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

Friday, 19 January 2018

Aisha Abdirahman wins Brent 'Speak Out' Challenge with powerful speech on equality

Aisha Abdirahman of Ark Elvin Academy in Wembley (formerly Copland High School) was the winner of Brent's Regional Final of the Jack Petchey 'Speak Out' Challenge! with a speech entitled 'Apologies'.

Pressure mounts over academisation of The Village School

Brent North Labour Party has now joined Brent Central CLP LINK in opposing the academisation of The Village School in Kingsbury through the formation of a Multi-Academy Trust with Woodfield School LINK.

Brent North CLP welcomed what they called Brent Council's 'decision' to return out-sourced services in-house and said that this should also apply to academies, noting the return of Sandown Bay Academy in the Isle of Wight to local authority control. They called for Labour's National Education Service to include a policy to return all privatised academies to local authority control.

They appealed to all governors of the school, whose chair is Brent North Labour member and the Labour Group Whip,  Cllr Sandra Kabir, to pause the process and postpone the vote on academisation due on February 26th so that the school, local authority and unions could have talks to consider alternatives to academisation. In addition they asked that union representatives, who are also staff governors, be allowed to report back on what is going on at governor meetings.

Finally the motion called for the final vote on academisation to take place publicly with observers able to attend and speak.

The motion passed without opposition and, according to sources, the support of Barry Gardiner MP (Labour, Brent) who was present at the meeting.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Foodbanks in Brent: 'Behind every number is a person' - a revealing video

In an enterprising move the Scrutiny Task Group on Foodbanks has made a video about the role of foodbanks in Brent that catered for more than five and  a half thousand people last year. The roll out of Unoversal Credit this year is likely to increase the numners neeeding to use foodbanks.The Task Grpup, led by Cllr Roxanne Mashari, made 35 recommendations which can be read in the embedded document at the foot of this article.

The Task Group reports states:
Many local authorities like Brent find themselves in uncharted territory in relation to food banks . Alongside the absence of guidance for local authorities, the task group feels that there is room for improvement and external oversight with regards to safety, hygiene and safeguarding in many of the food aid providers locally.
The task group could not find any policy framework, or guidance outlining how local authorities should work with or alongside food banks.
This lack of understanding, policy and coordination presents a significant risk to public sector organisations, food banks and food bank users particularly as we approach the wider roll out of universal credit in 2018.
Time and again our task group heard of benefit delays, universal credit design problems, inaccessibility of services and sanctions driving ordinary people to extraordinary levels of desperation and destitution. We must be clear in our collective determination in Brent that our role as public and private sector bodies is to strategically tackle poverty and increase prosperity, not to create deprivation and poverty through our own policies. The fact that actions of publically funded bodies are a major driving force behind local food bank numbers is a cause for alarm and shame.
We cannot wait for the government to decide to take action when it comes to food banks , we must take matters into our own hands by demonstrating leadership and initiative to stem the tide of destitution and desperation . It is up to us to make sure that residents are not falling through the gaps of services and that there is a coordinated, preventative and interventionist approach. 
This task group has brought to light some of the most talented, hardworking and visionary individuals who help run food banks and provide a unique and vital service that would not otherwise be provided .  We have also witnessed heart - wrenching stories of neglect, desperation and abject poverty that have been both s hocking and upsetting.
What is clear is that this level of need and poverty must not be normalised or accepted.
It is time for all of us to take stock, to not shy away from the scale of the problem and to be nimble enough to respond to the shifting shape of provision for those in destitution, whether we agree with government policy in this area or not.
Our recommendations provide a blueprint for the first few steps in organising a coordinated response to this relatively new phenomenon and we will be holding local leaders to account over the next twelve months in order to translate policy and ideas into action that makes a difference on the ground.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Welsh Harp Centre Conservation Day January 20th

From Thames21

We had another very successful event at the Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre in December, thank you to the regular Friends that attended.

