Sunday, 16 February 2020

Clarity needed on Adult Day Care 'savings' and the impact on providers and users

The proposed Council Budget includes 'savings' (rather than 'cuts') in Adult Day Care which as usual are said to have no impact on users.

The reported approved by Brent Cabinet that will go to the Full Council Budget Seeting Meeting states LINK:
Proposed savings

Current externally commissioned day care in Brent is commissioned according to an old fashioned and out of date model. The majority of provision is expensive, building based and does not offer choice and control to service users. Additionally, there is an over provision of traditional day care in Brent, meaning that providers are not transforming their services, and often wish to increase their costs to the Council to make up for low take up of their services.

The commissioning service are working with providers to redesign the service into a new model, that supports more choice and control and promotes less building based provision. Public Health outcomes will be built into the recommissioned service.

How would this affect users of this service?

The proposal is not to cut services or to reduce the amount of provision that individuals receive, but rather to transform the existing provision so that it is more efficient and cost effective. Users may be impacted through having to move to a different service provider, or adapting to a different form of non-building based provision, but the overall level of service individuals receive should stay the same in most cases. Although some people may find that transition challenging, a more innovative approach to day service should deliver better outcomes.
John Healy of Brent Advocacy Concerns, thought that this would lead to some existing Day Care Centres having to close but on Friday evening was told by a Council officer that 'there are no plans to close any Day Centres.'

John had emailed Brent officers and Cllr Neal Nerva earlier to request further information and having had at the time no reply contacted Wembley Matters:
I have been emailing the officer in charge of Commissioning and Cllr. Nerva, who chairs The Disability Forum for more information about this new model but neither of them have replied..

Maybe you could ask the council Martin about the plans for this new model, as this affects hundreds of the most vulnerable Brent residents.  The council say the big risk is not to current users but to the market providers, as they may not wish to deliver services away from the current building based model, or to continue to deliver services with £1M. less than current contracts give them, while at the same time having to meet the extra costs of paying the London Living wage to their workforce in any new contract.

So what might the council do if no providers come forward, as they set out a tender last year but no one expressed interest and now this is a re-commissioning of services. The previous contract was to save £1.5M. over 2 years (£750K in 2019/20 & £750K in 2020/21).

Development Report lays bare South Kilburn gentrification assumptions

Wembley Matters has carried several critical commentaries on the South Kilburn regeneration - a regeneration heralded by Brent Council as a model for others.

The inclusion of private development in the regeneration of council estates is justified on the grounds that it enables rebuild or refurbishment of council accommodation to take place and helps create a more socially diverse community/

Certainly the profiles above are far removed from those of the average South Kilburn council resident.  The 'professionals' joint income of £150,000 - £250,000, contrasts with a median household income in Brent of £27,364. The average houseprice:income ratio in London is 14.1 compared with a UK average of 7.4.

In 2018 there were 3,498 households on Brent Council's housing waiting list.  There will be others on housing association waiting lists and of course many were removed from the list a few years as not qualifying for council help.  LINK

The housing crisis is of course much wider than Brent  and Labour councillors will argue that they have done as much as they can within current constraints but they would be wise not to hail the building of 'homes' for rich parents or overseas investors as a cause for celebration.

We need good quality homes for families on median household incomes. Nothing less.

Deadline 24 February – your only chance to see the tile murals in 2020!

Guest blog by Philip Grant in a personal capacity:

I wrote last month about the “reveal” by Brent Council and Quintain of three of the Bobby Moore Bridge tile mural scenes in Olympic Way, as part of Brent’s London Borough of Culture 2020 celebrations. LINK

On 2 February, Martin added a comment he had received via email to that blog. The points which Elisabeth had made echoed what I and many other local people feel, and prompted me to write a joint email to the Cultural Director of Quintain’s Wembley Park Arts organisation and Brent’s Chief Executive (full text as a comment on the previous blog). My email finished with:

‘I hope that Quintain / Wembley Park and Brent Council will reconsider plans to put adverts over the revealed tile mural scenes again after 24 February. Please leave them uncovered for at least the remainder of 2020, or if that is not considered possible, please announce future dates during LBOC 2020 when these tile murals will be on public display again.’

