Saturday 28 September 2019

New service provider contract for Brent's most vulnerable not subject to Scrutiny

Readers of this blog will be familiar with the travails of Brent Advocacy Concerns which is going to have to close at the end of November due to the charity being unable to meet the new high rent demanded for its small premises in Willesden. The charity has no paid workers but is still helping people with disabilities. Just this week it is providing advocacy for a parent of two autistic children as well as a range of other age groups.

Now it looks as if other local charities may also be facing closure, this time due to an unscrutinised decision by Brent Council.

The Council is requesting exemption from Scrutiny of a decision to award the 'Gateway to Support Services' contract to Age UK, Brent, Harrow and Hillingdon. This would five different services, not all of which are known to be an area of expertise for the organisation:
  • Care Act Advocacy
  • Mental Health Act Advocacy
  • Mental Capacity Act Advocacy
  • Carers Services
  • Social Isolation Prevention Services
These are services for some of the most vulnerable Brent residents and it is surely detrimental to their interests that the decision and contract have not been subject to rigorous scrutiny. 

The reason for the failure to add the procurement to the Council's Forward Plan is attributed to 'officer oversight.'

The decision will mean that a number of Brent organisations that were not successful in the procurement process will lose what was previously funding from the Council and if, like Brent Advocacy Concerns, are unable to find alternative funding, will have to close.

Any Scrutiny would need to look at what that would mean for residents currently receiving services from those organisation and consider whether a large contract, embracing five areas, would have the risk of losing some specialist skills and expertise of value to the community.

Large, multiple area contracts, aimed at saving the Council money, are not always as responsive as small organisations. The Veolia contract covering street cleaning, waste collection, recycling, parks maintenance and more has not been an unmitigated success!

Extract from the Exemption Notice to Cllr Ketan Sheth, chair of the Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee

To award the Gateway to Support Services contract to Age UK Brent, Harrow and Hillingdon. Gateway includes five different services; Care Act Advocacy, Mental Health Act Advocacy, Mental Capacity Act Advocacy, Carers Services and Social Isolation Prevention Services. 

Why it was not possible to provide the required notice (i.e. why the decision or exemption was not anticipated) 

The Gateway procurement originally took place in March / April 2019. At that time it was decided not to proceed and award a contract. When the procurement was started again in July 2019, it was not added to the council’s Forward Plan. This was due to officer oversight. Once this was realised the decision was added to the Forward Plan. This was done on 16th
September. The earliest the decision could be implemented if we followed the Forward Plan timetable would be 24th October. The Gateway contract is due to go-live on 2nd December. 

The Gateway procurement was completed in mid-August, but award of the contract delayed because the due diligence process took longer than planned. The procurement of the service has been reviewed by Internal Audit following a complaint received by the council. This has resulted in a shorter than planned implementation and hand over period. An exemption is sought so that the implementation period is not reduced further. 

§ Why it is impractical to defer the decision to a later date to allow the appropriate notice to be provided. 

This contract provides a number of advocacy services to vulnerable people in Brent as well as support for carers. These services are currently delivered via multiple contracts which will end on 1st December 2019. The nature of the services and the complexity of ensuring a smooth handover between a number of organisations means that it is important to maximise the period of time available for implementation prior to the current contracts expiring. 

TUPE will apply to staff involved in delivering services currently. In order to make sure staff transfers are managed properly, the more time available to the organisations involved to arrange this the better. There are also implications for the organisations who have not been successful in this procurement. For some, the council has been their main funder for many years. These organisations will need time to either secure additional funding from other sources, review their operations to manage without council funding, or close their business. Again, having the time to properly manage this would be to their benefit.

Thursday 26 September 2019

Cash-strapped QPCS Academy withdraws licensing application after residents claimed 'You're turning the school into a pub or night club'

A licensing application made by Queens Park Community School that had  attracted strong opposition from some neighbouring residents as well as minority support from some concerned about education funding cuts has been withdrawn according to the Kilburn Times LINK . An application for a 3G floodlit football training pitch is going ahead. The school said it had 'heard residents concerns' about the licensing application but would use the income from lets of the pitch to the benefit of pupils.

