Thursday, 20 October 2016

Tenants demand 'If BHP goes its replacement must be better and include tenants representation'

Brent Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee met last night to discuss options for a new housing management system system in the borough which will go to Cabinet on Monday. LINK

The meeting was extremely well attended by Brent Housing Partnership tenants and lease holders. At least two of the options would mean the end of BHP which is an ALMO (arms length management organisation) and semi-independent from Brent Council.

Tenants were forthright in stating that any return to an in-house housing management service would have to be much better than that which existed in Brent before BHP was formed.

Strong contributions to the discussion were made by Cllrs Conneely and Nerva but there may have been others as I arrived late from the Planning Committee which met at the same time.

In the current Brent Cabinet structure an in-house service would be monitored and overseen by an operational director and the lead member for housing.

This was felt to be be unsatisfactory given that lack of accountabulity and monitoring  contributed to BHP's current difficulties.

The first strong recommendation  from Scrutiny therefore was that if housing management is brought in-house there has to be a formalised, housing specific, oversight/scrutiny/sub-committee made up of councillots and residents represenattives of all types of tenure (eg tenants, leaseholders) preferably elected and with clear links with other levels of residents association.

A further recommendation was that if the in-house option was chosen that there should be complete transparency regarding the HRA (Housing Revenue Account) and it should be ring-fenced. 

Thirdly a much better and effective communications strategy needs to be put in place.

Lastly. if Cabinet opts for a joint venture any contract must come back to Scrutiny before being agreed.

Speak Up. Be Safe. Harrow Mencap Forum Nov 9th

From Harrow Mencap

Do you have a learning disability, or are you a friend / carer of someone with a learning disability? Would you like to come to an event where you can meet people, learn new things and express your opinions? Then come to the Harrow Forum for People with Learning Disabilities!

Our theme for this Forum is "Speak Up, Stay Safe!" - a day of sharing tips and tools for how to stay safe in Harrow. Please join us for a packed day of discussions, activities, guest speakers, performances and plenty of chances to speak up about your own experiences!

The next Forum, supported by Harrow Mencap, is on Wednesday 9th November, 10.30am – 2pm, North Harrow Methodist Church.

We welcome friends, carers, professionals- anyone who is interested to learn more about people's experiences in Harrow.

Check out our film of one of our previous events to get a flavour of what the day will be like LINK
As one guest said about a previous Forum: "The energy in the room, people talking about different issues- it was buzzing!"

Looking forward to seeing lots of you there!

From Grunwick to Deliveroo - migrant workers, trade unions & the new economy

A one-day conference on migrant workers, trade unions and the new economy.

Forty years ago Asian women at Grunwick led a strike for basic human dignity at work and for the right to join to a trade union. Today these battles are still being fought, often by migrant workers in precarious employment conditions. The experiences of workers at Byron revealed the extent to which migrant workers can be exploited by 'the new economy' and tossed aside when no longer needed, while those at Deliveroo showed that resistance is both necessary and possible.

This one-day conference will bring together campaigners, trade unionists, activists and thinkers to examine the changing nature of work and the terrains for resistance.


Willesden Library Centre
95 High Road
NW10 2SF

Willesden Green tube (Jubilee line)

Although a free event, please ensure you book your place HERE as spaces are limited.

Sessions will include: 

  • The legacy of Grunwick
  • Do we need independent trade unions?
  • Building community support
  • What does Brexit mean for workers
  • Resisting immigration raids
  • Building community support

Confirmed participants are:

  • Rita Chadha (Refugee and Migrant Forum Essex and London
  • Dr Sundari Anitha
  • Suresh Grover (The Moniroring Group)
  • Anti Raids Network
  • Amrit Wilson (writer, activist)
  • Durham teaching assistants
  • Jack Dromey MP
  • Unite Hotel Workers Branch
  • United Workers of the World Union (Deliveroo and other campaigns)
  • More to be announced

Quintain reveal plans for Stadium Green Car Park

Quintain presented an overview of their proposals for the Wembley Stadium Green Car Park at Brent Planning Committee last night ahead of any formal planning application.

Sarah Marquis, the Chair of the Planning Committee said she had an interest in this item and removed herself from the room while it was being discussed.

