Monday, 27 February 2012

Total Wastage

An anti-gun and knife-crime campaigner misled a national conference when she said her family members had been murdered.
Narraser Gordon, 24, claimed at the Labour Party's conference in September that eight of her family members had been killed in Bristol.

After a standing ovation from politicians, local newspapers picked up on the Labour youth officer's speech.
BBC Inside Out has found most of the people she said were dead are alive.

Ms Gordon told the conference: "I'm here to talk about why the young people are dying before they can even see the age of 21.

"This is an issue causing a problem in all the cities in the UK, including... my own area of Bristol, with eight of my family members being murdered here........................

When questioned by the BBC, Ms Gordon admitted that the majority of the people on the list had not been murdered.

But she then contradicted this in an email where she said: "I have lost three family members and five very close friends who I consider as family.

"I realise I may have used words which could be seen as misleading and I do regret this."


Thursday, 23 February 2012

Council workers’ pay has fallen by 13%

Below-inflation pay deals have slashed the value of council workers’ salaries, Unison revealed today.
A study carried out for the union by the New Policy Institute shows that full-time wages have fallen by 13% in real terms over the past three years, as a result of a below-inflation pay rise in 2009/10 followed by a two-year pay freeze.

Living on the edge has been published ahead of the start of annual pay negotiations tomorrow between trade unions and Local Government Employers. 

Chancellor George Osborne has called for public sector pay increases to be limited to 1% when the two-year freeze ends.

But Unison is today calling for a ‘substantial increase’ in pay to make up for the decline in living standards.
Heather Wakefield, Unison’s head of local government, said employers ‘must come forward with a decent offer on pay this year’.

She said: ‘For many local government workers and their families, it’s a daily struggle to stay out of poverty. They’re doing vital work caring for the elderly, the vulnerable, for young children, and as job cuts hit, they’re picking up the pieces doing even more, for ever diminishing wages. It’s bad news for families, local economies, and for community services.’

The study also found that council chief executive pay had risen by 59% between 1998 and 2007.
Report co-author Peter Kenway, director of the New Policy Institute, said typical full-time hourly earnings in local government had sunk back to the levels of the early 1990s, while hourly earnings of part-time staff had fallen to 2002 levels.

More than a quarter of town hall staff now earn less than £7.20 an hour and have to rely on benefits and tax credits, Kenway said. He added that continuing high inflation meant earnings would fall further still.
‘Local government workers are portrayed as part of a pampered public sector.  With two thirds of them in manual or clerical jobs, doing important and sometimes essential jobs, this report shows what a distortion that picture is.

‘Since the last time pay went up, in April 2009, prices have risen by 13%. Everyone is feeling the pinch but a fall in living standards this big is much more than that.’

courtesy of Public Finance
New recruit ..........

RBS reveals pre-tax losses of £766 in 2011 - Why Hanging on?

The Royal Bank of Scotland has reported its fourth year of losses since the bank's bailout in 2008.
The bank posted an attributable loss of £2bn in 2011, almost double a £1.1bn loss in 2010.
In reaction to the annual results, Chancellor George Osborne said RBS is "cleaning up the mess after the biggest bank bailout in history".

Last month chief executive Stephen Hester turned down his bonus of nearly £1m following political pressure.
"We all understand that a company that is making losses at the bottom line tests the patience of those who depend on it," he said in the results.

Last year, the company's share price fell 48% and now stands at around 27 pence.
RBS is 82% owned by the state after its £45.5bn bailout in late 2008 at the height of the financial crisis, when it posted the biggest annual loss in UK corporate history.

On a pre-tax basis, last year's loss was £766m compared with £399m in 2010.
Read more about it.

Loss has grown in size so why not get rid of this Bank?

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Ward Walkabout - Barnhill

As a result of our walkabout and discussion last Saturday in the bitter cold, the following are the results, as agreed with the BHP Rep:-

All paving slabs, in addition to what I had already marked, have been referred to the BHP repair centre to raise a work order and repair / replace within 28 days.

Orders have been raised by the BHP to fit one additional flood light outside block 1-6, and reinstate communal lights that are not working around Robert Hartley House.

