Tuesday 28 February 2023

Supreme Court to rule on sale of park land to developer without adequate consultation


From Good Law Project

The Supreme Court will decide tomorrow (Wednesday 1 March) whether planning permission should have been granted for a piece of sold off park land, after locals argued that they have a right to continue using the space for recreation. 

The decision could have far reaching repercussions for the sale of green spaces in the future.

A section of Greenfields Recreation Ground was sold to a housing developer in 2017 and earmarked for 15 homes.

Local residents, who have been campaigning for six years to reclaim the site, say the local authority should have consulted with them before the sale was made.  

The Greenfields land was first bought by the local authority in 1926 for £1,000 and held in trust for community use.

Shrewsbury Town Council was criticised in a judicial review in 2019 for failing to identify the status of the land before selling it. The local authority has already apologised for its "failures".

Good Law Project has been supporting and helping to fund the legal action and believes the case will set a precedent for councils to consult with residents before they sell off land that has public value.

Campaigns Manager for Good Law Project, Hannah Greer, said:  

Recreational spaces are so important for our quality of life, and that was especially highlighted during the pandemic.

It’s simply not right for these spaces to be taken away by a local authority without consulting those who use it. We hope the Supreme Court will agree with us and help stop this happening again.

Further information LINK

Monday 27 February 2023

Brent Council helps new owners bring derelict homes back into use - Empty Homes Week Feb 27th-March 5th


Neglect (Photo: Brent Council)


Press release from Brent Council (Unedited)


Two homes that suffered years of neglect have been transformed by their new owners after Brent stepped in to help.

A detached house in Kenton and an end of terrace home in Kingsbury were sold to new owners last year following action taken by the council’s empty property team.

Squatters, dumped rubbish, prostitution and rats were among the numerous problems reported by neighbours when the homes were abandoned and left to fall into a state of disrepair over many years. But last year the council successfully sold the properties after taking legal action.

“Letting an empty home turn into a blight on the neighbourhood is absolutely unacceptable, especially when housing is so sought after within our borough,” said Councillor Promise Knight, Cabinet Member for Housing, Homelessness and Renters Security. “I am glad that these two properties have been turned around and that people will be living in them again.”

Empty properties often become noticeable when they fall into a state of disrepair, causing problems for neighbouring properties. A home might be empty if the windows have been broken for a long time, the post has not been collected, or the windows and doors have been boarded up and the rooms are always in darkness.

As part of Empty Homes Week, the council wants to encourage owners of empty properties to bring them back into use and is highlighting the grants available to them. An owner of a two-bedroom property could receive up to £26,000 in grant aid for refurbishment or conversion works, and a potential average rental income of £14,500 per year. The owner of a commercial property could receive a grant of £156,000 for four or more units.

“We can also provide advice and assistance and support to all owners of empty properties in the borough,” said Councillor Knight. “Our empty property page on the council’s website has information about eligibility criteria and how to apply for a grant, or to contact the Empty Property Team”


  • To report an empty property in Brent, email: empty.property@brent.gov.uk  or call 020 8937 2384 choose option 1, then option 4.
  • If you have an empty property and want to apply for a grant, or need help and advice to bring it back into use, email: empty.property@brent.gov.uk  or call 020 8937 2384 choose option 1, then option 4. You can also visit the empty property page on the council’s website.


Editor's comment: I will be reporting two Brent Council homes in Willesden Green, still empty after refurbishment months ago.

Sunday 26 February 2023

No sighting of beak-bound Wembley heron for 3 weeks

Photo Credit: Amanda Rose

It is now about 3 week since a definite sighting of the stricken Wembley heron. There are two possibilities:

1. The heron has died after feeding restricted.

2. The heron has freed itself of the material wound around its beak and is therefore not distinct from other grey herons.

I would have thought if 2) it would have returned to its habitual fishing site at Barn Hill pond and have been spotted by the many walkers on the hill. I have had no reports that a heron has been seen there recently. I checked again today.

