Tuesday, 26 January 2021

NEU launch 'Help A Child to Learn' campaign alongside the Daily Mirror with an initial £1million donation

Help a Child to Learn campaign

The National Education Union (NEU) is today launching a campaign to Help a Child to Learn at home during the pandemic. 

With our partners, the Daily Mirror and Viking, we are pledging a million pounds to help schools provide the pens, pencils, and paper some children need to help them learn at home and are encouraging others to donate.

Click here to donate to our Help a Child to Learn appeal.

Throughout the pandemic, the NEU has fought to ensure the safety of our members. We have also launched an online resource hub to help members teach remotely. And later this week, we will be publishing our education recovery plan to outline what we need to reopen our schools safely and well.

However, in a survey last week, you told us the lack of resources means a great many children are struggling to learn at home – not just in terms of access to laptops or broadband, but also pens, pencils, paper, and art materials.

We want to do all we can to support these children so that they can learn from home.

So, the NEU is pledging £1 million to be distributed to selected schools to help buy the stationery needed for pupils to work at home.

Contributions will range between £500 and £1,500 depending on school size.

The Daily Mirror will help publicise our campaign and raise awareness of the needs of children and families by talking to our members about the challenges they face every day.

We know that far more than £1 million pounds is needed so we are also asking members to sign this petition calling on Government to provide the funding our children need. Click here to sign the petition.

Wembley Stadium bids to hold 9 additional up to 100k capacity non-sports events annually - comments close tomorrow

 

I missed out on a consultation about Wembley Stadium's bid to host more full capacity events at Wembley Stadium because leaflets were not circulated in our area despite the estate being affected greatly by such events, including the curtailing of the 206 bus on event days. The leaflets appear to have been delivered on Christmas Eve.

The consultation closes tomorrow. Follow this LINK to comment.

So far there have been only 18 comments on the Brent Council Planning Portal. Most are against citing the impact of traffic congestion, lack of infrastructure, residents effectively imprisoned at home on event days, almost one major event a week and behaviour of fans. There are also references to the lessons of the Pandemic regarding contagion amongst large, densely packed crowds.

The applicant states LINK :

The amendment to Condition 1 of planning permission LPA ref: 18/4307 would allow the use the Stadium, on a permanent basis, for up to 9 additional non-sporting events. These would be in addition to the 22 full capacity sporting events and 15 non-sporting events currently allowed per calendar year.

The major sporting events would be at full capacity. For non-sporting events, it is expected that capacity would be circa. 77,000 spectators for 15 major non-sporting events and circa. 100,000 spectators for 9 major non-sporting events. These estimates reflect the different capacities which can be achieved within the stadium with different configurations and the expected variation in demand generated by different artists.

Condition 1 also allows up to three additional sporting events in any calendar year provided that for each additional sporting event there is a reduction of two non-sporting events in the same year. The effect of this ‘swap provision’ is that 25 major sporting events could take place at the stadium within the scope of the current planning permission, provided the number of major non-sporting major events reduced to 9. It is proposed that this swap provision would remain to allow up to 25 major sporting events if the number of major non-sporting events decreased to 18 with the ‘one-for-two’ mechanism set out.

Given Wembley Stadium is unrestricted in terms of the number of events for up to circa 51,000 spectators, the effect of the proposal is, in practice, to allow up to an additional 49,000 for the 9 additional non-sporting events (concerts). Not all events would be expected to be fully attended to these levels, but to ensure a robust assessment the planning analysis and environmental impact assessment (EIA) assume full attendance at all additional events.

The applicants make it clear that the main reasons for the proposed increase are economic based on market competition:

As is the case for a number of businesses across the country, WNSL and the FA have been heavily impacted both operationally and commercially by the COVID pandemic. The Stadium was scheduled to host 30 events (including the Euro 2020 finals) in 2020, with an estimated attendance of over 2 million spectators. Only 1 of these events was actually held with spectators in attendance with a further 15 events held behind closed doors. The impact of these forced cancellations manifested itself immediately in the form of an estimated loss of circa. £300m and 124 redundancies.

  It is hoped that by the Spring/Summer of 2021 the Stadium will be able to return to hosting events with a proportion of visitors being in attendance. However, WNSL are working on the basis that a full calendar of “normal” events will most likely only be possible from 2022 onwards and as such want to ensure the Stadium can host the right number and mix of events to support a commercial recovery from the impacts of COVID by both the Stadium and the wider Brent community.

