Wednesday 31 January 2024

Clean Air for Brent unable to find enough people with enough time to continue

 It is very sad the Clean Air for Brent, a much needed organisation has decided it cannot continue. There is a final zoom meeting on February 21st.

This is their statement:

Last year we attempted to find 'new blood' to resurrect Clean Air for Brent and enable it to rise out of the doldrums. We held an enthusiastic zoom meeting and a few interested parties volunteered to take on steering roles. However we have been unable to find enough people with enough time to give to take CAfB forward in a meaningful way and, most importantly, we do not have a new chair to inject CAfB with the energy it needs. We thank those who did offer their support. Recently our chair Mark Falcon stepped down and we thank him for all his hard work and dedication in the post. Janey McAllester will act as Interim Chair while we resolve the group's future.

It was also suggested that CAfB might merge with another group but as there is not enough appetite in the current steering group to make this happen, we cannot pass on our database and have only a small amount of funds there does not seem to be a way forward in that direction.

Therefore the remaining steering group members feel that there is no alternative but to close CAfB and allocate the small amount of its funds remaining to another local organisation who is fighting the fight, and encourage our membership to join with them. It is suggested that this be Brent Friends of the Earth. We will therefore hold a final zoom meeting to go through the formalities on 21st February at 8pm. Should you wish to join this is the link:

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 883 8762 2726

Passcode: 016347

Thank you for all your support over the years and apologies that we have not been able to continue.

Best wishes,
Clean Air for Brent Steering Committee

How can social landlords address digital poverty - Pop Up Lab February 28th 12-12.45pm

 From Inside Housing

Tuesday 30 January 2024

Fire union warns of “criminal complacency” after Wembley cladding fire,. Barry Gardiner slams building manager Octavia


Yesterday's fire in Elm Road, Wembley Central


 From the Fire Brigades Union


At least 125 firefighters and 20 fire engines were called to a cladding fire in Wembley yesterday, 29 January.

Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union general secretary, said: 


Firefighters have once again been called to cladding fire which could have resulted in tragedy. 


The Fire Brigades Union warned of the risks of flammable cladding many years before the terrible Grenfell Tower fire. Decades of deregulation have created unnecessary risks to residents and firefighters, and put homes and lives at risk.


Government ministers and building companies have been criminally complacent. We will continue to demand justice for the victims of this situation, and urgent action to ensure that buildings are safe.


Falling school rolls - the challenge ahead with mergers and closures possible

 In the old days of cinema the programme would be shown back to back. If you arrived late you would sit tight and after the B feature, adverts etc, watch the main film from the beginning, until one of you muttered, 'This is where we came in' and you'd scurry out.


'This is where I came in', is how I feel about the present school places crisis. In the mid-70s pupil numbers dropped, termed 'falling rolls', and school closures and mergers were on the agenda. I had just started at a small Church of England  primary school in North Paddington. As the 'last one in' I was selected for compulsory redeployment. This meant a transfer to another primary school and despite parental and union pressure I was moved on. There was an education authority that took in the whole of London (the Inner London Education Authority -ILEA) so there was considerable scope for redeployment. Thatcher and Tebbit abolished the ILEA on idelogical grounds so now each borough is an education authority - so narrowing the scope for redeployment.


Yesterday the umbrella organisation for London boroughs issues a report LINK on the crisis of falling rolls in London boroughs. London Councils explain:


London’s birth rate is the main reason for the decrease in demand for school places. Between 2012-2021 there has been a 17% decrease of the birth rate in London, which is a reduction of 23,225 live births across the capital.  It is not unusual for London’s birth rate to fluctuate, however it is having, and will continue to have, an impact on demand for school places which schools, boroughs and the DfE will need to manage.


There are further factors which affect the number of applications for school places in London. For the last few years, boroughs have also experienced shifts in their local child population as a result of families leaving London for example due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and cost of living crisis. 


As a result of the reduction in school places having an impact on the amount of funding a school receives, schools will have to make further difficult decisions to balance their budgets. This could mean narrowing the curriculum, offering fewer after school clubs or reducing the number of teaching and support staff. In some cases, school leaders and local authority leaders will have to make difficult decisions to merge or close schools.


Is closure inevitable? It is if you accept the current funding structure but it could be a rare opportunity to reduce class sizes.  Back at my first school class sizes had reduced from 35/30 to around 18. Some of the veteran teachers said that this was the first time they felt they were really teaching, rather than just performing crowd control. Suddenly class sizes were similar to those in the private sector offering similar opportunities for individual tuition. The economic arguments were the main factor behind closures etc but other arguments were deployed by the management and inspectorate: Classes of 18 didn't have the same dynamic and buzz of big classes,  there was not enough expertise across a smaller staff and therefore in a smaller school to ensure curriculum development across all the subjects. 


