Tuesday 5 December 2023

Brent moves to remove 'Landlord Offer' from homeless moved into void properties on South Kilburn. Lettings Policy consultation will be required.



The above video was posted on Twitter yesterday revealing the state of Blake Court on the South Kilburn Estate. @DCustodians said:

Welcome to #BlakeCourtThis the airy 4th floor. Recently redecorated to a high standard by squatters. Just needs a do not disturb sign. Tenants are a bit inconvenienced, work/school and all but who are we to complain?

A picture of an an attempted break-in and soiled lift were also posted:

I thought it was appropriate to publish these images in the light of the Housing Report going to Brent Cabinet on Monday. The report includes a section on South Kilburn where it is proposed that some voids (empty properties) on the estate are brought into use as temporary accommodation. 

The fact that only 52  of 534 properties are considered suitable is in itself telling and clearly it is not just the flats themselves that need to be suitable - safe, clean - but the surrounding 'unsuitable flats', staircases, lifts and security that needs to be considered. 

Wembley Matters has revealed the £13m deficit in the housing budget caused by the rising number of homeless people in temporary hotel accommodation or expensive private rented placements.  LINK The council hopes to save on the average £3,000 a night for the 52 households:

There are currently 534 void properties across the South Kilburn regeneration site as households have either been moved into new or alternative homes, or leasehold properties have been bought back. Due to the increased demand for temporary accommodation and rising hotel costs, an exercise has been carried out to assess the suitability of South Kilburn voids for use as temporary accommodation.

However, there is a fly in the ointment. Brent Council want to avoid the 'Landlord Promise' made at the time of the South Kilburn Regeneation Ballot, applying to these households (my highlighting):

Of the 534 voids, 52 have been identified as suitable for potential use. This is based on their condition and the impact of using them on the regeneration programme. These are based in John Ratcliffe, William Dunbar, William Saville, and Zangwill. Historically, those living in temporary accommodation on the regeneration site were included in the South Kilburn Promise (Landlord Offer), which commits to re-housing temporary accommodation residents within South Kilburn, with the option to move outside of the estate (with the household’s agreement) along with other commitments. This was specifically for those impacted at the time of the ballot. If these voids are used for temporary accommodation, this report recommends that the South Kilburn Promise does not apply going forward. This implications of this proposal on the 2019 ballot outcome have been discussed with the Greater London Authority and no implications were identified.


The rational[e] for the promise not applying going forward to temporary households, is largely based on these households bypassing the choice-based lettings scheme, where other households have waited for years for family sized accommodation. Additionally, these households will not have been impacted by the regeneration scheme in the way those involved with the ballot.

This proposal does create a risk that temporary households will need to be decanted elsewhere, most likely away from the estate, when blocks are due to be demolished. Plus, there will be two tiers of temporary accommodation on the site, those who are eligible for the South Kilburn Promise and those who are not. This risk however is balanced by the immediate reduction in pressure for the Council as moving 52 households out of their current temporary accommodation and into South Kilburn would save the Council approximately £3,017 a night based on the average nightly rate paid and subsidy loss currently being covered by the Council. The use of these void properties has wider benefits to the overall wellbeing of households currently facing homelessness, many of whom are having to be placed outside of the borough which ultimately affects schooling and work.  


There is another pitfall in that the council is required to consult on any change in its Lettings Policy in order to amend the Landlord Offer.:


 To amend the South Kilburn Promise (Landlord Offer) for new temporary accommodation tenants, the Council is required to amend the Local Lettings Policy (allocations scheme) which requires consultation. The Council is currently seeking legal advice on how to consult and once obtained, this will guide officers to carry out the relevant consultation ahead of any decision being finalised.


The council had to open up bidding for council properties to homeless people after a legal judgement in 2021-22 when a teenager took them to court.  LINK That was the last change in the lettings policy. It is likely that South Kilburn residents, especially those waiting for accommodation on the estate, presently in accommodation outside the area, in temporary accommodation or decanted temporarily while waiting to be permanently housed in new build will be very wary of any change in the South Kilburn Promise. If it can be done once for one group, could it be withdrawn later for another group?