The focus of this future recovery programme is ensuring that the Stadium remains an iconic multi-use venue in London, the United Kingdom and across the world and continues to showcase Brent to this audience. The emergence of Twickenham, the Olympic Stadium and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as large outdoor venues with the ability to host a range of events has created a more crowded marketplace in which Wembley must compete. In order to do so the Stadium needs the flexibility to respond to the changing commercial booking process for music events. This sees artists looking to book “runs” of events in a block to provide flexibility for (additional) events dates in order to fit into large tour schedules.

The current restriction on music events at the Stadium makes it difficult to provide this level of flexibility and limits the ability of the Stadium to compete against other venues that operate with fewer restrictions and have much greater freedom. It is within this context that the proposed change to the event cap detailed below are being sought

Meanwhile I have been sent this news which seems rather optimistic:

This season’s Carabao Cup Final between Spurs and Manchester City has been rescheduled and will now take place on Sunday 25 April 2021, with a 4pm kick-off. 
 
It is the objective of the League to stage the Final with as many supporters in attendance as possible and the decision has therefore been taken to move the Final from its original date of Sunday 28 February 2021 to later in the year.
 
The number of fans permitted will be dependent on Government guidance in place at the time and it is hoped that moving the date to later in the year will give Clubs and their fans the best opportunity to attend in person. 

 

Monday, 25 January 2021

TFL's destruction of the trackside vegetation at the Metropolitan/Chiltern Line January 2021

Guest post by Emma Wallace, Green Party Candidate for the Brent and Harrow GLA Constituency

 

 

Emma Wallace at the scene

 

Residents living next to the Metropolitan and Chiltern lines straddling the boroughs of Harrow and Hillingdon, have witnessed a series of distressing environmental actions carried out by TFL this new year.   Over the last two weeks, TFL contractors have been arriving daily with chainsaws, strimmer’s and tree chippers and removing huge stretches of trees and vegetation running along the Metropolitan line between Pinner towards Northwood Hills.  This act of environmental vandalism has meant a biodiverse, green corridor has now been severely reduced, impacting nearby residents’ health and mental well-being, as well as removing habitat for local wildlife. 

 


 Post-destruction

 

Destruction of habitat and wildlife by TFL Contractors

Simon Joshua, founder of Harrow Biodiversity and Environment, has visited and reported about the destruction near the Hazeldene Estate, Pinner, located just metres from the Metropolitan and Chiltern lines.  He writes:

 

 “Green corridors are vital, protected habitats for many wildlife species.  They enable them to forage, travel to find new populations and areas to reproduce in.  Isolated pockets of green are infinitely less beneficial.  Motorways, roads and railways provide ideal, protected green corridors and provide a haven for many species that would otherwise not be able to survive in today’s urban areas.  Most of these areas remain inaccessible to people and therefore are relatively undisturbed.”

 

The green corridors running along the Met line are a rich habitat for a diverse range of wildlife, from owls, kites, woodpeckers, jackdaws, robins, parakeets and numerous other birds, to badgers, hedgehogs, foxes and other mammals.

 These species, many protected by law, are increasingly forced into these small green spaces, as a result of the loss of suitable habitat through increasing development in London.  Now that mature trees of 20+ years have been felled along this Met line embankment, squirrels lack a place to forage, birds have lost their nest sites, woodpeckers have lost trees for feeding and nesting and the perch for the local owl has gone.  And as Simon Joshua states, “TFL claims that the removal of trees is vital for safety.  Apparently, it is not about leaves.  The trees being removed are not old, not diseased and not in danger of falling down.  How many incidents have there been in the past ten years along this stretch of the railway?”  Listen to Simon talk about the damage that has occurred along this stretch of track in Pinner, HERE

 

 


 Karen Pillai

Local resident Karen Pillai, who lives on the Hazeldene Estate, had set up ‘Pinner Green Junior Wildlife Group’  for local children to learn about the wildlife in their neighbourhood and help preserve the environment they live in.  They had also started a biodiversity project with the support of local MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, David Simmonds and local councillors.  The children are absolutely devastated that the wildlife now has nowhere to live and their green environment has disappeared. 

 

Witnessing the destruction over the last two weeks, Karen Pillai asked the contractors whether an ecological survey of the area they were clearing had been completed or if they were aware that the trees they were felling contained birds’ nests.  Their response was to laugh at her.  The contractors who carry out TFL’s Trackside Vegetation Management, ‘Cleshar Contract Services’, were awarded a £10-25 million pound contract until March 2022 LINK.    It appears that these contractors have little awareness of the environmental value of these track-side spaces they have been given to manage, the importance of trees or the legal obligation to protect many species that live here.  

 

Impact on residents’ health and well-being

 

Whilst the loss of wildlife is tragic in itself, it is also the impact to resident’s health and well-being that is of huge concern.  The local community were not informed by TFL that these works were going to be carried out, consequently have not had an opportunity to raise concerns or ask for a consultation of the works to be carried out.  They are now left without trees to protect them from the pollution, light and noise from frequent trains passing, both on the Met line and the Chiltern Railway. 

 

Karen Pillai writes:

  “These trees protect us from pollution as we are bordered by the tube line which produces emissions and the busy main road on the other side.  Systematic removal of our protection from air pollution puts those who live on our estate at a higher risk of lung disease and also more susceptible to illness. Deforestation also has links to pandemics, because nature acts as a buffer protecting us from many illnesses including Covid.  This is why parks and green spaces were deemed safe last year, during the pandemic.  We live in a high pollution area and there is a high incidence of asthma and lung disease in children because of traffic pollution.  Some of the work was carried out last year and we thought that was the end of it; but now they are removing more trees and green cover which will make it worse.

The trees also provide a barrier from the noise of the constant tube trains and dampen the continuous roar. Trees provide us with shade and help offset flooding and land slippage. Our flats already suffer from severe damp, without removing the bordering trees that help to drain it. The trees also support each other and removing the undergrowth increases the risk of larger trees falling.”

 

On the right lines? Report

 

 

In January 2012 The London Assembly Environment Committee published a report entitled ‘On the right lines? Vegetation Management on London’s Railway Embankments’   LINK.   This report highlights how London Underground trackside land totals 10% of all green space in the city and has huge environmental importance.  Darren Johnson, then Green Party Assembly Member and Deputy Chair of the Environment Committee, wrote about the embankment vegetation: 

 

“Not only can it provide privacy and enhance the attractiveness of neighbourhoods, it also shields residents from disturbance and dust generated by passing trains.  Moreover, London’s biodiversity benefit from the habitats and wildlife corridors that line-side vegetation provides across the length and breadth of the capital. It is a vital green asset for Londoners.”  

 

The report goes on to point out that there has been much public concern about TFLs line-side maintenance over the years, including the excessive removal of vegetation, the disturbance to wildlife and the lack of correspondence with residents.  The report makes three key recommendations, including “that local residents are accurately informed as to the nature of the works, how long they will take and how the wildlife is going to be effectively protected.  Many residents living alongside railway lines are passionate about the trees and wildlife at the bottom of their gardens and I would like to see line-side managers make common cause with residents to treat these green spaces more as assets and not as a maintenance liability.”

 

A problem across the whole of the TFL Underground Network

 

Reading the On the right lines report more than nine years on, it appears that little has changed and the recommendations have unfortunately not been implemented by TFL.  Along with the recent events along Pinner’s Met line, there have been frequent reports of unnecessary tree felling and excessive removal of undergrowth by TFL across the more than 55% of tube network that is above ground.  

 

In 2019, there was an online 38 Degrees petition started by Chris Sullivan, calling on Sadiq Khan and Transport for London to ‘Stop Destroying the Trees on the Piccadilly and Metropolitan Line’, focusing specifically on the Piccadilly line stretch between Rayners Lane and Ealing Common:  LINK    

 

In February 2019, residents living near Chigwell to Grange Hill stations on the Central Line complained about the lack of consultation and the unnecessary felling of trees to be carried out by TFL over an 18 month period.  This report states that 60,000 tonnes of vegetation were to be removed:   LINK   LINK 

 

In May 2020, residents near Wimbledon Park on the District Line reported “very aggressive men with chainsaws” causing major environmental damage, reducing privacy to their homes and affecting their mental well-being during a pandemic.  They were also not consulted about the trackside work  LINK.  

 

The London Mayor’s Green Promises

 

In 2018, Sadiq Khan set out a bold vision in his ‘London Environment Strategy’ to protect, increase and improve London’s green infrastructure and make London the world’s first National Park City  LINK.      The mayor has since launched many Green initiatives to encourage people to get involved in London’s green spaces and help address the climate and ecological emergency.  

 

 In November 2020, he announced he was investing more than £10 million in green projects, including £700 000 to the ‘Mayor's Grow Back Greener Fund’, awarded to a range of community projects to create and improve green spaces  LINK Khan has also invested almost £5 million pounds in tree planting projects in London since 2017.  Whilst these initiatives are admirable in their efforts to make London a greener city, wouldn’t it be more logical to try and preserve the already biodiverse, green urban spaces we have running alongside our tube network?  This would save money and ensure that wildlife and vegetation that already exists has a home for years to come.  The money saved could also be invested to proper training for TFL contractors on vegetation management and trackside biodiversity and habitat protection?