I have now received a reply (from Wembley Park, but not from Brent). While it says that ‘Quintain and Brent Council have an agreement to reveal the south eastern tiles for a specific amount of time each year,’ it goes on to say:

‘… this year the tiles are being unveiled for 38 days in January and February to ensure residents and visitors have the opportunity to view the installation.’

I asked whether this meant that there would be no further display of these mural scenes during 2020, and the answer was “Yes” it did. So, 38 days out of 366 (yes, it’s a leap year) in LBOC 2020 in which to see this part of Brent’s cultural heritage. If you don’t see them by Monday 24 February, there won’t be another chance this year.

It appeared that being the London Borough of Culture had made Brent Council and Quintain finally acknowledge the cultural and heritage importance of these tile murals. I had been encouraged by statements made on behalf of both organisations when the Mayor of Brent conducted the “reveal” on 18 January, as a prelude to the LBOC 2020 “RISE” event later that day. 

All smiles from Brent Council and Quintain at the tile murals “reveal” on 18 January.
(Photo by Francis Waddington, Wembley History Society)

At the reveal event Julian Tollast, on behalf of Quintain, said:

‘The iconic cultural and sporting events at Wembley are celebrated in these heritage tiles behind us, and we are really proud to work with Brent and with Wembley History Society to make the reveal on a periodic basis of these murals possible.'

Brent Council’s press release about the reveal of ‘the heritage tiles at Wembley Park’s Bobby Moore Bridge’ said:

‘The tiles, which show scenes from famous sports and entertainment events at Wembley Stadium and the SSE Arena, Wembley, are part of Brent’s rich heritage and date back to September 1993 when they were originally dedicated to the legendary footballer.’ 

It is now clear that their enthusiasm for Brent’s rich heritage is subject to the proviso that it ‘does not restrict commercial opportunities that benefit both parties.’ 

It appears that these “commercial opportunities” may also extend to the occasional covering up of the “footballers” mural in the subway. That mural scene was put back on “permanent” public display in the autumn of 2019, following the approval of Quintain’s planning applications LINK as a gesture towards the heritage significance of the murals. Quintain’s application had promised that:

‘a 9.4m long section of the original tiled mural located on the east wall and referencing England footballers and the Wembley ‘twin towers’ will remain uncovered and visible to the general public.’

The reply I received from Wembley Park included the statement: ‘Quintain has committed to make this scene visible at all times with the exception of a small number of stadium event days.’ When I asked for clarification, the response was:

 These tiles may be covered up for events held at Wembley Stadium, such as the NFL games, UEFA events and concerts. As of today, there aren’t plans to cover them up until potentially the NFL games in late October.’

It seems that Quintain and Brent Council would be prepared to cover up this iconic England footballers mural, even during England’s Euro 2020 matches at Wembley Stadium, if “the price is right”. For the NFL games at the stadium this autumn, they would be willing to cover up the “soccer” mural, but not put back on display the American Footballers scene!

I will give the final words on this situation to a lady who emailed me this week, in response to my recent blog on the Bobby Moore Bridge tile murals. She has lived in Wembley for more than sixty years, and with her late husband had been to many events at the Stadium and Arena, including the Wembley Lions last ice hockey match in 1968:

‘As Brent is supposed to be the London Borough of Culture, I am appalled that our sporting heritage murals are to be covered by advertisements.’ 

Philip Grant

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Tory opposition leader on Brent Council to get £2,000 rise

A report to Full Council recommends that the leader of the 3 member Conservative Group on Brent Council gets a Special Responsibility Allowance rise from £6,000 to £8,000. The recommendation is based on the average provided in comparable London boroughs. The allowance is in addition to the basic councillor allowance.

Quick quiz question for readers: (answers at foot of page)

1) Who is he?

2) What has he achieved in holding the Council to account?

The biggest rise is reserved for the Chair of the Audit and Standards Committee, Cllr Aslam Choudhary,  (who also serves as Vice Chair of the Audit and Standards Advisory Committee. A rise to match similar roles in other London boroughs is recommended that will increase his allowance from £1,000 to £5,000.

All councillors' allowances will be increased by 2% in line with the Local Government Pay Inflation Settlement.