Notice board lock has been changed by BHP, and the key will be loaned to Martin at 23 Saltcroft Close to use for future walkabout meetings.

A work order was raised by the BHP to fit 2.5 metres -  of chicken wire fence, to close the gap outside block 7-13 Saltcroft Close, thereby eliminating the danger of any child or adult falling on to the car park and getting hurt.

A referral was made to BHP Residents Involvement Team, to contact Martin, and set up a meeting to discuss forming some kind of residents association or community group. Martin should receive an information pack shortly, that explains the legal requirements and the challenges

The squatted property at 32 Saltcroft Closer was reported to the manager of the tenancy team in BHP for investigation, and commencing legal proceedings to repossess the property.
An estimate to build a ramp outside block 1-6 Saltcroft Close,for wheelchair and pram access,was requested. The estimate will then be presented to the senior manager for approval of BHP. As BHP Rep said there is no guarantee that the estimate will be authorised,in view of BHP’s current cost-aving policy.
An order was raised to mark the section of the access road at the drop kerbs between 466 and 500 Kings Drive by BHP.  This should prompt drivers not to obstruct the drop kerbs, that are designed for use by wheelchair users and parents with prams

BHP Ref have requested that Brent Council’s Sign Shop send him a quote for supplying and delivering a mobile “No Dumping” sign, with a heavy duty chain and a FB lock. Once it is received, he will authorise the purchase.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Enfield council could impose £80 fine for spitting in public/ Perhaps Brent needs these measures more than others.

  A  London council could fine residents up to £80 for spitting in public after asking the government for permission to ban what it described as a "truly disgusting habit".

Enfield council's proposed bylaw would make spitting an offence – the first such law in England for 22 years. The north London council said it had gone to the local government minister, Eric Pickles, to ask for the bylaw to be approved after more than 3,700 borough residents signed a petition.

If Pickles allows the move, the council plans to have the ban in place within a month. It says the legislation would cover joggers in parks and on streets, but not people playing sports on public fields.
Council enforcement officers would have the power to hand out fixed-penalty notices – expected to be around £80 – to anyone caught spitting, and warning signs would also be erected around the borough. Those refusing to pay could face prosecution and a potential fine of up to £5,000.

click to read more about it.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Benefits cap to hit London homes hardest with 3,300 in Brent alone

More than twice as many families in one London borough will be hit by the £26,000 benefits cap as in the whole of Birmingham, it was revealed today.
Official figures show that 3,300 households in Brent are set to lose benefits compared with 1,500 in Birmingham.
Birmingham has a population of more than one million, around four times as many people as in the north-west London borough.
Minister for children and families Sarah Teather, who is Liberal Democrat MP for Brent Central, has warned that the cap could force people out of their homes and was absent during the key votes on the welfare reforms.
The figures from the Department for Work and Pensions also appear to undermine claims that the cap could lead to an exodus from central London to outer boroughs.
Four out of six areas that will be worse hit than Birmingham are outer London boroughs. They are Brent, Ealing with 2,200 households affected, Enfield 2,200 and Newham 2,100. The other two boroughs are Westminster, 2,800, and Tower Hamlets, 1,700.
The cap is backed by a majority of voters who support the Government's view that people should not get more in benefits than workers earning £35,000 a year before tax.
A DWP source said: "The cap is there to restore fairness to the system that has spiralled out of control.
"These figures show that it is simply not the case that families on benefits will be forced out of parts of central London as some people claim. It does show, that benefit claimants, like those who work, will face decisions about where they want to live based on what they can afford."
But London will bear the brunt of the cap, with 36,000 out of 67,000 affected households across the country in the capital.
Town halls in London have called for the cap to be "regionalised" to lessen its impact on the capital.
Ministers have argued that some people may have to move but expect them to be able to find other accommodation in the same or a neighbouring borough.
Despite the higher housing costs in central London, 1,400 homes in Brent compared with 1,000 in Westminster will lose more than £100 a week.
An impact assessment of the reforms showed 17 boroughs will see more than 1,000 households affected including Barnet, Camden, Westminster, Croydon, Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Haringey, Harrow, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Redbridge and Wandsworth.
Peers led by bishops inflicted several defeats on the Government on the welfare reforms in the Lords but ministers have vowed to overturn their amendments.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Promises to simplify elderly care not kept, say MPs

Experts say many elderly people are left confused by the current care system, in which they have to repeatedly give their details. Photograph: John Stillwell/PA
Andrew Lansley's NHS reforms have failed to come up with the plans and the cash for an integrated system of health and social care to cope with an ageing population, a group of MPs said on Tuesday.

