Tuesday 31 May 2022

Brent Cabinet approves 2 year 'Purchase in Advance' energy deal


The first meeting of the new Brent Cabinet this morning approved a new Purchase in Advance energy supply contract for energy and gas across the Brent Council estate  including some schools. The contract is for a two year period 2022-24 rather than 4 years and for 22-23 represents a doubling in price compared with 21-22, reflecting the current energy crisis.


Cllr Paul Lorber addressed the Cabinet and this is the official record of the decision:


Cabinet noted the comments made by Councillor Lorber who had requested to speak at the meeting in respect of the item.  In addressing Cabinet, Councillor Lorber referred to section 3.2 of the report and sought further details on the basis of the decision taken in 2020 to provide for a two rather than four year energy supply period under the procurement framework along with an outline of any associated financial implications given the current and unprecedented increase in wholesale energy costs.


In responding to the comments raised, Councillor Mili Patel (as Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, Resources & Reform) drew attention to the independent assessment of the Council’s energy procurement policy which had confirmed the proposed re-procurement arrangements remained fit for purpose and achieved prices better than market average as well as offering a range of additional services of value to the Council.  The proposed re-procurement and purchasing approach had also been designed to mitigate against overall market risk whilst also seeking to support the Council’s environmental objectives in considering how best to move towards procuring greener and zero carbon energy.


In terms of the overall financial impact (as detailed within section 8 of the report), members were advised of the difficulty in securing fixed term wholesale energy supply costs with the arrangements and approach outlined within the report designed to secure an optimal price for required energy usage and associated services whilst also seeking to mitigate against the risk and minimise significant exposure to further wholesale energy market volatility in the short to medium term.  Members noted the approach outlined also included the potential to avoid significant additional costs on energy contract prices in 2022-23 (on the basis detailed within the exempt appendix to the report).


Having considered the comments made and recognised the difficulties in predicting future market volatility at the time the decision was made to agree a two rather than four year energy supply period Cabinet RESOLVED:


(1)      To approve the award of a contract for the supply of electricity to NPower Limited for two years from 1st October 2022 via a call-off from LASER Framework Y18003, and


(2)      To approve the award of a contract for the supply of gas to Total Gas and Power for two years from 1st October 2022 via a call-off from the LASER Framework Y18002, and 


(3)      that alternatively to (1) and (2) above, to approve the award of contracts for gas and electricity to the next ranked Suppliers on Lot 1 of each of the Frameworks referred to in section 5 of the report, if NPower Limited or Total Gas and Power cannot, or do not accept the offer of a Council contract. Such award shall be in accordance with the offer and award process described in Section 7 of the report.


(4)      To approve the Council’s entry into an amended Access Agreement with Kent County Council referred to in sections 7.11 and 7.12 in the report, to enable its participation and purchase of gas  ...  view the full decision text for item 7.


The full Cabinet paper can be found HERE

If you don't pay your Council Tax by Direct Debit this is how to claim your £150 energy rebate via Brent Council

 Cllr Anton Georgiou has forwarded this letter, sent to all councillors, so that I could share with readers to ensure nobody misses out on the energy rebate if they are eligible.


Dear Councillors



The £150 one-off energy rebate is for customers who live in a property as their main home in Council Tax bands A-D. A discretionary scheme will be launched in June for properties in bands E-H.


A total of 41,655 Council Tax Direct Debit payers have already received the rebate.


Other customers who do not pay Council Tax via Direct Debit are required to complete the online form where they can choose to have the £150 credited to their Council Tax account, paid to them via BACS or they may choose to donate the £150 to the Council’s Resident Support Fund.


Support in completing the online form can be obtained from Customer Services or at one of the Brent Hubs.


If customers make a mistake filling out their form and need to change their details they can contact energybillsrebate@brent.gov.uk giving their details, a contact number and address.


We have now started to make payments to those who have completed the online form. If customers have not notified us of their choice by 31 July their £150 will be credited to their council tax account, so no eligible resident will miss out.