Opponents claimed that the licensing hours of 10am to 23.30 (including 'drink up time') were unreasonable with some claiming that this amounted to a change of use from an educational premises to an entertainment venue. Noise and anti-social behaviour were cited as having a negative impact on a residential area while others questioned whether alcohol should be served when children are present on the premises.

An example of the  objectors' arguments can be found HERE.

Those supporting the application included some governors and ex-governors of the school who said that the school needed to generate an additional income in an era of education cuts and that entertainment offered at the school (live entertainment, recorded music, performance of dance, film screenings) would be to the benefit of the community as well as making an offer of a large venue for weddings, celebrations etc. They claimed that the school has promised sufficient detailed safeguards to address residents' concerns. A example of a supportive comment which details the safeguards is available HERE.

There were 67 objections and 19 supportive comments.

A key aspect of any licensing application is the view of the local police. They objected to the application and listed  conditions that would need to be met if it were to be approved. HERE

Queens Park Community School is not run by Brent Council. It is a Co-operative Society Academy.

 The applications are symptomatic of the increasing desperation of schools to win additional income streams from their premises faced with funding cuts. Brent Council recently took action against local schools that let their playgrounds out for Event Day parking cutting off that additional income stream.

Wednesday 25 September 2019

Public urged to come along on October 2nd to support teachers & parents in a further round of the fight to save Roe Green Strathcona School from closure

From Brent National Education Union
Roe Green Strathcona School will be closed for the fourth time due to strike action on Wednesday 2nd October; NEU members are attempting to save their school from closure. Despite giving the go-ahead to several new free schools in the borough, Brent Council wish to close this successful local authority run school.
Jenny Cooper, District Secretary for Brent National Education Union, said:
We commend our brave members and their parent supporters for their fierce, collective campaign to try to defend this successful local authority school; our action will be suspended as soon as the council reassures us the school will be saved.
Eight councillors have opposed the decision to close the school as they believe further scrutiny is needed to look at possible alternative futures for the school.
Teachers, parents and community supporters will protest outside Brent civic centre from 4.30pm Wednesday and following this will attend and speak at the council meeting in a bid to save the school. This is certain to be a contentious meeting with strong feelings expressed.
The special meeting of the Community and Well-being Scrutiny Committee will be held in the Conference Hall at Brent Civic Centre and will begin at 6pm.  The call-in was made by an unusually broad group of Labour councillors: Cllrs Abdi, Afzad, Chan, Gill, Hector, Kennelly, Marquis and Pavey. (Alphabetical order).

The councillors' reasons for calling the Cabinet's closure decision in for further scrutiny are set out in the document below. Click bottom right for full size version.

Full documentation HERE

Requests to speak should be made to and will be considered by the Chair of the Committee, Cllr Ketan Sheth. All requests to speak should be received at least 24 hours before the meeting.

Tuesday 24 September 2019

Quintain launch 'Wembley Park Arts'

From Quintain Press Department

Quintain, the developer behind the transformation of Wembley Park, today 23 September, announces the appointment of Josh McNorton in the new role of Cultural Director.

McNorton will lead the establishment of Wembley Park Arts, a new cultural programme for Wembley Park that ensures leadership across commissioning, co-production, cultural infrastructure support and developing local, national and international partnerships.
McNorton’s appointment is timed to support the lead partner role of Wembley Park in Brent’s year as London Borough of Culture 2020.

Josh McNorton has a varied background in producing, curation and programming. Most recently, he was Head of Arts & Culture Programmes at multi-disciplinary East London arts centre Rich Mix.  Prior to this, he worked on arts and cultural festivals. Between 2014 and 2016, he was the Producer at Nesta’s flagship festival for the future, FutureFest, and then in 2017 he was Co-founder of the world’s first sensory arts and research festival, Open Senses. McNorton moved to the UK from Canada in 2012 to produce a large-scale, outdoor entertainment programme for the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Wembley Park Arts programme seeks to leverage the global reputation Wembley Park has for events, entertainment and performance to invite creative and cultural industries to the area. The role of Cultural Director will see McNorton working with leading contemporary artists, institutions and festivals in the world-famous locations on site, working with cutting-edge event infrastructure, and diverse communities to create memorable cultural experiences.  The development of the role has been supported by Futurecity, the London based global placemaking and public art agency, who have expertise in creating public programmes for cultural districts such as New York City’s Times Square, London’s Exhibition Road, Sydney’s Cultural Network and Boston’s Avenues to the Arts.

