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Monday, 24 October 2016

NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plan

Tonight's Brent Council cabinet is going to consider the proposed NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plan for the NHS in this part of London.  The plan strongly implies the closure of various facilities.  Were there a wider public understanding of this, I think it would be hugely controversial, but I suspect the controversy will only start once the individual decisions come in. 

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Housing ALMOs

I was interested to read the account given of recent suggestions that Brent's Housing ALMO (Brent Housing Partnership, or BHP) be taken back in house.  The history of these matters is interesting, especially given the contrast between Brent and Camden.

Both Councils were considered to have good housing departments and considered forming ALMOs at the same time.  This was back when the Labour government was making massive investments in local government (about 2003/4).  The debate in Brent Labour Party was pretty short and simple.  The then Lead Member for Housing, Cllr Richard Harrod (now sadly died), told us that if we formed an ALMO Brent would get about £5,000 per property to do them up.  Aside from a few hard left people, everyone thought that was pretty much a no-brainer and we went for it and formed BHP.

In Camden, there was a campaign led by the Camden New Journal telling tenants that this was privatisation and urging rejection.  A referendum by Council tenants rejected the money and the formation of the ALMO.  The tenants were then surprised to learn that without the ALMO, they would get no money and there was a long stand off with central government where the government refused extra money without the formation of an ALMO.  It was one of those episodes where I felt that misinformation (Both the privatisation accusation and the illusion of choice) led to an unnecessary confrontation and a very poor outcome for local tenants.  Eventually, Camden has gone down the route of selling off some of its properties to pay for repairs, which in Brent were done through government grant.

Other authorities, such as Islington, formed an ALMO, took and spent the money, and then took the service back in-house.

It is interesting to read that the tenants at the Brent meeting actually prefer the Brent ALMO in some form.  Possibly BHP should consider a Co-operative model, of which there are many round the country, that would preserve the more democratic ethos that at least that meeting seemed to prefer.

Oddly, I can't seem to find much information through searching the Camden New Journal web site on what was a campaign that arguably swung the decision

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Grunwick Commemoration at the Brent Musuem

An exhibition commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Grunwick Strike has opened at the Brent Museum.  The strike took place in the mid-70s at what is now Grunwick Place, but was then a photo processing plant by Dollis Hill Tube in Willesden Green ward.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Gates into King Edward VII Park

I notice that new types of pedestrian gates have been fitted to King Edward VII park Willesden, although the vehicular access is unchanged.  Why is that?

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Brent Council Tax Freeze?

The next Brent Council Cabinet will be considering budget proposals.  As in previous years under Cllr Butt's leadership, there appears to have been fairly limited discussion of these within the Labour Group.  This is rather a failing since the Budget underlies all the Council's activities.

Just concentrating on the Council Tax issue for the moment.  The report, under paragraph 5.4 proposes to consult on the projected increases in 2017/18 and 2018/19.  Since the current proposals are for the maximum possible rise that can reasonably be obtained, that can only mean a potential limit to the rise or perhaps a freeze.  I have noted before that this effectively destroys the Council's finances in future years.  Cllr Muhammed Butt has in the past been a strong advocate of freezing the Council Tax, apart from for the very poorest in Brent, where he favoured one of the steepest Council Tax rises in London.  He was so intent on freezing Council Tax that he ignored a majority Labour Group vote on the issue.  I don't know if this was related to Cllr Mikey Pavey's resignation, but the members of the Labour Group will need to be on the look out that they are not ignored again. 

Monday, 17 October 2016

A Dumped Car in Kilburn

At the weekend I saw a dumped car outside the former RSPCA Animal War Memeroial Dispensary in South Kilburn.

I haven't seen one of those in Brent for years.  They used to be very common, but EU regulations promoting recycling and rising metal prices saw them disappear.  This one is blocking a disabled parking space so I hope it gets moved as quickly as possible.