The process of closure and amlgamation has already started in Brent and a review of overall provision is in progress. The Brentfield Road Leopold site is ear-marked for closure LINK , Strathcona site of Roe Green Primary has been closed LINK, and amalgamation  of Carlton Vale Infants and Kilburn Park Juniors in a new building is planned (although there are dounts about the funding at present).


Meanwhile the impact of reduced funding has been seen at Lyon Park Primary with the strike by teachinng support staff in the face of compulsory redundancies and worsening conditions.  LINK 


These are the September 2023 Reception intake figures for some of our Brent schools. As funding is per pupil, lower numbers mean less funding for the school and thus staff costs. PAN - Planned Admission Numbers


The Planned Admission numbers of some schools will be reduced to match the actual number of applications leading to staff losses. One form entry schools (PAN of 30) have reduced in number over the years but have proved popular with parents.  At present only Donnington and Our Lady of Lourdes are officially one form of entry but there are quite a number of potentials above that could reduce by one or even two forms.  The same arguments about curriculum and higher costs of one form entry schools may again be deployed and mergers advocated instead.

The crisis is not only in Brent but also in our neighbouring boroughs with North West London, of which we are a part, the worst affected in primary schools after Inner London:



The secondary figures are only a little better but it is important to note that as the sector is academised Brent Council has no direct influence in determing intake numbers.

 This is an extract from the main London Councils Report. Highlighting mine.


In some instances local authorities will have to take forward plans to close schools that have become financially unviable and there are no forecast increases in the local child population, and keeping these schools open will have a detrimental impact on the wider sustainability of other local schools.


Local authorities recognise the disruption to a child’s education that a school closure can create, so they work very closely with affected families and other local schools mitigate the impact on children’s education.


However, this needs to be managed carefully and in partnership with other local partners, including the Diocese, where appropriate, and DfE.


Boroughs make decisions about where to close schools based on a range of key factors, including the popularity of schools, Ofsted ratings, travel routes, demand forecasts and budget deficits. They want to ensure that local areas have choice in the system and don’t disadvantage particular groups of children as a result of school closures.


However, these strategic decisions need to be made in agreement with partners and local authorities should be able to consider all local state schools, including academies, as part of a fair and transparent process.


Currently academies do not have to be part of a local authorities’ school places strategy and local authorities have no statutory duties over academies in terms of places planning.


Therefore a local authority can’t direct an academy to reduce PAN even when other local good schools are struggling and might need to close if all local schools don’t work together. In some cases academies work well with local authorities, recognising the local challenges and voluntarily reduce their PANs, but without levers this happens on an ad hoc basis and does not allow for any choice in the system.


Local authorities are also constrained in how they work with neighbouring local authorities due to data restrictions. It would be helpful if neighbouring local authorities could have access to pupil census data to be able to better plan provision across borough boundaries. The DfE could help support a more strategic cross-borough approach by considering the implications on the wider sub-region in its decision-making, particularly around new free schools.


Protecting the school estate and funding model


With school closures on the increase, London Councils is concerned about the loss of educational assets for future generations. London’s birth rate has historically ebbed and flowed, and London is likely to become a more popular place to raise a family at some point in the future, leading to renewed demand for school places. To avoid the DfE from having to purchase land and build new schools in the future it is vital that we are able to keep current educational assets in use for educational purposes, such as nurseries, family hubs, special schools, which creates more flexibility going forward. Many local

authorities are looking at these options but would welcome more support from the DfE to ensure empty schools can be protected for educational purposes.


The DfE’s Falling rolls fund is welcome to schools experiencing a short term drop in demand. However, many schools in London will not be able to access this as they can’t demonstrate an increase in demand in the next four years. It would be helpful, given the scale of the challenge, number of schools currently facing falling rolls and the further forecast drops in demand, if the DfE could make this pot of funding more flexible in recognition of the need to protect vital education assets across London.


Special Educational Needs (SEND)


London has been grappling with a steady increase in the number of children identified with SEND in recent years. In the last year alone, the number of children with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCPs) in London has increased by 9% from January 2022 to January 2023. Some local authorities are reporting that the increased budgetary pressure facing schools is leading to a decrease in additional support available and this is leading to some schools to be less inclusive than previously. We think it is vital that the DfE works with local authorities and schools to promote more inclusion in schools, and that schools receive consistent and appropriate levels of funding to enable more children with SEND to access mainstream school places.

