Sunday, 23 July 2017

Murky figures at HS2 as public money goes down the drain

The figures associated with the HS2 project are so vast that they are hard to grasp. The world's most expensive railways at £400,000,000 with experts predicting a doubling of total cost to £104bn suggest the project is a high speed white elephant, particularly as the government has quietly ditched plans to improve current rail routes.

At the same time Carillion, one of the main contractors appointed by the government, is facing its own financial crisis and has lost its Chief Executive in the process. LINK

Fears about the reliability of HS2's figures have not been helped by the National Audit Office's recent findings about unauthorised payments by the company.  They spent £2.76m on pay-offs in 2016 of which only £1m was authorised.  The redundancy payments were prompted by a head office move and reorganisation and were made above the civil service cap of £95,000 despite advice from the Department of Transport.

The Guardian LINK reports that HS2 circumvented the cap by placing highly paid staff on gardening leave and continuing to pay them for several months despite the fact that they were no longer working and adding the maximum payout.  67 staff were made compulsorily redundant at a total costs of up to £916.000 when statutory compensation would have totalled between £55,000-£115,00. A further 27 staff were given voluntary redundancy packages worth £1.84m with 8 people on a salary of more than £150,000 receiving up to £200,000  each.

This is of course public money.

The HS2 Director of Financial Operations is Clive Heaphy, former Director of Finance and Corporate Services at Brent Council. Previously he was Interim Director of Finance at Ofsted under Christine Gilbert, later CEO of Brent Council.

Heaphy left Brent Council after negotiating an exit payout of £145,508. LINK

Friday, 21 July 2017

The demise of one of Wembley's wonderful willows

Trees are too often an undervalued part of our local heritage and personal histories. The willow above, in the Marriage Garden at Brent (formerly Wembley) Town Hall, probably appears in thousands of wedding albums across generations.

According to the Lycee security officer I spoke to the tree came down in the recent storm.

After the Town Hall was sold-off by Brent Council to the Lycee International des Londres Winston Churchill it became part of the children's playground and doubtless figured large in their creative play and exploration.

The storm occurred after the school broke up for the summer holiday so children will return to find a large gap in their playground. This was the scene today.

Wembley is well endowed with mature willows with local doctors' surgeries and playcentres named after them.

There is a magnificent specimen, in need of a trim, just behind the Lycee in Greenhill Way:

If you would like one of your pictures of the Marriage Garden willow published please send in jpeg or png format to me at

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Saturday July 22nd Heart of Wembley Fesival, Wembley High Road

From 'Wembley Futures'

On Saturday, 22 July 2017 Wembley Futures will be hosting the second annual Heart of Wembley Festival. This exciting community event will take place from 1pm-6pm on Wembley High Road, from the Park Lane junction with the High Road towards the Wembley Triangle.

The Festival is one of the activities by Wembley Futures, one of 150 recipient groups across the UK to be awarded funding by The Big Local. A long-term innovative programme that aims to achieve lasting change, The Big Local provides a mixture of funding, finance and support. The Big Local is an opportunity for residents in Wembley Central to make a massive and lasting positive difference to their area. In addition to celebrating the Big Local success, the Festival aims to enthuse residents, businesses and partner organisations about the possibilities that Wembley Futures and Wembley Central present.

The Heart of Wembley Festival will celebrate the communities in Wembley Central through a mix of both local and professional music and dance. Among the musicians playing onstage will be Dhol2Dhol, outstanding performers and instructors of the vibrant Dhol drum, who have played major events such as the closing of the 2012 Paralympic Games and the London Marathon 2017; The London Belles, a chic vintage music trio playing favourites from the 1940s and beyond; rock band Harripaul, and singer-songwriter Doriane Woo. Move and sway to the headline act, Marta and Emiliano jazz band with a Latin American feel. The stage will also showcase the DJ talents of MC Nino, sounds of Ebony steel band, and a spoken word performance by festival MC, Bries. Dance groups representing the art form from across the world include street dancers from Elan Arts, South Asian Kathak dancers from the Encee Academy, Nepalese dancers from the British Gurka Nepalese Association, and Salsa dance from Wembley-based, Mambo City.

