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.


Monday 27 November 2023

Green Party launches petition for more affordable public transport in London



The London Green Party has launched a petition for more affordable public transport in London:


The cost of public transport in London is higher than any other global major city.


We need the Mayor of London and Transport for London to urgently focus on reducing the cost of getting around our city. 


In the run up to the next Transport for London budget, we are asking the Mayor to prioritise measures to reduce costs of travel to help all Londoners with the cost of living.


We are calling on the mayor to:

  • Freeze fares at current levels.
  • Extend free bus travel to under-22s
  • Make free travel available 24 hours a day for Freedom Pass holders.
  • Offer free travel to all emergency services staff.
  • Provide free bus travel for people seeking asylum



Just another story of South Kilburn neglect – a rubbish saga


How the rubbish accumulates


Guest post by South Kilburn resident Pete Firmin 


Coventry Close is a cul-de-sac off Kilburn High Road, leading to the South Kilburn estate. It is not a residential street, but one containing Royal Mail's NW6 delivery office and a car wash (which replaced an earlier coach depot). It is a popular street for people to park who are shopping on Kilburn High Road, and busy with foot traffic of estate residents and pupils and parents going to and from St Mary's primary school via the footpaths which lead on from the road. Not a very pleasant street at the best of times, it only has a pavement on one side and the border for the car wash is an ugly corrugated iron fence. Hardly salubrious.


Near the top of the road is the rear entrance to what used to be the Kilburn job centre, now closed and unused for many years. The rear entrance was to the underground car park of the job centre. That entrance is now shuttered. Ever since the job centre closed there has been a problem of rubbish accumulating at the back.


After previous complaints in previous years, the rubbish got cleared, although local residents were never told by who (which might have helped in the current situation).


To be clear, local residents (including from the nearby Alpha, Gorefield and Canterbury TRA) have always recognised that this is not public land and it is not the responsibility of the street cleaners to clear this. However, we have asked Brent Council to do something about it, not least on health grounds. They must be able to take action to get the owners of the building to clear the rubbish, not just on a one-off basis, but also regularly. Or arrange for Brent to clear it and charge the owners. 


The current version of the problem stems from - at least - September. Despite regular pleas, accompanied by photos, to various Council officers the pile of rubbish has just grown (see photos from 21 September and 26th November., it was not cleared once in that period).


It’s not that Council Officers, and a Councillor, haven't acknowledged the problem and recognised that it is unacceptable, but nothing ever happens.


Report it to the Council's fly tipping app, you get the response that, since it is on private land, it is not the responsibility of the council.


Other Council officers have referred the issue to the `fly tip team' (same response as we had) and other Council departments.


One reply from an officer (24/10) said "This is not BHM land- I have absolutely no jurisdiction over it. [which we had never claimed] I will come back to you today establishing who we can escalate this to directly."


One of the more substantial communications we were copied into (between two Council officers) (25/10) said


I inspected the location after the last email and contacted the owners of the building and the previous occupants (which I more recently discovered are no longer in control of the building- sadly the Business Rates database is not updated).

I have made subsequent visits to the location and whilst there appeared to be a litter accumulation in the small recess area in front of the understorey carpark, it looked as though it was a new accumulation to the one originally identified.


I have contacted Rossmore Properties Ltd again by email ( ) and now telephone (+44 20 7278 7651) . Their representative has advised that they had originally instructed a local maintenance firm to clear the location and this should have been done. I have requested routine maintenance; however it is unlikely that the routine maintenance will be more frequent than our own street cleansing or refuse collection schedules and would be unreasonable for us to expect this. I am expecting a confirmation email with regards to remedial works here by the end of the day.


Generally speaking the issue is more related to litter accumulation and evidence of ASB activities ( drinking and laughing gas evidence) as opposed to “fly tipping” of larger items.


The last several inspections of Coventry Close would also indicate a lack of general street cleansing for this busy thoroughfare into Kilburn High Road, however the road surface and parked cars may have an impact with this regard.


3 Cambridge Avenue remains empty and lends itself to ASB type issues in its current state. This is another location of concern to add to the list of hotspots for patrols in the Kilburn locality. Whilst there has been a planning application submitted to convert the building into 19 flats, it appears that this application may have already expired ( according to the agency whom submitted the application) therefore its empty state may continue and one wonders what the financial incentive would be to leave a building like this unoccupied.


The carpark area off of Coventry Close/Bristol Walk is managed by Catalyst Housing / Peabody Trust.


Any issues relating to this area should be directed towards them. 


