provide a delivery service, often run by volunteers, and this is something the Scrutiny Committee could investigate.

Book stocks are another measure of the quality of the service and here Brent lags. Children do better than adults which may explain the discrepancy in figures. Residents borrow more books than average even though book stocks are lower than 13 other London boroughs:

When the  'Libraries Transformation Project' was launched much was made of access to computers and other digital resources such as e-books. The figures show Brent is below the average for the number of devices available but that they are well used.

The Brent  libraries website is particularly successful and ease of on-line renewal may account for the low level of overdue fines in Brent:

A proposal to reduce the opening hours for Brent libraries, and the possible complete closure of one, was ruled out after the budget consultation.  CIPFA reports a very positive picture on opening hours with Brent out-performing the average for London boroughs.

The figures indicate that Brent is already spending lower than average on its libraries but it is also collecting less revenue, in terms of borrowing charges, fines and reservation fees. Given the low median income of Brent residents I would oppose an increase in charges but it may be an area that will be vulnerable in the future:

To access the full report follow this LINK

No Coup or War in Venezuela! Meeting on Monday March 11th Brent Trades Hall

Video: Jeff Webber speaking about the situation in Venezuela at a recent meeting with Hugo Blanco

Topical as always Brent Stop the War will be discussing what is happening in Venezuela at their meeting on Monday:

The next meeting of BRENT STOP the WAR will take place on Monday, March 11th at 7.30pm at Brent Trades Hall (London Apollo Club) 375 High Rd, Willesden, NW10 2JR [It’s very close to Willesden Bus Garage, buses 6,52,98,226,260,266,302,460, and just five minutes’ walk from Dollis Hill Jubilee Line station]
Speaker: Calvin Tucker [Morning Star campaigns manager and international election observer to the May 2018 Venezuelan presidential elections] will be talking about the situation in Venezuela.


Friday, 8 March 2019

Granville - the South Kilburn community strikes back - Brent Cabinet urged to reject housing plans

Author Zadie Smith (Left) spoke up for the Granville in November 2016 LINK

These are interesting times in Brent as 'People Power' is exercised in Stonebridge/Bridge Park, St Raphael's Estate and South Kilburn. This is the letter about the Granville Centre plans as featured in this week's Brent and Kilburn Times. LINK

To Brent Council Cabinet:

Please keep the Granville/Carlton site for use by the community and run by the community
The Granville Carlton buildings were built for the purpose of serving the South Kilburn community. The Carlton as a school in 1910, which later became an adult education centre and closed in Spring 2017. 
The Granville was built in 1888 as a community centre and place of refuge, respite and learning for the poor of the area.  The Granville had a strong arts direction from the 1980s. It was well used as part of Brent Youth and Community Service hosting over 800 children and young people a year in arts activities. This service was closed in March 2016.
The building was left to The Otherwise Club and The Granville Community Kitchen to steward. It was filled with community and educational activities, exercise classes, award winning food related activities and fun. In August 2017 the South Kilburn Trust took over responsibility for running the Granville.  After renovations,  the building re- opened in May 2018 as an enterprise hub and community centre.
South Kilburn itself is in the throes of major changes with huge building works with Gloucester site being built, the Peel site about to be started, the Winterlees site in consultation and work on the HS2 vent started. The new buildings do not have community meeting spaces in them as the buildings being demolished did. This leaves Granville/Carlton as the only non-denominational community buildings in the area.
There are 2400 plus new homes planned to be built in South Kilburn. Where are these people going to do an exercise class? Where will they hold their parents 50th wedding anniversary party? Where can children and young people outside of school go to socialise and learn in a space that’s safe? Where will marginalised groups of people go to a place where they feel welcomed and not judged because they have been in prison, or mentally ill or because they are poor or hungry ? You can see the need for the community space.
The building already functions as a community hub offering social and welfare services which will be greatly affected or lost. 
In this new plan you are being asked to agree to there is a slight increase in square footage but that is a nod to new community space being built, with the 3 community spaces separated by some distance. Nor does it take into account the community hall lost in 2018. The housing aspect of this plan is said by the Regeneration team to be minimal (25-30 homes)and cannot be guaranteed to be social or even affordable housing as there are so few planned now. The cost of building may necessitate that they all be sold on the open market.
How will these two necessary but incompatible uses of these spaces play out into the future? Already South Kilburn Trust, who manage The Granville, have had numerous complaints from residents of Granville New Homes on Granville Road about the noise from the community centre. The community activities had to quieten down as the residents have priority now. Do you believe  the needs of community groups using community spaces on the site will be prioritised above the needs of home owners?
We see this site as a place for community activities only and exclusively. In fact we argue that given the number of new people moving into the area and the loss of community rooms this community space is even more vital.
This housing is likely to be the beginning of the end of community use on the site. If you agree to this plan you are going against a decision you took in December 2016 only two years ago when you voted to save Granville/Carlton as spaces used for the community. 
The Granville/Carlton site must be kept solely for the community in perpetuity. For this reason we would like to present a different scenario for the Granville/Carlton site.
We would like to ask that the Cabinet support the local community and community groups to establish a Granville/ Carlton Alliance run by the community and stakeholders in South Kilburn to oversee these buildings for the community in perpetuity. This would be a self financing organisation which is viable, credible, transparent and accountable to the South Kilburn community. There is precedent for this in other communities.
We would not tear down the wing of Granville built in 2005 that is still perfectly viable with happy tenants. We would not build housing on 2/3 of the Granville building going against cabinet promises made to safeguard Carlton and Granville in 2016. We would return the Granville hall to its rightful place as the centre piece of both these buildings. We would ensure the use of these buildings will support a community to feel proud about itself and glad to be a part of.
We ask you to please reject this plan and work with the communities of South Kilburn towards a long lasting legacy, by preserving the Granville/Carlton site as the heart of the South Kilburn Community.
Yours sincerely,
Leslie Barson The Otherwise Club and Granville Community Kitchen
Deirdre Woods The Otherwise Club and Granville Community Kitchen
Cllr A Abdi , Kilburn, Brent
Sara Callaway, BAME officer, Hampstead & Kilburn CLP
Pete Firmin, Alpha, Gorefield and Canterbury Tenant’s and Residents Association.
David Kaye , Chair  Kilburn (Brent) Branch Labour Party

These are the options being considered by Cabinet on Monday. Option 3 is recommended by officers.

Carlton & Granville Centres Site – South Kilburn Development Options 1-4
1.0 Option 1
53 units provided meeting a mixture of housing tenure to meet a section of the community which may not be catered for in the existing South Kilburn programme this would include:
9 Family Homes. Affordable Housing for medium to large families

18 units for the New Accommodation for Independent living initiative for those who have extra care or support needs, arranged in 3 co-living clusters.

15 Move-On Homes for single people who are homeless or on the housing waiting list
 11 Down-size/accessible homes aimed at elderly residents already in South Kilburn wishing to down-size.
2.0 Option 2
53 units provided all of one tenure.
Having met with the Operational Director for Adult Social Care to discuss the NAIL programme in further detail this site could be ideally suited to accommodate the biggest demand in this service from older people needing extra care.
This NAIL programme is still to deliver 400 of the required homes in a bid to provide a replacement for residential care. This is known to be the biggest revenue savings programme at Brent Council, and something we could accommodate on this site.
External community activity is an excellent fit for these residents and there would be an excellent blend of services in the activities already happening in The Granville for older people and the day time services sought by this section of the community. Benefits may also be found between this and the children’s services on site.
The minimum number of units this scheme would need to provide is 40 plus accommodation for care staff to cover the night time care required.
3.0 Option 3 (Recommended)
Approximately 23 units delivered in response to some of the consultation responses. This option endorses the principle of a less dense scheme whilst still achieving the benefits housing provides on a site, specifically community safety with 24 hours passive surveillance of the outdoor spaces below.
A reduction in housing presented on this option will responds to the community concerns on scale of development and residential impact on this community site. It also resolves technical issues regarding the build and management of the space and should provide a more acceptable level of development as the taller housing element is removed from this option
It should be recognised that viability will have to be worked through and some private housing may be required however the preference is for affordable units.
4.0 Option 4
No housing delivered as part of the longer term plans this option would still require refurbishment of the existing buildings for community and enterprise use. Financial impacts would need to be further considered.