Shaun Wallace, one of the ‘chasers’ on the ITV quiz show The Chase, will be attending the Heart of Wembley Festival as the celebrity guest. The quiz show pits four contestants against the Chaser, a ruthless quiz genius determined to stop them winning the cash prize. Wallace, who won Mastermind in 2004, is a barrister and also known by the names ‘The Legal Eagle’ and ‘The Dark Destroyer’.

The Heart of Wembley Festival is a free event and will be a family-friendly environment, with children’s rides, a fascinating bubble show from bubbleologist Graham Maxwell, street theatre, community and information stalls, and stalls offering tantalising world food, fashion, gifts and jewellery.

Francis Henry, Chair of Wembley Futures, said: “I hope to see both new and familiar faces at the Festival in July. We are building on the success of last year’s Festival and look forward to a great day out with friends and neighbours, making the most of our local community.”

For more information please contact Osita Udenson on 07875 588 107 or

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

More light thrown on potential primary school place surplus

Most primary schools in Brent will have broken up by the time that the Cabinet disucuss a report on future school places on Monday. However, the report will have implications for future stability and potential surplus of places in some schools over the next few years.   The report signals the end of the recent expansion of Brent primary schools.

I have questioned the need for a new 630 pupil Ark primary school at York House in an earlier article LINK and plans may now be affectd by the government's decisions on education spending where monies may be taken from the free school budget to supplement school budgets.

Brent policy is to have 5% surplus spaces in primary schools to aid parent choice. It is currently about 4% but likely to rise - it will not be uniform across a complex borough and some schools will experience higher surplus capacity which has budget implications as funding is per pupil.

Without taking into account the new primary free schools of Ark Somerville (York House) and Floreat (Colindale)  we are looking at a surplus equivalent of more than a two form entry primary in 2018-2022. With the two free schools it is equivalent to a 3 form entry school.

The report states:
Table 4 shows the latest GLA forecasts and available primary places and Table 5 shows forecast demand for Reception places from 2017. The places available includes expanded provision at Byron Court, Elsley, Leopold and Uxendon Manor schools, which became permanent during the 2015/16 or 2016/17 academic years. 

The ESFA proposes to open 2 new primary free schools in Brent. The ESFA is reluctant to open new free schools on temporary sites until a permanent site has been identified. Floreat Colindale Primary, which will provide 420 places (2FE), was due to open in temporary accommodation in 2016 and move to a permanent site from 2018. However, latest plans are for the school to open in 2019 on the school’s permanent site at Oriental City. Ark Somerville Primary School  630 places (3FE) was originally approved to open in 2017 in the Alperton region of Planning Area 3. It is now earmarked for the York House site, Wembley Central which is adjacent to the other growth area in Planning Area 3. The final column of Table 5 indicates the impact these schools would have on Reception capacity if both opened in 2019. 

We are forecasting a reduction in demand for Reception places for September 2017, evidenced by fewer on time applications than at the same point in time in previous years. 

The latest pupil forecasts suggest that Reception cohorts will continue to fall for a further three years before beginning to increase again (in 2020/21). As a result there will be a temporary increase in spare capacity across the borough. Neighbouring authorities are reporting similar patterns.
We are currently working with schools to manage any changes in demand. Brent schools experience a high degree of pupil mobility due to families moving in and out of the Borough and families moving within the Borough. Overall forecasts indicate that year groups are expected fluctuate in size as they move through the system. There is a forecast deficit of primary places in Year 3 in Planning Area 1 and Planning Area 3 for September 2017. We anticipate that spare capacity in other planning areas will be sufficient to meet this need.
The full report including predictions of the need for two new secondary schools in the borough in the near future, can be found HERE

Specialist to visit each Brent tower block between now and September to establish fire safety works needed

Monday's July 24th Cabinet Meeting will set things moving on the £10m extra agreed to enhance fire safety measures in Brent's high rise blocks.