The Report reminds councillors that the  2018 Report recommended that allowance be set 'at a level that enables people to undertake the role of councillor while not acting as an incentive to do so. It is equally important, as acknowledged, that there should not be a financial disincentive.


1) Reg Colwill

'Don't tarmac our pavements' - petition to Brent Council

The battle over tarmac is not over yet! A petition has been mounted to persuade Brent Council that replacing broken paving is a better environmental option than laying tarmac. The petiton is authored by Sonia  Locke, Planning Representative, Willesden Green Residents' Association.

The petition can be found  HERE and states:

Brent Residents are calling for the immediate cessation of tarmac as a paving solution within the borough.

In 2016, the use of tarmac was agreed by Brent’s Cabinet establishing all footway resurfacing would see paving slabs replaced with asphalt. This policy not only inextricably alters the visual quality and character of the public realm, it fails to consider or acknowledge the well documented, harmful effects to the health and well being of Brent constituents and the overall environment. While Brent claims the use of tarmac is a more ecological solution, research indicates its environmental hazards make it an unsafe one. Given the indications, how does the use of tarmac fit in with Brent’s July 2019 climate declaration?

Tarmac is an oil-based product, detrimental to the environment and unlike paving slabs, stone or concrete, unable to be reused or recycled. When laid, tarmac releases toxic fumes and its ability to absorb heat adds to urban overheating. Furthermore, tarmac is impermeable contributing to flooding, an already challenging issue for Brent. Due to the flexibility of the material, ground movement easily undermines the integrity of tarmac causing substantial cracks, bulges and surface deformities that make for unsafe, if hazardous passageways. In cold weather, it is more slippery than concrete or stone pavers.

Public space is a key element to Brent’s overall plan for urban regeneration and social wellbeing. Surfaces play a vital role in its visual and tactile quality. Tarmac does not fit the requirements of Brent’s SPD1 which calls for public realm quality. Tarmac is a cheap, inappropriate solution for pavements and is often viewed as detrimental to the visual quality of the public realm. Brent must look to other neighbouring London councils’ examples of public realm quality expectations and mirror their strategy. Brent need not continue to define itself as the borough of deprivation and poor quality.

In the short term, tarmac may be a cheaper solution but what about the long-term costs? Long-term, tarmac requires more maintenance than paving slabs. Neighbouring boroughs impose minimum standards and value and Brent must follow suit and not simply look to the cheapest, short term solution available. It iswell documented that pavers are more durable than tarmac but unlike tarmac, pavers can be re-used and at the end of its life cycle, 100% of the material can be recycled.

As we see in more affluent areas of Brent, concrete pavers can and are being reused. While Brent is replacing large stretches of paving stones with tarmac in low-income areas, they are maintaining paving stones in the more prosperous areas. Council tax is the same across the borough and yet Brent continues to show preferential treatment to its wealthier neighbourhoods.

Brent has access to millions of NCIL monies much of which goes unspent every year. Why is Brent Council not encouraging the use of these monies for its proposed use on its infrastructure?

Brent residents are demanding our voices be heard. There is no place in Brent for an inferior product which degrades faster, is detrimental to the environment, reduces the quality and performance of our paths and vandalises the architectural, visual and historical character of our neighbourhoods.

Stop throwing cheap, substandard, non-solutions at us. Brent residents deserve better. We are calling for Brent to immediately cease and desist from further plans to tarmac its infrastructure.

We the undersigned residents of Brent wish to see this policy stopped and reversed with immediate effect.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

'Community versus Committee' conflict closes Wembley Central Mosque

Few passers by would have failed to notice angry scenes outside Wembley Central Mosque after Friday Prayers recently. In fact a conflict has been going on for some time with the DO NOT DONATE group asking worshippers not to make the usual donations to the mosque after prayers following conflict with the mosque committee over the sacking of an Imam, financial issues and attempts to make the mosque more inclusive of Wembley's diverse Muslim community.

The mosque was founded in the 1980s.

A full account of the conflict can be found in the 5Pillars website HERE

Kenton's Sue Ellen appointed chief legal adviser to the Tory Government

Following Boris Johnson's appointment of Suella Braverman (nee Fernandes) as attorney general (shortly after she attacked judges as unelected and unaccountable) it is interesting to hear from someone who was at school with her in the 1990s:

Sue Ellen Fernandes (who prefers to be known as Suella, so as not to be compared to a character in the 1980's TV series "Dallas") grew up in Kenton.

