Monday, 31 October 2011

Big Energy Companies- Rip Off - You Decide

Millions of households are at risk of being ripped off by energy companies when they have new meters installed, experts warn.
As pressure mounts on companies to ban doorstep selling, experts are worried that another mis-selling scandal is brewing.
Energy companies will have to visit every home in Britain over the next eight years to install digital smart meters, which allow people to see exactly how much their gas and electricity is costing.

Read more:

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Eric Pickles proposed reform of council tax

Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, is going to shake up the council tax. According to ministerial sources, this ought, for most people, to mean a reduction in their bill. Mr Pickles proposes to finance it by removing the discount given to owners of second homes, which can amount to as much as 50 per cent of the total.

100 leading economists tell George Osborne: we must turn to Plan B


A hundred leading economists have made an impassioned call for the government to step back from the brink of a new economic crisis and back a Plan B to save existing jobs and create new ones, amid growing fears of a double-dip recession.
In a letter to the Observer, the umbrella group of distinguished experts from across the country argue that the chancellor must rethink his strategy and enact emergency measures to kickstart growth and save the UK from growing unemployment and a further fall in living standards.
Condemning the intransigence of the chancellor, George Osborne, as he pursues the coalition government's austerity programme, the economists write: "It is now clear that Plan A isn't working. Wave after wave of economic figures… have all concluded the British economy is faltering." And they warn: "Doing nothing is not an option."
They call on the government to consider a host of measures proposed by a body of academics and economists brought together by the left-leaning thinktank Compass. The proposals, in a manifesto entitled "Plan B: a good economy for a good society", will be launched in London on Monday. They include:

      An immediate halt to cuts, to protect jobs in the public sector.
  •  A new round of quantitative easing to finance a "Green New Deal" to create thousands of new jobs.
  •  Benefit increases to put money into the pockets of those on lower and middle incomes and give a boost to spending.
  •  A financial transaction tax to raise funds from the City to pay for investment in transport, energy and house building.


courtesy of the Guardian.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Brent schoolchildren lead the way forward with green footsteps

Pupils hope to reduce their schools' carbon footprint
Schoolchildren in Brent are leading the way in reducing their carbon footprint in the borough.
A new project has been set up to train youngsters, teachers, school staff and caretakers about cutting their energy use at school.
Special action teams will also be set up in schools to work out ways of saving energy.
Schools are responsible for almost half of all the carbon produced by the local authority.
In the 2009-2010 financial year, the council produced 17,870 tonnes of carbon dioxide from its buildings and street lighting which had an estimated energy cost of more than £3 million.
Schools produced 17,099 tonnes from its buildings.
The ten schools taking part in the challenge are Chalkhill Primary, Harlesden Primary, Michael Sobell Sinai Primary, Newfield Primary, Preston Park Primary, St Joseph’s Catholic Junior School, St Mary’s Church of England Primary, St Robert Southwall Roman Catholic Primary, Alperton Community School and Preston Manor High School.
Cllr Ann John OBE, leader of the council, said: “Brent Council is committed to creating a greener, cleaner and more sustainable borough. “I am delighted that pupils and teachers from ten schools are joining this programme to further cut carbon emissions, which is one of the most important and ambitious environmental goals identified by Brent Council.
“Volatile energy markets mean that schools will almost certainly see an increase in their energy costs in the next few years. Together with new carbon taxes it makes economic and environmental sense for them to cut radically their carbon emissions.”
Brent Council pledged to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 25 per cent by 2014.
For more about the project visit

courtesy of W& K times.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Avoid alcohol three days a week, doctors warn