Direct Debit (DD) is the best way for residents to pay their council tax, so our online form offers them the opportunity to sign up for Direct Debit too. Existing and new Direct Debit accounts (made by 30 June) will go into a draw to win a year’s worth of Council Tax. The winner will be chosen at random. One year’s worth of Council Tax (equivalent to the Band your property falls into) will be credited to their account. Employees of Brent Council, Brent Councillors, and those whose properties have been empty for one year or more as of 30 June 2022 are excluded from the draw.


On-line form LINK


Monday 30 May 2022

Brent Council issues information bulletin on Monkeypox

 Heard about monkeypox? 


London Borough of Brent sent this bulletin at 30-05-2022 05:28 PM BST 


You may have heard about monkeypox in the news recently. But what is it, what are the symptoms and how can you access help and information?


Monkeypox is a rare illness caused by the monkeypox virus and one of the symptoms is a rash that is sometimes confused with chickenpox. It is usually associated with travel to Central or West Africa but cases have been occurring in England with no travel links.


Monkeypox can be spread when someone comes into close contact with an infected person. The virus can enter the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract or through the eyes, nose or mouth. 


If you get infected with monkeypox, it usually takes between five and 21 days for the first symptoms to appear. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.


A rash can develop, often beginning on the face, then spreading to other parts of the body. The rash changes and goes through different stages – a bit like chicken pox – before finally forming a scab, which later falls off.


The virus can spread if there is close contact between people through: 


·       touching clothing, bedding or towels used by someone with the monkeypox rash

·       touching monkeypox skin blisters or scabs

·       the coughs or sneezes of a person with the monkeypox rash


Anyone with concerns that they could be infected should see a health professional, but make contact ahead of a visit. NHS 111 can also give advice.

Until further notice, access to our sexual health and contraceptive services is via telephone assessment. There will be NO walk-in (non-appointment) clinics.


To make an appointment in Brent, call 020 8453 2221 Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8.45am to 5.45pm, Wednesdays from 10.30am to 5.45pm, and Fridays from 8.45am to 4.45pm. Or email: lnwh-tr.PCCGENERAL@nhs.net providing your mobile number.


Please ring or email to schedule a telephone consultation and a member of staff will return your call. Please DO NOT come into a clinic unless you have been advised to do so after a telephone consultation. If it is advised that you need to attend clinic, an appointment will be made for you.


The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is investigating the recent cases in England. A notable proportion of early cases detected have been in in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, so UKHSA is urging this community in particular to be alert to any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service without delay. 


For further information there is a UKHSA blog at: https://ukhsa.blog.gov.uk/2022/05/24/information-on-monkeypox-and-our-investigation-into-recent-cases/ and regular updates will be posted at www.gov.uk/government/news/monkeypox-cases-confirmed-in-england-latest-updates


Gambling Harlesden's Future


5-6 Park Parade, Harlesden


Present premises near the Harlesden clock



To the consternation of residents a planning application to convert a premises last used as a betting shop has returned, despite being rejected two years ago. Silvertime want to convert 5-6 Park Parade in Harlesden into two premises - a smaller betting shop AND an gaming centre.  There is existing planning permission for a betting shop but it has not been open since August 2019.

They propose to convert to two units by splitting the premises down the middle  and providing an additional door. The frontage remains the same length but the gambling provision doubles.

Although, rather surprisingly, there was no mention of policy on gambling premises in the Brent Poverty Commission report, residents in their comments are aware of the connection between gambling and poverty.  Here are some of their comments extracted from the Brent Council Planning Portal on this application (Reference 22/1619).

These gaming centres only suck dry the spare cash of those on the lowest rung of society. We can do better than catering to this.


Harlesden is an area with one of the highest levels of household debt, poverty and crime. Situation is increasingly deteriorating following COVID-19 crisis and raising cost of living. Harlesden High Street has already high crime statistics. Currently it is not a place to be wandering around after the sunset. Putting more gambling spots on the map is not going to help it.

It is beyond disappointing that Silvertime are able to re-apply when we were all obviously against such a thing two years ago. The planning was refused then. Nothing has changed.