However, frogs have not started spawning on Barn Hill pond but have elsewhere in the area. The spawning season is peak time for heron feeding so it may be busy nearby. Frogs have spawned in one of the ponds at the Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre.

I guess a story that separate the pessimists from the optimists.

Do keep us informed if you spot anything.

On a brighter note, red kites seem to have stayed around Wembley and Kingsbury throughout the winter so far. Will they nest here this year?


Friday 24 February 2023

Thames Water under scrutiny on flooding: 'We have learnt lessons, we have applied them but it sounds like we don’t get it right enough'


 From the 'late' report presented to Scrutiny Commitee - Source: LINK


It was good to see some effective scrutiny at Wednesday's Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee when a Thames Water representative appeared to report on surface water flooding in the borough. Criticism does tend to be sharper of bodies outside the council, but an awful lot of frustration was apparent and questioning from councillors was persistent. Chair of Scrutiny, Cllr Rita Conneely drew attention to the difference between a cash-strapped public sector council and a for profit privatised water company.

Cllr Saqib Butt challenged Alex Nickson from Thames Water on why in his  experience of 5 years on Planning Committee, Thames Water had always just said 'No Objection' to every planning objection. Nickson thought that was not the case in every borough and would check.  

Towards the end of the meeting Cllr Conneely directly addressed Nickson and I think is worth quoting in full to give you a flavour of the exchanges:

Thanks for attending and providing a detailed and helpful contribution, but unfortunately it has still left me with serious concerns about Thames Water's understanding of accountability and partnership working.

The flooding that instigated this entire process led to you attending our Scrutiny Committee in 2021. When Thames Water came last year, what was clearly communicated was that Thames understood that there had been a failure of accountability, there had been a failure of effective communication with the public and local authority, and that there needed to be clarity around responsibilities and accountability.

You said at the beginning of tonight's meeting that you were glad to be here and would be happy to come back again regarding future reviews. Unfortunately, the reality is that when we were inviting Thames Water to attend our meetings for the follow-up they had committed to last year, they were incredibly reluctant and tried to avoid attending for as long as possible. We really had to assert that it was part of our agreement last year that you would come back and report on what happened with the internal review and the independent review [into the floods]. 

Additionally, the Committee publicises reports, that is how the structure of the Committee works - it is a local government function, and Thames Water did not provide us with the documentation that was requested and necessary for the Committee. Your verbal responses tonight have been very good but as none of that unfortunately was provided in advance for Committee members to review, that has limited members' ability to properly scrutinise some of the issues that have been raised tonight.

In addition to that the report that was eventually provided late (LINK), about 2 days ago, couldn't be properly reviewed by the public either and was Brent specific in only one way  so we still have no understanding of what infrastructure upgrades we are going to see in Brent and what funding will be provided. Very few Brent residents at the end of this meeting are going to understand what these commitments mean to Brent - that is something we must see.  I really hope you get back to use regarding the information you have promised tonight very rapidly.

I would like to know that there is an Action Plan for the recommendations that are detailed in the Independent Review. How are we as residents and councillors to know when the recommendations will be delivered? Where are the lessons learnt?  Where will the promised further reports go, and what is the review process?

Alex Nickson replied:

It is entirely my fault that my report was late, I apologise for that, it should have been with you earlier. I didn't realise it was 'required' - I thought it was 'advised'. I apologise to the Committee and residents.

Regarding the Independent Review and tracking, my report says there are 28 recommendations, 3 of which are specifically for Thames to address. 25 of them are more strategic and relate to multi-agency collaboration. These should be reviewed as part of developing the London level strategy and will be determined by the London Level Surface Water Strategic Group as to whether they are appropriate. These actions may, or may o, be taken forward as determined by the Strategic Group. We need collaborative working to manage the risk and not all the actions are entirely down to Thames Water to deliver. There is a tracking process for them and that will be reported on.