This will depend to some extent on residents perception of progress on the whole South Kilburn Regeneration.   A letter to Wembley Matters in November outlined the problems in terms of delivery and impact on those waiting to be rehoused. LINK


There are ongoing problems with defects to properties with L&Q one of the most notable and the ongoing Granville New Homes debacle where the cost of remediation is now put at £25m (against that budget gap of £13m) having been purchased for £17.1m by the council. Still no news on any council move for compensation from the builder. LINK


A veteran observer of the South Kilburn scene was asked for their view by Wembley Matters in the light of the latest news:


If the council were were to hold another ballot, would all those in temporary accommodation still vote yes if they were told they would not be getting a new home in South Kilburn for at least 10 years and that some of them would have to move into old blocks waiting to be demolished while they wait.

Although there are 730 households in temporary accommodation, we do not know how many of them have a South Kilburn connection but at the last consultation the ones that had it were promised a new home soon if they voted yes.

There are 370 secure council tenants waiting for a new home today and we will find out soon the exact numbers in each of the 7 blocks left and when they might be decanted.

But the next batch of new homes are for secure council tenants from both  Craic and Crone Court and there are none for those in temporary accomodation. Of course the council could  change their allocation policy to favour those in temporary accommodation but this is most unlikely.

There should be some more new homes available in 2029 which were for those in phases 7 and 8 but now they might go to those currently in temporary accommodation. I am not sure how many new homes will be available but there will be fewer than 100 and by then because of possible financial issues, many of the homes could be sold, or become shared ownership homes.

But with only 70 new homes available in 2029 and around a 1000 households expecting to get one of them, most of them are going to be disappointed.

I wonder if Osbornes Law will be interested in the new proposals?


POLL: Clear majority of Londoners don't want to leave European Convention of Human Rights

 From Amnesty International

Opinion poll to mark International Human Rights Day shows 60 per cent of people from London said UK should stay part of ECHR

‘The Government should listen to the views of people in London who clearly want to keep their European Convention rights intact’ - Sacha Deshmukh

To mark International Human Rights Day (10 December), Amnesty International has released new polling data showing a clear majority of people from London say they want the UK to remain part of the European Convention on Human Rights.  

Respondents to the survey from across London showed strong support for human rights protections with the vast majority saying they thought it was important to be able to challenge the Government and that they felt the right to peacefully protest was valuable and that children should be educated about their rights. 

The Amnesty poll, carried out by Savanta, shows that any UK withdrawal from the European Convention would not be supported by Londoners with more than half of London adults (60%) polled saying the UK should stay part of the European Convention, with only one in five (18%) saying that the UK should withdraw (22% said they didn’t know). 

More than four out of five Londoners adults (87%) said they felt it was important to be able to challenge the Government if it violates people’s rights - a key protection that the European Convention helps underpin. An overwhelming majority of people from London (83%) felt that it was important to be able to peacefully protest about something they cared about, and 87% people in London thought it was important for children and young people to be taught about their rights in school and college.

The opinion poll also showed - overwhelmingly - that most people in London thought the next UK government should focus on other issues rather than any proposal to withdraw from the human rights treaty. When asked to rank the top five issues that they wanted the next government to prioritise, respondents to the poll chose tackling the cost of living crisis as and resourcing the NHS properly as their top-priority issues (50%). Fewer than one in ten (6%) people put European Convention withdrawal as a top five priority. 

Amnesty’s poll comes after a year of publicised threats from high-profile politicians about the possibility of the UK leaving the Europe-wide human rights treaty, most recently following a legal defeat for the Government’s controversial Rwanda plan.

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s Chief Executive, said:

The Government should listen to the views of people in London who clearly want to keep their European Convention rights intact.

The European Convention protects cherished freedoms like the right to be able to peacefully protest, the right to equal marriage and the right to a fair trial. 

As we’ve seen with campaigns like Hillsborough and the Stafford Hospital scandal, the European Convention allows ordinary people to challenge public bodies or the Government when things go very badly wrong.

The Government of the day should not be able to pick and choose which rights apply, and who is entitled to them. Human rights have at their heart a principle of equality and they must apply to all people in order to be of value to any of us. 

Repeated threats from politicians to withdraw from the European Convention are undermining the UK’s reputation on the world stage.

On top of everything else, withdrawal from the European Convention would also threaten the fragile peace in Northern Ireland which has the convention as a key element of the Good Friday Agreement.

Constant talk of leaving the convention is damaging, dangerous and unpopular.