 

In June 2020, Lib Dem Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon asked the Mayor to set out the “overall policies that TfL adopts towards tree cutting and felling alongside London Underground lines.”   LINK  Sadiq Khan listed a number of reasons why tree felling track-side may occur, stating that “TfL is also committed to enhancing biodiversity where possible."  He also stated that “Sites are assessed prior to and during works, and if a nest is found the work is stopped and a buffer zone of vegetation is left in place.”  Both these statements have been contravened by the actions carried out by TFL along the Metropolitan line this January.

 

Future actions for TFL?

 

With this excessive removal of vegetation along the Met Line, we have lost another rich, green space in London that would help mitigate the effects of climate change, air pollution and provide a place for wildlife to live.  The environmental vandalism carried out by TFL and their contractors reveals a disregard for our climate, population and wildlife, of which we share the planet.  I call on the London Mayor and TFL to immediately stop the excessive removal of habitat from trackside embankments and ensure that biodiversity surveys are carried out before work begins, that local residents are informed and given time to feedback concerns, and that the contractors are trained on effective vegetation management. 

 

Simon Joshua also suggests that “there may be an opportunity to correct the ecological disaster that we have witnessed.  The council has already given permission to plant along their side of the fence line.  It may take a decade to come close to what has been exterminated this month, but we could plant an area that would benefit residents of the estate and homes but also encourage wildlife to return.  In order to do this, we require financial compensation to provide trees and plants to replace what TFL has destroyed.”

 

Please contact the below TFL representatives and make your thoughts know about the recent actions:

 

 

TFLs Chief Safety, Health and Environmental Officer, Lilli Matson 

LilliMatson@tfl.gov.uk

 

TFLs Head of Track for London Underground, Duncan Weir

Duncan.Weir@tube.tfl.gov.uk

 

 

 

A Brent resident undecided about the Covid vaccine? Attend this webinar tonight.

 


Aware of wariness about the Covid vaccinations from some residents and particularly concern over low take-up in the BAME community, Brent Council is putting on a special Webinar tonight.

This is the announcement from the Brent Council website:

Residents who want to know more about the COVID-19 vaccine are being invited to a free webinar to get answers to their questions.

Taking place on Monday, January 25, between 6pm and 7.30pm, the free session will enable participants to separate the facts from the fiction and gain a better understanding when it comes to being vaccinated against COVID-19.

The session will include a panel of community representatives and a local Doctor and will be hosted by Cllr Promise Knight, Brent’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Engagement.

”Thousands of people in Brent, and more than 3.5million across the country, have already chosen to take up the vaccination against COVID 19, but we know some people are wary of it,” said Cllr Knight. “Others have adopted a wait and see approach, and obviously this is about personal choice.

“But be under no illusions that the number of COVID infections, hospitalisations and deaths remains worryingly high and residents need all the facts so they can make their own informed choice when the vaccine is offered to them.”

Dr John Licorish, Deputy Director of Public Health Brent, will give a presentation about the COVID 19 vaccine at the webinar that will also include a panel of community representatives.

These will include Alton P Bell, Senior Pastor at Wembley Family Church, who grew up and attended schools in Brent and is a qualified Industrial Chemist, IT specialist, theologian, church leader, writer, mentor and community activist.

Dr Musharraf Hussain al-Azhari, will also be on the panel. Chief Executive of the Karimia institute, he has a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences. After twelve years as a scientist he decided to dedicate himself to developing Muslim communities in the UK, studying, teaching and writing twenty books and more than three hundred essays.

Atara Fridler will also be a panel member. She has been the Director at Crisis Brent Skylight since April 2016, overseeing the delivery of services to over 500 people who are either homeless or faced with homelessness.

Residents can sign-up to attend the webinar online by clicking here.

More information about the rollout of the NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme in the borough, is available on our website.



Sunday, 24 January 2021

Questions are asked as Brent's key worker housing in Wembley Park opens for applications


 Still from Virtual Tour (see links below)

I've long been an advocate of key worker housing provision in the borough having seen young teachers forced to move out of Brent as soon as they start a family because they can't afford high local rents. I am sure the same applies to health workers police etc and the result is a loss of valuable staff and recruitment problems.

Developments in the borough did not include key worker housing and in the infamous Willesden Green Library case were marketed by agents (in Singapore!) with the selling point that buyers  DID NOT have to share with affordable or key worker tenants. LINK

I welcomed the news that Brent Council had purchased a block in the Wembley Park development from  Quintain for key worker housing despite a deal in which details were not readily available.  That housing is now open to applications.