Her mother was a Conservative councillor on Brent Council, Uma Fernandes (who, as a candidate for Parliament, managed third place in the Brent East by-election won by Sarah Teather in 2003).

By the sixth form at school, Suella was open about her ambition to be a Conservative M.P., and to become Prime Minister, like her idol, Margaret Thatcher.

She studied law at Cambridge, and went on to become a barrister, specialising in planning law, but also spending time trying to get selected as a Conservative Parliamentary candidate.

One of the roles that helped on her Tory CV was acting as Chair of Governors for Katherine Birbalsingh's Michaela Community School LINK, although her knowledge of planning law did not seem to cover the fact that consent was needed to display a large advertisement over its building in Wembley Park LINK:

The advert had to be taken down after a few days - a waste of taxpayers money that could have been avoided!

Suella was elected for the "safe" Conservative seat of Fareham in Hampshire in 2015. Now, at the age of 39, this "aspirational" junior barrister has been appointed by Boris Johnson as the Government's top legal adviser.

Heaven help us!

General Election 2019: Did the Greens sell their souls for a few scraps from the Lib Dems?

It is just not the Labour Party that has to undertake a review  of their performance in the General Election. The forthcoming Spring Conference of the Green Party will have to seriously consider its election strategy, including the formulation process, and draw out lessons for the future.

Green Left, the eco-socialist group within the Green Party has today published the following statement on the 2019 UK general election.
The defeat for Labour in the General Election was disappointing, because it happened in spite of Labour supporting countering Climate Change,
The Green Party should welcome the many in the Labour Party and Trade Union movement who now want a green transformation of the economy.
Unfortunately, the Green Party made the mistake of linking up with the discredited Lib Dems over the Brexit issue and, even on this, serious differences emerged over the Lib Dems’ proposal to remain without a referendum. The pact was not based on other shared policies with the Lib Dems.
Many members of the Green Party were surprised that it endorsed Lib Dems in some 20 seats with sitting Labour MPs and candidates near to its policies on austerity, Brexit and the Green New Deal. Why were the Lib Dems allowed to use our good name to fight Labour?
The General Election strategy of the Green Party seemed to be fixated on gaining an extra MP by selling our soul for a few scraps from the Lib Dems; and in the event was of no benefit to Greens
Green Left has asked the Green Party what was the basis for this mistaken strategy? Were its political implications fully thought out?
Green Left believes the task of the GPEW is to encourage debate and discussion with those who share or are beginning to share our perspective on the need to fight climate change and the need for a Green New Deal to transform the economy.

Monday, 10 February 2020

Free showing of Freedom Fields in Wembley Saturday + Q&A

Tickets HERE

Brondesbury Park oak tree petition taken down after Brent Council clarifies the situation

The petition that was launched over the weekend to try and stop the felling of two oak trees in Brondesbury Park (advertised on Wembley matters yesterday) has been taken down after Brent Council clarified the situation.

Brent Council said:

In response to a petition concerning two oak trees in Brondesbury (since closed):

Brent Council does not own the two oak trees in question. They are on Housing Association land and therefore privately owned. We do care greatly about trees in Brent which is why we placed a Tree Preservation Order on the two oaks in 2006. This requires the owners to seek the council’s permission to carry out any works on them.

An insurance company has provided robust evidence that work is needed on these trees to stabilise a nearby property that has subsidence issues. They have applied to remove one of the oak tree which is believed to be causing the issues. 

In adjudicating these decisions, we always balance the important contribution of trees with the serious damage they can cause to people’s homes. It is simply not true to say that the council is destroying these trees – we are reviewing the evidence that has been presented to us by a third party.

We believe that there is evidence to suggest that the tree is causing subsidence and if we refuse the application we could be asked to pay significant compensation. This is not in the best interests of residents, at a time when budgets are tight and money is needed for the maintenance of other trees around the borough.

We have committed to working with residents to improve the information we share about upcoming tree works. However, as these trees are on private land, it is for the owner to keep nearby residents updated.

The author of the petition told Wembley Matters this morning:
I understand there are some mistakes in my understanding of the situation pointed out to me by the Tree Protection Officer, Lawrence Usherwood, who has worked hard to protect these trees, within the framework of options he has available to him.  

Naming the Council as the sole decision maker was erroneous.   

My hope had been to highlight that the current way that subsidence claims are dealt with mean we are limited in how we can adapt to new priorities of ecological emergency.  I did not want to cast blame on any individuals within the council – which is how it has been seen.  And do not have a good understanding of the details of the case.
The news of the threat to the trees spread like wildfire over the weekend with many rushing to support the petition on social media. In this case a mistake was made and I apologise for a misleading post but the degree of passion that Brent residents demonstrated for protecting their trees is truly heartening.


Saturday, 8 February 2020

Great rap on Climate Change from primary school children

The National Education Union Climate Change Network is advocating that next week be a climate change themed week in schools. This rap from a small primary in West Cork should get the children going...

Friday, 7 February 2020

Celebrating the architecture of Ernest Trobridge in Kingsbury

Many thanks to Philip Grant for this fascinating Guest Post

In February 1920, Ernest Trobridge displayed his design for a “home fit for heroes” as a show house at the Ideal Home Exhibition. In a leaflet he claimed that ‘this type of house is the most progressive step yet made towards meeting the present urgent demand for houses.’ It would provide ‘maximum convenience, comfort, and life of structure; minimum expenditure of costs and time for erection.’ LINK  Trobridge’s new design of house would be made from green elm wood, with a thatched roof! 

Trobridge’s planned Ferndene Estate, from his February 1920 leaflet. [Source: Brent Archives]

Trobridge had moved to Kingsbury in 1915, and developed his ideas while growing food on a smallholding in Hay Lane, to feed his vegetarian family during the First World War. He had already bought a small field, at the corner of Kingsbury Road and Slough Lane, ready to build his houses. Some of them are still there today, as Grade II listed buildings. The centenary of his Ferndene Estate, coinciding with Brent’s year as London Borough of Culture, seemed an ideal time to celebrate this architect’s remarkable work.

Ernest Trobridge had strong New Church beliefs, and could probably be described as a Christian Socialist. He wanted to provide beautiful and comfortable homes that ordinary people could afford. He planned for some of the homes to be sold to ex-servicemen and their families, and employed and trained disabled ex-servicemen to use the construction method he had developed and patented. He always paid his workers at trade union rates.
The certificate awarded to Ernest Trobridge  for employing disabled ex-servicemen.
                                                                         [Source: Brent Archives]      

Unfortunately, Trobridge’s plans for the Ferndene Estate did not go smoothly. The field he bought had been the paddock of a Victorian mansion, and there was opposition from the owners of neighbouring mansions to the style and density of the homes he wanted to build:

 ‘I do not consider that the type of cottage proposed is at all in keeping with the character of the neighbourhood. On the contrary, the value of my property would be seriously depreciated if cottages such as these were to be erected.’

The local Council delayed planning approval, because of density and fire risk concerns. In addition to this, the promised government subsidies, which should have made his homes affordable, were blocked by the House of Lords. In the end, he was only able to build ten detached timber homes on the estate, costing at least £600 each, rather than twenty-four at £300 each. 

The “failure” of Trobridge’s first Kingsbury development led to him being made bankrupt, but he pressed on with plans for the Elmwood Estate (at the corner of Hay Lane and Stag Lane) in 1922, financed by a wealthy New Church backer. A group of four thatched timber houses from this estate still survives.
3 & 5 Buck Lane, designed by Trobridge in 1925.

Highfort Court, Buck Lane, designed by Trobridge in 1935.
Trobridge continued to live and work in Kingsbury until his death in 1942, designing homes for private clients, and for the Kingsbury Cross Co-Partnership, which he helped to set up in 1929. Every one of his buildings was individually designed, and very different from the work of other architects of his time. His “castle” blocks of flats gave a sense of protection, as well as many useful practical features. That desire to protect produced some remarkable plans in 1938, for homes with built-in air raid shelters, even though they were never built! LINK

There are more than 200 homes in Kingsbury that Trobridge designed, which are still lived in today. One of the aims of the exhibition is to encourage you to go and look at some of his extraordinary architecture (while remembering that these buildings are peoples’ homes, so respecting their privacy).

Please make time, between now and 26th July, to visit Kingsbury Library, see the exhibition, and pick up a free self-guided walk leaflet (or two), so that you can go out and enjoy Trobridge’s beautiful designs for yourself. Kingsbury is easy to get to, either on the Jubilee Line, or a number of different bus routes (79, 183, 204, 303 or 324). It used to be a separate Urban District, before becoming part of Wembley in 1934, and is now very much part of Brent, the Borough of Culture(s).

Philip Grant.

Why preservation and enhancement of our parks and greens spaces is so important

Winter sunshine in Fryent Country Park
The Space to Thrive report LINK was conducted by researchers from Sheffield Hallam University and The University of Sheffield. It was produced with The National Lottery Community Fund. It provides plenty of evidence for those fighting to preserve and enhance Brent's parks and green spaces.

It is based on a review of 385 papers published within the last ten years. Each have been through a process of academic peer review.

It focuses on issues such as health, wellbeing and social integration.

Key findings

1. Access to and use of parks and green spaces enhance physical health, mental wellbeing and life satisfaction

People need parks and green spaces nearby, but they need to be of a sufficient quality to encourage regular visits. The quality of green spaces has a stronger bearing on health outcomes than quantity.
Visiting parks can help reduce obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Visits to green spaces support mental wellbeing and stress relief. 

2. Parks can create important opportunities for social integration

Parks can help refugees and migrants establish a sense of belonging in new communities.
But they can also amplify social divisions. Groups may exclude themselves from green spaces if they feel the space is dominated by one particular group of users (for example, if a park is overwhelmingly used by young people) or if they feel unsafe (for example, when a space is poorly maintained or attracts antisocial behaviour).

3. Parks provide opportunities for community engagement

Local residents, including children, value the chance to be involved in designing and improving their green spaces (for example, through volunteering).
Community gardening offers opportunities for new residents to build social connections.
Schemes to include young people in the care of green spaces can enhance their personal development and increase their environmental awareness.

4. Parks and green spaces highlight inequalities in society

There is evidence that the quality of parks and green spaces is worse in lower-income areas. Minorities are often marginalised in terms of access to green space.

5. Parks and green spaces enable people to connect with nature, which enhances their sense of wellbeing

Connectedness with nature includes experiencing the natural world through the physical senses, learning about it, and engaging mindfully with nature by paying attention. 
It is associated with a sense of gratitude and self worth and can help people recover from stress and mental illness.
Connections with nature also help to build a sense of place and community and foster feelings of belonging.

6. Parks and green spaces can have economic benefits


  • creating employment
  • hosting economic activities (such as cafes or events)
  • encouraging inward investment


1. Parks should be seen as social as well as physical infrastructure

This means that as well as investing in and maintaining high-quality physical environments, funders should also support the activities that animate green spaces and encourage people to use them. Investment should support activities that increase community engagement, bring different social groups together, encourage volunteering and open up parks to disadvantaged sections of society.
For example by:

  • funding local groups to provide community development activities in green spaces
  • creating welcoming meeting spaces such as cafés 
  • ensuring high standards of care and maintenance are provided to deter crime, littering and antisocial behaviour

2. Parks and green spaces should be managed to support health and wellbeing

Design, maintenance and activities should encourage physical exercise appropriate for all sections of the population. They should also create restorative spaces and activities that enable people to recover from the stresses of life. For example: 

  • funding social prescribing within green environments
  • supporting fitness and exercise activities in parks in low-income areas
  • improving lighting and pathways to increase a sense of safety and security

3. Parks and green spaces should be managed to encourage connections with nature

A wide range of habitats should be provided to give visitors the opportunity to engage with and better understand the natural world. This in turn will maximise the wellbeing benefits associated with nature connectedness.

From local historian Philip Grant

I think I recognise that hedge in your photo, Martin! 

It looks like one across Mr Goldringe's field, which was planted by Barn Hill Conservation Group about a dozen years ago, as part of the restoration of the field pattern shown on the Hovenden Map of 1597. 

It is the bottom centre of the map extract - annotated so you can get your bearings:

Copyright: the Warden and Fellows of All Souls College, Oxford