You said you wanted us to give you an expectation of what upgrades will be coming to Brent and the level of investment. That will be set out in our next Business Plan 2025-2030, and it will be published for consultation this summer. I have committed to come back to the Committee to tale about out London Level Strategy and our draft plan. That will set out the high-level investment we plan to make. What I would stress is that surface water management is the responsibility of the lead local flood authority [Brent] and therefore it is for us to work with you and support you in the development of detailed plans for Brent - not for us to say what needs to happen: where and when, but a collaborative approach. I believe we have a good working relationship with the borough officers and look forward to doing this in the future.

Cllr Conneely responded.

That is a helpful reassurance but to reiterate, you say that of the 28 recommendations only 3 of them are the responsibility of Thames Water. We need a clear action plan of how Thames are following through those recommendations and effectively lobbying for them. Unfortunately, the concern of the Committee is that similarly to the assurances you gave to Cllr Saqib Butt about planning, which sounds nice on paper, but nothing happens in practice. I represent Kilburn where 17 families in my ward lost their homes in 2021. I'm not interested in words - the commitment we want to see from Thames Water is that there is going to be difference in practice.

My final feedback is on another key issue that was highlighted following the incident in 2021, and highlighted again tonight by Cllr Georgiou, about subsequent incidents involving Thames Water, that of poor communication, particularly around your Control Centre. In 2021 residents were calling up in desperate need of help and the Control Centre was totally unequipped to deal with it and couldn’t signpost residents to what they should be doing. They were simply told to call the fire brigade. As Cllr Georgiou has highlighted there was similar lack of communication last year.  I have at least 3 examples of residents in my ward contacting Thames Water about issues that were definitely their responsibility of residents being told, 'No, that's your local authority'. In one scenario for 3 weeks Thames told my residents that it was a local authority issue until I basically went and stood there for 2 or 3 days until a Thames Operative came out and said it was a sewage issue and your responsibility to resolve but for 3 weeks you told residents. ‘No – call your local authority’.

So, despite the reassurances we were given in 2022 that there had been a massive overhaul and there was going to be a massive training of your Control Centre staff, we have clear evidence in Brent that it continues to be not good enough.

Alex Nickson responded.

If there are particular instances  you’d like us to take up I’d be happy to take that away. Where we’re wrong, I can only apologise. We have increased the capacity of our Call Centre but on the evenings of the 12th and 27th of July we were absolutely swamped. We had 4,000 calls an hour coming in and we simply couldn’t manage. We have apologised. We have increased the capacity, we’ve done training, we’ve restructured the way the calls come in and we’ve fundamentally changed the way we prepare head of a storm.  We’ve made sure we have those resources even if the Met Weather Forecast suggests it is unlikely to cause significant flooding.

So, we have learnt lessons, we have applied them but it sounds like we don’t get it right enough.

I will publish the full recommendations made by Scrutiny when they are reported on the Council website.

'Fund Our Schools' Carnival style event in Wembley Park, March 2nd 10.30am-1pm


Brent National Education Union will be welcoming all to a carnival style Education Festival at Wembley Park on their next strike day on Thuesday March 2nd.

The government making calling off the strikes a pre-condition for any talks means that there is little chance of any settlement before March 2nd and the strikes will go ahead.

Brent Budget and Council Tax rise approved by Full Council


The Mayor bids farewell at the end of the Council Budget Setting Meeting

Last night's Full Council that set next year's budget and council tax proceeded along familiar lines and of course the Labour Group budget and the rise in Council Tax were approved and opposition amendments to the budget defeated.

So many councillors wanted to make their well-rehearsed speeches that the session had to be extended and other items, including the rise in Councillor Allowances and the Borough Plan, were disposed of without debate.

Some Labour members managed to simultaneously argue that the Council's financial base had been devastated by cuts in funding but that the budget was the best thing since sliced bread and would be welcomed by flag waving Brent citizens.  Many seemed to have missed the memo from the Budget Scrutiny Group that when the Council had to make service cuts that these should be acknowledged as such.