However doubts have been expressed in emails to Wembley Matters about the affordability of the units to key workers as well as questions over inclusions and exclusions in the list of eligible workers. Why for example are some of the workers now seen as key in the face of the pandemic not included - refuse workers, delivery workers and those working in essential retail?

One correspondent pointed out a current Brent advertisement for Home Care Assistants well outside the income level needed. LINK

In order to assess the offer here are two tables for background:

Weekly council house rents under the current HRA budget proposals in consultation


 

London Mayor's definitions of affordable housing

The monthly rent for one bedroomed keyworker housing is £992 (including service charge) and the equivalent average council rent is £450. For two bedroomed keyworker housing the comparison is £1,122 and £519.30.

The London Housing Allowance (To calculate Housing benefit and the gap between that and local rents can be accessed here - just type in you post code) LINK

The Key Worker offer from Brent Council website LINK

 

Brent Council’s wholly owned housing company, i4B, has negotiated the purchase of a brand new apartment block in Wembley Park which will provide much-needed affordable accommodation for key workers across the borough and beyond. 

 

The building is due to open in January, and applications are now open for our 1- and 2-bed apartments for those that are eligible. 

 

Virtual tours

Please see the links below to go on a virtual tour of the apartments. These are best opened in Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge. Please note that not all apartments are the same layout or size.

 

Rent levels 

Monthly rent levels will be £992 for a 1-bed apartment and £1,122 for a 2-bed apartment. This includes service charge, but does not include bills such as electricity, broadband or water usage.

 

Eligibility criteria 

 

As part of the process, supporting information will need to be submitted to confirm the eligibly of tenants on the below areas. We will be carrying out independent verification and referencing checks to confirm the information provided. 

 

Key Worker Status 

 

At least one member of a household must be in a key worker post, and at least one eligible key worker must remain on the tenancy at all times.

 

The nomination policy, agreed by the Council and the i4B board, identifies two tiers of key worker roles. Tier 1 roles are the key worker roles that are most in demand for recruitment and retention. Tier two roles are key worker roles that are still in demand, but not to the same degree as tier one roles.

 

Applications from people in Tier 1 roles will be prioritised. However, if you are in a Tier 2 role you should still apply. 

 

Details of eligible key worker roles are below, the roles are listed in no particular order. 

 

 Tier 1

  • Qualified Social Worker (excluding ASYE)
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Educational Psychologist
  • Planner
  • Commissioning Employee (Adult Social Care)
  • Surveyor
  • IT Architect
  • Public Health Specialist
  • Specialist IT Engineer
  • Health Visitor
  • Nurses – Bands 5 and 6
  • Midwives at Band 6
  • Physiotherapist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Speech and Language Therapist
  • Doctors in the following specialties:
    • Acute Medicine
    • Haematology
    • Pathology
    • Anaesthetics / Critical Care
    • Dermatology
    • Cardiology
    • Care of Elderly
    • Respiratory
    • Medicine

Tier 2

  • Armed Forces
  • Council/Government Staff
  • Fire Officers and Retained Fire Fighters
  • NHS Staff
  • Police Officers
  • Prison Service and Probation Service Staff
  • Social Worker
  • Teachers in schools, further education or sixth form colleges
  • Any other worker agreed in writing by the Council (this will be reviewed yearly to reflect the needs of the Council and the list will be published online) 

 

Contract Status

The key worker in the household must be employed on a permanent contract or be employed on a fixed term contract where:

  • They are due to remain in employment for a further 6 months from the date the tenancy is due to commence and;
  • The initial term of their contract was at least 12 months. 

 

Household Income 

 

The Key Worker Housing scheme is designed to provide accommodation to households who may otherwise have difficulties affording to rent in London. Therefore, household income limits have been set. Please note that this is based on household income i.e. the total annual income of all household members over 18, not the key workers annual income. 

  • To be eligible for a one bedroom property household income must not exceed £65k a year.
  • To be eligible for a two bedroom property household income must not exceed £90k a year.
  • Household income must also be a minimum of £31k. 

 

Citizenship 

 

All household members must be either a British or EU/EEA citizen with a Settled Status by December 2020 or have indefinite leave to remain in the UK. 

 

Property Ownership

 

No household member can own or part own a property.

One eligible key worker must remain on the tenancy at all times

 

Before applying 

 

Make sure you have the below documents to hand as you will not be able to complete an application without them. 

 

You will also need to collect all of the below information for any household members who are over the age of 18:

  • Passport or documents proving an indefinite right to remain in the UK
  • You last 3 months payslip
  • Contract of Employment
  • Contact details for current landlord (if applicable)
  • Birth certificates for children under 18 

 

Please read the above information carefully on the eligibility criteria for the scheme and have the supporting documentation ready before starting your application.