There are two other Silvertime venues within, at most, 500m of 5-6 Park Parade. To have another would contribute nothing to the area other than to dilute it further into an area without direction or care for the community.

This space could be used to create a much more meaningful addition to the neighbourhood. We need to support our youngsters and our elderly and to provide services that are nourishing and creative rather than designed to take money from your pocket.


I have lived in Harlesden for over 15 years and while other neighbourhoods have improved our local retail has changed little. Having a large gambling arcade in this prominent spot on the high street sets an incredibly bad example for the students at the three schools that are situated nearby. There is already a silver time arcade next to the Jubilee clock so there is enough supply in the area. What we do need are shops that promote healthier lifestyles not worse ones. I'd like to see the council encourage more creative businesses to help rejuvenate our community. I am also concerned about the opening hours with gamblers hitting the street late at night and encouraging anti social behaviour. I have three teenage children and this will make the streets more dangerous for them as they make their way home.


We have too many betting shops and amusement centres already - we know that they lead to addiction and to debt and to poverty. We know that the Debt Addiction is primarily run by the gambling industry and we know that the profits they make far outweigh the misery caused. In America there are no gambling ads on television - and guns are freely available. I think that suggests that even the American state, a bastion of liberalism, realises the damaged caused. Can you justify keeping this as a gambling premises? Clearly there's even more profit to be made from changing the premises to this - do you want to see more debt in Harlesden? It's not a rich area and can't afford it.

Research published in the Geography of Gambling Premises in Britain  LINK   summarises its findings:

While the relationship with deprivation is strong across all types of
gambling premises, it is less pronounced for betting shops (and to some extent, casinos) than other types. Family entertainment centres, adult gaming centres and bingo venues are especially likely to be located within the most deprived decile of areas.


In 2015, the Royal Society for Public Health introduced its ‘Health on the High Street’ campaign, which argued that high streets have an important role to play in promoting the health of residents (RSPH, 2015). It argued that certain businesses such as fast-food outlets and betting shops can
enable and support poor health behaviours. Its research showed that over half of the UK population (54%) believe that betting shops discourage healthy choices and over half (52%) believe they have a negative impact on mental wellbeing. The RSPH also developed an index for rating the health of high streets and found that unhealthy businesses cluster in areas of higher deprivation and lower life expectancy. It argued that reshaping these high streets to be more “health promoting” is an important part of “redressing this imbalance”. It recommended that Local Authorities be given greater planning powers to prevent clustering of betting shops as well as limiting each type of business on a high street to 5% to avoid oversaturation (RSPH, 2018). The same point was made by the Portas review in 2011, which noted that too many of one type of retailer “tips the balance of the location and inevitably puts off potential retailers and investors” (Portas, 2011)


Some councils have included specific gambling strategies within their local plans. For example, Newham Council received Planning Inspectorate approval for a cumulative impact approach (Newham Council, 2015). It can restrict the number of betting shops and fast-food outlets being located within typical walking distance of one another (400m radius) and aims for 67% of the leisure use in town centres being ‘quality leisure’ (excluding betting shops and takeaways). It did this by providing a strong evidence base and looking at the impact that clustering of these types of businesses has on its vulnerable residents and viability of town centres.


Silvertime's agent in his Planning, Design and Access Statement LINK argues that the frontage is below the  Council's 3% of frontage in the defined shopping area at 2.92% and claims that the premises will be an improvement to the area with a tradtional shop frontage with displays.Objections over disturbance late at night are addressed by closing the premises at 22.00 hrs. 

There is likely to be an argument whether the frontage issue is a red herring given that the amount of gambling space is doubled. 

Harrow based Silvertime has two main directors and at the last count had 65 employees. In 2020 it had an operating profit of £2.1m on a reduced turnover (due to closures during the pandemic) of £8.7m. LINK

Harlesden Neighbourhood Forum meets on June 9th mainly to discuss the Picture Palace  issue.