Polling methodology

Between 31 August and 8 September, more than 3,600 adults across the UK were asked by polling firm Savanta what they wanted the next government to prioritise, about their main political concerns, as well as questions related to the importance of the European Convention on Human Rights. Data were weighted to be representative of the UK by age, sex, region, and social grade. For a link to the full polling data, go here.

Morland Gardens – Report recommends Council does not proceed, but …


Guest post by Philip Grant in a personal capacity

When I wrote last month about the review which Brent Council was undertaking into its plans for 1 Morland Gardens, and shared a copy of the document I’d submitted on “getting it right this time”, one anonymous comment asked ‘will Brent Council ever admit to getting it wrong?’


The “Affordable Housing Supply (2023) – Update” report to next week’s Cabinet meeting shows the answer to that question is “No”. It says their original project has faced “challenges”, and Officers recommend it should be abandoned, but there is no reference to any of the many mistakes the Council made, and some attempts to shift the blame. 


The first of these comes in the Cabinet Member Foreword to the report: 


‘Several schemes in this report have faced significant challenges, examples include delays, objections, and new requirements like a second staircase. These factors are in some cases the reason why a scheme is unable to progress.’ 


It should come as no surprise to the Council, and other prospective developers, when residents object to schemes that breach Brent’s planning policies, and would adversely affect their lives! And there is no acknowledgement that many of the delays over the Morland Gardens project were the Council’s own fault:


The notice of the proposed Stopping-up Order was issued in April 2022, when the Council could have done that eighteen months earlier. They delayed submitting some of the information to the GLA which was needed before the Mayor of London’s decision could be given on 20 March 2023, after which it was Brent’s responsibility to arrange for a public inquiry, which they failed to do. My Brent’s Halloween Nightmare article includes details of their dithering.



Para. 5.10 from the Morland Gardens section of the report (shown above) refers to the position over Brent Start. But it makes no mention of the loss of housing provision at Twybridge Way, caused by moving the college to a ‘temporary location’ there (at a cost of £1.6m). I had warned Brent Council in 2021 what would happen if they went ahead with decanting Brent Start there, and you can read the details in “1 Morland Gardens and Twybridge Way – Brent’s response challenged”, which Martin published in October 2021. 


And as for the “excuse” about needing approval from the Secretary of State for Education, Brent was aware of that before they applied for planning permission for a 67 home housing scheme at Twybridge Way, that they got consent for in May 2020, and which has now expired!



The report talks of an ‘alternative site strategy’ for Morland Gardens, but there is no mention of the locally listed Victorian villa (above). The Pre-Construction Services Agreement (“PCSA”), which Brent entered into with Hill Group in July 2022, appears to have included ‘demolition’ as one of the “Services”. There is some concern among the “Friends of Altamira” (a diverse group that has been active since 2020 in trying to save this heritage building) that certain people at the Council, out of vindictiveness, might still try to have it demolished, even while the review into the future of 1 Morland Gardens is being carried out. 


In order to try and rule out that possibility, I sent an open email to Brent’s Chief Executive and others at the Civic Centre on 4 December, and I will end this update post with the text of that email:


‘Dear Ms Wright, Mr Gadsdon and Councillor Knight,


I have read the Affordable Housing Supply (2023) - Update Report for the 11 December 2023 Cabinet Meeting, which was published with the agenda on the Council's website last Friday, and I have shared the relevant sections of it in respect of Morland Gardens with the "Friends of Altamira".


We welcome the Report's recommendation, at 2.2, 'for officers to develop an alternative site strategy' for Morland Gardens, but there is one doubt which we would like you to clear up, please.


The Report talks about 'the future of the site', but makes no reference to the future of the locally listed Victorian villa. Para. 5.3 refers to the contract of July 2022 and the PCSA (Pre-Construction Services Agreement), which it describes as 'specifically an agreed technical design, enabling works and demolition.'


Please let me have Brent Council's assurance that there will be no demolition of the locally listed Victorian villa at 1 Morland Gardens, unless or until there are new plans in place for the site which would require the demolition of this heritage asset, and those plans have been properly consulted on, considered and given planning consent, and there are no outstanding legal requirements which need to be met before those new proposed development plans can go ahead.


As I, and others, have made clear to you, we sincerely hope that the new proposals for 1 Morland Gardens, emerging from the current review, will not involve the demolition of the Victorian villa on that site. 


Any such demolition, of the restored Victorian facade and belvedere tower, would be an act of vandalism which goes against Brent Council's clearly stated promises on valuing heritage assets:


'Once a heritage asset is demolished it cannot be replaced. Its historic value is lost forever to the community and future generations and it cannot be used for regeneration and place-making purposes. The effective preservation of historic buildings, places and landscapes and their stewardship is therefore fundamental to the Council's role.'


I look forward to receiving that assurance in writing from you, as Brent's Chief Executive, and to hearing either Mr Gadsdon (or whichever Officer is presenting the Report to Cabinet) or Councillor Knight make clear at the meeting on 11 December that Brent Council will not allow the demolition of the heritage Victorian villa to take place while the future of the Morland Gardens site is not legally settled. Thank you. 


Best wishes,


Philip Grant.’



Monday 4 December 2023

Annual Report on spending of Brent Infrastructure Levy reveals large amount unspent


The amount of development in Brent generates Community Infrastructure Levy most of which goes to Brent, some to the GLA. 

The Borough Infrastrutcure Levy (this year £26m rounded) is split into Strategic expenditure and Neighbourhood projects expenditure.

 The amount collected in 2023-23 is on top of the amounts carried forward from previous years. This year, unallocated prior to 2022-23 was £61.5m.

There are restrictions around precisely what Strategic CIL can be spent on.  These are allocations for 2022-23 (actual spending of allocations may be in later years) amounting to £17m.



£2m Neighbourhood CIL allocations were made in 2022-23 for 58 projects some which work across the borough though allocated to a particular NCIL neighbourhood. Note that the two Neighbourhood Forums that also have access to the NCIL made no successful bids this year:

Full details of the projects can be found in the statement embedded at the foot of this article. Note that not all projects allocated funding may actually come to fruition and unspent amounts are carried forward to next year.


These are agreements made between the Council and developers that enable a development to go ahead by mitigating their impact. £10M was allocated in 2022-23 of which a significant amount went towards 'affordable' housing (Brent's definition). Only 21 of 462 units were at social rent.


This is a much smaller pot and in 2022-23 £100,000 was distributed to 9 organisations working to reduce carbon emissions in Brent. It is well worth looking at these projects in detail in the full report below.


The full report is embedded below including details of Strategic CIL, Neighbourhood CIL, Section 106 projects and the Carbon Offset Fund projects.

Saturday 2 December 2023

'Warm Ups' across the country to demand action on fuel poverty

 Fuel Poverty Action, Unite Community and allied groups are holding nationwide protests this weekend, carrying out ‘Warm Ups’ to demand action on fuel poverty.

The protests are taking place at 3 of the UK’s “Big five” energy companies’ offices, as well as shopping centres, supermarkets and other community spaces. 

Fuel Poverty Action has carried out Warm Ups for over a decade. Entering buildings or public spaces in order to warm up as a group, on the grounds of being unable to do so at home due to unaffordable energy prices and poor condition housing.

At 11am today, FPA members and supporters will Warm Up at OVO Energy’s HQ in Bristol, bedding down with blankets, sleeping bags and hot water bottles to symbolise millions of people struggling to keep warm this winter. Further Warm Ups will take place at Tesco Express in Chesterfield at 10.30am, Glades Shopping Centre in Bromley at 11am and Grosvenor Shopping Centre in Northampton at 1pm.

Stuart Bretherton, from Fuel Poverty Action’s Energy For All campaign, said:

The energy system, with its high standing charges, forced imposition of prepayment meters and other inequities, literally punishes people for being poor. Energy starvation this winter means that lives will be lost if we don’t see concrete action from this Government. People are ‘warming up’ to demand our human right to energy is respected and delivered. There’s plenty of money in energy company profits to ensure access to clean and affordable energy for all.

Yesterday, a Warm Up took place at Scottish Power HQ in Glasgow for the second winter running. Participants condemned warrants granted to the energy giant a month ago to forcibly enter the homes of families with newborn babies and install prepayment meters. Meanwhile, protestors entered and occupied a British Gas office in Cardiff for 30 minutes, the amount of time they say it takes the company to make half a million pounds in profit. Further Warm Ups took place including at the Arndale Centre in Manchester and Kirkgate Market in Leeds.