Anyone reporting issues here should be advised to send in photos which always helps to identify and action issues accordingly.


One solution may be to introduce Catalyst /Peabody representatives to Rossmore Properties Ltd to see if this small tiny recess area can be maintained at the same time as the routine maintenance for the estate; for an appropriate fee.


As soon as I get an update from Rossmore Ltd, I will let you know.


Sound useful? But nothing happened. And quite why Catalyst/Peabody (which now have some nearby properties) would take any more responsibility than Brent , which not only has nearby properties, but should also take some responsibility for obvious health issues, is a mystery.


As you might expect by now, nothing happened. When we pointed this out, we got this response:(30/10)


To clarify, the email I previously sent was to explain who is responsible for the small recess area in front of the understorey carpark for 3 Cambridge Avenue ( access area located on Coventry Close) and to differentiate the adjoining private land managed by Catalyst/Peabody ( which also suffers from waste and highways issues from time to time).


The litter accumulations periodically accumulate either as a result of wind blowing it from the public highway sections of the street or as a result of itinerants whom congregate around here to take “rest” on the small wall away from prying eyes.


I have previously served notice on the owners to clear the land in question and put measures in place to prevent future waste accumulations. As a result the metal shutter was installed some time ago. However as a result of the angle of the slope and the layout of the building lines, the shutter could not be installed up to the boundary edge of the public highway and hence you have a tiny recess that continues to suffer with this problem from time to time.


I am aware that the owners of the property have a locally sourced private maintenance contractor whom periodically attend the site to clear any accumulations ( as was advised in the original Notice served on them).


I have spoken with a representative of the company that owns the property to advise them that there is an existing accumulation that requires attention last week.


I have further contacted them today to insist upon action.


Unfortunately the landlords are not based locally and are reliant on their private contractor.

Brent Council can pursue enforcement and issue penalties when non-compliance of a Notice is observed, however in the initial instance would prefer to work with private individuals and organisations to effect a solution. Previous correspondence with the owners have generally been met with compliance whenever this issue has been brought to my attention.


With regards to rubbish bins on Coventry Close I am aware there are a number of recycling bins that were positioned along Coventry Close to serve the blocks of flats and are also accessible to anyone passing. However it is my understanding that the Veolia Street Cleansing contract no longer accommodates litter bins on residential streets unless there are some exceptional circumstances. Furthermore the only section of Coventry Close covered by the street cleansing contract is between the top block of Alpha House to Kilburn High Road. The remaining section from the top block of Alpha House to Canterbury Road is the remit of BHM’s maintenance regime


If you continue to experience negative impacts resulting from waste accumulations on private land please report these to or via Fix My Street platform. If you can include photos at the time of reporting will also be useful to help us identify locations and deal with the issues accordingly.


We then had to point out that there are, contrary to that message, no rubbish bins on Coventry Close (which is why we have been asking for them for years.....) And Coventry Close is not a residential street.


From what locals observe, while obviously some of the rubbish comes from street drinkers, the majority comes from people walking through and from those who park on Coventry Close. But it doesn't really matter who causes the problem, it needs dealing with both in the short and long terms and while Brent talks of doing so, the rubbish continues to pile up.


We wonder whether this would happen in other parts of the borough or is yet another sign of how Brent neglects its basic responsibilities in South Kilburn. Building showcase new housing looks nice, less so when surrounded by uncleared rubbish. And before anyone accuses us of exaggeration, Council officers have repeatedly accepted that the area is neglected and promised to sort it. And little happens.


Pete Firmin


With less than a week to run the Blue Bag petition to Brent Council collects more than 3,000 signatories


 Sheila Darr's presentation on Blue Bags made at last  Monday's Full Council VIDEO LINK has made quite an impact on the Next Door website with many dissatisfied with the response from Krupa Sheth (Lead Member for the Environment).  Many of those commenting support recycling but think that the scheme is not fit for purpose. The wet and windy weather has not helped to convince residents.

The e-petition on the Brent Council website LINK has burst through the 3,000 signature mark and still has a week to run. It closes on Saturday December 2nd.


The Petition 

We the undersigned petition the council to Cancel the blue bin bags and return to the single blue bin for recycling.


The blue bin bags are made of poor quality. The stitching is already coming apart and the velcro is of such poor quality it does not stick.


The bags cannot be left out in the rain as they will fill with water without the lid being stuck on properly.


In high winds, the bags will fly on to the roads causing hazard for vehicles and pedestrians.


The bags cannot be expected to be stored in peoples homes.