Comments can be made on the Silvertime Planning Application (22/1619)  HERE



Knitters' impressive Wembley Jubilee Post Box Topper

 I am a staunch anti-monarchist but this group deserve credit for the hard work, time and creativity they put into bringing cheer to the local communiyy

From the 'Sewcial Group'

Knitters Eva, Lalita and Kay


A special post box topper for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee has been unveiled in Wembley as part of a nationwide effort to cheer up local areas.   The topper was dreamt up by the ‘Sewcial Group’ which meets weekly at Barham Community Library.

Created by group members Kay, Lalita and Doris, it features a hand crocheted Union Flag base with hand knitted figures* of The Queen, a Guardsman, the Royal Crown, the Royal carriage, a Union Flag Cushion, a Champagne Bottle, a Corgi and a Tree, representing planting trees for the Queen’s Green Canopy, and it is finished off with hand knitted Jubilee bunting.

The postbox topper was installed on Saturday 28th May 2022 in Wembley High Road, close to the junction with Thurlow Gardens.   

‘Sewcial Group’ members Kay, Eva and Lalita said it was great that so many people were smiling and complimenting us as we were setting it up, we also got lots of thumbs up from drivers and passengers in passing vehicles.

Earlier this year the ‘Sewcial Group’ created a spring postbox topper complete with an Easter Bunny for the larger post box outside the Wembley Royal Mail Sorting Office opposite Barham Park.

 * Pattern for figures by teacosyfolk.co.uk

Greys Estate Agents had offered to make a donation to the Sewcial Group but instead the group has has askem instead to donate to the 'Queens Green Canopy, a tree planting venture inviting people to 'Plant a Tree for the Jubilee'.

Sunday 29 May 2022

Dr Laptop session June 4th at 'Fixing Factory' Abbey Road Reuse & Recycling Centre

 From West London Waste Authority

Laptop on its last legs? Tablet playing tricks? Don’t chuck it - #FixIt!. 70% of discarded laptops are reusable and need only basic repairs. 
Pop along to one of our #FREE Dr Laptop sessions (4th June) at #FixingFactory Brent, where our friendly Fixers will diagnose your digital difficulties and provide expert advice to get you back online.
Book a timeslot early to avoid disappointment: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/dr-laptop-tickets-334483237367

Location: Abbey Road Reuse and Recycling Centre, Brent, London NW10 7TJ

#GetFixed #MakeItLast #FixingFactory

How to get here:

Stonebridge Park (Overground) - 10 min walk

Hanger Lane (Piccadilly line) - 20 min walk

By bus: 440 or 224 to Tudor Estate, or 112 to Abbey Road

If arriving on foot please stick to marked crossings and footpaths.

If arriving by bicycle, there are secure storage racks next to the Fixing Factory

If arriving by car, the car park is the first on your left as you drive in

(You must be over 18 to attend - please note that anyone under the age of 18, including accompanied minors, cannot attend due to site health and safety policy)

Brent Council’s “infill” housing plans – some clues from Rokesby Place

 Guest post by Philip Grant in a personal capacity


In August last year I wrote about Brent’s “secret” Council Housing projects, a list of proposals ‘not yet in the public domain’ for building extra homes on existing Council housing estates. A map presented to a Cabinet meeting in July 2021 included three possible new homes for “Rokesby”, which was then in Sudbury Ward.


I was recently asked to have a look at planning application 22/1400, which has now been submitted for building two homes at Rokesby Place. When taking a look through the Design & Access Statement for the application, this page caught my eye:


Fifteen sites in Brent where FBM have been appointed ‘to develop proposals’.


The Statement in support of application 22/1400 was prepared in March 2022 by Fraser Brown McKenna Architects (“FBM”). As it was written on behalf of Brent Council (client), and submitted to Brent Council (Local Planning Authority), the glowing details about Brent’s New Council Homes Programme seem rather unnecessary, but the final sentence reads: ‘FBM were appointed in April 2021 to develop proposals across 15 sites within the borough.’ The map shows the locations of those fifteen sites, and if there is a blue dot close to where you live, you may wish to ask your local councillors what “infill” schemes the Council is planning near you!


There is no doubt that Brent needs to build more Council homes for people on its waiting list and those who are homeless. At first sight, the plans for the two new houses (below) at Rokesby Place look attractive, as they are 4-bedroom / 7-person family homes, for which there is a real shortage of affordable housing in the borough.



Architect’s drawing of the proposed new houses at Rokesby Place, from planning application.


The Council does need to make use of any spare land it owns which is suitable for building homes on (like the vacant Copland School site – so why are all 250 homes there NOT going to be genuinely affordable Council homes?). But it also needs to consider the existing residents of the estate it is considering adding new homes to. That is why in my “secret” Council Housing projects article last year I made the point that early consultation with residents was needed.


Cllr. Southwood, then Lead Member for Housing, replied to the points I’d raised, saying:


‘I absolutely agree that Brent Council must work with residents to shape housing development projects, not just on the housing itself but also on the improvements that are made as part of each development we deliver.  We take this responsibility seriously - with workshops, public events, newsletters and questionnaires all used to discuss and get input on our proposals.’


However, this is what the Rokesby Place Residents’ Association have said about the consultation they are supposed to have received, in their objection comments on the current planning application:


‘Apart from a generic questionnaire which had only one relevant question that was listed last, the whole questionnaire was irrelevant to the proposal. The only information sent with the questionnaire was a publicity leaflet from Cllr Southwood which did not give any detailed information. There has been no consultation with Rokesby Place residents or the neighbouring community. All the information we have found out has been from perusal of the documents on the planning portal.’  


Another objection comment, from a leaseholder of one of the Rokesby Place flats, was also very critical of the application’s claims over consultation:


Extract from the “View Comments” section for application 22/1400 on Brent’s planning website.


Brent certainly needs to improve its consultation with existing residents of estates where it is proposing to add “infill” housing, in order to try to reach agreement on proposals which are acceptable to them, as well as providing at least some of the additional homes which are needed. If they had done that at Rokesby Place, they might have avoided putting forward plans which have produced more than a dozen objections, some of them very detailed.


The proposed homes would be built on an existing car park, used by many Rokesby Place residents. One of the main concerns is the effect of the proposals on the availability of parking, with a net loss of nine parking spaces on the estate. The assumption in the application that because the new homes will be “car free” (in that no parking spaces will be provided for them), no one in either of the seven-person households will own a car or van, also seems naïve.


The Design & Access Statement admits that the level of "parking stress" would increase from 65% to 107%. Residents have stated that the problems caused by the loss of parking spaces would be worse than that. The consultee comments by Brent's Transportation Officer (included in the “View Documents” section) make clear that insufficient data has been supplied by the applicant to justify the Statement's claim that the loss of parking spaces would be acceptable.


Aerial view of Rokesby Place, with sites A&B marked, from the planning application.


In order to restrict the level of “parking stress” to what the application claims is an “acceptable” 107%, the existing car park at A on the photo above, where the two houses would be built, would be replaced by a new five-space car park at B. As you can see, it would be built on what is currently an open green. That has led the Residents’ Association to point out, in its objection comments, that this would go against Brent’s policy over the amount of external amenity space needed to satisfy (existing) residents’ needs:


‘By taking away the only green space which is relatively level, quiet, private and safe will leave no usable place sit out and enjoy the good weather. Residents have always used this area to have picnics, barbecues and ladies get togethers. During the lockdowns this space was a lifesaver for all residents who used this area.’


The loss of parking spaces and the loss of green open spaces and trees (the loss of three mature trees, and severe cutting back of others, is another point raised by objectors) are likely to be key issues in many of the proposed Brent Council “infill” schemes. It will be very interesting to see how these matters are dealt with in the Report by Planning Officers on the Rokesby Place application. 


And what will the response of Planning Committee be, if it comes before them for a decision (as it will have to, in view of the number of objections, unless the Council withdraws its application in the face of strong opposition)? 


I understand that one of the objectors is a Labour councillor for Wembley Central Ward (in which Rokesby Place now sits, following the boundary changes ahead of the 5 May local elections). Will other Labour councillors have the courage to stand up for their residents, in the face of Brent’s New Council Homes “infill” proposals? And if so, will it make any difference?


Philip Grant