The health select committee says that elderly people are deeply reliant on public services, accounting for 50% of those in social housing, 70% of hospital beds and 91% of those needing nursing care.

Despite ministerial promises, the MPs say there is no "joined-up approach" to dealing with elderly people. The committee warns that "although the government has signed up to the idea of integration, little action has taken place to date. The committee does not believe the proposals in the health and social care bill will simplify this process."

click to read more

Monday, 6 February 2012

Brent Council -Accident and incident reporting system changes

Following the reorganisation of the council structure, the accident and incident reporting system is being reconfigured.

On Friday 10 February all accidents, violent incidents and near misses should be reported to the Corporate Health and Safety Team by telephone on 020 8937 5362 who will upload the information onto the newly reconfigured system on the following Monday.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Labour Listen

The Call In and Scrutiny Overview Committee last night passed a motion to ask the Executive to reconsider their plan during the redevelopment of the Willesden Green Hub, including the possibility of using existing closed library buildings in order to provide a financially viable library service in the Borough.

Members of the public also addressed the meeting.

I am reproducing my colleague's letter to a local paper below, for you to read and make up your own mind.

It was disappointing to see local MP Sarah Teather  “saddened” at the Council’s plans to regenerate Willesden High Road. The new Library and Cultural Centre will be a major Civic building in the southern part of Brent and a major boost to the regeneration of the area for business, shops and residents.

Both Willesden Bookshop and BIAS will be assisted by the Council to find alternative accommodation in the High Road, in one of the many empty shops. The Council has also approved a detailed interim delivery strategy for the Library, Museum and Archive during the rebuilding period.  The Customer contact point will be temporarily re located to the Job Centre in Harlesden a short bus ride away. Adequate study space is being planned at a number of locations in the vicinity. Local Liberal democrat Councillors are very supportive of the plans and see the potential long term benefits for the area.

What is of more interest is the deafening silence from Sarah Teather  at the devastating news that London Mayor Boris Johnson has rejected Brent’s bid for 1.6 million pounds to continue the regeneration work in Willesden. Last year the Council implemented a very successful project “New Windows on Willesden”. The rejected Brent bid was for this project to continue during 2012. I hope the Brent Central MP will join me and Navin Shah Brent London Assembly member in asking Boris Johnson to reconsider Brent’s bid.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr George Crane

Lead Member for Regeneration and Major Projects

Kingsbury Lodge

Sadly, the council are now proposing to pull down this old building at the entrance to Roe Green Park on Kingsbury Road. They say, with some justification, that it has become a blight on the local area.

Originally built as the lodge of Kingsbury Manor for Lady Mary Caroline, Duchess of Sutherland in 1899. John Logie Baird received the first TV signals from Berlin here in 1929, when Kingsbury (now Brent) Council acquired the manor and lodge. In recent years it was used as a service tenancy for Parks staff, until it was condemned due to its poor structural condition in the 1990s. Since then it had been used as a squat, drug den and general 'hot spot' of anti-social behaviour. It is now completely dilapidated and in a dangerous condition. It is overrun with rats and other vermin, which are spreading into the park and the Council regularly get complaints from local residents and parks users. We are advised that it would cost too much to repair as significant structural defects exist and it requires underpinning.