The actions are in support of the Energy For All campaign. Launched by FPA in 2022, it demands that every household is guaranteed enough energy for safe and adequate levels of heating, lighting, cooking as well as protecting additional needs like medical and mobility aids. To be paid for by ending fossil fuel subsidies, redistributing energy company profits, and higher tariffs on household energy use beyond necessities. 

Unite Community launched the Unite 4 Energy For All campaign in November to support the demand, in collaboration with Unite the Union's campaign to nationalise energy. Branches have organised over 30 events this weekend as far afield as Southend-on-Sea, Portsmouth, Gateshead and the Isle of Arran.

Holly Donovan, a Unite Community member and campaign spokesperson said:

Living with a prepayment meter as a disabled person with mobility issues has been a nightmare for me. I’ve had to ration everything, cut down everything...Last winter, I switched my heating on only once as a treat...My home is damp, my clothes are going mouldy in my drawers...I shouldn't live like this, I deserve dignity. We need Energy For All

Find more info at fuelpovertyaction.org.uk or energyforall.org.

Thursday 30 November 2023

Commercialisation of our parks in Brent Council's budget proposals

 The Council's proposals for Barham Park included plans to commercialise the buildings to include a  boutique hotel and supermarket along with charging market rents for some of the voluntary groups and charities that presently occupy them. The proposals resulted in a massive campaign, a petition and council debate.

Undaunted Brent Council is now consulting on its 2024-25/25-26 budget that includes (page references are the budget document that can be found HERE) :

1. Increase in events in parks to generate income - review (increase) for those organising their own events in parks.  (p130)

2. Commercialise existing ‘under-used’ property space within parks to generate income (p132)

3. Market commercial advertising within parks to generate income  (p134)

Letting of parks for events - Income generated 2024-25 (my highlighting)

The new grounds maintenance contract with Continental includes a requirement to support the council in creating, advertising, and facilitating a programme of commercial events in parks and open spaces. This can be supported by a revision of fees and charges for those applying to organise their own events in parks.

How would this affect users of this service?

There would be no impact on service users, other than there being a more comprehensive programme of events and activities in our parks. Those seeking to organise their own events in parks would be required to meet a higher cost for that access.

Key milestones

Revised fees would be submitted for consultation and decision as part of the corporate budget setting process for 2024/25 and would be implemented from April 2024. 

 I would challenge the zero impact on service users as parts of the park would be inaccessible to residents (remember Fryent Country Park when used for car parking and Barham Park for funfairs). The Council thinks that there is a trade-off as the events would be attended by paying customers from the borough.

Commercialisation of parks is already a problem for community groups/voluntary organisations that  being charged rates they find difficult to meet including Daniels Den, Roundwood Forest and Families, Bush Farm collective)

 Commercialise existing ‘under-used’ property space within parks to generate income (£30,000 2024-2025)

This proposal would seek to raise income from commercialising existing unused property space within parks.

How would this affect users of this service?

There would be minimal impact on users of the service other than some benefit from the upgrade of unused facilities and the opportunity to make use of property space for a variety of purposes.

Key milestones

Oct 2023: Survey of existing unused space.
Oct 2023: Schedule of usable space drawn up.
Oct 2023 - March 2024: Any adaptations agreed and undertaken. April 2024: Vacant space advertised and offered for use.

There are empty buildings in a number of Brent parks including Roundwood (Bowls Pavilion) and King Edwards VII. Bowls Club pavilion and the football pavilion. Utilisation for charities and non-profit organisations would be socially useful but commercialisation (market rents) is the intention.

Market commercial advertising within parks to generate income - £40,000 2024-25

 This saving is based on a new offer of space for commercial advertising in parks

How would this affect users of this service?

There would be no impact on service users other than advertising being more visible at locations within parks.

Key milestones

Oct 2023: Survey of suitable space.
Oct 2023: Schedule of usable space drawn up.
April 2024: Vacant space advertised and offered for use.

Key consultations

Awareness of this intention should be raised to any Friends of Groups that are relevant to any park in Brent to which this saving might apply.

This raises many questions not least the aesthetics of advertising banners etc within parks and the nature of the advertising.  Advertising along Olympic Way in Wembley may give us a clue.