The programme is core funded by Quintain, with additional funding raised through partnership, sponsorship and various other platforms. As well as its own curated programme, Wembley Park Arts will work with the area’s iconic venues and partners, including The SSE Arena, Wembley, as well as newer additions such as Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, to present a world-leading offer.
The ambitious cultural strategy for the area has already delivered affordable artist studios, run by Second Floor Studios & Arts, a public art programme and extensive cultural programming and events, most of which are available free of charge. Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, a new flexible 1,000-2,000 seat capacity theatre, opened this summer and will present the National Theatre’s production of War Horse in the autumn. Getty Images Gallery opened in Olympic Way in June, and it will feature a year-long programme of exhibitions presented by the curatorial team at Getty Images.

McNorton will join Wembley Park on 14 October. He will be joining a growing team at Wembley Park, including Claudio Giambrone who joined as Head of Marketing in February 2018 to build the area’s culture brand and bring in new cultural partners and events, from free screenings of Royal Opera House BP Big Screens and NT Live, to International Busking Day. Prior to his appointment, Giambrone led the South Bank Marketing Group, a 25 year-old consortium of cultural bodies and attractions in London’s South Bank, including National Theatre, The Old Vic, Southbank Centre and BFI Southbank.

On his appointment, Josh McNorton said:
It’s hugely exciting to be starting working in what now feels like the world’s most famous neighbourhood. There’s something special in the air at Wembley Park, from the buzz of big gigs and major sporting events to more intimate experiences in our new cultural venues and community spaces. I’m keen to build on Wembley Park’s existing cultural legacy, whilst bringing new and engaging ideas to the area.
James Saunders, Chief Operating Officer, Quintain, commented:
Wembley Park is unique - it has an amazing cultural heritage, we are creating the largest rental neighbourhood in the UK, and now we are creating a whole cultural ecosystem with the particular needs of that local community in mind. Whether a resident, a shopper or a day tripper, creating exceptional experiences every day is what Wembley Park is about. Wembley Park Arts is key to delivering that, from our brilliant free cultural programme to creating new partnership and opportunities.
Sherry Dobbin, Partner, Futurecity added:
Josh McNorton has the perfect combination of skills required for working alongside the Wembley Park team. His experience covers cultural producing at many scales, development of cultural partnership network, and an advanced understanding of the future digital arts sector to ensure Wembley Park Arts will thrive on the dynamic global cultural scene, as well as creating a vibrant place for residents, visitors and workers.

'Pearlies' at Preston Library tomorrow 4.30pm -head about the Pearly Kings and Queens

Monday 23 September 2019

Appeal from Rumi's Cave on Carlton Centre Planning Application

Message from Rumi's Cave

Dear All,

Although the consultation period has now ended, we can still send in concerns and objections as we uncover new facts.

The building where we are homed, the Carlton Centre, has been regarded as D1 use and this is identified as 'Class D1. Non-residential institutions':

Any use not including a residential use —

(a)for the provision of any medical or health services except the use of premises attached to the residence of the consultant or practitioner,
(b)as a crêche, day nursery or day centre,
(c)for the provision of education,
(d)for the display of works of art (otherwise than for sale or hire),
(e)as a museum,
(f)as a public library or public reading room,
(g)as a public hall or exhibition hall,
(h)for, or in connection with, public worship or religious instruction.

Putting offices in these buildings requires a change of use, even if the offices are for social enterprises and startups.

The Council have not applied for change of use on the latest planning permission application and therefore the planning application is not valid.

Keeping this in mind, please email your objections to (Planning ref# 19/2378)

Thank-you for all your support.

Buses contribute to dangerous air pollution in Kensal Rise claims campaigner

It seems counter-intuitive that clean air campaigners should aim some of their fire at buses - after all isn't good public transport one of the ways of addressing traffic pollution?

