VOTE GREEN FOR ACCOUNTABILITY, SCRUTINY, ENHANCED DEMOCRACY AND FRESH IDEAS
The people of Brent need an effective opposition on Brent Council. An opposition that will hold the Labour Council to account, scrutinise its actions and put forward bold and imaginative policies that will improve the lives of ordinary people in the borough.
Effective opposition can only be provided by electing Green Party councillors.
For most of the current Council the Tories have been divided into two warring groups, often more concerned to scrabble for the available allowances than to represent their constituents and carry out the meticulous scrutiny that is the job on an opposition. The lone Liberal Democrat councillor jumped ship to become an independent reflecting the weakness of the party and its lack of leadership. It is now a spent force.
This has enabled the Labour Party to run Brent with an often breath taking arrogance, ignoring representations made by local people with a leader keen to extend his power at the expense of his own backbenchers.
LABOUR’S FAILURE TO CHALLENGE AUSTERITY
Although rightly blaming the Conservative government for its austerity cuts to local government funding it has failed to mount any sort of challenge to that agenda. Instead it has not only implemented cuts in borough services, often making woeful choices, but reacted only belatedly to the wider impact of government cuts such as the closure of the Accident and Emergency Ward at Central Middlesex Hospital, closure of police stations, cuts in neighbourhood policing, the closure of Job Centres and the academisation of our schools.
Brent Greens through the blog Wembley Matters has sought to draw public attention to these issues, carrying out our own scrutiny of decisions, and backing the community groups that fight to retain our services and campaign on planning and environment issues to preserve our quality of life.
WIDENING PARTICIPATION IN OUR DEMOCRACY
Greens are committed to widening democracy through greater participation. At present although the Council directly and indirectly has control of many meeting spaces, charges for hire are exorbitant. We want meeting places that are open to all and affordable for community groups to hire. Such facilities help overcome isolation of individuals and promote social cohesion. This is particularly important in a period of privatisation of public and social spaces.
We will call on other parties to work with us to set up a cross party commission to examine ways of involving ALL councillors actively in decision making rather than the present system where an 8 person Cabinet make all major decisions. Apart from being undemocratic this is a waste of the expertise and energy of backbench councillors who have much to contribute.
END LABOUR COLLUSION IN THE MISUSE OF THE TERM ‘AFFORDABLE’ REGARDING HOUSING
One of the most dishonest aspects of Brent Labour is the pretence that the housing being built by Quintain at Wembley, and other developers elsewhere in the borough, is affordable. The word affordable becomes meaningless when it describes housing sold or rented at 80% of market rates. Given the low median income of Brent families this is nowhere near affordable and to call it such is an insult. Indeed the Quintain development has made no dent in the number of needy families on the Council Housing waiting list.
GREENS WILL CAMPAIGN FOR GENUINELY AFFORDABLE SOCIAL HOUSING
Green councillors will actively campaign for genuinely affordable social housing to be built as part of regeneration and not allow developers to wriggle out of Brent and GLA guidelines on this and other aspects of development including the height of buildings and regulations on light and proximity to other buildings.
END POLITICAL INTERFERENCE WITH PLANNING
It is vital that the Brent Planning Committee be freed from political interference. It has an independent quasi-judicial role that must be retained with a Chair who has the confidence of all parties on the Council. We will continue to monitor the meetings that the leader of the Council has with developers and ensure that the new Planning Guidelines, adopted after our campaigning, are rigorously adhered to. We will not standby when poor decisions are made, such as spending 18m on new steps for Wembley Stadium, using the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). Rather than go back to developers it should have been spent on repairing the borough’s deteriorating roads and pavements. CIL should be used to improve the whole of Brent – not just Wembley. We will ensure that the Neighbourhood CIL is spent fairly on projects that have wide community support.
PROTECT WEMBLEY RESIDENTS FROM DETRIMENTAL IMPACT OF STADIUM EVENTS
Resident of Wembley Park and Wembley Central opposed the increased in the number of events and increased capacity at Wembley Stadium brought about by the Spurs occupancy. Their fears have proved to be well grounded and many residents feel trapped in their own homes on match days. We will oppose any similar occupancy by Chelsea FC when works take place at their site. Some Wembley small businesses benefit from events but others suffer a reduction in business when customers avoid the area.
SUPPORT FOR SMALL BUSINESSES
Small businesses are the lifeblood and character of many areas and Brent’s diversity is reflected in the variety of places to shop and socialise. However, it can be a daunting experience especially when faced with competition from large supermarket chains and brands that dominate the high street. Your Green Party Councillors would support small businesses, social enterprises and co-operatives because they create jobs and diversity on our high streets.
We would support making the bidding process for contracts for services needed by council fair to allow small local businesses the opportunity to grow and develop. We would support keeping business rates steady and offer relief to small businesses who are in need of extra support to succeed and prosper.
We believe in innovation especially eco-friendly business solutions. Your Green Party Councillors would support offering incentives to businesses that are environmentally conscious and responsible with their waste disposal.
Brent has the potential to become the next Tech hub of the capital. Tech start-ups often require minimal space to get going and we would support any initiative to offer space at reasonable rates and vital infrastructure such as improved Internet speed and reliability to these companies. This would encourage job creation and growth and the vital skills and experience needed for the next generation of workers to be in employment in the future.
VALUE FOR MONEY WASTE SERVICES & PROTECTION OF GREEN SPACES AND TREES
Brent Green Party supported John Duffy’s efforts to ensure that residents were getting value for money from the waste contracts. Our councillors will push for a review of all Brent waste services. Brent Labour made major mistakes not only in out-sourcing to Veolia but for making Veolia responsible for monitoring the services themselves.Our green spaces and street trees are one of Brent’s major assets. Mindful of events in Sheffield we will press for a transparent policy on the maintenance of our trees to ensure that any tree removal is for genuine reasons and that any trees removed are replaced. We will protect our open spaces and ensure that environmentally methods are used to maintain and enhance them. We support moves to use CIL from the Chesterfield House (‘Twin Towers’) development in Wembley to improve the facilities in Edward VII Park and we will push to reopen Gladstone Park pool and use the income generated to employ park wardens in Gladstone Park
We recognise Abbey Road Recycle centre is inaccessible for many residents, especially for those without vehicles, so we will seek to scrap the £35 charge for bulky goods introduced by Labour in August 2017.
ACTION ON IMPROVING AIR QUALITY IN BRENT
We support the action points put forward by Clean Air in Brent. (1) Most of us have had that cold or chest infection which takes ages to go away. But what if living in an area with poor air quality can make it harder to recover? We might not know it, but pollutants add stress to our heart & lungs that sap our energy. Indeed, 5879 people die early each year due to air pollution and if you’re an elder, poor or from an ethnic minority, it’s more likely to be you.
We can’t accept people that people with medical conditions such as asthma or COPD are unable to leave their home when pollution is particularly bad. We believe the Mayor’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) should cover the whole of London – not just up to the North and South Circular. Greens would:
· Increase awareness by installing more monitoring equipment & finding innovative ways of providing public displays of real-time air pollution date on our streets.
· Call out policy that has a flawed evidence base, such as speed bumps that cause a danger by cars swerving and doubling the emissions of cars that do slow down.
· Embrace psychological strategies such as speed signs that ‘flash’ or the placement of trees, plants & art work which work by narrowing and softening the street, reducing visibility, which discourages speeding.
· Expand electric-car charging network.
· Ensure new developments reduce air-pollution.
· Adapt areas to create more features, such as children’s play or sitting areas, which send a message to drivers to be more careful, slow down (reducing air pollution).
· Install proper segregated cycle lanes & bring London’s cycle hire scheme to Brent. Tackle the major blockage to north-south cycle travel at the North Circular/Neasden Underpass in consultation with Brent Cyclists.
· Encourage physical activity through people friendly streets & parks safe from crime. Some of this requires innovative solutions such as the restoration of the Gladstone Park Lido using the income generated to introduce Park Wardens.
FIND IMAGINATIVE WAYS TO REINSTATE YOUTH PROVISION
The closure of Stonebridge Adventure Playground and all Brent youth centres apart from Roundwood has been one of the biggest mistakes of Brent Labour. We will press for a Scrutiny Task Force to examine the impact of these closure on young people and to look at the effectiveness of the little known Young Brent Foundation, a charitable independent voluntary sector body and umbrella membership organisation ostensibly set up for the benefit of all youth providers in Brent. We will look for imaginative ways to reinstate youth provision in Brent in consultation with young people and providers.
WE WILL OPPOSE ANY FURTHER ACADEMISATION OF SCHOOLS
Greens supported the campaign against the academisation of The Village School. The evidence increasingly shows that academisation does not result in standards higher than local authority schools. They are not democratically accountable and recent publicity has shown how inflated salaries are paid to academy chain bosses at the expense of funding for the classroom. We are opposed to the building of an Ark Primary Free School on the car park of York House, Wembley Hill Road. The latest pupil figures question the necessity of another primary school when there are vacancies in other nearby schools. The proposed site is unsuitable. It is on a cramped site on a busy road and pupils would be exposed to air pollution from traffic.
AN ETHICAL APPROACH TO BRENT PENSION FUND AND OUT-SOURCING
We will support the divestment of Brent Council’s Pension Fund from investment in fossil fuels and push for further measures to contribute to carbon reduction as the need to combat climate change becomes more urgent.
We will press for services that are currently out-sourced to be brought back ‘in-house’ where possible and establishment of ethical guidelines for Council procurement.
INCREASE PUBLIC TOILET FACILTIES
A hidden issue in Brent, but one with unfortunate consequences, is the lack of public toilets in the borough. The lack of public toilets particularly affects the elderly, people with young children and the sick. We will press the council to introduce a scheme in which local shops and eating-places will allow non-customers to use the facilities for a small charge – perhaps in exchange for a small reduction in business rates.
RECOGNISE THE COMMITMENT OF LIBRARY CAMPAIGNERS AND FIND WAYS OR REINSTATING A NEASDEN LIBRARY
Brent Greens supported groups campaigning to keep libraries open when half were closed by a previous Labour Council. We support the provision of publicly funded, professionally staffed libraries, but meanwhile applaud the efforts of volunteers to keep some of the closed libraries open. We will press for professional support and peppercorn rents for these initiatives and will look for ways to provide facilities in places such as Neasden where the library closed in an under-resourced area and where no volunteer library has replaced it.
ACCESSIBILITY FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
Greens will pressure Brent Council to urgently address problems that make so many of our pavements into an obstacle course for visually and mobility impaired people caused by such things as uneven paving and potholing in roads and pavements and A-boards advertising shops etc.
Brent Council should put pressure on TfL to make sure that
· All bus stops are fully accessible. Buses should be able to pull in near the kerb, to help Disabled and older people to get on board.
· Bus drivers should always lower buses when needed, stop at the stops not some distance from them when there is a queue of buses
· Bus drivers do not pull away before all passengers are seated or standing securely
· All bus stop bypasses on cycle lanes are safe for pedestrians to cross.
All pedestrian crossings that are under the control of the council should be fully accessible, with tactile and/or audio signal; and allow enough time to cross (which is not currently the case).
The Taxicard discount scheme for disabled people and elders needs to be better publicised and extended so that it is easier to get a a ‘three-swipe’ discount to cover longer journeys,
Brent council will lobby TfL, train companies and Government to set out a funded timetable programme for making stations in the borough fully accessible.
We support the appointment of a councillor whose focus would be Disability and Inclusion, including accessible transport within the borough.
We will seek council action to restore the parking ‘scratch card’ system as many people find the new system and using the Internet a challenge. We will therefore seek to reverse Labour's decision to increase the costs of NHS Parking Permits (Essential User Permits, EUP) by 137% on April 3rd. This tax increase is an unfair attack on the budget of local NHS teams who are often sending their staff out to visit some of the most vulnerable and isolated members of our population.
We will press the Council in its Public Health role to support voluntary groups such as Brent Advocacy Concerns that advocate for disabled people, in securing affordable accommodation to carry out their work.