The question as a General Election comes closer is will any incoming government grasp the nettle and increase the funding of schools so that we can take advantage of falling rolls for a generation of pupils that has been so affected by Covid and its consequences.

Monday 29 January 2024

UPDATE: 20 Fire Engines called to blaze in block of flats in Elm Road, Wembley (parallel with Wembley High Road). Shelter at St John the Evangelist Crawford Avenue


 Credit BBC, EmmaL

From BBC and London Fire Brigade,

About 125 firefighters are tackling a blaze at a block of flats in north-west London.

Twenty fire engines were called out to Elm Road, Wembley, on Monday evening.

Video from the scene showed fire spreading between flats, while a firefighter on an aerial ladder sprayed water over the building.

Firefighters from Wembley, Park Royal, Northolt and surrounding fire stations were called to the scene, London Fire Brigade (LFB) said.

It said there were no reports of any injuries but part of the building's roof was alight, and urged people to avoid the area.

The block and surrounding buildings were evacuated as a precautionary measure, and a 105ft (32m) turntable ladder is being used as a water tower to help extinguish the fire.

LFB initially sent 10 engines and 70 firefighters just after 16:40 GMT. 

The fire was under control by 10pm.

It said the cause of the blaze was not yet known.


Brent Council this evening said via X:


The building and surrounding buildings have been evacuated as a precautionary measure. Shelter is being provided at St John the Evangelist Church, 3 Crawford Avenue, Wembley HA0 2HX.


The building and surrounding buildings have been evacuated as a precautionary measure. Shelter is being provided at St John the Evangelist Church, 3 Crawford Avenue, Wembley HA0 2HX.


On Next Door a local resident said re the church, 'Yeh, Yeh not good, Been there. Done that. Not great.' 

She went on, 'Most of us are at Weatherspoons having food and drink paid for by Octavia, and the block affected have gone to Travel Lodge to stay over for the night.'

Nevertheless, all credit to the church for acting quickly to give a safe space to those caught up in the event.


Meanwhile Chandresh Varsani tweeted this to Wembley Matters and others:




Somali Health Road Show Wednesday January 31st Chalkhill Community Centre 10am-2pm





The first of our Brent Health Road
shows in 2024 will be delivered alongside Somali Community Organisations and will focus on Women’s health


Community Research Champions Health Roadshow – Somali Community

Location: Chalkhill Community Centre


We’re excited to invite you to the Community Research Champions Health Roadshow – Somali Community! Join us for an informative and fun-filled event focused on health and well-being. Discover the latest tips and tricks to lead a healthier lifestyle, specifically tailored for the Somali community.

Our roadshow will take place at the Chalkhill Community Centre, a vibrant hub where you can connect with fellow community members. Get ready to engage in interactive workshops, receive expert advice, and gain valuable insights into maintaining a healthy lifestyle.


Whether you’re interested in nutrition, fitness, mental well-being, or general health, this event has something for everyone. Don’t miss out on this fantastic opportunity to learn, grow, and connect with others who share your interests.


Mark your calendars and get ready for an event that will empower you to make positive changes in your life.

 We can’t wait to see you at the Brent Health Roadshow – Somali Community!

Saturday 27 January 2024

Willesden Green will be without any banks at all as Barclays announce closure

 Barclays has announced that it is to close its Willesden Green branch on May 3rd The closure announcement follows those for the town centre's National Westminster and Lloyds banks and leaves the area with no bank at all.

Barclays closed its Cricklewood branch some time ago.

This will reinforce the case for a LINK banking hub in Willesden Green that was made by loca ward councillors. LINK


Wembley Stadium to bid for an increase in the number of non-sporting events held at the venue


 Ed Sheeran at Wembley Stadium

The impact of Wembey Stadium on the local community has always been controversial. On the one hand complainants are told, 'There has been a stadium here for more than a hundred years. Why live near a stadium if you are going to complain about it?' to, 'We are imprisoned in our homes on Event Days and the number keeps increasing.'  Views vary from, 'The stadium brings in money for the local economy and puts Wembley on the map', to 'We have to pay for clearing up all the litter, put up with public urination and disruption of public transport.'

So the news that Wembley Stadium is seeking to apply to Brent Planning Committe to increase the cap on the number of non-sporting events from 46 to 54 is likely to reignite debate.

In a circular to residents Wembley Stadium says:

Wembley Stadium is looking to adjust the annual stadium event cap to provide more flexibility to attract additional non-sporting major events.

The current permission of 46 events per year limits the number of dates Wembley Stadium can offer to non-sports acts or events. Increasing the cap to 54 major events per year would provide increased flexibility to attract major international acts to the stadium.

