Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Brent Climate Emergency Question Time Tonight Online 7-9pm


Brent Climate Emergency Question Time Event 7-9pm Online

 
To attend register HERE

This online event will follow the BBC Question Time format, but all questions will be about the climate and the environment. Ollie More from Sustrans and Ian Saville from Brent Friends of the Earth will join Cllr Krupa Sheth (Lead member for the Environment, Labour Party), Cllr Kansagra (Conservative Party), and Cllr Georgiou (Liberal Democrats) to form a panel to discuss environmental issues raised by you. Register via Eventbrite (linked
provided above) and submit a question by emailing localdemocracyweek@brent.gov.uk

In the wake of the IOPC report on Fryent murders Brent Council urges women not to be discouraged from reporting sexual crimes and unsafe places

 Brent Council Press Release

Statement from Cllr Promise Knight, Lead Member for Community Safety & Engagement at Brent Council

We offer our condolences to Mina Smallman and her family following the findings of the Independent Office for Police Conduct’s report. An apology from the Police is due, but it is no substitute for action.

As a Council, we are committed to highlighting the experience of women and girls in conversations with partners, and to do our part to make addressing the underlying problems in the system a priority.

One issue we want to highlight, in the wake of this news, is reporting. Clearly, recent events are unlikely to inspire confidence in the women and girls of this borough who may be considering coming forward, and especially Black and Asian women. But I urge you not to be discouraged.

We know that sexual crimes, from cat-calling and unwanted touching, to rape, are vastly under-reported. And yet it is so important if we are to build a clearer picture of perpetrators. Those reports also help us make the argument for investing in the public services needed to address these issues in a meaningful way. In an emergency, always dial 999, or you can get in touch with the Police’s non-emergency service by calling 101 or reporting online.

For our part, we would like to develop better ways for the community to anonymously report places where they feel unsafe in the borough to the council. We are currently consulting with partners about the best way of doing this, so that we can understand and address high risk areas.   

We are also planning a community forum to coincide with the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence in November, giving local women and girls a chance to share their views and experiences. There will be other activities during the 16 Days and more information will be published on our website shortly.

You can view our latest Community Safety Strategy, which has more detail on how we are working to address Violence Against Women and Girls in Brent, here: www.brent.gov.uk/your-council/about-brent-council/council-structure-and-how-we-work/strategies-and-plans/community-safety-strategy

The Ombudsman's full decision in the case of wheelchair user's 8 year forced humiliation and frustration in unsuitable accommodation

 Readers will have seen the Kilburn Times report LINK on the case where Brent Council has been ordered to pay £27,000 to a wheelchair user who had to crawl up the stairs in unsuitable temporary accommodation over a period of 8 years. The case was brought by Harrow Law Centre and shows how important such agencies are to achieve social justice for the vulnerable.

I thought it would be useful to publish the full report from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman. Harrow Law Centre hope the findings will set a precedent for others in similar situations. In particular I draw your attention to Brent Council's initial response to Mr X's Stage One complaint in May 2020 (Para 22).

Yesterday Cllr Ketan Sheth, Chair of the Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee, tweeted that his Committee would be examining the findings.




The Ombudsman's final decision: 

 

Summary: The Council has failed to provide Mr X and his family with suitable temporary accommodation since 2012. This is fault. The Council has agreed to apologise and pay the family £27,000 for the injustice caused.

 

The complaint

1.    Mr X complains that he and his family have been in unsuitable temporary accommodation since 2012. He says the Council has failed to move the family to suitable accommodation after a review in October 2019 found the accommodation unsuitable.

2.   This causes particular injustice to Mr X’s son, whom I shall refer to as Mr Y. Mr Y has a disability which affects his mobility and the property does not meet his needs

 

The Ombudsman’s role and powers

3.   We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)

4.   We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)

5.    If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)

 

How I considered this complaint

6.   I spoke to Mr X’s representatives about the complaint and considered the information they provided.

7.    I considered the information provided by the Council along with relevant law and guidance.

8.   I referred to the Ombudsman’s Guidance on Remedies, a copy of which can be found on our website.

9.   Mr X, via his representatives, and the Council had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.

 

What I found

 

Temporary accommodation

10.                  Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996 and the Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities (the Code) set out councils’ powers and duties to people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness.

11. If a council is satisfied an applicant is homeless, eligible for assistance, and has a priority need the council has a duty to secure that accommodation is available for their occupation. This is called the main duty. (Housing Act 1996, section 193)

12.The law says councils must ensure all accommodation provided to homeless applicants is suitable for the needs of the applicant and members of his or her household.  This duty applies to interim accommodation and accommodation provided under the main homelessness duty.  (Housing Act 1996, section 206 and Homelessness Code of Guidance 17.2)

 

Background

13.Mr X and his family are homeless. In 2012, the Council accepted they were not homeless intentionally and had a priority need. This means the Council had a duty to secure accommodation for them.

14.The Council placed Mr X and his family in self-contained temporary accommodation. It is a three-storey house which the Council leases from a private landlord to use as temporary accommodation for homeless families.

15. Mr Y has a disability which affects his mobility. He was a child in 2012 when the family moved into the accommodation. At that time he could not walk.

16.In 2015 and 2016 Mr Y had surgeries to improve his mobility. He can now mobilise with crutches over short distances indoors. He needs a wheelchair outdoors. He is now an adult but continues to need daily care and support, which his parents provide.

 

What happened

17. In 2010, an Occupational Therapist recommended the family live in a wheelchair accessible premises with level access facilities.

18.                  In 2012, the Council’s District Medical Officer (DMO) recommended “relocation to mobility two accommodation and ground floor or lifted accommodation”. ‘Mobility two’ refers to how the Council classifies the different levels of adaptation to properties. Mobility two is the description for properties with adaptations for people who cannot manage steps or stairs and may use a wheelchair for all or part of the day.

19.In October 2019, the Council reviewed the suitability of the accommodation. It found that the accommodation was not suitable for the family. In response to Mr X’s complaint, the Council apologised for the delay completing the review and offered a payment of £2000 as a remedy.

20.                 To date, the family remain in this accommodation. In December 2020, the Council’s Allocations Panel put Mr X’s application to the housing register in Band A. This is the highest priority band. Before this, the application was in Band C until September 2020, when the Allocations Panel increased it to Band B.

21.In its referral to the Allocations Panel, the Council said: 

 

“A review has found that the current property is not suitable and does not meet the applicant’s son’s needs. The review was completed in October 2019. However prior to this, the DMO and the OT made recommendations in 2012 that show the accommodation as being unsuitable.”

 

And then goes on to say:

 

“The property is not suitable for the needs of the household; they have been residing in unsuitable accommodation since 2012.”

22.                  This internal document contradicts what the Council said in its response to Mr X’s complaint. In its stage one response in May 2020, the Council said:

 

“Despite the DMOs initial recommendation in November 2012, I am not satisfied that Mr [X’s] accommodation was unsuitable from 2012.”

 

Findings

23.                  The law says temporary accommodation must be suitable. The Council’s review found that it is not. The Council therefore has a legal duty to secure alternative accommodation for the family. It has not done so. This is fault.

24.                 The Council’s referral to the allocations panel in September 2020 shows it considers the accommodation never to have been suitable. Although this contradicts its complaint response to Mr X, I find it more likely this internal document records the Council’s current position. It was written more recently and so I take it to supersede the previous statement.

25.                  Therefore, the Council’s records show it accepts the property was never suitable for the family. This means Mr X and his family have lived in unsuitable temporary accommodation for over 8 years.

 

Injustice

26.                 Mr Y says the lack of independence in his daily living is humiliating and frustrating. He finds climbing or crawling up the stairs painful. He does not have the space needed to do the exercises recommended by his physiotherapist.