The next event is Saturday 20th January, 10am – 12.30pm

We will be starting at the new time of 10am and finishing at 12.30pm. Here is a link to the event with details: LINK

At the next event we will be working on the following tasks:
-          Cut back vegetation from pathways.
-          Prune the apple trees.
-          Cut back shrubby vegetation growing in the meadow.
-          Other tasks as they come up.

The next event date will be combined with the Great British Spring Clean on Saturday 3rd March, details to be confirmed so stay tuned!

We have achieved a lot since these events have started and we will continue to address many other aspects of the WHEEC Habitat Management Plan that need attending to. If you would like a copy of the management plan, please email me.

Hope to see as many of you as possible at the next event!

Brent's 'toothless' Air Quality Action Plan condemned by Clean Air for Brent

From yesterday's Twitter
From Clear Air for Brent
Air pollution is now said to be the number one killer in the world, followed by HIV(1). According to Brent Council, 200 premature deaths occur each year which are directly attributable to air pollution as well as further unquantified premature deaths where air quality is a factor, so Clean Air for Brent (CAfB) expected to see bold actions backed by robust measures in Brent’s new Air Quality Action Plan (3,4).
However the plan, which was signed off by Council leaders late last year, contains no specific measures to protect public health or even to comply fully with legal standards (5). The action plan correctly identifies road transport as the major source of harmful emissions, but does not contain adequate solutions, and fails to effectively tackle the worst pollution hotspots and routes.
It is a plan that shies away from real action and accountability on this life-threatening issue. Fiona Mulaisho, Chair of CAfB said:
“In agreeing this toothless plan, Brent Council has missed another opportunity to step up its game, and promise much needed bold actions to its residents.  We appreciate they are under severe financial constraints, but residents' health must be pushed far higher up their priority list.
The Air Quality Action Plan, which covers the period from 2017-2022, contains four proposed Air Quality Focus Areas; but Brent’s own monitoring data show that these are not the worst affected areas.  If, as stated, the Council's '...ultimate aim is to secure clean air for all especially for those at greatest risk or in the worst affected areas in the borough'; this plan will sadly not deliver it.  CAfB urges the Council go beyond its current confines to:
·      Create a borough-wide Clean Air Zone allowing for targeted action to improve air quality, reducing public exposure to all forms of pollution, delivering health benefits and economic growth.
·      Undertake much more ambitious commitments to increase the proportion of journeys by walking and cycling in the borough (6).
·      As a matter of priority introduce a Low Emission Neighbourhood which focuses action on a genuine priority area with a combination of controls, incentives, dis-incentives and awareness raising, to provide a measurable improvement (compared with a similar non-intervention area) over 5 years.

2.     Clean Air for Brent (CAfB) is a coalition of residents' associations, community groups and individuals focused on raising awareness about air quality, changing behaviours to improve air quality, and improving public health outcomes in the Brent Borough through the provision of better air quality. It is also committed to contributing to local and national clean air policy debates.
4.     Air pollution contributes to poor health and is responsible for the premature death of 9,500 Londoners a year, with 112 early deaths in Brent in 2010. It is linked with cancer, strokes, heart disease and respiratory problems. The main pollutants are nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter, particularly from diesel vehicles.  Of all outer London local authorities, Brent has the highest number of people - 69,283 - living in the Capital’s worst polluted areas. 
5.     The EU legal mean for NO2 is 40µg/metre3; the World Health Organisation sets it at 20µg/metre3. Similarly, EU legal requirements on particulate matter are 25m/m3, double the World Health Organisation guideline amounts of 12.5m/m3.
6.     The current relevant Brent Cycling Strategy target is to increase the mode share to 3% in 2021 from 1% in 2013.  The equivalent Brent Walking Strategy target is to increase pedestrian mode share to 30% in 2022 from 27% in 2016.
7.     For further information contact:
8.     CAfB website: Twitter: @CleanAir4Brent  Facebook: Clean Air for Brent