The application will retain a cap on the number of major sporting events to no more than 25 per annum, with a minor variation to the definition of a major event as a stadium bowl event with a capacity in excess of 60,000 people.

A planning application will be submitted to Brent Council shortly. Full details of the application will be available for viewing on Brent’s planning portal in the coming weeks.

If you have any initial comments or queries about the proposal, please let us know by submitting your response
HERE before 1 pm on Wednesday 21st February.

We will also be holding a drop-in session for more information from 6 pm on Thursday 22nd February in Wembley Stadium’s Club Wembley Main Reception. Please come along for more information and a chance to discuss this in person.

Meanwhile Brent Council's 'Healthy Streets and Parking Resident Services' is asking for the views of councillors (not the public) on Event Day Traffic Management Orders

In order to accommodate events and games being held at the stadium, it is proposed to add dates for the 2024 calendar year to the existing Wembley Stadium Event Day Traffic Management Orders which have been made and are currently enforced.


We need to prepare for the eventuality for all of these dates to be included within our Traffic Management Orders even though on some dates no event will take place. This is mainly due to the fact that the dates cannot precisely be identified with certainty yet, at the time of this proposal.


Please note that on the date that enforcement will take place, signs will display the restrictions that are in place.


The proposed events are planned on the following dates, inclusive of the South Way two-way traffic flow:-


25th February 2024,

23rd and 26th March 2024,

7th, 20th and 21st April 2024,

4th, 5th, 11th, 12th, 18th, 19th, 25th and 26th May 2024,

1st, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 15th, 16th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 24th and 29th June 2024,

3rd, 7th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 25th, 27th, and 31st July 2024,

1st, 2nd, 3rd, 10th, 11th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 19th, 20th and 25th August 2024,

2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 28th and 29th September 2024,

5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th and 27th October 2024,

2nd, 3rd, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th and 30th November 2024,

1st, 2nd and 3rd December 2024.


Thursday 25 January 2024

Toilets, fare concessions, & universal basic income: Greens propose a budget for London’s communities

 From London Green Party

During the annual debate over the upcoming budget for the Greater London Authority (GLA) Group, Caroline Russell AM led her colleagues Siân Berry AM and Zack Polanski AM in proposing a transformative budget amendment to put London’s communities at the centre of Assembly funding. 

Following the decision by other Assembly Members to vote against these urgent investments, Green Party London Assembly Member Caroline Russell said:


This budget process has shown exactly how much change seems to be hiding down the back of the Mayor’s sofa. It’s time we put that money straight into London’s communities. 


I simply cannot understand why my colleagues elsewhere in the Assembly continue to celebrate the Mayor’s crumbs, instead of pushing to fully fund the initiatives we know Londoners need.


We will continue to push for the investment and attention that every high street, commuter, and resident needs here in London.


The six budget components proposed by Caroline Russell AM were: 


1.      Public Toilet Funding: While we commend the Mayor’s new programme of additional public toilets on the TfL estate, it lacks the ambition of our previous amendments so we aim to increase funding for the TfL toilets programme to build and maintain new, free public toilets. 


2.      Fare Concessions: For the older people who have consistently asked for the removal of restriction on their 60+ photocard and Freedom Pass, we will bring back the free travel provisions provided before the pandemic, which the Government made London remove. 


3.      Investing in Dead Spaces: We want to build a more resilient local economy by ensuring small businesses and community groups have spaces to grow by putting disused (but still useful) empty office blocks and shops into their hands.  


4.      Resident Empowerment: And not just open these spaces but support and empower people to be able to influence local development plans, and to build their own community plans with financing from a resident empowerment fund. 


5.      Climate Resilience Review: We will back the work of the London Climate Resilience Review by doubling its budget to £2 million specifically for the key recommendations that include collaborative work and work with communities.


6.      Universal Basic Income: And for a community group with a pilot ready to go, fund the essential wraparound support for a pioneering Universal Basic Income (UBI) programme, to fully explore an idea that could be lifechanging for many Londoners.


These six proposals could have been fully funded using the following funding sources, none of which would have taken funding away from existing services: 

  • £30 million from an increase to the Congestion Charge
  • £4.95 million from the Business Rates Reserve
  • £1 million from the GLA Climate Emergency Funding Reserve in 2024-25 (£3 million over the next three years)
  • £18.255 million from Reserves Earmarked for GLA Services


The GLA Group includes: Transport for London; Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, London’s Fire Commissioner, London Legacy Development Corporation, and the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation. 


A copy of Caroline Russell AM’s Draft Consolidated Budget Amendment can be found here