27.                  Mr X and the rest of family find living in the accommodation distressing because they are worried about Mr Y. Mr X is also suffering from back pain because he often has to carry Mr Y up the stairs to access a bathroom and toilet.

28.                 Our Guidance on Remedies says we should consider the complainants own actions when assessing injustice. Therefore, I have considered whether Mr X could or should have complained sooner. However, the Council did not tell Mr X he could review the suitability of the property. Given this and his family circumstances, it was only when he got a representative that he was able to escalate his complaint.

29.                 Prior to his surgeries, Mr Y was entirely unable to walk. The downstairs toilet is not wide enough to accommodate his wheelchair. If his father was not at home to carry him, Mr Y says he had to drag himself upstairs to the bathroom. He describes how humiliating this was, and that he did not always make it in time. This is a significant injustice to Mr Y.

30.                 In 2016, Mr Y had surgery to improve his ability to mobilise. This should have been the point at which his independence increased. Instead, it continued to be impeded by his accommodation. The OT report shows he cannot safely access the downstairs toilet in the property. Climbing the stairs is a slow and painful process. Mr Y says he has fallen on the stairs several times. This is also an injustice to Mr Y.

31.Since October 2019, the Council has tried to find alternative accommodation that will meet Mr Y’s needs. The family need a four-bedroom property that is, or can be, adapted to be wheelchair accessible or provide step-free access. These properties are scarce. Nevertheless, the family remains in unsuitable accommodation. This is an injustice to Mr X, Mr Y, and the rest of the family.

 

Agreed action

32.                  The Council has agreed to apologise in writing to Mr X and to Mr Y.

33.                  The Council offered Mr X £2000 as a remedy for its delay completing the suitability review. I do not consider £2000 to be an adequate remedy for the injustice to Mr X, his family, and in particular Mr Y, of spending over 8 years in unsuitable accommodation.

34.                  The Ombudsman’s Guidance on Remedies recommends a payment of £150 to £350 per month spent in unsuitable accommodation.

35.                  I have calculated a recommended financial remedy in the following way to reflect the level of injustice:

o   £300 a month from November 2012 to June 2016 for a total of £13,200

o   £250 a month from July 2016 to October 2019 for a total of £10,000

o   £200 a month from November 2019 to the present for a total of £3,800

36.                  This should be paid to Mr Y, as he has suffered the most injustice as a result of the Council’s fault.

37.                  In addition to the £27,000 for the injustice to date, the Council should continue to pay Mr Y £200 a month until it secures suitable temporary accommodation or ends its s193 duty.

38.                 The Council should liaise with Mr X, Mr Y, and their representatives to agree a method of payment which does not impact on entitlement to any welfare benefits or otherwise disadvantage them.

39.                  The Council should take this action within six weeks of my final decision.

 

Final decision

40.                 I have completed my investigation. The Council is at fault. The action I have recommended is a suitable remedy for the injustice caused.

 

Tuesday, 26 October 2021

Kings Drive resident protests to Barry Gardiner over Brent Council's council estate parking plans and raises safety fears

 


The bungalows on the former garage and car park site

Dawn Condouriodise,  a long-term resident of the Kings Drive council estate has turned to Brent North MP Barry Gardiner, in a desperate attempt to draw attention to the problems posed, especially for the elderly and lone women, by the removal of parking places on the estate:

 You may remember back in 2017, myself and all the residents here opposing Brent Council’s plan to demolish our garages and car park (Your ref. MB/ZA23665), to replace them with ‘affordable bungalows’, although when my neighbour enquired about putting her name on the list for one at a Brent Housing Partnership meeting, she was told by a representative, that she couldn’t afford one.

Firstly, they sold our Grade II Listed Town Hall to the French school at the bottom of what was our relatively quiet road, and Kings Drive has been lined with parked cars connected to it ever since.  Despite the council’s own parking survey confirming 100% occupancy, and a petition signed by all the residents (council and private), they went ahead and bungalows (with parking and gardens) are now being completed.

I was evicted from my garage of 15 years and 6 weeks later, after parking my car where Brent Council suggested; Greenhill, a quiet turning off Kings Drive, and where a man was previously found shot dead in his car, my car was stolen, and I’m forced to continue parking there every night when I return from visiting my mother in a nursing home, as there is no space closer to home.

All the residents here are resigned to the fact that Brent Council has no concern for residents but what they are planning to inflict on us this time, is the most stress inducing yet.


Kings Drive parking spaces marked in green

All Kings Drive residents have received a letter informing us that, not content with taking away our main car park, Brent Council now intend painting double yellow ‘no waiting at any time’ lines throughout the area, which according to their plan will leave approximately 12-14 parking spaces for 114 flats. Their letter also states that there will be no parking for visitors. Of course, that will include carers, district nurses, deliveries, services. The list goes on, and would halt visits to elderly or disabled who rely on their children to take them out. Those that do drive will be hesitant to venture out because they won’t be able to park when they return, which would force them into isolation. I wouldn’t even be able to stop outside to bring bags of shopping up, before driving back out into the night in search of somewhere to park, so would have to carry it all back, and I don’t know if I could with my painful arthritic hips.

You may remember I previously mentioned that we live at the top of one of the steepest hills in Wembley with our closest public transport a long steep hill down one side to the main road, and a steep walk the other side down to the end of this large cul-de-sac and a quiet bus stop, where residents don’t like to go because of previous muggings there; and at one end of Fryent Country Park, where 2 sisters were found murdered last year.

As you can imagine, everyone here is shocked and worried, because if this plan goes ahead, it will leave all of us (but 12-14) forced out onto the streets beyond to search for somewhere to park (where most streets already have yellow lines).  We have all seen the horror stories on TV News and in the newspapers about women being attacked walking home at night. Being forced to park away from home would put our safety at risk, and mine already is.

Brent Council have brought more traffic here and the residents, some who have lived here for over 50 years like me, are suffering as more and more space is taken away.

Apparently, they are engaging with a parking enforcement agency in order to fine us if we do park on the yellow lines and plan to charge us for parking permits for 12-14 spaces?  If they want to fine people for parking irresponsibly, then so be it, but to even consider forcing residents (many of them elderly) and myself, a lone woman, out into the abyss to search for a place to park without a yellow line is despicable.

We could get another petition opposing this plan signed by everyone here, although we know from past experience that it would be completely ignored by Brent Council. They will go through the motions of surveys and consultations, but residents know that they have no interest in our views, will overrule any opposition, and it seems, will go to any lengths to build and increase the coffers, despite the consequences and safety of the residents they are supposed to be responsible to/for.

Is this what we pay Council tax for? To make our lives as miserable as possible?

 


UPDATE: VEOLIA APOLOGISES Veolia's cheek at claiming credit for an award to a conservation garden they don't maintain

 

The long establised Barn Hill Conservation Group were put out when they saw a tweet from Veolia congratulating themselves and Brent Council for a London in Bloom Gold Winners award to Roe Green Walled Garden in Kingsbury for the best Small Conservation Area.

In fact the Garden is wholly maintained by the volunteers who work there on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturday - Veolia has no involvement.

A volunteer commented that there are two questions: 

 

Why did London in Bloom send the certificate ( on the right  in photograph above) to Veolia rather than to Barn Hill Conservation Group? 

 

Why did Veolia not only accept a certificate for something to which they were not entitled  but then publicise it?


The Conservation Group do an amazing job in the garden, as the photographsbelow shows, and have been doing so for far longer than Veolia has managed the parks contract.


Roe Green Walled Garden

The Conservation Group also does immensely valuable voluntary conservation work in the vast Fryent Country Park every Sunday: 

 


 Fryent Country Park won a Gold in the Country Parks category.


I hope Veolia have the grace to tweet an apology.


Shortly after this story was published Veolia apologised. Thank you.