The report states:

Council agreed that the Chief Executive should write to the Government as a matter of urgency to request that the Government provide direct financial support to meet the costs that will be incurred. The letter has been sent to the Government requesting financial support, as well as requesting that the Government urgently consider revocation of the permitted development rights for office to residential conversions; that the Government review the building control laws which allow the use of building control teams from both the private sector and other local authorities to inspect buildings which can mean a total lack of oversight by local authority inspectors of the fire risk level in some privately owned high rise blocks and that the Government address whether licensing laws for landlords in the private sector are stringent enough to ensure that all dwellings are fit for human habitation.
Actions to develop the detailed work programme for enhanced fire measures in High-rise blocks
A specification is in the process of being developed, which will outline the enhanced fire detection equipment that could be installed, over and above the required standard. In order to establish the exact works required, a suitably qualified specialist will carry out a survey of each building, and specify the schedule of works. This will be specific to each block, but may include detection systems localised alarms in communal areas and/or dwellings, fire suppression systems such as sprinklers, or smoke extraction systems.
The appropriate procurement framework will be accessed in order to appoint the relevant specialists required in order to complete this preparatory work.
Surveyors will visit all blocks between now and September in order to carry out these surveys, which will inform the detailed plan which will be brought back for consideration by Cabinet in October 2017.
It will be important to keep residents informed and reassured throughout this process. A letter has been sent to all tenants and leaseholders to advise them of the outcome of the Full Council discussion, attached at Annex 3, and a programme of communication will continue throughout this process.

Saturday Funday on St Raph's - July 22nd

Normal service wil be restored as soon as possible

Regular readerswill have noticed a lack of postings in the last week or so.  This is not because  there are not Brent issues to be publicised and discussed.  I have been unwell for some time culminating in hospitalisation last week.  I am back at home and hope to resume postings but my energy levels are much less than usual.

I am happy to supplement Wembley Matters with any appropriate guest postings that readers may with to submit.

Martin Francis

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Figures put need for new Ark primary academy in doubt

Consultation takes place Thursday morning and evening at Ark Wembley on their plans for a new 630 pupil primary school at the junction of Empire Way and the Royal Route LINK

New light is thrown on the proposal by figures obtained by FoI request for the number of vacancies in Reception for September 2017.

The figures show that some of the recently expanded schools are not filling up. A number of these expansions have involved controversy including Stonebridge (closure of the adventure playground) and Byron Court (vociferous opposition from residents).

The figures in the final waiting list column represent children who will have a school place in Septepmber but not their parents' first choice. Parents will waiting for a vacancy to arise to place them in the school of their choice, perhaps to join siblings or because it is more convenient for transport. Children can be on several waiting lists so the figures are of limited value.

When a school has vacant spaces and no waiting list the parents of children moving into the borough between now and September will be offered places there, which may involve a journey across the borough.

When children settle into a school, albeit not their first choice, make friends and settle into the routine, the parents desire for transfer is sometimes reduced: 'She is doing well, I dont think I want to move her now'

The 'churn' of pupils moving between schools creates instability and affects progress and achievement.  A new school could have a destabilising effect on other esrtablished local schools.

A considerable amount of money has been invested in the expansion of schools. If they are not filling up the additional places then there is a question of value for money.

School places planning and school expansion seems a ripe topic for s Scrutiny Committeee investigation.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Brent Council to borrow to invest £10m for firesafety

Brent Full Council will be asked to vote for a plan to raise £10m to address fire safety concerns in the borough.

The officers' recommendation states:

1.     Full Council to agree a £10m increase to the 2017/18 Capital Programme to meet the cost of enhancing the fire safety measures in the Council’s housing stock, to be financed initially by additional borrowing. 

2.     Full Council asks the Chief Executive to write to the Government as a matter of urgency:

.        2.1  If recommendation 1 is agreed to request that Government provide direct financial support to meet the costs incurred. 

.        2.2  If recommendation 1 is agreed, and if government does not agree to fund the works directly to request an increase to the housing revenue account borrowing cap to enable Brent Council to retain its existing headroom as well as undertaking the urgent retrofitting work required on existing housing stock to bring them up to best practice fire safety standards. 

.        2.3  To request that the government urgently consider revocation of the permitted development rights for office to residential conversions to ensure that such proposals go through the proper planning process to enable full consideration of all relevant planning considerations. 

3.     Full Council to note that a report proposing an outline programme of works will be taken to the Cabinet meeting on 24 July, with a full itemised and costed programme of work being prepared for Cabinet consideration and approval by October 2017 and its implementation monitored by the Housing Scrutiny Committee. 

4.     Full Council to ask the Director of Community Wellbeing to write to Registered Providers in the borough to request that they keep the Council updated as to the status of their Fire Risk Assessments for high rise blocks that they are responsible for within the borough. 

The full report (item 15 on a 17 item agenda, how is that for PR?) is below:

It is clear that some parts of the report ar weaker than others.

The meeting starts at 7pm and can be viewed LIVE HERE

Friday, 7 July 2017

Petition launched to ban fracking in Brent and Dawn Butler MP gets behind campaign

Cllr Lia Colacicco (Labour, Mapesbury) has started a petition to Parliament to prevent exploration for gas in Artesian Close, Hrlesden.

The petition LINK states:

The people of Brent do not want Fracking because it poses unacceptable risks to people, the climate and the environment.

We the residents refuse to put up with seismic testing and the contamination of our drinking water in order for large corporations to make profits at our expense. This is not about house prices. Our children’s health is not for sale.
The proposal was revealed on Wembley Matters on June 26th LINK

Dawn Butler MP for Brent Central told the Kilburn Times LINK
They [London Local Energy] will need more than PR and spin to get this round me and the residents of Brent. These proposals would place the facilities right next to hundreds of homes in Harlesden and just a stone’s throw away from a local primary school. “I won’t let any company put the health of my residents and students at risk, not on my watch. I am urging Brent Council to throw this laughable proposal out immediately.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Bleak future for Brent Council finances and our services

The Scrutiny Committee on July 11th will be discussing this presentation on Brent Council's financial position and future prospects.Further cuts in services and increases in charges can be anticipated as well as a Council Tax rise.

Waiting for action after South Kilburn meeting on fire safety

Tuesday's meeting in fire safety held in South Kilburn was well attended by residents despite the awkward time of 4pm. One attendee described it as understandably emotional at times. Phil Porter, Brent Council lead officer, said that every block on the estate would have their own meeting (although some blocks don't have a meeting room of their own) within the next 6 - 8 weeks.

The panel chaired by Tulip Siddiq consisted of Brent Council officers and representatives from BHP, housing associations and the London Fire Brigade. Councillors sat in the audience  with one attendee remarking that this seemed to absolve them from direct democratic accountability. Catalyst Housing had been invited but sent apologies.

Brent Housing Partnership were asked to change policy on any bicycles and push-chairs etc that blocked stairwells. Rather than give 7 days notice of their removal they should be removed immediately as they constitute a fire risk.

Cllr Duffy has been chasing up the issue of large bins filled with combustible material (see above) stored beneath balconies and netting used to keep out pigeons fixed along balconies which could act as a fire bridge. This is of particular concern as a tenant was found yesterday to be trying to store tyres on his balcony.

Duffy  told other councillors about the issues today as the CEO, Carolyn Downs, had failed to reply:
The council looks neglectful  having a public fire -risk meeting in a block that is in the opinion of the LFB  has unsafe aspects.

The problem is the same old problem with Brent, do a lot of good work but fall at the last hurdle. One resident has agreed to help me move the bins  from under the balcony this afternoon into a safer location.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Picnic in Barham Park on Sunday to celebrate the life of Titus Barham

From Friends of Barham Library

To celebrate the life of Titus Barham 80 years ago and his gift of his home & gardens (which formed Barham Park) for "the enjoyment of local people" in Wembley, Friends of Barham Library are encouraging local people to come and have a picnic in Barham Park on Sunday July 9th in the company of their friends and neighbours. Just bring your friends and some food and enjoy our beautiful park.

We are recommending the use of the areas near the play area and the outdoor gym for the picnic (behind the building housing Barham Community Library) as another event is taking place in the main part of the Park.

We will open the Library from around 12 midday to show people around. We will also display recently painted art from the Art Group who used our Library for art classes recently. From around 1:30pm we hope to have a 'Kino Van' on site showing short films from the 1930s of local and other history.

AND from round 2:30 p.m. we will be serving afternoon tea in our Library on a 1st come 1st served basis - free of charge.

In between all of this we hope also to give short talks on the history of the Barhams and the local area.

Please come along for a bit of relaxation in Barham Park, see our Community Library (if you have not done so yet) and join us for some afternoon tea.

Ark plan new primary school in Wembley but is it needed?

Ark appears to be about to expand its schools empire in Brent adding a new primary free school at Wembley Ark, Ark Elvin and Ark Franklin Primary.

The new school would be on a site at the corner of Empire Way/Wembley Hill Road and the Royal Route with a form entry of 90 (3 classes in each year group) making a total when it is full of 630 pupils with perhaps a 60 place nursery.

The Ark Somerville Primary School would be on a busy main road which is of concern given the impact of air pollution on children and it will be important to see how much open play space will be available to the pupils.

The most important concern though is whether a new school, and such a large one, is actually required. In the immediate vicinity of the proposed school are Elsley Primary which is currently doubling in size to four forms of entry, Park Lane Primary, Oakington Manor Primary and Wembley Primary.

An important factor is the impact of Brexit and the declining value of the pound in the number of European citizens working in Brent.  There is anecdotal evidence of a reduction in numbers which affects the number of  EU pupils in local schools. Alongside this is the continuing issue of families affected by the benefit cap being forced to move out of London.

Quintain is of course building new housing in the area but this is generally not affordable to local people and unlikely to accommodate families. Brent Council will need to provide robust projections of future demand to justify a new school.

I understand that several of the primary schools that have been expanded recently are not attracting sufficient pupils to fill the new places and that some may apply to reduce their form of entry.  I am awaiting the outcome of an FoI request to see the evidence on unfilled vacancies and waiting lists.

If there is not an overall increase in demand a new school would create a 'churn' of pupil movement as parents move their children between schools. Brent Council is committed to supporting 'parent choice' by running schools with some spare capacity but the downside of this is that pupil mobility can be disruptive to the continuity of learning and undermine pupil progress. Schools with high mobility may find it very hard to meet the target thresholds set by the government for Year 6 children when perhaps only 20% of them attended the schoool in Year 2.

Local public transport is already under strain with pupils from Ark Elvin, Wembley Ark, Michaela, Preston Manor and the Lycee converging at home time and the proposed new primary would be on the same routes although one would hope that they lived within walking distance of the school.

Ark's announcement is below.

In September 2014 Ark submitted a free school application to the Department for Education to open a new primary academy in Wembley to help meet the growing demand for school places.

Following the approval of the application, Ark is now consulting on the proposal to open Ark Somerville Primary Academy, serving 2-11 year olds in Brent. It is proposed that Ark Somerville would open in September 2019 and admit 90 Reception age children each year until it reached its full capacity of 630 in September 2025; there is the potential that the school’s 60 FTE nursery might also open at the same time.

Ark Somerville will be located on the corner of Royal Route and Empire Way, next to the London Designer Outlet and will be a newly constructed building completed ready for September 2019 opening. The building is being designed and built by Bowmer and Kirkland, who will lead on a planning consultation later in the summer.

Ark Somerville Primary will be non-denominational, non-selective and mixed, serving local children. The admissions criteria will prioritise those living closest to the school. The school will have particularly strong links with Ark Academy (an all-through school), Ark Elvin Academy (a secondary school) and Ark Franklin Primary, all located in Brent. Ark Somerville will also become part of the wider Brent family of schools.

Please let us know what you think

If you would like to hear more about the schools, please join us at one of our drop-in events which will be held at Ark Academy, Bridge Rd, Wembley, HA9 9JP
There will be two events held on 13th July at:
  •  9:30 - 11:00
  •  17:30 - 19:00
The consultation period will run from 29 June to 15 September 2017.
If you have any questions or comments, please do get in touch through our feedback form on Somerville S10 Consultation Feedback Form

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

As results are announced keep the SATs in perspective - schools and children are much more than a test score

  Children’s author Michael Morpurgo, in a striking phrase, has referred to the SATs taken by 10 and 11 year olds as a ‘dark spider spreading fear in primary classrooms.’

Primary school headteachers were able to access their school’s results overnight and social media is buzzing with reactions.

The TES reports:

The government also published the tables which show how many marks are needed in each subject to reach a scaled score of 100, which is the “expected standard”.

This year pupils needed 26 out of 50 in reading, 57 out of 110 in maths and 36 out of 70 in spelling, punctuation and grammar (Spag) to reach the expected standard.

This compares to 21 out of 50 needed in reading last year, 60 out of 110 needed in maths and 43 out of 70 needed in Spag. The jump in the marks needed to pass the reading test comes after Year 6 teachers had reported that the reading test this year was “kinder” than it was in 2016.

The new tests were introduced last year and could not be compared with previous years. It would be a mistake to make too much of any comparison this year as leading experts suggest that the data is ‘too fragile’ to interpret with any confidence.

The TES reports Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the National Association of Headteachers:

Currently, the methods to hold schools to account aren’t as fair or reliable as they should be. Sats data only gives parents part of the picture when judging a pupil’s success or a school’s effectiveness.

At the moment, parents and schools know these results have to be taken with a pinch of salt. This can’t be right. Just looking at data misses the majority of the real work that schools do to help young people achieve their full potential.

Schools do need to be held to account but inspectors should look at more than just data. That way, when parents are reading Ofsted reports they can have more confidence that the report properly reflects how good the school actually is.

We are seeing the signs of a more balanced approach to the use of data by Ofsted, as expressed in a recent speech by Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector, in which she said, ‘Rather than just intensifying the focus on data, Ofsted inspections must explore what is behind the data, asking how results have been achieved.’

The issue of how results have been achieved is crucial.  Schools vary in their conduct of SATs and the amount of preparation. Concern about ‘teaching to the test’ in the last year of primary school, with a resulting narrowing of the curriculum and teachers and children feeling stressed by the pressure, has been widespread. Some schools hold special revision classes during the school holiday and others have endless practise tests.  Meanwhile children in private schools and those who are home-schooled escape the SATs completely.

Whatever one’s views we can probably all agree that schools and children are far more than a school. SAT results do not capture the many facets of a rich primary curriculum that will be familiar to many parents and that teachers struggle to provide despite all the pressure of SATs ‘success’.


Monday, 3 July 2017

Duffy lambasts Brent Council for not holding a special democratic meeting on fire safety in the borough

This is an email sent to Brent councilors today by Cllr John Duffy (Kilburn)

Dear All,

As you know the tragic events that took place on 14th June at Grenfell Tower has cost over a hundred lives has left a mark on our city. Over the years we have seen many similar tragic events, but normally they are in factories (sweat shops) in Bangladesh or a collapse of building on the outskirts (shanty -town) of a South American city. The only difference between this the others tragic events is the fact it happen only a few miles in a neighbouring borough right on our doorsteps do we are one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

In the early hours of 14th June I received two phone calls one from a women who was going down to the fire area to look for friends and offer them a place to stay, and another from a women crying who just wanted to talk about the tragic events she had witnessed on TV. The following day (15th) a friend of nearly 50 years call in on me and told me about his son and family, who live in one of the other twin blocks of Grenfell tower estate and who had witnessed the fire throughout the night, and how his partner was talking to her son on the  phone as the horror unfolded in that long night .

As the days passed it became clear they the fire did not only wreak death and destruction it also exposed inequalities.. Kensington and Chelsea is the wealthiest  area in London (and maybe the world) and has many high rise expensive hotels and private apartment blocks. These high rise hotels have the maximum fire protection  and have been erected using non-toxic building material etc. I do not object these people having the maximum fire protection. What I object to is the different way society treats the so called "Creators of Wealth" who stay in the big hotels and are pampered in comparative way that same society threat the "Orphans of Wealth" who they hide in Tower blocks with insufficient fire protection and there needs are ignored .

John McDonnell the Shadow Chancellor, said that politicians are guilty of murder. I am not sure if he said that just for affect. However it did highlight the fact that politicians are responsible for decisions and I have always believed apathy is not a political decision - its a cop-out. That is why I called for special full council meeting on 3th July .The meeting would have endorse a strategy for officers to follow and the officers in turn would been up-to date with local information from Councillors. Officers would have been able to explain what we're been doing , and the resource implications .This would have ensured councillors were not just observers waiting for the next bulletin, but were local representatives , representing local people. The CEO, Head of Legal, the Leader and the Mayor decided to limit discussion and to kick it to the 11th July. The decision was wrong, anti-democratic and not transparent.

Since the disaster , I have exchanged numerous emails mostly private with Officers and the CEO, here are some of them.

Time line
14th June at 09:22, I wrote  about  the visible deterioration of some of the new blocks in South Kilburn  and tried to identify short -life up  property we  could get up and running . I understand Cllr  Kalwala was doing the same thing  in Stonebridge looking for voids to be ready to help K+C . I am proud of what others and myself did to ensure Brent was ready to support the residents of Grenfell Tower if needs be.

15th June at 4-30PM, I went down to South Kilburn  to have a look  the blocks and ensure the area was cleared of any fire hazard. I understand Cllr Shazard and Cllr Colacicco were doing something similar in Mapesbury. I looked at all the blocks including George and Swift house (which are owned by a housing association) that had been of concern to residents for some time, including  issues about the failing exterior. I informed the CEO of my concerns .The CEO instructed officers to investigate  my concerns about George House.

24th June  at 11-16 AM, I requested an emergency full council  meeting ( which I later changed  to a special meeting ) the requisite number of councillors agreed to call the meeting and the CEO asked The Leader and another officer to discuss with the Mayor.

26th June at 3pm. The CEO wrote to all councillors, misleading all councillors saying that I had not got the 5 councillors you need to requisiteion a meeting naming myself , Cllr Pavey , Stopp , Warren . However the CEO, the Mayors office and the The Leader of the council were well aware that Cllr Chan  and Cllr Hector had also supported the request for a meeting by email to the Mayor, the Leader of the Council and Labour group leadership on the 24th June . 

The CEO then advise the Mayor  that he should not use his powers to call a special meeting , instead we should have a drop-in section, which would not be open to the press or public and would not be minuted, replacing a democratically called meeting. The CEO also promised time to ask questions at the drop -in , but  the Head of Legal said half an hours of questions is enough for councillors to ask questions and she would not agree to officers staying on after the 7pm deadline. 

28TH June at 11-15 am. My fears were confirmed,  just as I had alerted the CEO on the 15th June the cladding at George house failed the fire test. However the FB did not recommend immediate evacuation of the block and 24 hrs wardens are now in place to walk the scheme. 

Now because of the CEO intervention we have not got a Full Council meeting tonight, where we could publicly support and reassure residents in South Kilburn and support officers action. We have a drop-in for councillors and they are only allowed half an hour  to ask questions about the fabric and material, the short term safety,  and medium and long term solutions- while the public are banned. 

This lack of transparency shown by senior officers and the attempt to highjack the democratic process and limit debate is why I will not be turning-up tonight. I have instead arrange a meeting for 2pm tomorrow Tuesday) with the housing association who manage George House which I invite all councillors to. I am also inviting Peter Gadsdon  or one of his colleagues (he and his officers are doing a good job) if he or one of his colleagues is available to attend. I will inform the public meeting tomorrow (Tuesday)  evening (see notice above) about the outcome of the meeting and hopefully will be able to give residents an update.

There are obvious lessons to learn about fire protection, which will emerge, but there are other issues  about  how council meetings and decisions  are conducted and implemented. Over the next few months  the council will have to be more transparent and the CEO and Cabinet will have to start to listen to local councillors. There can be no more mistakes like trying to close the Granville Community Centre without understanding the consequences of regeneration on an area like Kilburn. Poorer areas also need a guarantee that they will retain all the funds they are due from the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) from the related 106 income and it will not passed onto wealthier areas, who have not suffered the from the consequences of the redevelopment/ regeneration programme.

Fairness and transparency is needed if we are going to avoid creating more Orphans Of Wealth .


The Council has tabled an item on the agenda of the next Full Council meeting on July 10th (7pm Civic Centre). There are 17 items on the agenda -Fire Safety in High Rise Towe Blocks is number 15. LINK