Monday, 22 January 2018

Cllr Duffy resigns from Brent Labour Group in protest over asbestos issue

Cllr Duffy's new seating position between Tory front bench and Cllr Carr

Cllr Duffy (Kilburn) resigned from Brent Labour Group  at the beginning of tonight's Full Council Meeting over the lack of support from the Group over the Paddington Cemetery asbestos issue (covered below).

Despite support for Duffy from Cllr John Warren (Conservative Group leader) the Mayor refused to allow discussion of the issue.

Cllr Tom Miller, a member of the Labour Group, tweeted:  'Frustrating at to have people trying to wedge in serious issue of asbestos without sorting out an agenda item or using the correct process generally. Gah.'

Later in the evening the Chair of the Audit Committee appeared to believe that a lengthy private discussion of a report on the asbestos dump and the participation of two independent members of the committee, made an independent inquiry unnecessary as they were satisfied  with the officer's report.

Brent Holocaust and Genocide Memorial Day 2018 - The Power of Words

HMD Power of Words logo

Thursday 25 January 2018, 7pm to 8.30pm, Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, Wembley HA9 0FJ

Brent Council is to recognise, commemorate and show respect for all victims of genocide on Thursday 25 January 2018 with a programme at Brent Civic Centre from 7pm to 8.30pm. Light refreshments will be available at 6.45pm.

The programme will begin with a candle lighting ceremony to remember the victims of the Holocaust and genocide survivors around the world including Bosnia, Cambodia, Darfur and Rwanda.

The theme of this year’s event is ‘THE POWER OF WORDS: words can make a massive difference – both for good and evil.

The Holocaust and subsequent genocides took place because the local populations allowed persecution to take place and did not speak out. We aim to remember victims of the Holocaust and other genocide survivors with real life survival stories of what happened in the past in order to prevent it happening again in the future. We will also talk about the steps of genocide and how this builds up to a climate of fear and hatred against particular members of society.

Please join us for an evening of reflection with speakers and communities who have been affected by the Holocaust and other Genocides around the world including Bosnia, Cambodia, Darfur and Rwanda. The programme will also include poetry, music, Holocaust survivor speaker, choir and refreshments.

This free event is open to everyone and registration in advance is not necessary.

Damning photographic evidence of reckless asbestos removal at Paddington Cemetery

 'We expect our children to be safe when we send them to school. We do not expect the Council to poison their air'
Cllr John Duffy has written the following email to Brent councillors:
Since I wrote my last email, I have received fresh photographic evidence from a resident that is most disconcerting. On the 1st of December 2017, the council employed a firm to remove approx 15 tonnes of contaminated soil from the graveyard. This procurement seems to have been done in haste as the company employed are not, as far as I can research, experts in the removal of contaminated and waste and their employment followed no proper procurement rules - as if often the case for Brent. I  also do not know whether they are licensed to carry the contaminated waste.
The company removed the soil by mechanical shovel, which is totally the wrong way to proceed. The way the operation was carried out raised a considerable amount of contaminated dust. The council did not supervise the operation or ensure a risk assessment took place. The operation failed to fulfil the basic H+S standards when dealing with Hazardous /Contaminated waste. The use of the shovel and the removal should be carried out in a more controlled fashion to try and limit making airborne dust. The area was fully open to public while the operation took place ,the waste was then placed in an open lorry rather than a locked skip which is required in guidelines on the Control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH).
However the worst aspect of the operation was that it took place just feet from the children's playground/garden of  Salusbury Road Primary School.  No risk assessment was done and no effort was made to inform the school to keep the children safe inside during the operation.  Furthermore no effort was made to contain the dust clouds.
The CEO, the Leader of the Council and Lead Member for the Environment must now stop trying to impede an Independent Investigation establishing the full facts of how the waste arrived at Paddington Cemetery and the question of whether workers were instructed to work without protection. 
However, the first thing we must do as a priority is to contact the school and find were children and staff present during the operation. This can be done by comparing class timetables against the work schedule.(I have copied in the head of the school) and establish why the school was not informed that the operation was going on.
I am concerned that the Leader and Cabinet’s decision not to insist on an independent investigation and their failure to ensure the workforce be interviewed has brought the council into disrepute and undermined the workforce human rights. 
I will be moving at tonight's meeting that we set up an independent investigation, as set out in my previous email, to reassure, the workers, residents  grave owners and the school we have nothing to hide and there will be no more cover-ups.

Cllr Duffy adds:
I would like to thank Baroness Jones for adding her support to the Friends of Paddington Cemetery. Hopefully, we will now see the commission of an Independent Investigation, where all the individuals who were exposed to asbestos will be interviewed.I believe it is the duty of the CEO and the Leader of the Council, along with the Lead Member for the Environment, to cease the prevarication and answer the questions Baroness Jones has raised.
Namely - 

(1)      Did Council officers knowingly send waste contaminated with asbestos to Paddington cemetery in August 2015 in spite of the fact that they understood it would be disturbed during the burial and gardening process and this would lead to the work-force being exposed to the asbestos?
(2)      On the 24th June 2017, did Council officers instruct workmen to work on the mound without protective overalls and masks and training?  I believe this to be a very serious matter that put both the workmen and public at risk .
(3)      Why are the CEO, Leader and Lead member for the Environment unwilling to contemplate interviewing the workforce who have been exposed to asbestos since August 2015 and including those exposed to the contaminated dust on June 24th 2017?

On Friday I spoke to ACAS and they told me it is the responsibility of the CEO as the senior officer to ensure the council fulfils its duty of care to the council’s employees.  This means they should take all steps, which are reasonably possible, to ensure their health, safety and wellbeing. Demonstrating concern for the physical and mental health of your workers shouldn’t just be seen as a legal duty. Legally, employers must abide by relevant health & safety and employment law, as well as the common law duty of care, but they also have a moral and ethical duty not to cause, or fail to prevent, physical or psychological injury, and must fulfil their responsibilities.  I am sure everybody is aware that this would include knowingly instructing workers employees to work in an area contaminated by asbestos without protection.

Support 'Trees for the Triangle' - bring beauty & clean air to Kensal Triangle

Kensal Triangle ResidentsAssociation have launched a campaign to plant more trees in their area and are calling for support to persuade Brent Council to help fund the project. Supporters should email

Green peer adds her voice to calls for independent investigation into Paddington Cemetery asbestos dump

Dust at Paddington Cemetery (FPC)

Jenny Jones (Baroness Jones of Moulsecoom) the Green Party member of the House of Lords, has written to Brent Council supporting  the call for an independent investigation into the asbestos contamination in Paddington Cemetery LINK.

Jones writes:
Cllr Duffy has written to me on behalf of a the Friends Of Paddington Cemetery (FPC), a local residents group. The group have concerns around the issue of the inappropriate use of asbestos contaminated soil to create additional burial sites in the Cemetery. Having read their concerns I am troubled by the lack of transparency being shown by the council and by the secretive way senior officers and leadership of the council are conducting themselves.

Can you tell me how the waste arrived on site and did the council knowingly deliver contaminated (with asbestos) waste to Paddington Cemetery in August 2015?

I am further troubled by the failure of your in-house audit team to interview any residents or member of the workforce who may have been exposed  to the asbestos. NHS guidelines say "While asbestos can be dangerous, it does not present a health risk if left undisturbed, but if material containing asbestos is damaged, it can release a fine dust that contains asbestos fibres. When the dust is breathed in, the asbestos fibres enter the lungs and can gradually damage them over time.” 

The pictures provided by FPC  (above) clearly show a considerable amount of dust being raised by the workman on the mound after the asbestos was discovered. If the council allows those workmen to work on the mound without protective overalls and masks and training, it's a very serious matter that puts both the workmen and public at risk.

Based on the evidence I have seen I should like to add my support to FPC efforts to have an independent investigation. Cllr Duffy has suggested an expert on Health and Safety should oversee this which seems appropriate to me. I hope you agree to an independent investigation.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Remembering Cyrille Regis - Sunday, The Pavilion, Stonebridge

Cllr Tatler on Alperton development: 'Whilst some policies are not met, many are...'

Readers will recall the uproar over Brent Council's approval of a development at 245-253 Ealing Road despite it not meeting many planning guidelines. LINK

A local resident has submitted a question about this to Cllr Shama Tatler at Monday's Council Meeting. This is her anodyne response:
Question from Hiran Patel to Councillor Tatler, Lead Member for Regeneration, Growth, Employment and Skills: 
How were the proposals for development of the old HSBC bank and pub at 245- 245 and 253 Ealing Road approved, even though in my view they appear to break a number of safety regulations?


Planning applications of this size raise a number of complex, and often competing issues; in this case, involving the redevelopment of the site to provide two buildings, 9 and 10 storeys, for 92 new flats, a pub and a community use, it raised many issues – the appearance and build of the new buildings, the amount of residential provided, the mix of units, parking arrangements, etc. Officers and Committee members balance all of the different issues, including the planning objections, and make their decision against national, regional and local policies. These issues are often finely balanced, and opinions will often differ as to the merits of a particular case. 
Sometimes, one policy objective, (e.g. securing additional housing, or maintaining a public house on the site) might be given more weight than, for example, a reduced level of parking. In this case, the planning merits of the proposal were carefully considered. Officers made some pragmatic judgments around the proposal to achieve, on this allocated site in a housing zone, some 92 new units – a quarter of which are affordable – that works on the site. The committee report makes it clear that whilst some policies are not met, many are, and taking the scheme in its entirety, members felt that the benefits outweighed any harm. 
The question does not mention what safety regulations are broken here. However, it is a long established – and correct – principle, that planning does not duplicate requirements set out in other regulations and laws; these will be assessed by other bodies at the appropriate time, whether that be under Building Regulations or Health and Safety rules

Call for targeted interventions to address hunger and poverty in Brent

The following motion will be debated at the Brent Council meeting on Monday:

This Council welcomes the findings and recommendations of the recent Resource and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee task group report into the use of food banks in Brent.
Given the scale of the problem of destitution and food poverty and likelihood that need will increase with the further roll out of Universal Credit this year, this Council recognises the need for local public, voluntary and private organisations to collaborate on the production of a proactive strategy to bring forward targeted interventions to prevent and address hunger and chronic poverty in the borough.
This Council notes the following findings of the task group:
·      Food banks are playing, and will continue to play, an increasingly significant role in society. The corrosion of the welfare state has meant that food banks have had no choice but to step up to fill in the gap.
·      1.2 million food aid packages were given out by Trussell Trust food banks during the last financial year and this was the ninth consecutive year in which demand has risen.
·      In Brent alone last year an estimated 5,636 people accessed food banks
·      Major drivers behind food bank usage locally are benefit delays and sanctions, the current waiting period before benefits are paid, inaccessibility of services and low wages.
·      Official figures do not capture the true extent of the problem across the borough; with many residents seeking assistance from religious organisations providing informal meals and food assistance.
·      Locally, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) moved new single claimants over to Universal Credit(UC) in2015 and have now advised full  rollout of UC across Brent will happen in late 2018. It is likely that implementation of full UC will place further demands on local food banks and information / advice services.
·      The use of food banks includes both people in and out of work.
·      Statements from government ministers dismissing food bank use as a lifestyle choice of those who are unable to budget properly has influenced incorrect beliefs about food bank users. This has contributed to stigma, shame, and embarrassment for the people who need to use them.

Brent Council recognises the invaluable work undertaken by food bank staff, volunteers and donors. This  Council formally extends its gratitude to all involved.

Councillor Roaxnne Mashari Welsh Harp Ward