Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Orbital transport ideas: Brent Cross Light Rail - now ALSO Oak Old Common Light Rail

Double click to view stations

Proposals for a new light railway in North-West London received overwhelming support at Brent Council's first meeting of 2011.

The suggested scheme would connect Brent Cross to Park Royal, providing orbital travel across north-west London. It would largely make use of existing freight and abandoned railway corridors. The plans include four stations close to the new Brent Cross Town Centre, providing an alternative to driving for the thousands of new residents and visitors there, and also making Neasden Temple (BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir) assessable via light rail.

The proposed orbital light railway would interchange with every other railway and tube line in north-west London. It could also be diverted to the proposed Crossrail and High-Speed-Two station at Old Oak Common, just south of Willesden Junction.

Growth figures have shaken the coalition's confidence

It is far too early to talk about a split inside the cabinet on economic policy, but today's shockingly bad and unexpected growth figures shook the confidence of the coalition.

The stakes could not be higher. No one doubts that the next election will be won or lost on whether the coalition made the right call on the scale of the spending cuts, so everyone will now watch with bated breath for the first quarter growth for this year, due in April, after the budget.

The cabinet is nervously content to blame the freakish weather, or possibly the inaccurate statisticians, but a minority want some contingency plans in place. In particular they want to see a willingness to reprofile the public spending cuts so that the biggest weight of spending cuts is delayed until the final two years of the four-year deficit reduction programme.

George Osborne was at his most Thatcherite today insisting there was no alternative to deficit reduction, and in one interview blaming the weather no less than 20 times.

The valedictory criticism of the outgoing CBI director general Richard Lambert claiming the government did not have a detailed growth strategy hit home at a sensitive time.

But the worry in No 10 is that these figures are bad even before the economy feels the impact of the VAT rise and the start of four years of spending cuts. If the ONS growth figures remain bad in April, Osborne knows he has fewer credible excuses, and to make matters worse, he will have the Rottweiler in Chief Ed Balls biting chunks out of him. It cannot be an enticing prospect.

Courtesy of the Guardian

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Cuts 'make a mockery' of Cameron's sympathy for disabled

David Cameron has offered "every sympathy" to the mother of a disabled girl refused care, but Carer Nicky Clark tells Channel 4 News the coalition cuts make a mockery of his sympathies.
Riven Vincent and her heartbreaking plea via the influential Mumsnet caused me to feel both anger and empathy.

As the mother of two disabled girls, and with my own mum in end stage Alzheimer's disease, I understand too well what carer burn-out feels like.

I can't believe that David Cameron seeks to deliberately disenfranchise disabled people.

But the idea that he is leading a government which is removing the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance, yet tackling Riven's case personally, makes a mockery of his assertion that he stands shoulder to shoulder with all carer's and their concerns for their disabled children.

There are many people's children who are already in residential care and who are going to be devastated by the loss of their mobility.

Courtesy of Channel 4 news

Determined to pull together- Labour

Douglas Alexander said Labour would miss Mr Johnson "big contribution" but was united in its deficit reduction policy under new shadow chancellor, Ed Balls.

Mr Balls and Labour leader Ed Miliband agreed that cuts were needed but the coalition was going too fast, he added.

Mr Miliband and Mr Balls do not differ on the crucial issue of how quickly to reduce the deficit despite the fact that Mr Balls called for a much slower pace of spending cuts than his then rival during last year's leadership contest.

However, Mr Alexander urged Labour to provide a credible alternative to the government's plans for £81bn cuts over the next four years.

"We are determined to pull together, leave behind some of the problems of the past, and start anticipating what questions the public will be asking of us over the next three or five years.

"All the headlines are about people being angry and indignant. I think the real challenge for Labour is not just to express anger but to offer answers."

Courtesy of the BBC

Ed Balls comes out fighting with attack on 'reckless gamble' over economy

The Labour Party Conference - Day 5

Labour leader Ed Miliband appointed Ed Balls as shadow chancellor following the surprise resignation of Alan Johnson. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Ed Balls, the new shadow chancellor, claimed on Saturday that the government's "reckless gamble" of massive spending cuts was already harming the economy as the country headed for high unemployment, lower mortgage lending and slower growth.

Balls, who was promoted last week after the surprise resignation of Alan Johnson, showed signs of a newly combative approach as he claimed that the coalition had turned a promising economic outlook into a gloomy one by pushing through "the fastest, deepest deficit reduction in Britain's peacetime history".

Courtesy of The Guardian

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Libraries seen as easy touch when it comes to balancing the books

Kensal Rise library in north-west London.
Kensal Rise library in north-west London. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian
An arm slung defensively across his chest, shoulders sagging, Councillor James Powney gave a presentation entitled Transforming Brent's Libraries.
Explaining why the north-west London council was closing six out of 12 was the unenviable job that faced him in a cavernous town hall conference room this week. "It's the easy option – who cares about books?" someone shouted. "This is our heritage, this is our children's future," yelled another woman.
Under a barrage of heckling, Powney said: "If you want a library to stay open, it will not come from beating me up. There is no point in mugging someone with no money." The shouting did not subside.
Brent is one of hundreds of councils planning to close public libraries in an attempt to meet huge cuts imposed by central government. Nearly 400 are threatened with closure, and with half of councils yet to announce their plans, the final number could be as many as 800 – a fifth of all libraries.
One of those earmarked is Kensal Rise library. Housed in a comfortingly solid Victorian building, near a primary school on a quiet residential street, it was opened in 1900 by Mark Twain.
Caroline Bottomley, 49, has been going there for 12 years. "I walk down the road on my way home from the tube, and when I see those brass chandeliers twinkling in the windows, it feels like a homecoming," she said. "It's not just a library, it's such a big symbol of the community."
It is homely, with dark wood parquet floors, old-fashioned bookshelves, hushed voices. Students ploughing through their books, an older woman slowly turning pages of the Daily Mail.
Sara Levy, 39, sat with three-year-old Ella, colouring in Spot the Dog on a computer screen, with three-week-old Ava asleep on her chest. "It's the only local place you can come without spending money," she said. "It's local and friendly. And it's classless."
It is a despair shared throughout the country. Campaigners say such severe measures go too far, given that council funding cuts have been capped at 8.9% this year, and libraries are being seen as a soft touch by councils struggling to meet other legally binding commitments.
Ann John, Labour leader of Brent council, disputes this. "Like any administration, we would not willingly close a library because politically it is too difficult," she said. Legally, it is difficult too. Under the 1964 Museums and Public Libraries Act authorities must provide a "comprehensive and efficient" service to all.  But with £37m to cut from its budget this year, the council has little choice, she argues. "We have never seen reductions on this scale before."

Courtsey of Gaurdian

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Homework School, run for Somalian children in Barnhill Ward - Supported by the local councillors

Council expenditure over £500

As part of the council's commitment to transparency and open data, Brent Council have published information on council expenditure over £500.   

This kind of data is being published on a monthly basis, starting from November 2010.

The data is available under the Finance category on our Open Data database.