This is why I asked Fiona Mulaisho of Kensal Rise Residents Association to explain the issues for Wembley Matters  readers after she made a presentation at the last Council meeting:

1) There is an air related Public health crisis in Kensal Rise - in the Station Terrace locality which is most exclusively used by thousands of TfL diesel buses;

2) For the above area where Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)emissions from TfL diesel buses only were found to be almost triple the European Union's legal limit deemed fit for humams. This area  is heavily patronized by residents, shoppers, schoolchildren, bus users etc as there is a Tesco in the vicinity. These people are being involuntarily exposed to illegal levels of bus induced NO2.

Ark Franklin Academy on Chamberlayne is 1 of 50 worst polluted schools on London's most polluted roads in the Mayor of London's Air Quality Audit for schools 2018.

3) Brent Council needs to address this public health crisis immediately as exposure to pollution causes asthma, cancer, lung deformation, heart attacks with children and the elderly being the most vulnerable.

4) The Kensal Corridor Improvement scheme (KCIS) mentioned by Clkr Krupa Sheth in her response, and to be funded by TfL has no credible air pollution of congestion reduction measures, a real missed opportunity to address the longstanding and illegal air quality environment in the local area. There will still be 70,000 vehicles and nearly 12,000 diesel buses using Chamberlayne Road weekly.

5) The Kensal Rise Residents' Association, Clean Air for Brent, Brent Cycling Campaigb Group, Kensal Rise residents and local business are against the KCIS proposal to increase bus stands in the Station Terrace area - more bus stands = more diesel buses. 350 residents have signed petition opposing this bus stand proposal; 

6) 30 local Kensal Businesses have sent a letter to Brent Council and 3 Queens Park ward councillors objecting to the bus stand proposal and demanding for action on the very toxic and perilous air quality conditions along  the high street. (see below)

7) Instead residents and business want the Station Terrace area to be used for initiatives they would benefit the community, businesses and local economy and air quality environment I.e a weekly farmers market. They do not want the heart of their high street to be turned into a mini depot for TfL to increase and store more of its diesel buses, many of which travel to and from Kensal Rise more or less empty.

8) What I didn't say but implied is the Council is keen to get the KCIS money from TfL. However, given what we know about the serious air quality problems caused by TfL's 12,000 diesel buses, we are of stand strong that "Kensal Rise residents and businesses' lives, health and wellbeing are not for sale to TfL". And the Council should never put it's residents in this position. And it needs to take action on the bus induced air related Public health crisis.

Regarding Cllr Krupa's response:

1) There has been no evidence of analysis proffered with KCIS on how and by how much "congestion and associated pollution be reduced". We have asked for thus data and analysis but nothing forthcoming other than the response that "They just know!"

2) The highly illegal NO2 emissions were found to be coming from some of the newer supposedly cleaner buses  - Euro VI - in the Station Terrace area. Think diesel-gate but for buses.

3) There is a false belief within Brent Council that TfL is going to magic up a whole load of cleaner buses / electric. The fact of the matter is TfL has less than 250 electric buses and operates over 700 routes daily in London, each route assigned with 12 buses... do the maths! As at March 2019, TfL had a fleet of 9,142 buses of which:

A) 5,298 were 100% diesel;

B) 155 Electric; (it's got about 70 more since);

C) 2,669 Hybrid (Diesel and Electric)

4) The majority of TfL fleet will be diesel right up to 2038 when all buses will have to be zero emissions so we are in for the long haul with TfL!

OPEN LETTER TO TFL AND BRENT COUNCILLORS (Click bottom right for full page version)

Saturday 21 September 2019

London Global Climate Strike video: These young people means business - and it's not business as usual!

The sheer verve and vitality of the children and young people at Saturday's Global Climate Strike demonstration was exhilarating. I've captured just a few moments here and included a few frames of  some carefully disposing of their satsuma peel - just to prove how carefully they look after the environment!

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.

Evening Standard coverage of the event:

Sean Bradley (Centre) with Richard Lynch (Left)

All the speeches from the Rally:

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.