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Parents & carers give voice to problems over SEND transport that leave them and their children anxious

  • In June 2023 the Government published new School Transport Guidance.
  • In July 2023 Brent Council Cabinet agreed a three year extension of the joint arrangement with Harrow Council for the provision of a shared transport service for children with Special Educations Needs and Disabilities (SEND). The report to Cabinet said the joint scheme had saved the councils £250,000. LINK
  • In September 2023 the Local Government Ombudsman found against Brent Council in a case about problems with school transport encountered by a Brent SEND pupil.
  • Local councils are facing huge deficits and part of that budget crisis is due to excalating numbers of pupils requiring school transport and increased costs of that transport. There is pressure to reduce spending in the area.
  • Brent Council's Special Needs Block is in deficit making it harder for parents to get an Education, Health and Care Plan for their child/ren and the slow process means many schools have to provide addition help without any addtional budget. If an ECHP is eventually granted the budget cannot be back-dated.
  • Due to lack of specialist SEND provision in Brent many children have to travel outside the borough to school.

All these factors formed the background to a recent meeting of Brent Fights Back! attended by parents and carers of SEND pupil users of the shared transport service.  

The Agreement approved by Cabinet includes many performance indicators to be measured. They begin on page 30 LINK and these are the top three:

The Ombusman case was about school transport reliability:

  1. Mrs X complained about the transport provided for her disabled child to get to and from school. She said the transport was often late without any communication or updates and staff on the transport lacked the skills and training to support young people with Special Education Needs. As a result, Mrs X says her child was often late to school and arrived distressed.
  2. Mrs X also complained that the Council failed to complete the actions it committed to in response to her complaint. She had to go to avoidable time and trouble pursuing this.

The Ombudsman found LINK:

  Summary: The Council accepted fault when it investigated Mrs X’s complaint about school transport for her Disabled child. However, the Council’s failure to complete the actions agreed in its complaint response was further fault which caused Mrs X injustice. The Council has agreed to apologise, take the action it agreed to, make a payment to Mrs X and improve its services for the future.

More than a month later it was clear from the meeting with parents and carers that reliability was still an issue. Late collection and late delivery left vulnerable pupils, who are in need of routine, safety and predictability, upset and parents waiting anxiously for the service.

Long routes were blamed along with more pupils (so more drops) per vehicle  and the many roadworks causing traffic delays in the borough.  

One of the main calls was for a tracking app that could let parents know where the vehcile was on its journey.  The service needs to recognise that parents have a duty to ensure their child is safe and an app would help with this. There were complaints about late information about transport arrangements at the start of term.  One parent reported that it had taken two weeks for transport to be arranged for a new school so the child had to stay at home.

In terms of comparable size and scale of the transport services provided by Harrow on behalf of Brent, there are currently 92 in-house operated routes and 223 taxi routes compared to 74 in-house operated routes and 123 taxi routes for transporting clients in Harrow. (Cabinet Report)

In addition to minibuses some children are transported by taxi and there were concerns that frequent changes of escorts meant that children were not travelling with people they knew and who understood their needs. One disturbing example was a child who was made to get out of the road side of a vehicle putting them at risk.

A pick-up arranged for 7.20am could be made at 8.10 or 8.20am, or 6.55am. One child had more than 3 hours of travel a day, picked up at 7.04am and back home at 6.30pm. Another child was only 20 minutes from their school but picked up at 7.45am.

Parents wanted more training for escorts to ensure they understood the needs of the child and importance of safety and also training for when children made the transition to the use of public transport.

A driver said that staff take pride in the buses and try to clean them twice a week but some vehicle are reaching the end of their lives. Some routes are long but drivers have no control over that. Buses do run slightly late but there are real traffic issues and 20mph limits. The minimum number of children has been raised to 10-12 and one driver and one escort is not enough. There should be more transport tailored to individual needs.

The website Special Needs Jungle reminds Local Authorities:

  • They must consider each transport application on its own merits and should not be rigidly sticking to their policies.
  • They have duties under the Equality Act 2010, including the duty not to discriminate on the basis of disability.
  • Children with SEND or who have mobility difficulties may be eligible for transport even if they live within statutory walking distances, and do not have to have an EHCP.  In our experience, it still seems to surprise some LAs that children with SEND living within walking distance of their school are eligible for transport.
  • Provision of transport costs must cover both return journeys unless it is inappropriate, e.g. if the parent works near the school. This demolishes a favourite tactic of some councils, that an agreement is to pay for transport only for those legs of the school journey when the child is actually in the vehicle.
  • Means, including disability benefits, are not to be taken into account.
  • LAs must give as much notice of changes to transport arrangements as possible, given they’re frequently dealing with children who have difficulty with changes in routine. At this time of year, with the new term just started many parents still waiting for confirmation of transport details, so it may be worth reminding LAs of this.
  • LAs must take reasonable steps to meet medical needs (e.g. anaphylactic shock, asthma, seizures) during journeys.
  • Behavioural problems on transport are often the result of SEND, and transport can only be withdrawn as a last resort. LAs will still have to meet their education duties to the child concerned and cannot simply tell parents it’s their responsibility. Many LAs’ polices have in the past included a provision allowing them to withdraw transport due to poor behaviour. 
  • LAs cannot assume parents will provide transport without their consent. It is unlawful to insist without consent to limiting transport provision to, for instance, a travel allowance or mileage for parents. LAs also need parental consent for arrangements for providing escorts, including expecting parents to act in that capacity.
  • The guidance states that LAs may “consider it appropriate” to make arrangements for transport at times other than the beginning and end of the school day for children who cannot attend all day, such as for medical reasons. However, we suggest this is inadequate: there is nothing in the statute limiting the transport duty school hours.
  • Local transport policies must be published on LA websites and in the SEND Local Offer. They should be easy to find, clear, and give information on how to apply for free transport, plus how to appeal.

Brent Council is aiming to reduce the amount of out-of-borough travel by increasing the amount of SEN provision in the borough with a 150 place school in London Road and 16+ provision at the Welsh Harp.The Manor School satellite at Newman Catholic College has been increased to 63 places.  Primary schools with falling pupil numbers are being encouraged to use the space freed up for additional special needs provision.  In July the Cabinet were told that the number of clients transported by Harrow on behalf of Brent was approximately 1,228 SEND children and 119 adults.

Brent Cabinet LINK did not consider going out to procurement for an alternative provider for the £43m over 3 years contract,

The estimated value of the proposed Inter Authoirty Agreement ( IAA) for the initial 3 year term is £43,000,000 and therefore it is classed as a High Value Contract for the purposes of the Council’s Contract Standing Orders. Contract Standing orders require that High Value Contracts are ordinarily procured via a tender process. However, Contract Standing Order 84(a) provides that subject to compliance with procurement legislation, Members may agree an exemption from the requirement to procure in accordance with Contract Standing Orders where there are “good operational and/or financial reasons”.

For the reasons detailed above, it is not considered that there is a breach of procurement legislation as Regulation 12(7) permits the joint collaborative partnership proposed between authorities. Furthermore, Officers consider that there are good operational and financial reasons for entering into the IAA with Harrow as set out in paragraph 3 of this report.

Ominously the report notes:

The significant financial pressures relating to this operation and the demand for the service will be addressed through the separate service transformation review that is underway.

Meanwhile parents are left grappling with a transport service that to many of them doesn't see as fit for purpose in addition to their struggles to get their children an EHCP and a suitabler school placement.

Advice re school transport is available from SENTAS - Special Educational Needs Transport Advocacy Service HERE

At the Brent Fights Back! meeting parents and carers agreed that they needed a collective voice to overcome the isolation of just protesting as individuals and needed to make clear and specific demands over a communication system, more respectful treatment and shorter journeys. 

The first step is supporting a petition going to the Cabinet on Monday December 11th at 10am LINK:


 "Special Educational Needs and Disability School transport buses

We the undersigned petition the council to Review the current home to school travel assistance offer for eligible SEND families in Brent and to urgently provide more school buses to reduce the journey times for children on the current routes to and from school."

The ePetion was signed by 123 people, and the deadline has now passed for additional signatures.


Zaynab Alfadhi is scheduled to speak for 5 minutes regarding the petition.

Parent carers and supporters, will attend the Cabinet meeting to support Zaynab and the ongoing campaign to secure safe and appropriate SEND transport for all eligible children and young people in Brent.

If you are available, please attend the meeting.

It is essential to hold Brent Council accountable for their decision-making and future policies on school travel for compulsory-age children. Our collective advocacy for the safety and appropriate support of our children and young people is crucial so that they can fulfil their potential.

The meeting starts at 10 am so everyone needs to arrive and be seated before it starts.

*Meeting attendance
Monday 11th December 2023 at 10.00 am, Cabinet
Venue:   Conference Hall - Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, Wembley, HA9 0FJ*

The meeting can also be viewed online via the below link.