Quintain said they were working with officers on detailed design and negotiations on Section 106 were in process and close to being signed.

The plans were displayed on slides with no paper copies available to the public. No public representations were allowed.

Seven buildings were planned with a 'signature' building of 26 storeys to the north of the plot  and six lower blocks.

There will be 743 dwellings ranging from studios to 3 bedrooms. Residents of the tallest block would have access to a roof top terrace as well as long views of a proposed 7 acre park and the stadium.

Quintain claimed that 50% of the dwellings would be affordable but Mike Kiely Interim Head of Planning  said they were not affordable in the strictly statutory sense. The proposal was for 'discounted rent' at 80% of market rent and that for only 7 years although Quintain said that was in 'theory' and it would not be a case of 'time's up - it's time to go'.   These would be in addition to the 27% affordable dwellings Quintain were providing.

There was little detail of the park except that it would include  tree planting and seating with hard landscaping.  Family units would be sited around the park.

There was concern from councillors about the affordability issue as well as plans for a covered coach park that would accommodate 91 vehicles. The latter was mainly about the impact of coach passengers on the area as they left their coaches or waited at the end of events to join them. Coaches would arrive from the south and leave from the north of the site.  There would be residential gardens on the roof of the coach park with natural ventiliation to cut down on fumes. The coach park might be available for 'meanwhile' uses on non-event days.

Councillors were assured that there would be no 'poor doors' and no difference in quality between the 'affordable' and 'market' properties.

At the ground floor level there would be a mix of  business and community uses although the proportions of both had not yet been decided.

Quintain waxed lyrical about how wonderful their consultations on the Wembley Master Plan had been but were unable to give examples (except for the coach park) to changes they had made as a result of consultees comments.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Future arrangements for Brent Housing Management to be scrutinised tonight

The Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee will tonight discuss a report on the options for the future of Brent Housing Management.

They are due to go before the Cabinet for consideration on November 15th 2016.

These are the options:

1.The Reformed ALMO (Arms Length Management Organisation) is the most straightforward option to implement. No consultation is required after Cabinet in November, and a new management team would be in place by April 2017. Therefore, by April 2017 the implementation of wider transformation should commence and be well advanced over the first half of 2017-18.
2. In-House is the middle ranked option in terms of complexity. There will need to be a consultation (test of opinion) running from December to February before coming back to full Council in March. If in light of the consultation, the Council then decides to proceed with this option, there will need to be a process to transfer the service to the council and the permanent recruitment of a new leadership team by October 2017.
 3. Joint Venture is the most complex option to setup. The first step would be to undertake consultation over 12 weeks on this preferred option and then report to full Council in March 2017. If Cabinet then decided to proceed with this option the process to select a partner and implementing the new JV would follow:
Consultation and Cabinet decision – March 2017
o Partner Identification, selection and approval – 6 months o Negotiating Agreement with partner – 3 months
o Implementation – 3 months
o New organisation established – April 2018.

More than half of Londoners feel health impacted by poor air quality

From London Councils

Nearly half of Londoners feel their health has been impacted by poor air quality, according to research commissioned by London Councils. The public polling sought to gauge the public’s understanding of air quality issues, and the impact it has on their lives. This briefing provides an overview of the findings.


Boroughs have been active in encouraging improvements in air quality, through a number of different projects and approaches across London. We now welcome the fact that Sadiq Khan has made air quality one of his key priorities as Mayor of London and is carrying out a series of surveys and consultations around the issue. This began with a month-long survey in July and its purpose was to shape the focus of the next two, more detailed consultations, and to sound out potential policy solutions. 

London Councils submitted a detailed response to this phase of the consultation and will do the same for the next two phases. These will take the form of more detailed consultations into the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and its boundaries (expected in autumn 2017), as well as introducing the emissions surcharge (t-charge). You can find more information about this, HERE:. The consultation on the emissions surcharge has started today, 10 October 2016. London Councils will be working with the boroughs to submit co-ordinated responses to these consultations. 


Air quality is a rising issue on the political agenda. Recent research from the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that not only are 92% of the world’s population living in areas where air pollution exceeds WHO limits, but that some 16,000 British citizens are killed each year due to poor air quality. 

According to research by King’s College London, the figure of deaths brought on by long term exposure to air pollution in London is nearly 9,500 per year1. But the effects of air pollution vary greatly in severity, ranging from high impacts that are seriously debilitating, such as chronic or obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiac events, to those that are less serious individually but which affect a larger number of people, e.g. when people’s activities are restricted, or symptoms flare up (such as coughing and wheezing). The costs of these impacts, for welfare, healthcare and productivity, are considered to be large2.

Current government policy
The UK government’s policies covering air quality are currently in line with EU legislation. Following Brexit, it is unclear whether the government intends to drop the current air quality targets; although the Great Repeal Bill suggests that all laws will be transposed into UK law in the first instance. But there will obviously be the opportunity to scrutinise, amend, improve or drop any aspect of EU law once the bill is passed. The EU Air Quality Ambience Directive currently states that UK limits of PM10 cannot exceed annual mean levels of 40μm (and not exceed a 24 hour mean of 50μm more than 35 times in a year); that background urban levels of PM2.5 must be cut by 15%, and that Nitrogen Dioxide levels must be kept at an annual mean of 40μm (with levels of 200μm not being exceeded more than 18 times a year).

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) select committee have questioned the government’s approach to meeting current air quality targets, and in September the government responded to the Efra Committee’s report on air quality. Responding to the report, the government clarified its position in a number of areas.

The government rejected the need to provide additional specific advice or support (including financial support) for local authorities to address air pollution, stating "Local authorities can take action as and when necessary to improve air quality and we encourage them to do so.” They also dismissed plans for a national diesel scrappage scheme saying “We have considered the use of scrappage schemes [...] and have concluded that this may not be an appropriate and proportionate response”. On the criticism of a lack of cohesion on policy across governmental departments, the government pointed to the new Joint Air Quality Unit between Defra & DfT that has 'recently' been set up. And crucially, the government rejected calls to publish a comprehensive air quality strategy with annual reports, saying they viewed their 'air quality plan for nitrogen dioxide' as being adequate.


London Councils Air quality polling
London Councils carried out the first specific air quality polling to find out how much Londoners know about pollution and the impact it has on their lives. 1,000 Londoners took part in its online research. Below are some of the key findings.

Three quarters of respondents (76%) said they agreed tackling air quality should be a priority issue, with 38% strongly agreeing. This rises to 84% among those who are newer to London, 85% of those who cycle, 79% of those who use public transport and 83% those whose health is affected by air quality. In general, there were high levels of awareness overall amongst the public, reflecting the growing profile of air quality as an issue in London, and around the world. 

Causes of pollution
Private vehicles, vans and Lorries were seen as some of the main causes of pollution, followed by delivery vehicles and taxis/private hire vehicles. Nearly a quarter of people think air pollution blown in from the continent is another one of the main causes of air pollution. Longer term residents (5+ years) consider road transport to be one of the main causes, more so than newer residents.

Awareness of GLA air quality service
Less than a quarter of respondents had heard of the GLA’s air quality advice service. Of the people who didn’t use the service a third would consider using it, and over half said they would find it useful.

Nearly half of respondents said poor air quality had had a direct impact on their health, with asthma, breathing difficulties and coughing reported most frequently. People aged 25-34, those who live in inner London, and those who cycle or use public transport and those with children felt most affected. 

39% of people said air quality impacted on decisions they made regarding their health.
Nearly a quarter of people (22%) say air quality affects their choice of school for their children. When asked if their children’s health had been affected by air pollution, 12% of respondents said yes.

Over a third of people say air quality affects where they choose to live in London. People aged 16-44, as well those with children, and those from a BAME background were more likely to say this.

Over a quarter of people said they changed their behaviour on days when air pollution is high. People aged 55+ were more likely to stay indoors.

Nearly half of people questioned said they would change their transport habits in order to improve air quality. Actions people were willing to take included walking/cycling more, followed by using public transport more, and reducing the number of car journeys they make.

Car Ownership by engine type
Less than 0.5% of respondents who owned a private vehicle owned a fully electric model. This is in contrast to 69% owning petrol, 25% owning diesel, and 5% owning a hybrid model.

Transport modes
71% of people in the survey said they didn’t cycle in London. Of the people who did, 12% cycle as part of their commute. These cycle commuters are more likely to be male, younger and living in inner London. Over half of people who cycle say that high air pollution negatively influences their decision to ride, especially those whose health is affected. 
Over half of respondents use public transport as their main commute – this is across all ages apart from those of retirement age. Those from a BAME background are more likely to use it for commuting, as are those who live in inner London. 

Alongside the earlier stated aims of this research, London Councils hopes that it will flag concerns of Londoners and ensure air quality gains more attention and traction from key decision makers. 

London Councils and boroughs have a key role in tackling the issue and putting it front and centre of the capital agenda for improvement. London Councils supports a number of measures to tackle air pollution. We support the early implementation of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) (in 2019) to ensure that the benefits of this policy are manifested as soon as possible for London residents. We also support, in principle, plans for an expanded ULEZ beyond the current Congestion Charge Zone, although this would need to be done in coordination with the boroughs to identify the best possible boundary route. We seek assurances from TfL that any surplus income from the ULEZ and emissions surcharge will be ring fenced and used for measures that improve air quality standards in London, for example investment in electric buses, electric taxis, electric charging points or more sustainable modes of transport, especially walking and cycling.

Related to this, we believe the government needs to review financial incentives, such as Vehicle Excise Duty, so as to encourage the take up of the lowest polluting vehicles to reflect concern for both CO2 and NO2 emissions. Linked to this are plans for a diesel scrappage scheme in London, but also nationally, which London Councils support despite recent government rejections of this proposal.

Another key priority of the new Mayor is to encourage modal shift. We believe that plans to increase in modal shift to more active and sustainable modes of transport is key to London reducing air pollution, but also providing a raft of other benefits to its residents. As the polling shows, residents are willing to change their travel behaviour. Additionally, we support increased investment in cycling infrastructure as this will help people feel comfortable to cycle in London, whilst making it more convenient, where this might not have been the case before. We encourage TfL to work with individual boroughs and sub-regional groups to ensure that the best possible solutions can be applied in different contexts across London. 

Nationally we call for the national government to ensure that EU air quality regulations and targets remain in place, or are strengthened, post-Brexit. With this in mind, we support calls for the government to draw up a new overarching Air Quality Strategy for tackling all air pollutants, produced by all sectors from transport and industry to energy and farming, with annual reports on progress.

1  Understanding the health impacts of air pollution in London (2015) 
2 Royal College of Physicians (2016) Every breath we take: The lifelong impact of air pollution
Owain Mortimer, Principal Policy Officer - Transport, Infrastructure & Environment

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The Grunwick Lions roar again in Willesden

The 40th Anniversary Grunwick Exhibition opened to private view at Willesden Green Library  this evening and will be open to the public from tomorrow (Wednesday).

The Exhibition commemorates the Grunwick Strike which from small beginnings in 1976 grew to national proportions affecting the relationship between trade unions and the Labour government of the time and changing the nature of British trade unions and their attitude to women and migrant workers.

Among the guests this evening were several of the original strikers and some of those who organised in their support as well as younger activists who were inspired to organise and mount this Exhibition.

The Exhibition, on the 2nd floor of the Willesden Green Library is free and open from Monday to Friday  9am-8pm and Saturday to Sunday: 10am-5pm (Willesden Green tube - Jubilee line)
95 High Road, Willesden NW10 2SF.

Brent Labour Group's Away Day Blues

Word reaches me that Brent Labour Group's recent Away Day with senior officers in a Cricklewood Hotel gave some councillors the blues  - and it was nothing to do with the Tories!

Apparently Carolyn Downs, Brent Chief Executive, gave them a pep talk, explaining that it was difficult for her and the officers to work constructively with a Group suffering from such a marked lack of cohesion and goodwill,

An external facilitor worked with the Group on exercises to improve bonding. There may even have been a little mindfulness.

Reports indicate that it didn't work very well as later some critics of Cllr Butt's leadership were allegedly accused by at least one councillor of racial bias against him.

Meanwhile questions are being asked about the £18,000 plus allowance being saved by the non-appointment of a replacement for Cllr Pavey.  Is it going back into Council coffers? When the Cabinet was reduced from 10 to 8 the saved allowances were distributed amongst the remaining members of the Cabinet.  LINK