Others did not seem able to differentiate between budget amendments, that left most of the proposed Labour budget intact, and a comprehensive alternative budget. The latter was not proposed in the Liberal Democrat amendment but somehow the Lib Dem involvement in the 2010 Coalition meant that their proposals (supported by Budget Scrutiny) on street and road repairs could be dismissed without serious consideration.

The opposition were blamed for not not making their proposals early in the budget making process although one of the main issues, the £2m allocated for the Civic Centre update, was only announced recently.

Speeches were peppered with tributes to outgoing Brent CEO Carolyn Downs who as usual performed her role of whispering guidance to the Mayor over proceedings with quiet skill.



Thursday 23 February 2023

Thames Water on River Brent pollution at last night's Scrutiny Committee



Readers who have followed with concern Wembley Matters coverage of raw sewage in the Wealdstone Brook and concerns over the River Brent, and who have been frustrated by what many saw as Thames Water's tardy response may be interested in the Thames representative's response to a question from Cllr Georgiou last night. Adequate?

Delivering City Hall's universal primary school free school meals is 'going to be a challenge'

 The weekend announcement


Brent Schools Forum this week was over-shadowed by budget concerns. Schools have been hit by high energy costs, inflation, falling pupil numbers, delays in awarding funding for EHCPs  (Education Health and Care Plans for pupils with special needs) which means that schools fund extra support from their own budgets. There is now the prospect that any staff salary increases will have to be funded from the individual school budgets rather than be  fully funded by the government.

A significant number of Brent schools will have an in-year deficit in 2023-24, relying on the use of their reserves or a contribution from the Council via the Direct Schools Grant.

Against this background, although the Mayor's one year (and one-off) provision of universal free school meals was welcomed by Forum members, they also noted that there were issues around implementation.

Officers are still trying to ascertain details from City Hall but if the GLA financial contribution is just for meal ingredients, and perhaps energy costs, there are other costs involved.

One headteacher pointed out that in his school, if those children currently bringing in packed lunches, switched to hot meals, it would double the number having school meals. This would mean investing in the kitchen capacity (equipment and staffing) but as a 'windfall' provision,  without further funding in the future, this expansion would end after a year. In his school there would be double the number of pupils for whom food would have to be  prepared, served, supervised and cleared.

The impatct will vary between schools depending on how many children bring in a packed lunch at present.

Getting the expanded provision up and running by September 2023 would be a further challenge, especially if kitchen infrastructure work was needed, given current rising building costs and unreliable supply chains.

At a practical level the switch from children sitting down to their own packed lunches, basically serving themselves, and instead joining the lunchtime queue at the servery would present logistical problems that would extend the lunch break and require additional supervision.

An unintended consequence might be that because at present parents of junior aged children have to register for free school meals, and this is used as a base for pupil premium funds, universality would mean parents would no longer bother to register - reducing the amount of pupil premium allocated to the school.

Gwen Grahl, Cabinet member for  Children, Young People and Schools, responding to the discussion said:

There are definitely legitimate concerns about how this will be implemented. We have recognised for a while now that there is a need for better measures to tackle food poverty. We hear that, not only from teachers, but also from foodbanks that we visit. It (universal free primary school meals) is a positive measure in that regard and we think that the amount of money (£170m)  is something we want to use, but we have been in touch with City Hall and have raised some of the concerns.

We have made it clear that there wil be challenges with implementation. We want to have the confidence that we can implement by September and we would need support from City Hall in doing so. We would also need the confidence that the projected amount it will cost is accurate as I think that City Hall has done its own research and what they think it will cost in every borough. I think the amount is £2.71 per meal, so it is going to be a stretch. We also raised the issue of whether it would affect the pupil premium.

I am sure you will appreciate none of the details have come out yet. We want to reassure you that we have raised raised these issues with City Hall and we are looking for a lot of detail and support from them in implementation.

We will be able to disucss this with headteachers as soon as broader details have been refined for Brent.

Wednesday 22 February 2023

Pinter Double Bill tickets still available for East Lane Theatre





Good Law Project considering appeal on Partygate legal challenge refusal

In response to the High Court's ruling today that a legal challenge brought by Good Law Project and former Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Lord Paddick, against the Met's handling of its Partygate investigation, will not be given permission to go ahead, Director of Good Law Project, Jo Maugham, said:

We are disappointed - but sadly not surprised. We think this decision ignores the quite proper questions that people have about what they understandably perceive to be differences of treatment between the powerful and the rest of us.

It can’t be one rule for those in power and another rule for us.

We are considering whether to appeal.

Tuesday 21 February 2023

Pop Up Repairs Cafe, Church End, Saturday 25th February 10am-2pm

 From Brent Council

Brent Pop Up Repairs Cafe

Brent’s first ever POP-UP Repairs Café will  take place on Saturday 25 February, 10am to 2pm at the Church End and Roundwood Unity Centre, 103 Church Road, NW10 9EG.

We will be partnering with TRAID, the Restart Project and Dr Bike to help residents repair everyday items rather than throw them away.

This FREE event will help connect residents with local organisations and businesses who champion repair, reuse and upcycling, and help us achieve our shared endeavours to live more sustainably.

The Repairs Café is part of our Green Neighbourhoods Action Plan.

Book here 

Partygate hearing to be considered by High Court tomorrow

From reddit.com



 From Good Law Project

A legal challenge against the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into Boris Johnson’s attendance at lockdown parties could be given permission to proceed in a High Court hearing tomorrow (Wednesday 22nd February). The action is being brought by Good Law Project and a former Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Lord Paddick.

Boris Johnson was issued with a £50 Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN), after the Met Police’s probe concluded that he had unlawfully attended a birthday party thrown in his honour at Downing Street during the first lockdown. 

But this case focuses on the Met Police’s failure to even send questionnaires - their primary method of investigating Partygate events - to former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, regarding two other lockdown gatherings that he attended in November and December 2020. A number of civil servants and officials who took part in these events were sent questionnaires and ultimately fined.

In pre-action correspondence, the Met failed to explain why Mr Johnson was not sent the questionnaires, or how they concluded that his attendance - unlike that of other attendees - was lawful.

The High Court has ordered a permission hearing to determine if a judicial review into the police investigation can go ahead. A ruling could be made on the same day.

This is the second time that Good Law Project has taken legal action against the Metropolitan Police over Partygate. In January 2021, the Met did a u-turn on its initial decision not to investigate the parties held in No 10 Downing Street and Whitehall, after Good Law Project issued legal proceedings.

Jo Maugham, Director of Good Law Project, said:

We can't understand - and the Met won't disclose - how Boris Johnson dodged fines for going to parties that junior civil servants were fined for attending. But what it looks like is special treatment for the powerful.

I don't care about Johnson. And nor do I care about £100 fines. What I do care about is the rule of law. It must apply without fear or favour - or everything will fall into the sea.

Former Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Lord Paddick, said:

My sole motivation is to ensure everyone is treated fairly and equally under the law as a result of the police carrying out their duty without fear or favour.  Many fined for breaching lockdown rules will find this difficult to believe without further explanation from the Metropolitan Police.

Monday 20 February 2023

Brent Councillors' allowances to rise by 4.04%

Thursday's Full Council meeting will consider increasing councillors' allowance by 4.04% in line with the National Joint Council  Government Services pay award.


Councillor's allowances are made up of 2 elements: a basic allowance for every councillor and an additional responsibility allowance when they take on a specific role (leadership, chair of committee etc). For the last couple of years only the basic allowance has been increased.


This year the proposal increases both as in the table below. In addition the second opposition group leader is given an annual allowance of £4,000 for the first time. (Click bottom right to enlarge)



The report on the proposal states:

The 2022, Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) for London Councils,  report recognises the importance of the role played by elected members not only in terms of their representational role but also given the increasing challenges and demands in managing the delivery of local services and on the allocation of financial resources. The report highlights the increasingly difficult and complex nature of choices and work faced by local councillors in terms of managing these challenges and increasing level of demand on services. In addition, reference is made to the growth in other public sector activities including community safety, increasing expectations for closer working with health services and the voluntary sector, as well the growing role of councillors acting as a point of information, advice and reassurance for local communities. The report also recognises the increasing expectations of the public in terms of access to their local councillors supported by the growth in digital connectivity, social media etc.

While conscious of the above, the review also takes account of the continuing
financial challenges faced by local authorities. Having taken account of adjustments made in accordance with annual local government pay settlements over previous years, this led to the recommendation of a Basic Allowance set at £12,014. The current basic allowance payable under Brent’s Members Allowance Scheme is already comparable at £12,484.


The report from the Independent Panel for the Remuneration of Councillors in London reiterated its previous recommendation that members’ allowances should be uplifted annually in line with the pay settlement for employees and are therefore recommending that boroughs also use the 4.04% uplift for their member allowances. It is, however, up to each borough to determine the allowances it pays to members. On this basis, members are therefore asked to consider (following consultation with the Constitution Working Group) applying an uplift of 4.04% across the Basic and Special Responsibility Allowances within the Members Allowance Scheme for 2023/24. If this were to be agreed, it would mean an increase in the Basic Allowance from £12,484 to £12,988 (a difference of £504 for each of the 57 councillors).


Overall the proposals  would increase the total councillors’ allowance costs by £46,143. This, however,  would be affected by any role changes made at the Annual Meeting of the Council. You will have read the Conservative budget proposal that the 4.04% rise should not be implemented and that the Cabinet should be reduced by two members and the roles redistributed to the remaining Cabinet members.



Brent Tories propose 2% Council Tax, deletion of 2 Cabinet members, ending of Landlord Incentive Scheme and Abolition of Resident Support Fund,

 The budget proposal from Labour Brent Council have previously been covered on Wembley Matters and last week I reported the Liberal Democrat Group's proposed amendment.

Today it is the turn of the Conservative Group with a considerable shorter document and a comment by Brent's Finance Director.

Their main proposals are to limit the rise in Council Tax to the ring-fenced Adult Social Care portion, delete 2 Cabinet positions, end the Landlord Incentive Scheme used to help landlords provide homes to homeless people and abolish the Resident Support Fund that is used to help people facing financial problems due to the cost of living crisis. They do not attempt to justify the latter.

Conservative Group Amendment to the Council’s Budget Proposals 2023/24

The Council is asked to consider the following alternative budget for 2023/24:
Propose to increase Council tax by 2% only, with the full amount ring fenced for Adult Social Care.

This proposal will generate income of £146.6m, compared to £150.8m generated with the planned increase of 4.99%, leaving a shortfall of £4.2m

The proposal means a Brent Council Tax of £1,447.83 at Band D for 2023/24
compared to the Labour proposal for £1,490.31.

The Council notes the following:

· The Conservatives have always been and still are the party of lower rates of
taxation through responsible policies and budgeting, meaning that people will
have more money in their pockets to spend and save as they wish.

· The Conservative have always proposed to tax the residents less leaving more
money in their pockets to spend and save as they wish.

· Council tax increased by 3.99% in 2016/17, 3.99% in 2017/18, 4.99% in 2018/19, 4.99% in 2019/20, 3.99% in 2020/21, 3.99% in 2021/22 and 2.99% in 2022/23.

Prior to this council tax was frozen. Therefore, since 2016, council tax has increased by over 40% (£431.37) overall.

Propose to remove the landlord incentive and save £1.1m.

The Council’s Landlords Incentive Scheme is designed to give money to Landlords as an incentive to rent their properties to people who have been evicted from their homes and who cannot ordinarily afford to live in the borough. There are many people who work hard, pay their bills and taxes but have to live outside Brent because they cannot afford to live in the borough. We feel that it is wrong to subsidise private landlords in this way. It also acts as an incentive to keep rents artificially high. It is therefore our proposal to scrap this scheme.

Propose to delete two Cabinet members, forego an annual increase in allowance
of 4.04% and save £0.08m.

It is proposed to delete two Cabinet members and re-distribute portfolios to existing Cabinet members. In addition it is proposed to not take forward a planned increase in members allowance of 4.04%. This would save approximately £0.08m.

Propose to discontinue the Resident Support Fund and save £3m.

Councillor Suresh Kansagra

Leader of the Conservative Group


Advice from the Director of Finance

Senior finance support has been provided to assist the Conservative Group to
formulate an alternative budget that reflects their policy priorities.

The Alternative Budget proposed by the Conservative Group would be a legal,
balanced budget for 2023/24, although it is recognised that this carries financial risk.

The potential implications for 2024/25 and beyond have not been considered as part of these proposals.


The table below sets out the proposed changes to the 2023/24 budget



The proposals that are considered material relate to Council Tax, landlord incentives and the Resident Support Fund.

It is proposed to increase Council Tax by 2% only in 2023/24, reflecting the Adult Social Care precept where the funding would be ring fenced for Adult Social Care.

Given the current Administration is proposing to increase Council Tax by the maximum amount allowed by the Government of 4.99%, this proposal would create a budget gap of £4.2m.

In order to close this gap, it is proposed to reduce expenditure planned in 2023/24 by removing the landlord incentives budget and discontinuing the Resident Support Fund.

The council currently spends approximately £1.1m per annum on landlord incentives.

The budget is used to procure properties to end the homeless duty, and so move
people out of temporary accommodation which is typically more expensive. It is also used to procure properties to prevent homelessness and therefore stop people going into temporary accommodation in the first instance. Consequently, reducing this budget may result in higher temporary accommodation costs if alternative housing cannot be secured outside of the borough. Therefore, this proposal carries some risk with regards to additional spend elsewhere in the Council’s budget and may require a short term use of reserves to contain additional spend on temporary accommodation.


The draft 2023/24 budget allocated a further £3m to continue the current Resident Support Fund. It is proposed to remove this budget and discontinue the scheme to save £3m. While this scheme is discretionary, it may have unintended consequences for residents who experience financial hardship under the current economic environment and cost of living crisis.

Minesh Patel

Director of Finance


How to challenge developers' viability claims - On-line Webinar March 21st 5.30-6.30



From Community Planning Alliance

Councillors and campaigners in Brent fighting for more truly affordable housing may be interested in attending this on-line webinar on Tuesday 21st March 17.30-18.30 RESERVE PLACE.

Viability in development proposals – let’s level the playing field!

We are all familiar with stories of developers claiming that their development is not able to provide promised infrastructure or affordable housing, using 'viability' as the excuse. Communities lose out: the housing is built, but without the benefits promised at the outset. Please join us to find out about one of the least understood areas of planning: viability appraisals.

This is one of the most important webinars to attend to if we are to redress the balance in the system between developers (who deliberately ensure the system is complex), and communities/councils (who need to scrutinize proposals to ensure best outcomes are delivered.)

We are delighted that viability expert Murray Lloyd has agreed to talk to us and to answer your questions. He will tell us how developers game the system (and they most definitely do) and what the tricks of the trade are. Murray will demystify viability appraisals and tell us what we can challenge and how best to do it.

About Murray Lloyd

Murray is an experienced property professional with a 30-year track record of successfully helping to deliver development projects of all types across the UK, ranging from housing, leisure, and logistic parks, through to major commercial and residential mixed-use developments, to complex regeneration schemes and transformational integrated development ventures.

Murray focuses on providing bespoke development management and viability advice to Local Authorities. He is a leading practitioner in viability and is currently undertaking a PhD specialising in this subject matter and regularly acts as an expert witness in planning appeal cases. He is a Director with property consultancy Continuum DM.

As always, the event is free, but donations are appreciated to help with the running costs of the Community Planning Alliance. Thank you


Saturday 18 February 2023

Pamela Fitzpatrick: 'Solidarity really is the most beautiful of words' - fighting for justice in today's Labour Party

 Post by Martin Francis in a personal capacity


 I left the Labour Party a very long time ago (c1965) but have kept up an interest in developments in the party from Wilson to Starmer.  Recently I have been dismayed by the way Labour Party friends have been treated under the Starmer regime. A lack of natural justice and a developing authoritarianism is evident in the disciplinary processes that I have observed from the outside.

It makes me anxious about the approach Labour would take as a government.

Pamela Fitzpatrick is a local example of such an unfair disciplinary process. This is her account below:


It is now 14 months since I lodged my appeal against my expulsion from the Labour Party. I was a long standing member of the Party and at the time of my expulsion I was Chair of the Harrow Labour Group, the Labour appointed Chair of the Planning Committee, a Labour councillor for almost 8 years, and a recent Labour Parliamentary Candidate. Throughout my time in the Party I also held a variety of CLP and Branch positions. 
Against this long history and work for the Party the sole reason I was expelled was that I had given an interview to the organisation Socialist Appeal in May 2020 and in doing so the Party judged me to be in breach of a rule it had created over a year later. I have contacted Labour several times over the past 14 months to ask for an update on my appeal, but I have had no response or acknowledgement. Reluctantly therefore I have instructed Solicitors who have now issued a letter before claim to the Labour Party. 
Labour has 28 days in which to respond and remedy this illegality. But if they fail to do so satisfactorily, we will have no choice but to commence proceedings in the High Court. This is not my desired outcome.
The letter before claim sets out the impact the unlawful treatment by Labour has had on me. It has resulted in my exclusion from any political positions associated with the Party and has had a profoundly damaging impact on my political career. Upon expulsion from the Party, I lost my position as a Labour Councillor, as Chair of the Harrow Planning Committee and as Chair of the Harrow Labour Group. I also lost my position on Labour’s National Women’s Committee. A position I had been elected to in June 2021 by Labour members, with a majority of over 100,000. This is a committee that is very close to my heart as I have experienced abuse within the Party and am aware of many other women who have also experienced similar abuse. The position was voluntary and lasted 2 years. 
I have not been able to exercise the role since my expulsion. I am unable to put myself forward for selection as a Parliamentary Candidate (having stood for Harrow East in the 2019 General Election).
I was an active member of my CLP but have been unable to participate in any Labour Party events or activities. This includes going to the Party Conference, any events that are organised, branch meetings, taking part in canvassing, fundraising events. These activities have taken up the majority of my time for many years, but I am no longer able to attend them. 
I have been shunned by people I previously considered to be colleagues, including other councillors who ignore me now if I meet them. This has all had a damaging impact on my professional and political reputation. It is uncontroversial that such treatment would have a negative impact on a person’s personal life and wellbeing, as it has had on me. But I know I am but one of so many treated this way. 
My heartfelt thanks to all those who have supported me. Solidarity really is the most beautiful of words.


Pamela's friends and supporters have launched a fundraiser to help her in her  Challenge to Labour's lack of fair procedures and natural justice. They say. 'At this first stage we are simply seeking an appeal hearing in Pamela’s case that is conducted in a fair, impartial and transparent way. We will also be looking at all legal avenues to achieve our goal. 

As of today the fundraiser stands at £11,438  against a target of £15,000 with eleven days to go.

Follow this LINK to the fundraiser which contains more details of the case.