The government recommends no more than 2-3 units for women and 3-4 for men every day or most days, and 48 alcohol-free hours after heavy drinking.
The Royal College of Physicians said the liver needed time to recover from more than just a small alcoholic drink.
It advises two to three alcohol-free days a week and 0-14 weekly units for women and 0-21 for men.
The Department for Health said it had no plans to change its guidance.
Sir Ian Gilmore, special adviser on alcohol and former president of the RCP, said: "In addition to quantity, safe alcohol limits must also take into account frequency.
"There is an increased risk of liver disease for those who drink daily or near-daily, compared with those who drink periodically or intermittently.
"We recommend a safe alcohol consumption limit of between 0 and 21 units a week for men and 0 and 14 units a week for women provided the total amount is not drunk in one or two bouts, and that there are two to three alcohol-free days a week.
"At these levels, most individuals are unlikely to come to harm."
In an interview with Radio 4's Today show, Sir Ian added: "If someone drinks one drink a day, one small drink every day of their life, they're most unlikely to run into harm. But if you are going out and having a lot to drink then you should perhaps rest your body."
The latest NHS figures showed that alcohol-related hospital admissions reached record levels last year.
More than one million people were admitted in 2009-10, compared with 945,500 in 2008-09 and 510,800 in 2002-03. Nearly two in three of those cases were men.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Park Royal City - a Vision

The run-down area will see 12,000 new homes and 40,000 jobs in Hammersmith and Fulham if the Department for Transport (DfT) approve its high-speed rail (HS2) plans in December [now January 2012].

It would result in a new transport hub and major interchange station linking Great Western and West Coast mainlines, Crossrail, Bakerloo and Central underground lines and Heathrow Express as the HS2 travels from London to Birmingham in just 49 minutes.

A major regeneration of the area, dubbed  Park Royal City, designed by world-renowned architect Sir Terry Farrell would revolutionise one of London’s poorest areas. And the council has developed a computer-generated video clip with interactive artist’s impression of the ambitious project.

Filmed to the soundtrack of 80s classic We Built This City by Starship, the video is called We Built This City on Rails and Road and is four minutes long.

A narrator describes Old Oak as a ‘forgotten area of London and area of urban deprivation’ and in the bottom fifth of the most deprived areas of the UK.

“HS2 is the fastest way to deliver much need new homes, jobs and opportunities in one of London’s poorest areas and the case for an interchange station at Old Oak is overwhelming.”

Sir Terry, who is also designing the controversial Earls Court development, will talk about the plans at The Place West London event at Olympia on October 1. He said:
“The regeneration potential of the transport super hub at Park Royal City is a tremendous opportunity for London and the UK as a whole.

This project is of huge significance to the economy of London and will deliver a new metropolitan quarter of the city, with new homes and employment opportunities in an area currently occupied by brown field land.”
Community members and business leaders in Old Oak have welcomed the plans. But the government’s HS2 plans have come under fire from other parts of London and the Home Counties for the impact it will have on their own environments.
courtesy of London Reconnections

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Cuts are beginning to hurt, say public sector staff

More than a third of public sector workers believe their department has been left under-resourced following the government’s cuts, according to a survey.
The poll of more than 1,000 public sector workers also found that 26% had witnessed significant job losses in their departments. This rose to 40% for central government workers, the quarterly survey for recruitment consultancy Badenoch & Clark shows.
Around a third of those surveyed, 35.1%, also believe that there will be further job losses in their sector. And 37.8% claim morale has fallen noticeably following the job cuts.
Badenoch & Clark managing director Nicola Linkleter said that the figures showed that public sector employees were feeling insecure one year on from the publication of the government’s four-year spending plan, as cuts ‘ripple out into the public sector workforce’.
She added that the fact that 32.1% of the respondents said they had not seen any tangible effects of the reduced budgets meant that ‘the worst effects of the spending cuts are still to come’ in some areas of the public sector.
Linkleter warned that ‘in such times of flux, it is important that organisations do not become complacent and continue to work on reasserting the public sector brand, communicating change down to all levels.
‘Fallout from decisions made since last October’s [Comprehensive Spending Review] announcement is likely to last for many more months to come and it is important that employees perceive their employer as committed to its workforce.’
Ahead of the results of the strike ballots over pension changes being held by the three biggest publicsector trade unions, around one-third of the survey respondents (33.9%) said they believed pensions were worth striking over. This rises to 50.8% for central government workers.

courtesy of CIPFA

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Chalkhill Park - Good news

Here is a good news from Brent, for Chalkhill residents in particular!

I arranged a meeting for Chalkhill Residents Association, who have been concerned about the park not being built, along with a proposed MUGA (Multi-Use Games Area) in St David's Close on the estate. Representative from the local Residents Association, School and Councillors attended the meeting, and the Brent Council officer assured us that the park and other facilites will be built, and the opening of the park will be in 2012.

The park will have children's play area, one for older and one for younger, plus an exercise area for adults. See below the general plan and layout of the park:

Plan of the new park (this may have been revised)
(click on image to enlarge)
  Some questions were raised about the "water feature". Officers explained if the water feature is not desirable and turns out to be expensive, it will be not into the project.

The Head of Parks and Sports Services is keen to talk to residents about St. David's Close open space and its future use. The following will be looked into:
  • Installation of goal posts for football
  • Restoration of BMX cycling course
  • Provision of skateboarding facilities
  • Restoration of football pitches and flood-lights at Poplar Grove.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Brent Council wins libraries legal ruling

The council has today won a landmark legal case in the High Court which means we can now go ahead with plans to close six of Brent's libraries.

The judge hearing the case Mr Justice Ouseley dismissed the claim against the council and found in Brent's favour on every point. 

All library staff were invited to a meeting this morning so they could be told the outcome of the court case as soon as it happened. This means that none of the libraries opened this morning.

The six libraries identified for closure will not re-open. Staff will continue to work within the library service for the time being.

Opponents to the closures have been refused leave to appeal the decision.

This means that we can now go ahead with the Library Transformation programme that will implement a broad range of improvements to the service overall.

The libraries that will be closed are:

  • Barham Park
  • Cricklewood
  • Kensal Rise
  • Neasden
  • Preston Road
  • Tokyngton
courtesy of Brent.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Violent criminals living in social housing face eviction in Brent Council

In a clampdown against violent crime, addresses were raided over seven days and families living in social housing have been told they could lose their homes if a relative is convicted of a violent crime.

Cllr Lincoln Beswick, Labour councillor for Harlesden ward, said the town hall will look into measures to boot out trouble families.

Cllr Beswick, a former Army officer who is Brent Council’s lead member for crime and community safety, has spoken out after the shootings which took place in Harlesden.

On Friday, two boys aged 15 and 17 were left with ‘life-changing injuries’ after they were shot several times in Talbot Walk in the Church End Estate, Harlesden. The victims, who are said to be brothers, were congregating with other youths when a gunman walked up to them and fired several times before fleeing on foot.
Two days later a 16-year-old boy was shot in the leg in Burns Road by three youths on pedal bikes at around 10am.

Cllr Beswick told the Times the council had tried the soft approach through anti-social behaviour orders and dispersal zones and that now it was time to get tough.
He said: “Parents need to know where their children are at every given time.
“If anyone convicted of a violent crime is living in social housing we may look at evicting them and their family because taxpayers are subsiding their homes.
“We will look to the law books to see what can be done and will use any statutory instruments at our disposal to deal with them.

“We have tried everything and it’s time to get tough.”

The double shooting in Talbot Walk happened the day after three female teenagers were shot in the Mozart Estate in Queen’s Park which is in the neighbouring borough Westminster but minutes away from Brent.
Detective Superintendent Steve Kershaw from Brent Police said: “It is a common strand that some of our young people in our community feel that using guns answers their problems and as a consequence they display a total lack of respect for others lives.

“We will continue to do all we can to make Brent a safe place to live and visit.”

DCI Mick Foote from Operation Trident, the Met’s specialist team that probes gun crime in London, is investigating the shootings in Harlesden and Queen’s Park.

He said: “Someone must know who the people are who are behind these shootings. We need those people to come forward. We will do our best to protect them.”

Anyone with information about any of the shooting can call the incident room on 020 8733 4774 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

courtesy of Times 24

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Sattavis Patidar Centre - Navatri Festival

There is no better way than this, twice a year, to educate children of all ages, regarding the "nine different phases" of life.
I was honoured and privileged to be asked to participate in this, with the Hindu community of Barnhill. Special thanks go to Cllr Hershad Bhai Patel and the management of the Sattavis Patidar Centre.


The Emirates Cable Car East London Line

Not A London Cable Car Mockup

Not A London Cable Car Mockup (courtesy the Ronald Grant Archive)
Today has seen the announcement that the London Cable Car has finally found its sponsor – Emirates Airline. Emirates will contribute £36m to the project (more on this figure later), and in return will receive branding rights, naming rights and joint logo rights. [Indeed JB now owes this author a crisp fiver, for betting that it would be the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Company instead]

A London Cable Car Mockup
What this means in reality for the Cable Car (which it appears will now likely be known as the Emirates Air Line) can be seen in the flythrough video above.
It would be easy to focus solely within this post on this announcement itself, but in truth there are many questions to be asked about the Cable Car of which the sponsorship is only one.
Throughout Britain, athletes are getting ready for next year’s Olympics. As one Olympic coach said, “Everyday they tell me about their breakfast then work so hard they feel the need to show me their breakfast”. Competition is tough and to meet the challenge athletes compete in two ways. First they compete against themselves, pushing onwards for a personal best performance and second they calibrate this performance against that of their rivals. In sport, both athletic and tran, what gets measured gets managed. It is described as benchmarking.
We have written on a number of occasions about the proposed cable car in London before and in July our chum IanVisits reported in his blog on a design exhibition at the Building Centre.
With our ever child-like curiosity for new toys, we have pestered various press officers for more details of this project but somehow never managed to make a lot of progress. We asked a simple question – because the cable car uses proprietary technology which system, now in operation, was it like? E-mails went unanswered; questions of client confidentiality and/or organisational communication’s silos in the subcontractor chain were inferred. We were obliged to content our souls with patience. But recently a scintilla, if not a scintilla and a half, of doubt has crossed our mind were some of the aforesaid media interface personnel treating us to a master class of Yorkshire cricket’s famous attritive batting techniques?
There is a story of a young cricketer from Derbyshire who crossed the county boundary to play for team in Sheffield. A keen batsman with a good eye for the ball, he was asked to open the batting with his team captain at the other end. He started crisply swiping the first ball over the boundary for six and then the next for four. He then proceeded to treat the next three balls in the same manner before stealing a single from the final ball. Whilst the fielding side were changing over, he joined his captain tamping divots in the wicket expecting a brief word or two of encouragement. To his surprise, the captain glared at him. “What’s tha’ doin’?” he muttered, “Tha’s not out ‘ere to score runs, tha’s supposed to make their bowlers tired.”
So it is cap doffing time to our chum, the intrepid Tom Edwards of Auntie, for taking out the middle and leg pylons with his story on the cable car which broke the news that the cost of the project has now risen to £60 million, just three days after the TfL Board meeting.
I’ve learnt the cost of the mayor’s flagship cable car project has gone up – again.
Initially, Transport for London (TfL) estimated the cost at £25m and said it would use only private finance to pay for it.
Then the estimate increased to £45m, with TfL admitting it would use its own budget.
Now, we find out that figure did not take into account “technical and legal advice, project management and assurance, land acquisition and procurement costs”.
TfL says the total cost will now be £60m and it is actually paying for it out of the rail budget.
So far, so confusing.
This is what TfL sent to me: “TfL is forecasting to spend approximately £60m on the build cost for the cable car.
“This includes the £45.1m for Mace [the construction company] build, £9.3m for other build costs.
“In addition an allowance of £5.2m has been set aside as, with any project of this scope and scale, funding for a contingency (set at 15% of the contract value) is required to cover unforeseen costs, although this may not be used.
“TfL is seeking to recoup the build cost through a combination of sources including a commercial sponsorship, third party funding (via an application to the European Regional Development Fund) and fare revenue.”
TfL is in discussions with a potential sponsor and hopes to make an announcement soon.
Once finished, the cable cars will run 50m (164ft) above the Thames, carrying up to 2,500 people an hour between two Olympic venues: the O2 arena in North Greenwich and the Excel exhibition centre at the Royal Victoria Dock.
courtesy of London Reconnections