The council tax has been increasing and the services are getting poorer.

Sunday 26 November 2023

Lyon Park Primary management coming to the table with new proposals tomorrow (Monday). Petition launched in support of strikers,


Lyon Park Primary School strikers appeared to be in good spirits and showing strong solidarity on the fifth day of their strike over worsening conditions of service as a result of a staff restructuring.

The school management is expected to come to the negotiating table with fresh proposals on Monday morning in an effort to reach a settlement.  

If these don't succeed I understand there will be an approach to ACAS on Wednesday.

When I spoke to parents outside the school last week during a leafleting session aimed at informing them of the impact of the restructure, they were keen to say how much they appreciated the work of support staff.  Many talked about the good relationship between staff and pupils, and between parents and the support staff. They told me about the support their children received and how important it was to children with special educational needs or those new to the country at an early stage of leaning English.  They acknowledged the impact of the strike on them and their children but also saw that short-term hurt was better than the long-term damage that would follow if the staff did not stand up against the changes.  Support staff were an important part of the local community.

Lyon Park staff took their struggle to Westminster on Wednesday, Autumn Statement day, when they spoke to an NEU Rally calling for an increase in school funding. Inadequate school funding in the face of rising costs is at the heart of the budget crisis in many London schools, including Lyon Park.


A petition has been launched calling on governors to not cut pay and change working conditions:

Dear Governors, 

We are signing this petition to ask you to value our experienced support staff at Lyon Park and to ask you NOT to cut their pay and not to force teaching assistants to cover  [teacher absence] if they are not paid as a higher level teaching assistan



Saturday 25 November 2023

Fundraiser for Blue Plaque to honour Titus Barham


51 storey building in Neasden will be Brent's tallest yet - major transformation of the area by 2032


Tower panorama


Plans have been submitted for the section of the Neasden Stations Growth Area known as Neasden Goods Yard.

The design is by architects Allies and Morrison that were involved with projects for Kings Cross, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the BBC Media Village. The developer is Hollybrook who were responsible for a develpment in Park Royal for Network Homes. LINK

The proposal is for tower blocks of 30, 40, 42, 43 and 51 storeys  and lower blocks of 5 and 16 storeys. 11,600 square metres of industrial space is planned along with changes to Neasden station to provide a link to the possible West London Orbital Rail station.


The development site

The development would provide 1,151 homes amd 640 student rooms along with a central garden, pocket park and children's playgrounds. Accommodation would start at podium level with industrial and commercial space at ground floor level.

A collonade is suggested to link the two stations along the heavily polluted ands pretty lethal Neasden Lane - also the site of the new North Brent secondary school.

There is also a potential bridge to the site which the applicant suggests could be part of a cycle route to Wembley.


Building would commence in early 2026 and completed by the end of 2032.


A recent view of the site

The statement of  Community Involvement LINK begins with a meeting with the Brent Senior Leadership team in Febrary 2022 and ends with a meeting/s  with the Council Leaders and  Brent Planning Committee on  September 14th. It is not clear whether this was two separate meetings on the same day or one meeting.

In between  there is a list of consultation offers (it is not clear how many were taken up) to ward councillors, local residents' associations, places of worship, schools and businesses as well as public exhibitions and extensive leafleting.

What emerges in terms of responses is quite slight:

To date, the Applicant has received 48 written responses from residents and local businesses. 25 were issued through the online feedback form and 23 hard copy forms with feedback were submitted at the in-person consultation events. In addition, verbal feedback was shared with the development team at the workshop and public consultation events.

 But used to demonstrate support for the scheme:

Unfortunately the Neasden Stations Growth Areas Masterplan also received little public attention although its repercussions for the area are highly significant.  The changes are not just on this site but also the College of North West London's Dudden Hill site (developer Pinnacle Investments)  and a  light industrial area  between Dudden Hill Lane and Willesden High Road.

The low-rise estate of Severn Avenue and Selbie Avenue forms an island between the towers of the Goods Yard site and the CNWL site that may be developed in the future.


 From the Masterplan (Neasden Goods Yard on right and CNWL on left)

There was a discussion on Wembley Matters following the conclusion of public consultation on the MasterPlan that you can read HERE.

The Neasden Goods Yard planning application is now on the Brent Council Planning Portal and comments can be submitted there. LINK


611 local addresses should receive a consultation letter. Addresses HERE


You can also comment on the GLA Planning 'Have Your Say' site HERE

 The format is different to Brent Council's with prompts for what counts as planning considerations: