Campaigning for environmental and social justice in the London Borough of Brent and beyond. Against cuts and privatisation and for real democracy. Managed by Martin Francis of Brent Green Party but open to all who share these aims.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Make sure you get to vote in the Dollis Hill by-election

New applications to register to vote must reach the Electoral Registration Officer at Brent Town Hall by midnight on Wednesday 7 March 2012.

New applications to vote by post or applications to change existing postal vote details must reach the Electoral Registration Officer at Brent Town Hall by 5pm on Wednesday 7 March 2012.

New applications to vote by proxy must reach the Electoral Registration Officer by 5pm on Wednesday 14 March 2012. However if you are a postal voter and you wish to appoint a proxy you will need to cancel your postal vote by 5pm on Wednesday 7 March 2012.

New applications to vote by proxy on the grounds of medical emergency must reach the Electoral Registration Officer by 5pm on Thursday 22 March 2012.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Brent Council passes second cuts budget

Brent Council tonight approved the 2012-13 cuts budget that had previously been passed by the Executive. In addition they approved an amendment in the name of Ann John that doubled the amount of money in Ward Working to £40,000 per ward. Cllr John justified this on the basis that this was an area where councillors could really make a difference. The move is likely to be controversial beyond the council as it was not included in the budget plans discussed at Area Forums. Cllr Kasagra, leader of the Conservatives. dismissed Ward Working  as a method of councillor self promotion.

In her budget speech Cllr John said that the council was faced with an ongoing and increasingly difficult process in dealing with the funding cuts imposed by the Coalition government. She said that government policies were 'hurting but not working'. In a wide ranging survey of the economic situation she said that the crisis had been caused by greedy bankers but that 'the greed of the minority was being paid for by austerity for the majority'.

John detailed how benefit changes and the housing benefit cap would impact on Brent's poorest families and added that the Localisation of Council Benefits would force the council to decide whose benefits should be cut.  However, she went on to claim that having a Labour Council could make a real difference and expressed pride in the administration and in staff who had experienced pay freezes, increased pension contributions and job losses but who 'knew the Civic Centre made sense and had responded magnificently. In Brent we are really working together'.

Ann John said that the council's new priority, faced with Brent's young people going straight from school or university into long-term unemployment,  would be to tackle the lack of social mobility in the borough.. The council will set up am independently chaired Commission on Social Mobility, set up a new employment agency and refocus the work of BACES to concentrate on employment and employability.

 John listed council 'successes' including freezing the council tax, increased recycling, green charter, fair trade status and protecting parks and open spaces (no mention of privatisation). She said that in future schools would be expected to contribute to the whole community: 'especially news schools with state of the art facilities'.

Cllr John and Cllr Muhammed Butt both continued to claim that the funding was horrendous but at the same time that they were somehow able to protect the vulnerable, despite the cuts they were being forced to make. This contradictory approach was even more apparent when Butt boasted that the council had been able to protect incomes of residents  by freezing the council tax and later condemning the Coalition's grant that enabled the tax to be frozen as a bribe and something that would undermine revenue in the future.

Cllr John's presentation was listened to in respectful near silence by the Opposition but Labour jeered at Paul Lober (Lib Dem leader) and other Opposition councillors when they spoke. When the Conservative leader rose to speak Ann John pointedly got up from her seat and toured the Labour benches, stopping for a chat here and there.

The Lib Dem amendment sought to restore funding for libraries, end cuts in school crossing patrols, merge the Festivals Unit in the Grants Unit, reinstate Green Zones , reinstate the graffiti clean up team restore funding cuts mad ein the Summer University and Duke of Edinburgh Scheme,; and deal  with litter 'hotspots'. £500,000 from the Icelandic bank 'windfall' would be used for essential priorities and another £500,000 for a parking scheme to encourage local shopping. Cllr Lorber said the Lib Dems would invest in local people, local services and the things local people value.

Cllr  Suresh Kansagra, leader of the Conservative group made a confused and confusing speech which also sought to reinstate library closures and opposed the increase in ward working money. The amendment seemed to be predicated on spending some of the council reserves,

Several Executive members read out prepared speeches and the debate descended into knock-about stuff with Cllr Zaffar Van Kalwala, to Opposition cries of 'Brent's Best Banker', making yet another barn-storming speech to fuel his bid to beat Dawn Butler for Labour's Brent Central parliamentary candidate nomination.

Cllr Rev David Clues (Lib Dem) brought a chastening tone to the proceedings by saying that the council did best when councillors worked together for the benefit of local people and acknowledged work Ann John had done with him on trafficking and the sex industry. In the context of the libraries he warned the council not to worsen economic poverty by lurching into cultural poverty.

Voting was on strict party lines with no divergence so the Opposition amendments were lost and the budget, with the ward working amendment, passed.

It was noteworthy that with Labour concentrating on government cuts and benefit changes and the Opposition restricting themselves to libraries and parking that there was no one challenging the council cuts that will impact on vulnerable children,  children with special educational needs, people with disabilities and those with mental health needs. With Brent Fightback barred from making representations to the council and the three main parties accepting the limits on spending set by the Coalition, no alternative strategy for council budget setting was put forward. A whole swathe of the population is unrepresented and silenced.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Tories select Harrow resident to fight Dollis Hill by-election

Despite recent controversies over two Brent councillors who have moved out of the borough, Brent Conservatives have selected a Harrow resident to as their candidate for the Dollis Hill by-election. All the other candidates live in NW2.

Samer Ahmedali lives in Palmerston Road, which is in Harrow's Marlborough ward. Ahmedali last stood in Welsh Harp ward achieving 6% of the vote. He is Deputy Chairman of Brent Central Conservative's Policy Forum according to their website.

"Don't do the Coalition's dirty work! Demonstrate Monday 27th February at Brent Town Hall


Lucas attacks the 3 main parties on privatisation






Saturday, 25 February 2012

Pete Murry the REAL alternative in Dollis Hill

Pete Murry with the Green Party banner
Brent Green Party have selected Pete Murry as our candidate for the Dollis Hill by-election which takes place on March 22nd.

Pete, who lives in the ward, worked at the College of North West London for more than 20 years, and has deep routes in the borough. Pete although not as physically active as he would like to be, has involved himself in local issues including the early days of the Brent Cross Coalition and currently the Brent Campaign Against Climate Change and Brent Fightback's campaign against council cuts.

Pete's candidature is strengthened by his work in the Green Party Trade Union Group where he has been successful in getting the Green Party's policies on the economy and the creation of green jobs a hearing  in the trade union movement. These policies are particularly relevant at the moment when all three mainstream parties have accepted the austerity agenda which is deepening the recession and creating unemployment. Pete says, "Current Coalition policies are almost the exact opposite to what is needed which is a programme of investment and job creation focussed on building the infrastructure that the country needs to combat climate change."

Locally Pete is opposed to what he sees as the  wasteful plan to demolish the existing Willesden Green Library Centre.

With Labour doing the Coalition's dirty work locally by implementing their cuts in Brent, the Green Party is the real alternative for residents caught in the pincer movement of a Labour council and a ConDem government.

More than just Wembley

Several readers of this blog have recently reproached me regarding the title 'Wembley Matters' suggesting that it should really be called 'Brent Matters' or 'Wembley and Willesden Matters' or that I should set up a twin blog called 'Willesden Matters'. Unfortunately  that can then be extended to Kilburn, Harlesden, South Kilburn, Queens Park, Dollis Hill etc  Unfortunately the title Brent Matters is already in use in printed matter.. Exacerbating the issue is that many residents of Brent, in the East and the South, are critical of the 'Wembley-centric' nature of the council with major regeneration taking places around the stadium and the building of the new £127m Civic Centre being built in its shadow.

My blog was set up in the autumn of 2009 when the proposed ARK academy was the subject of a union and residents campaign over the loss of playing fields next to Wembley Park station and with the Wembley Masterplan a subject of great local controversy.  As a local resident and Green Party activist I set up this blog to air the issues and to support the campaigns.  However from the beginning the blog has covered issues that concern all in the borough with some crossing borough boundaries (the Brent Cross regeneration) as well as national issues such as the privatisation of education. 

I have reported on the neglect of the south of the borough, particularly as regards what I see as the unfair distribution of secondary schools in the south. Ironically the Willesden Green Cultural Centre, which the Council sees as an attempt to have a hub in the south, has been so poorly handled that local people rather than seeing it as an attempt to redress the balance, instead see it as an imposition.

Wembley Matters is probably too established a title to change it now. The title does not mean that I reflect the council's wembley-centrism and this blog is open to all in Brent and further afield who want to air the issues that concern them. Guest blogs are welcome.

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Brent Council stonewalls on all fronts

Evidence is mounting that Brent Council does not want to hear from its citizens, but sure that they know best, want to carry out decision making without the irritant of representations from the public.

At the last Brent Executive, leader of the Council Ann John, in an emotional outburst asked why people did not come and make representations about the cuts that would make the 'poor people of Brent a lot worse off'. Brent Fightback requested permission to address the Council meeting to be held on Monday February 27th on just that topic: the cuts in Brent's budget that will impact on Brent's most vulnerable groups.

The request was turned by Anne Reid, Principal Democratic Services Officer:
I have advised the Mayor, the Leader of the Council, the Chief Executive and the Borough Solicitor of your request and the view is that there have been opportunities prior to this evening at committee for you to address members. Full Council is for the Leader to clearly present the budget proposals. Accordingly, your request has not been accepted.
I requested permission to present to Council the petition calling for Willesden Bookshop to be allocated space in the proposed Willesden Cultural Centre. This was turned down by Peter Goss of Democratic Services on the grounds that only petitions with more than 5,000 signatures could be presented at Council.  I followed this up by asking then which Committee I could present it to:
Once your petition closes, you will be informed of what will happen to it. As you know the Executive has already taken decisions on this matter and so there are no current plans for the Executive to consider the matter further. It is now for the Planning Committee to consider the planning application and in the light of this I will determine how to progress your petition, taking account of the Council's petition scheme.
The petition closed on February 21st but I have heard nothing more from Democratic Services. It is interesting that the statement says that there are no current plans for the Executive to discuss the matter further. There is currently a consultation managed by Galliford Try the developers of the 90-95 unit  housing development with Cultural Centre attached, which includes 1:1 sessions with residents on February 28th and 29th and an exhibition of March 9th and 10th. If the Executive is not going to consider the matter further it is unclear what the point is of this this consultation.

The last issue concerns my Freedom of Information requesting documentation regarding the Council's deliberations regarding  privatisation of  Brent Parks Service.  Brent Council failed to meet statutory deadlines. The request was made on December 30th 2011 and the reply received only on February 21st.
The request has been turned down by Fiona Ledden, Director of Legal and Procurement Department:

In respect of the documentation that you have requested in respect of the (FOI request) this is highly sensitive and speculative information that at any point in time is the subject of initial high level consideration by Senior Officers only. It is highly possible that any such   proposals as may exist may not go for further consideration.

Ledden goes on to quote Section 36 (2) (b) (ii) of the Freedom of Information Act which she claims provides exemption 'where disclosures would or would be likely to, inhibit free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation'. She goes on to claim  Section 36 (2) (c) applies additionally or alternatively, where disclosure 'would be likely otherwise to 'prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs'.

She concludes:
There are strong public interests in accountability and transparency but there are also strong public interests in enabling officers and elected members to play their proper role in decision making and in developing ideas, which it is then appropriate to share on  wider basis.'
Ledden suggests that this is all a matter of timing and these are the grounds of increasing public  frustration in various aspects of council proposals:  the Council not publishing the criteria for bids for groups to take over libraries faced with closures, lack of financial information on the Civic Centre (commercially sensitive), 'secret' appendices on the Willesden Cultural Centre proposals and local  councillors who had seen the Cultural Centre plans being barred from discussing them with the public.

The 'timing' goes awry because the public feel that they are informed, often poorly, at a late stage and are confronted with a 'done deal'. This gives the impression of a lack of respect for residents' views and a lack of transparency and accountability. It is why groups such as those campaigning on libraries, social care and regeneration are aghast when they face the reality of council decision making.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Willesden Green Campaign gathers support

More than 30 people volunteered for Save Willesden Green's committee last night and quickly got down to the work of organising different aspects of the campaign. They aim to stop the development to give time for local people to have a say in the proposals, and time for the Council to reconsider their plans.

Only 12 people were involved in initial consultations and there are only 30 spaces available in Galliford Try's two consultations days on February 28th and 29th.

Anger is building at what residents see as a private 'done deal' between the Council and developers and committee volunteers included a broad range of local people including shop keepers, parents, teachers and residents.

Petitions to save the old Victorian Willesden Library from demolition and to relocate the Willesden Bookshop in the proposed Cultural Centre each look likely to gains more than 1,000 signatures. A leaflet has been produced outlining the issues and is being distributed widely, aided by more than £350 which was collected in a whip round last night.

The vast majority of people taking part have not been involved politically before but have been galvanised by what they see as their exclusion from major decisions about their neighbourhood.

Support Empty Classroom Day

Friday July 6th is 'Empty Classroom Day'.  This is a great idea to get children, teachers and parents learning outdoors. The aim is to get every classroom in London empty that day while children are out in parks, woodlands, open spaces, adventure playgrounds or city farms.

No desks, chair or whiteboards - liberate yourselves!

Sign up HERE

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Alison Hopkins to fight Dollis Hill by-election for Lib Dems

Alison Hopkins
Brent Liberal Democrats have selected Alison Hopkins as their candidate in the Dollis Hill by-election.

Alison Hopkins has been active in the Campaign for a Sustainable Brent Cross Development, was critical of the revised Brent waste strategy and its use of co-mingled collections, and  campaigned against the closure of Neasden library.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

No wriggle room for Boris as Jenny pins him down on buses

Barry Gardiner intervenes over Town Hall Library mess

Barry Gardiner, MP for Brent North, went and saw the state of Brent Town Hall Library himself after complaints from constituents and my February 9th post on the issue LINK

The Library was in a mess after stock and shelves were transferred from closed down libraries including Neasden.

He saw  boxes of books dumped on the floor in disarray and apparently unsorted, stands and shelves with sharp edges unsecured and protruding. He wrote to Sue McKenzie, Head of Brent Library Service to express his concern and remarked that if health and safety inspectors had visited at that time they would have noted several serious health and safety risks.

He requested that the issue be sorted out urgently and also asked what would happen to the books currently being moved from the six libraries, and when they would be available for use by the public. In addition he asked if other options had been considered including dispersal to Brent schools, nurseries or children's centres

I visited the Town Hall Library earlier today and it was a lot tidier, although there are still boxes of unsorted books tucked under the  bookshelves. A number of additional shelving units from Neasden are now in use at the Town Hall. A large space has been cleared for the  '60 years of Wembley' exhibition which begins at the Library on Saturday. It looks likely that things will be quite congested.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Jesus and Mary in trouble with teachers

The Convent of Jesus and Mary College in Harlesden is facing strike action by education unions. The NUT is balloting for a strike and other unions are considering it because they claim the College has not consulted properly over conversion to academy status.

This follows similar issues with Kingsbury High School and Claremont High Schools last year and warning shots over Alperton High School's possible conversion which led to the governing body taking a step back.

The unions are thought to be willing to call off action if the consultation period is extended to allow an independently run secret ballot of staff, all parents to be invited to hear the case against conversion in addition to the arguments for, for the unions to be able to address the governing body about staff concerns, and for them to be allowed to meet with the Headteacher and Chair of Governors in order to negotiate agreed procedures.

The Convent has claimed that it would gain £300,000 from conversion but the unions argue this does not take into account other services, insurance and pensions that the College would have to pay if it converted. 

Convent of Jesus and Mary Consultation Page LINK

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Willesden Green residents rise in defence of bookshop and Victorian library



Many thanks to BNCTV


BNCTV made this recording of the inaugural meeting of the 'Keep Willesden Green' campaign that was held earlier this week. The letter I read out near the beginning is from Labour councillor Claudia Hector. Liberal Democratic councillor Barry Cheese defends the plans that will demolish the Victorian Building and leave the Willesden Bookshop without premises.

Jeremy Hunt rejects Brent libraries judicial review

Legal advisers at the Department of Culture Media and Sport have comprehensively rejected the request for a Judicial Review of the Brent library closures and the complaint that the department's response has been tardy.

In their letter the Treasury Solicitor Legal Advises say:
(The secretary of State) is minded to conclude in all the circumstances that there is no good reason for an inquiry; and that the implementation of these plans will not place Brent in breach of its section 7 duty. The following matters seem to him at present particularly to support that conclusion:
i) The planned proposals are based on a comprehensive library service review. The manner in which the decision was taken was assiduous in its consideration of all the various interests at play. It was, as the Courts have now confirmed, lawfully taken
ii ) Brent have taken the approach of modernising their library service by concentrating resources on what it judges to be the best located and most used libraries. The libraries that will remain open will afford wide accessibility.
iii) Increased opening hours will operate at some of the facilities that Brent intends to retain.
iv)Improvements will be made to the outreach and home delivery services.
v) Library book stock (including e books and audio downloads) is set to expand.
 Margaret Bailey, who had lodged the claim for a judicial review, is given 14 days to make representations on this 'minded to' decision. The letter was dated February 14th Clearly this is a setback to Margaret and other library campaigners who have pursued the issue with such commitment, imagination and vigour. I can only express my admiration for their determination and wish them well as they consider what to do next.
The DCMS motto is 'improving the quality of life for all'...

Full copy of letter HERE

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Labour council leaders support Green council on local government finance call

The Labour  leaders of Chesterfield and Darlington councils are supporting calls from the Leader of Brighton & Hove council for the government to come clean on their future proposals for local government finance.
 
Ministers recently made comments at public events and in the House of Commons, suggesting that a future review would undermine councils' management of local finances.
 
Green-led Brighton & Hove began its budget-setting process early, and was the first to declare its intentions at the beginning of December. However 26 councils of all political stripes have since followed after recognising the ‘financial cliff-edge' they face after one year if they accept the one-off grant.
 
Councillor Bill Randall commented:
"The Green administration published our draft budget early to allow for proper consultation with residents. But how can residents get involved in a meaningful conversation about how to protect services from government cuts if the government threatens to move the goalposts so late in the day?
 
"It flies in the face of localism to claim to give councils more power, but then apply penalties if they do something the government disagrees with.
 
"I've asked other council Leaders to join me in demanding that the government come clean on their threats." 
The following councils have decided  increase Council Tax in order to safeguard services:

Brighton & Hove City Council Grn 3.50%
Chesterfield BC Lab 3.50%
Darlington BC Lab 3.50%
Leicester City Council Lab 3.50%
Middlesbrough Council Lab 3.50%
Preston City Council Lab 3.50%
Redcar & Cleveland BC Lab 3.50%
Stockton-on-Tees BC Lab 3.50%
Barrow BC Lab 3.49%
North Dorset DC Con 3.49%
Stoke-on-Trent City Council Lab 3.49%
Gravesham Borough Council Lab 3.48%
Dover DC Con 3.45%
Taunton Deane BC Con 3.45%
Luton BC Lab 3.44%
Gedling BC Lab 3.40%
Nottingham City Council Lab 3.40%
Tunbridge Wells BC Con 3.30%
Scarborough BC Con/Lib/Ind 3.00%
Surrey CC Con 2.99%
Cambridgeshire CC Con 2.95%
East Cambridgeshire DC Con 2.95%
Peterborough City Council Con 2.95%
York City Council Lab 2.90%
South Hams DC Con 2.50%
West Devon BC Con 2.50%
Chelmsford BC Con 2.46%

 

Labour selects Dollis Hill by-election candidate

Labour has selected Parvez Ahmed to be its candidate in the Dollis Hill by-election which takes place on Thursday March 22nd.

Krupesh Hirani writes on his blog that Ahmed is a well-known community actvist in the ward but he did not have a high recognition factor among locals I have spoken to.

The by-election should give local voters an opportunity to express their views on the Labour Council's record including their implementation of Coalition cuts and the controversial private partnership which will lead to the loss of the Old Willesden Library building and the Willesden Bookshop.

Ann John wept for bookshop

Leader of Brent Council, Ann John, told the Executive on Monday that she had wept when the Borders Bookshop at Brent Cross closed. She and her Labour colleagues then went on to approve the redevelopment of Willesden Green Library which will displace the Willesden Bookshop and lead to its possible closure.

There are just three days left to sign the epetition calling for Brent Council to allocate this well-loved and respected LOCAL bookshop in the proposed Willesden Cultural Centre.

If you have not signed the petition please do so now HERE and if you have signed please e-mail the link to friends and neighbours and urge them to sign.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Supermarkets profit from poverty wages




The Green Party has many environmental concerns about supermarkets including their impact on local high streets and the high carbon footprint of their imports. In terms of social justice their low wages, zero hours contracts and extensive use of free labour via workfare are a major issue.

This BBC report brings home how this exploitation boots supermarket profits. Back in 2010 the Green Party's evidence to 21st Century Welfare commented:
Large employers (e.g. supermarkets) benefit from a wage subsidy via tax credits which they do not need. The effect of this subsidy should be reserved for small firms, by requiring large companies to contribute to a special social investment fund with contributions inversely dependent on the margin of their wage rates above the minimum wage, so that those paying least (and thus depending more on the existence of tax credits/benefits to make recruitment viable) would pay more. This fund would be used for social housing investment and to create jobs in voluntary organisations. Large companies would be encouraged to do these things anyway and to benefit from any associated publicity from their sponsorship.

Community rallies to Willesden Green cause

The proposed Cultural Centre building from Brondesbury Park
 The Keep Willesden Green Campaign held a well attended inaugural meeting yesterday evening which I chaired.  After a lively meeting many residents came forward to sign up for the campaign's committee and to join working groups on various aspects of the development.

It was great to see the community coming together in such a positive way.

 In a clear challenge to the Council's plans an application has been made to English Heritage to make the old Willesden Library a listed building.

A full report and more images of the proposed development are available on the Keep Willesden Green blog HERE

Keep Willesden Green can be contacted at keepwillesdengreen@hotmail.co.uk

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Answer well overdue on Parks Privatisation FOI request

Readers will recall that in December last year I raised concerns about the possible privatisation of the Brent Parks Service.  I made a Freedom of Information request to Brent Council asking for information on the issue on December 30th.

Brent Council should have responded by January 31st in order to meet the statutory requirements attached to the FOI Act but have still not done so. The latest communication from the Council dated February 13th  states LINK
 We are sorry for the delay in answering your request.

Your request has been referred to the Council's Director of Legal Services who is the Council's qualified officer for the purpose of section 36 of the Freedom of Information Act.   Consideration is being given by her as to whether responding to any part of the request is likely to be exempt under those provisions. 

A copy of your complaint has been forwarded to her and she has been asked to deal with your complaint about delay at the same time as she responds to your original request.
I will keep you posted on any further response.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Barry Gardiner: The case against Brent's library closures

This is the evidence submitted by Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North to the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee Inquiry into library closures.

As you will be aware my constituency Brent North has suffered significant library closures with the closure of two libraries (Preston Library and Barham Park Library) in my constituency alone and an overall 50% reduction of the total library provision across the Borough of Brent. 

I have made it clear to the local Council that I do not support their decision to close the libraries in the borough and remain very concerned about the impact that these closures will have on my constituents. I have stressed to the Council that whilst everyone will understand that libraries should not take priority at the expense of elders’ care or child protection they should be prioritised over many other areas of the Council’s work. It is my concern that this reasoning has not been applied in the case of Brent Council. 

I have made representations to the Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries Ed Vaizey MP asking for his intervention in this matter. I asked that the Minister consider specifically whether Brent Council’s decision to reduce the boroughs’ library provision by such an extent constitutes a failure in their duty "...to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons desiring to make use thereof.." under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museum Act. 

I am therefore pleased to see that the issue of library closures and the appropriateness of the current legislation about the provision of library services are to be given attention by the Committee. 

What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st Century? 

I consider this to be an integral point of review by the Committee and one that has direct implications for the Committee’s other point of consideration – the Secretary of State's powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964.

I believe that the vagueness surrounding the definition of what is considered a comprehensive and efficient library service has weakened the Secretary of State’s powers to intervene and overturn a local authority’s decision to close libraries. 

It would be helpful for the Committee to suggest criteria against which comprehensiveness and efficiency could be judged for both rural and urban areas. By setting various standards and defined criteria this will better inform the Secretary of State’s decision when making a judgement on whether the service is inadequate. In this respect I wish to focus my remarks only on proximity and demography. 

Proximity and Usage 

In Brent the Council has set out its intention to improve the service that is offered at the six remaining libraries. Their hope is that by improving the service in a reduced number of outlets, more people will be encouraged to use the service overall. In this regard I think Brent is an interesting case study in the review of what should be considered comprehensive and efficient. In particular does the service in the remaining six have to be improved before the other six cease operating? 

What has been overwhelming in my constituents’ response is the value they put on the locality of library provision and how if you remove the local element this disadvantages certain communities, irrelevant of whether the service at a library located further away is being improved. I would argue that this should be a central component of what constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service. In rural communities this may be replicated by regular visits of mobile libraries to small local communities. 

The libraries closing in Brent serve a highly dense and often multiply disadvantaged population for whom ease of walking access is economically vital. This factor is particularly poignant for the most vulnerable library user groups such as the children and the elderly. It is these groups that are unable to make the journey to a library that is further away either as a result of the added costs or because they are physically unable to make such a journey. By removing local libraries there is an unfair impact on these vulnerable users. As such it is important that when redefining a comprehensive and efficient library provision that the ease of access for vulnerable communities should be a key criterion. 

There is a sad trend in councils up and down the country to run down service provision in what are seen as non-revenue raising areas such as libraries and allotment gardens. The argument is then adduced that the service is under-used or costs too much per capita and the case is made by Council officials to sell off the buildings or the land. This is what appears to have happened in Brent. 

The six libraries put forward for closure are said to be "poorly located and have low usage". It is clear to me that people living in Preston, Sudbury, Northwick Park and Kenton do not regard Preston or Barham Park Library to be nearly as poorly located for them as the closest alternative. Where there really is under-usage the solution should be to invest in improving the service on offer so that the locality aspect is maintained as much as possible.

A comprehensive library service must also reflect the needs of modern communications with a minimum number of computer terminals with full fast internet access where students of all ages can conduct research. The number of terminals should reflect demographic factors that will influence community demand such as age profile and household wealth. 

Poorer areas with a high school age population should be required to have a far greater number of terminals than wealthier areas with a low number of school children. 

Areas of high immigration should reflect the indigenous languages of significant local communities in their stock of books.

Make you voice heard on Willesden Green regeneration this Thursday

'Keep Willesden Green, a group of concerned residents, will be holding a public meeting about the proposed regeneration of Willesden Green Library Centre on Thursday 16th February, 7pm, Kings Hall, Harlesden Road, NW10 2BS (corner of Kings Road).

The meeting will bring people together to share concerns and will hear from Andy Donald, Director of Major Projects and Regeneration as well as campaigners on the bookshop and preservation of the Old Willesden Library. It is hoped that this will be the start of a dialogue in which residents can have a voice and help shape the future of the area.

MAP 

Photo update on Brent Civic Centre

Brent's new Civic Centre and Library
You can gauge some idea of the size  of the building from this shot
The view from the Civic Centre - imagine this space on event days
A shot to show the proximity of the two buildings

A guide to 'Brent Speak'

Proceedings at the Brent Executive on Monday got me thinking about 'Brent Speak' the rather special language that Brent Council has developed which often mystifies ordinary mortals. This is the beginning of a translation of some of the words and phrases so they can be more readily understood - translation in italics. I would welcome any more contributions from readers:

Area Consultation Forum "We'll bore you rigid with pointless Powerpoint Presentations"
Back bench councillors (Labour) "Which way did Ann say we have to vote?"
Brent Magazine Council propaganda with nice colour photographs

Buy-back services to schools Cut to school budgets through new or increased charges
Chief Executive Leader of the Council
Civic Centre grandiose vanity project 
Consultation "Say what you like, we've already decided"
Cost neutral Profits to developers
Efficiencies Redundancies

Listed building Development opportunity
Officer recommendations Automatic council decision
Personalised budget "You're on your own mate"

Savings Cuts
Standardisation of Outer London Weighting Wage cut for long established workers

Targeted offer Restriction of service to fewer people, especially children

"Three Creative Cluster Spaces which will be fitted out to facilitate an array of artist and cultural programming" (proposed Willesden Cultural Centre) Three meeting rooms (Thanks to Cllr Powney for his translation)
Transformation Project Closure programme
Transport Eligibility Criteria (revision of) Cutting transport for those with disabilities - usually accompanied by 'to encourage independent travel'
 

 

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Fears over NHS services if hospital trusts merge

I have received this public statement on behalf of Brent, Ealing and Harrow Trades Union Councils

Your readers may be aware that a consultation is currently underway over the proposed merger of the NW London and Ealing Hospital trusts. The proposal is that this merger should be agreed by July of this year.
We are seriously concerned that this merger of the trusts, supposedly on financial grounds, will lead to a reduction in NHS services in Brent, Ealing and Harrow. Despite stressing that the consultation is about the merger of the trusts and not about the re-organisation of services, the consultation meetings have been told that this could lead to a “rationalisation” of services, particularly in the light of the government’s insistence that the NHS is required to make £20 billion of cuts.

We believe this merger would lead to a reduction of local services and people having to make often long and difficult journeys across West and North-West London. Already the consultation process seems more a P.R. exercise for a decision that has already been made.The bigger merged trust will be even less accountable and responsive to the needs of local people than the services are now.

We have already seen the closure of the Accident and Emergency Department at Central Middlesex Hospital at night, with growing expectation that this “temporary” closure will become permanent. There are fears that one of the 3 district general hospitals involved (Ealing, Central Middlesex and Northwick Park) will close. Such moves transfer services from where they are needed to where it is financially most convenient.

As secretaries of the Trades Union Councils in the 3 boroughs involved, we intend to closely monitor what is happening, and to campaign vigorously to defend our health service in all its aspects.

To this end we will shortly be convening co-ordinated meetings in all 3 boroughs to which we will invite health campaigners, NHS trades unionists and everyone who relies on the NHS to establish such a campaign.
Any readers wishing to be involved or to know more, can contact:

Brent: Ben Rickman ben.rickman@gmail.com
Ealing: Eve Turner eveturner@btopenworld.com
Harrow: John Rattray johnprattray@btinternet.com

Monday, 13 February 2012

Public frustration at lack of answers at Brent Executive

Cllr Ann John lost her cool at tonight's Executive Meeting after residents who had made representations on Treetops Nursery and the proposed Willesden Library Centre had left the committee rooms at Brent Town Hall.

Cllr Ruth Moher had been reading, inaudibly, a report on Adult Social Care and procurement of a framework for short break for carers. Chairing the meeting Cllr John had told her that she did not need to read out  the recommendations as councillors could read them for themselves then broke off to say:  "But that's not to say that this isn't important. This, safeguarding and the budget  are important things but I don't see people coming to talk about them. We weren't political at all tonight. Maybe we should have been.  People come for the small things, trying to hang on to what they've got, but they don't care about these things which will affect more people.  The poor people of Brent will be a lot poorer because of this government.".

The meeting began with a representation about Treetops Nursery where the council will consider it being taken over by a private provider. This was followed by a series of presentations about the Willesden Green Cultural Centre project, the fate of the Willesden by library campaigners  to provide study space during the closure period at Preston library at little cost to the council.

Residents criticised the poor consultation over the Willesden Regeneration which only saw 12 people and the ward councillors involved in the first round.One speaker accused the council of being in hock to the developers and failing to represent the interests of local people as the client in the partnership. Suggesting it was a 'done deal' another said that there were a lot of angry people who wanted their voices hard and warned that at the next election these people could make a difference when voting turn-out was so low. A local GP described the information on the council website as 'platitudes and fluffy aspirations and called for detailed and substantive plans to be published. It appeared that the future of the community was being decided by developers and not the elected local council. Another resident criticised the haste involved and called for the signing of the developer agreement to be delayed so that local people could mull over the proposals and  have a calm consideration of the issues.

Cllr Paul Lorber speaking on the motion from Scrutiny echoed previous contributions, particularly those dealing with consultation and said that he had failed to get answers from officers on the cost of refurbishment of the present building.  He drew attention to the fact that the interim arrangements for the 18 month period of closure had a budget of £2.1m and opening the closed libraries for that period would be cheaper.

Ann John from the chair had commented on several of the speeches from residents and prompted Cllr Crane, lead member for Regeneration and Major Projects about questions he needed to address. Unfortunately Cllr Crane began to read sections of the Officers' Report rather than answer the questions raised by the public and heckling began as the audience became more frustrated. Ann John in turn got irate with the public and even cited me as a model of decorum!

Cllr Crane repeated previous statements bout the unfitmess of the current building, the impossibility of finding tenants for the cinema and the bar, the unaffordable cost of refurbishment. He said that the Willesden Bookshop was valued but 'at the end of the day it is a commercial entity' .  He said that the word 'consultation' was sometimes misused ("By you!" - public cry)and that the initial small group discussions a limited consultation' was only to get ideas to put to potential developers. He said that thorough consultation would start now and there would be a 3-4 month discussion with Galliford Try the developer partner. Andy Donald, the lead officer for the project, confirmed that the developer agreement had not yet been signed, and that there would be further consultation before the project went to planning committee in July. Neither mentioned the apparent fact that the exclusion of the bookshop from the Cultural Centre and demolition of the 1894 Victorian Willesden Library would not form part of these 'consultations'.

When Councillor Powney opined that the Bookshop would not want to be relocated twice, during rebuilding and then moving into the Cultural Centre, the public shouted "Have you asked them?" In fact supporters of the Bookshop said the owner said he would be happy with two moves if it meant getting located in the new Centre. Cllr Powney then said that it would be such a high quality development that retail space within it would be too expensive for the bookshop. Responding to my claim that there were no meeting rooms in the list of 'key components' the council wanted in the Cultural Centre, something essential for local democracy, he said that there were. It turned out that Andy Donald's developer language had run away with him and that the  'Three Creative Cluster Spaces which will be fitted out to facilitate an array of artist and cultural programming" were in  fact meeting rooms. I don't really think Cllr Powney can really blame me for not being able to translate that into plain English!

The Executive then voted to approve all the officers recommendations and Cllr John said that the council would now go ahead and sigh the developer agreement.

The budget and its 28 recommendations involving major cuts across services was approved following a three minute introduction by Muhammed Butt and councillors declining Ann John's invitation to ask questions. The budget including the damaging cuts itemised elsewhere on this blog will now go to Full Council on February 27th.. Other items including the closure of Harmony Nursery and increases in council rents were also approved.

Sign for disability benefits cuts 'stop and review'

As both Coalition and Brent Council cuts hit people with disabilities I urge you to sign this on-line petition:

Stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families (Responsible department: Department for Work and Pensions)

The government were embarking on wholesale reform of the benefit system when the economic crisis struck. These welfare reforms had not been piloted and the plan was to monitor and assess the impact of the new untried approach as it was introduced in a buoyant economy. Unfortunately since then the economy has gone in to crisis and the government has simultaneously embarked on a massive programme of cuts. This has created a perfect storm and left disabled people/those with ill health, and their carers reeling, confused and afraid. 

We ask the government to stop this massive programme of piecemeal change until they can review the impact of all these changes, taken together, on disabled people and their carers. We ask the government to stand by its duty of care to disabled people and their carers. At the moment the covenant seems to be broken and they do not feel safe. Illness or disability could affect any one of us at any time, while many more of us are potential carers. 

 Signing the petition is comparatively simple. Go to LINK

Brent Labour isolated on library closures as Ken backs campaign

The number of senior Labour Party figures opposed to Brent Labour Council's library closures was joined by Ken Livingstone when his Head of Research and Policy wrote to Brent library campaigners.

Ken regards libraries as a valuable resource for the whole community and is opposed to their wholesale closure.
Ken supports the campaign to keep libraries open in Brent and wishes the campaign every success.
If he is elected Mayor in May he will add his voice and use his office to help prevent library closures.
Michael Burke
Head of Research & Policy Development
Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North has already opposed the Brent closures and Ed Miliband, Labour leader, has opposed library closures in general.

Weighty evidence on library closures

The evidence supplied to the Parliamentary Selection Committee (Culture, Media and Sports) by Brent SOS Libraries is now available at www.publications.parliament.uk LINK

A PDF of evidence submitted by Brent campaigns and many other bodies is available HERE

Jeremy Hunt is expected to make a statement soon on whether he will order a public inquiry into the Brent closures.

Stimulating and provocative Green Party speaker at Willesden Green Library

Derek Wall
Economics lecturer, writer and Green party activist, Derek Wall will be at the Willesden Green Library Centre on Monday 20th February at 7.30pm to talk about his book, the “No-Nonsense Guide to Green Politics” and a book he is currently completing on the history of the commons.
 
This event is the fourth in a series of “Environmental Writers” meetings at the Willesden Green Library Centre, where authors read from their books with environmental themes and discuss them with the audience. The series is organised by the Brent Campaign against Climate Change in liaison with the Brent Library Service.
 
Derek Wall is an economics lecturer and writer. He has been a member of the Green Party since 1980 and was Green Party Principal Speaker from 2006 to 2007. Derek is a founder of the Ecosocialist International and Green Left. He has written a number of books on green politics including the No Nonsense Guide to Green Politics and has a blog at http://another-green-world.blogspot.com/. He works closely with Hugo Blanco - the Peruvian green activist who publishes Luca Indigena (Indigenous fight). Derek is currently researching a book on the environmental history of the commons and is a parish councillor in North Ascot.  He lives in Berkshire and has three sons.
 
Ken Montague, Secretary of the Brent Campaign against Climate Change says, “Derek is a stimulating and provocative speaker who is bound to stir up a debate about politics and the future of our planet. I am especially looking forward to hearing more about his new book, which I’m sure will make us look at British history in a new light.”
 
The discussion will take place at 7.30pm on Monday 20th February in the Willesden Green Library, 95 High Road, Willesden, NW10 2SF. This is a free event and all are welcome.
 
This meeting is in the tradition of stimulating public meetings at Willesden Green Library which will be demolished under regeneration plans. The rather sketchy proposals for the replacement Willesden Cultural Centre do not appear to include plans for public meeting rooms.

Protect social work from privatisation



I recently spoke at a meeting of SWAN (Social Work Action Network) about the link between privatisation in education and that of other council services.  In some areas social work is being out-sourced with a number of 'Social Work Practice Pilots'. Particularly worrying is proposals for Child Protection to be out-sourced.

Privatisation of care for the elderly has led to carers having less time to spend with their clients and rushing in and out with barely time to converse. In contrast with local authority carers they are not paid for travel time (hence the rush) and are paid lower rates so the contractor can make their profit, have fewer employment rights and are not unionised. Often training is less thorough and turnover high so the old people do not get the continuity of care and contact that they need.

Extend this to social work and particularly children's social work and you can see the dangers quite clearly. Brent Council has said that faced with the immense cuts that they have to make that EVERYTHING is under consideration. We need to keep careful watch as things are fairly stable in Brent at present with fewer agency and temporary social workers. Stability is vital and we have to defend it.

Council seeks views on equality as it proposes cuts that hit the vulnerable

When Brent Council is considering cuts that will affect  children with disabilities, special needs and mental health problems as well as adult social care, it is more than ironical that it is launching a public consultation on equality. The Council has also faced strong criticism over the Equality Impact Assessments it made regarding the closure of libraries last year.

The press release from the council says:

Brent Council is inviting local people to have their say on the development of its equality objectives for the next few years.

Open to all residents, service users and other stakeholders, the council wants to hear their views to help ensure the best possible services are provided for all communities.

Over the past six months the council has been looking at everything it does to make sure that it is complying with the Equalities Act 2010 and published its equalities information on the Brent Council website at the end of January.

The consultation will run until 12 March 2012 and can be accessed at www.brent.gov.uk/consultation

For more information contact the Corporate Diversity Team on 020 937 1069 or visit www.brent.gov.uk/equality

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Benefit cap row: Curtains for Teather?

The Independent carried a story on Thursday about Sarah Teather which I reproduce below for any constituents who may have missed it:
A Coalition dispute erupted yesterday over a Liberal Democrat minister missing a Commons votes on welfare cuts.
Sarah Teather, the Children's minister, has previously criticised the move to impose a £26,000 cap on the annual amount of benefits that families can claim. She was absent in Sheffield on "ministerial business" when MPs voted on the policy last week.
Conservative MPs have called for her to be sacked and David Cameron's spokeswoman said her absence had been cleared in advance. He told MPs: "She supports Government policy, as all Government ministers do."
Later a Downing Street source said: "If she speaks out again, it will be curtains for her."
A Liberal Democrat source countered: "That is just nonsense. She is a very highly valued member of the Government. This is being whipped up by the Tories."
Ms Teather, who is regarded as on the left of the Liberal Democrats, insisted she backed the Government's agenda, but did not explicitly say she supported the benefits cap.


Brent Council consults on carers' services

The following notice has been published on the Brent Council website:

Carers are invited to have their say on Brent Council and NHS Brent's proposals for the services provided to carers.

The consultation meetings will be an opportunity to discuss the:
  • background to existing services 
  • priorities for services for carers
  • proposals and choices
  • future for carers                                                                                                   
The sessions will take place on:
  • Monday 27 February 2012 from 4.30pm to 8.00pm at Brent Town Hall, Committee Rooms 1,2 and 3, Wembley, Middlesex, HA9 9HD
  • Thursday 8 March 2012 from 12noon to 3pm at Patidar House, 22 London Road, Wembley, Middlesex, HA9 7EX
LINK TO BRENT  COUNCIL CONSULTATION PAGE

    To reserve your place email dipti.naker@brent.gov.uk or call 020 937 2394 by 22 February. Please advise if you have any special requirements

    Friday, 10 February 2012

    Pilgrims Way ward 'walkabout' tomorrow

    Saltcroft Close this morning
    Barnhill councillors will meet up with residents of Pilgrims Way, Summers Close and Saltcroft Close tomorrow for a Ward Working 'walkabout'  to hear views on how the area can be made better. They will be joined by representatives of Brent Housing Partnership, Brent Parks Department and the Safer Neighbourhoods Team.

    The meeting place is the Robert Hartley Centre which is between Saltcroft Close and Kings Drive with a 2pm start. If the weather continues to be snowy and cold most of the discussion will take place in the Centre. Tea and coffee with be available.

    "We can't continue to deliver these services"-Brent police chief on closure of Willesden Green Police Station

    The Brent and Kilburn Times LINK is reporting that Brent's police chief is considering closing Willesden Green Police Station.  At a meeting at Brent Town Hall last night Chief Superintendent Matthew Gardner, in what appeared to be a political comment, said:
    There are currently three officers behind the front counter at Willesden police station which I am looking at closing.

    Do I have officers behind a desk and not doing anything?

    As soon as you start taking away libraries and closing up police counters people get angry but we can’t continue to deliver these services.
    We need them to listen and to understand. It is going to be difficult.

    Willesden Green campaigners get organised

    KEEP WILLESDEN GREEN

     Please join us to discuss the development of the
    WILLESDEN GREEN LIBRARY
    and the impact the proposals may have on Willesden Green
    FEBRUARY 16TH 2012 7pm
    KINGS HALL, 155 Harlesden Road, Willesden Green, NW10 2BS 
     
    Residents have organised a meeting to discuss the Willesden Green Library development proposals and the impact on the Willesden Green area for Thursday of next week (details above)

    Details of some of the issues involved can be found on the Keep Willesden Green website LINK but among the issues are:
    • Lack of consultation over the original proposals and the 'offer' to be made in the proposed Cultural Centre
    • The handing over to developers of council land to finance the development with all profits from housing going to the developer
    • The Council-Private Partnership which leaves a lot of decision making to the developer
    • The developer's apparent decision that retail in the Centre would not be viable (despite provision for a cafe when there are many available in the vicinity)
    • The subsequent loss of premises to the much valued Willesden Bookshop
    • The developer's advice that the historic old  locally listed 1894 Willesden Library could not be accommodated in the new plans
    • The subsequent loss of  a base for the Brent Irish Advisory Service
    • The apparent lack of public meeting rooms in the new Centre when the current rooms have been well-used and are essential to local democracy
    • The adequacy of the council's alternative arrangements during the 18month-2 year building period and proposals to reopen some of the closed libraries instead
    • Loss of the open space in front of the library
    • Lack of parking spaces for disabled visitors
    Meanwhile ePetitions are gathering support on the council website and paper versions are also gaining support.

    The ePetition calling on the council to allocate space for the Willesden Bookshop currently has 417 signatures and can be accessed HERE 

    The ePetition calling for the retention of the Old Willesden Librray building currently has 474 signatories and can be accessed HERE


    Thursday, 9 February 2012

    Wembley Park cut off again this weekend

    Despite all the promises from TfL, Boris etc we have no trains AGAIN from Wembley Park station this weekend. There is no Metropolitan Line service Rickmansworth/Watford to Aldgate and no Jubilee between Stanmore and Willesden Green.

    Brent 'transforms' Town Hall Library into a rubbish dump


    In January I posted an article, 'Town Hall Library invaded from the south' LINK about the books stock and shelves from the closed down Neasden Library being off-loaded into the Town Hall Library and the subsequent over-crowding and mess. The library is still in chaos as the pictures above,  from the Preston Library Campaign website LINK, show.

    Local people have begun to complain bitterly about the state of the library and it is clear there aren't enough staff available to clear it, and more importantly, make the stock available to the public as promised.  Instead it is  in boxes on the floor, sometimes stacked at a dangerous height; on trolleys and in the staff work room. In addition there are empty shelving units, and some books from the usual stock, such as those in Hindi, are no longer accessible. Windows and blinds are inaccessible because of the additional material and parts of the library are cordoned off.

    Is this a comprehensive and efficient library service?

    As well as the state of the library itself, local people are having misgivings about the move to the Civic Centre next year. The library, despite being based at the Town Hall, also serves a community function as the local library for the families of the Chalkhill Estate (and its primary school), Pilgrims Way Estate, and the flats on Kings Drive. They use the homework club,  half-term activities and the Summer Reading Scheme. All will be far less accessible to them  when the library moves all the way to the new Civic Centre. Older chidlren wil no longer be able to go there independently and it will be further for school trips from Chalkhill Primary and Ark Academy's primary phase.

    A further question being asked is, 'Will the Civic Centre Library be closed on event days?' . Having seen the crowds of fans in the triangle formed by the Civic Centre, Stadium and Arena my answer would be that even it is open, it will hardly be the place for families to battle against the mass of boisterous fans to go and change their library books. This will mean that the new library won't really be open the promised 7 days a week. If you take the current period until May the stadium will be in use for sports activities on 8 weekend days and one evening. There may be other events in addition to these as well as those on at the Arena.

    Dollis Hill By-election likely on March 22nd

    It appears that the Dollis Hill by-election  will be held on Thursday Match 22nd but this is subject to confirmation over the next few days. A by-election in Barnhill will be on Thursday May 3rd if Cllr Judith goes ahead with her resignation in March and yet another 'hill', this time Dudden, will come up if the Rev David Clues reisgns after moving to Brighton.

    Major disruption on Forty Lane

    Following a road accident outside Brent Town Hall Forty Lane has been closed off and traffic is being diverted via Kings Drive and The Paddocks.

    Brent and Kilburn Times coverage LINK

    Wednesday, 8 February 2012

    Rage against these cuts

    The Budget document going to Brent Executive is a massive and dense tome with pages of technical information and is unlikely to be read in its entirety by any of the councillors or commentators, let alone understood by them. The most you can do is try and glean some kind of overview on the financial plight of the council and some detail (from Appendix D) of where the axe is going to fall but there are major headings with no elaboration. I have covered the latter in previous postings.

    Cllr Krupesh Hirani in a letter to the Brent and Kilburn Times this week asked 'Is it fair that Brent has to make cuts in the region of 27 and 28% of our controllable budget whilst other councils are not being hurt as badly as Brent? Brent is losing out on £73 per resident whereas Guildford faces a cut of £10 a person and Richmond £5.39 a person'.

    The answer is of course it's not fair but the next question is, 'What is the Labour council doing about that if they recognise a cut of this magnitude is going to seriously damage local people and threaten the Council's ability to provide effective and efficient services?'

    That is where the answers so far have been unsatisfactory and often contradictory. Despite Ann John telling people at Area Consultation Forums that the situation is dire,  her consultation, to the frustration of the audiences, did not contain any details of the cuts her administration are going to make - only the global figures. They were available on the council website in time for the Kingsbury and Kenton ACF but I doubt that many had accessed them. At the same time the cuts are dressed up in the misleading guise of 'transformation', 'savings', 'One Council' and 'efficiencies' and do not contain any details of their actual impact on real people. We need to be honest - a cut is a cut and cuts hurt.

    If the cuts are as horrendous and as unfair as some Labour people claim then surely we should not 'be going gentle into that good night'. We should be standing up for the people of Brent, combining with other councils in a similar position, and taking on the Coalition. Instead Labour nationally, under the leadership of the two Eds. seems only to be concerned about what happens in 2015 and not the damage that will rip the heart out of many families and ruin the lives of the young, disabled, the mentally ill, the homeless and the elderly before that election takes place. Labour councils are left to find their own way through the maelstrom with no national leadership.

    As Dylan Thomas went on 'rage, rage against the dying of the light'. Is Brent Labour so frightened of the shadow of the old 'loony left Brent' stereotype that they cannot see that they must rise up, enraged, at the injustice that is being perpetrated against its citizens?

    Okay, after the rage some bare statistics from the Budget Report beyond 2012-13

    Savings required 2013-14 £9.3m   (Cumulative £9.3m)
                                 2014-15 £11.6m (Cumulative£20.9m)
                                 2015-16 £5.3m   (Cumulative£26.2m)

    This includes no allowance for price inflation but assumes a Council Tax rise of 3.5% in 2013-14 and 2.5% each  in the following two years. If council tax is frozen then further savings will be required.

    How did we get there and what is being cut?

    Service area Budgets (reductions in red increases in black)
     
    Service Area
    2011-12 £’000
    2012-13 £’000
    Children and Families
    57,831
    51,402
    Environment and Neighbourhood
    42,567
    34,073
    Adult Social Services
    92,165
    89,552
    Regeneration and Major Projects
    21,974
    33,277
    Central Services
    12,543
    10,074
    Finance and Corporate
    13,864
    22,256