So, another piece of our history must go, but at least the area will be returned to the park. We will also press for a suitable recording of the site history and soon we will have the new tennis courts further along.
Please visit

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Tory council boss on Eric Pickles' 'fair cuts' claim: it's 'bollocks'

Just over a year ago, as the most devastating cuts to local government in modern times were unveiled, you may recall the communities secretary Eric Pickles assured us we were all in it together:

"This will be a progressive settlement and fair between different parts of the country."
It was clear at the time that quite a few councils viewed Pickles' claim with contempt and disbelief, although it was principally Labour-run councils which were prepared to openly say so. A fascinating new report now confirms what was much whispered about at the time but largely unsaid: that many Tory-run councils were equally appalled.
Here's a senior executive at a Conservative-run authority in a deprived area, quoted in that Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) study of the impact of local authority spending cuts in England:

"Stop believing what the government tells you. All the stuff that the government said was a complete nonsense. Our [grant] budget cut this year from DCLG is (much larger than the government figure). They've made up this new formula which is to say that our complete income generating power, including Council Tax receipts, is X. Bollocks. It's a lot harder than he [Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for CLG] would like to make out."
Here's another view - a fairly typical one among executives we spoke to, says the report - expressed by a senior manager at a Tory-led authority:

"This is the most unfair and unjust settlement I have ever seen."
So what were those Tory councils so angry about? The report, written by a group of Heriot Watt University academics, addresses in detail Pickles' methodology, which it says sought to minimise the scale and inequitable distribution of the cuts by rolling up councils various funding streams into a new compound "spending power" assessment.
The report says (page 14):

"On the whole we would characterise the government's presentation of the local government part of the Comprehensive Spending Review and the subsequent local government grant settlement as not wholly transparent and potentially misleading."
Pickles announced on 13 December 2010 that no council would lose more than a 8.9% cut in "spending power" in 2011-12. The most deprived councils would get the "lion's share" of the funding. Those areas, he said, would be given "more weight". Look at Hackney in east London, he said: it gets £1,043 per head, compared to £125 per head in Wokingham, in leafy Berkshire.
But Hackney always did get more per capita funding - the distribution formula reflects the greater social needs and costs of inner city living - so that wasn't a surprise, or evidence that deprived areas were being protected. What Pickles didn't say - but the JRF report points out - is that while Hackney as expected continued to receive more cash per head than Wokingham, its residents had taken a far bigger hit.
According to the JRF report (see table two, page 15), Hackney's "spending power" reduction in per head of population cash terms in 2011-12 was £180. In Wokingham it was £4. You see similar patterns with other councils: Liverpool saw spending power cut by £162 per head; in Windsor and Maidenhead it was just £7. And so on.
The report batches England's local authorities into five groups, sorted by degree of deprivation, to make a similar point (table five, page 21): in the most deprived group the percentage spending power cut was 15.4%; in the least deprived it was 12.1%.
I spoke to Glen Bramley, one of the report's authors, and he gave me the per capita cash figures for those groups: the most deprived councils were cut by £199 per head; the least deprived saw cuts of £86.
Is that fair and equal? Pickles was very clear about this. In his December 2010 statement he said:

"Funding fairness underpins this settlement."
As you might expect, the cuts unfairness translates pretty clearly in political terms: in 2011-12 Labour-run single tier authorities shouldered a "spending power" cuts burden amounting to 7.2% (-£1,089 per head); in Tory boroughs it was just half that - 3.6% (but less marked in cash terms at -£855). In Lib Dem-controlled authorities it was 5.1%. Next year, 2012-13 it will be similarly skewed, though less marked.

I asked the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) to comment on JRF's claims that Pickles' presentation of the cuts as fair and progressive were "misleading". A spokesman replied:

"The settlement is fair between different parts of the country - north and south, rural and urban, metropolitan and shire. Funding is being directed to where it is needed most so councils can protect the front-line services people rely on, shield the most vulnerable places, safeguard the most vulnerable people, and protect taxpayers' interests.
"For example, the average spending power per dwelling (not including police) in Hackney will be £3,050 compared with £1,537 in Windsor and Maidenhead. The English average is £2,186."
As you can see, CLG has not only repeated Pickles' earlier sleight of hand - by presenting spending level figures rather than cuts comparisons - but has changed the terms of the comparison from spending per capita to spending per dwelling. It's also pushed the financial year ahead to 2012-13.
Why? I checked the government's own spending-per-dwelling spending power data to see if changing the comparators told a different story: but it doesn't (a link to the relevant CLG spreadsheet can be found on bullet point four of notes to editor section of this page). They show that every dwelling in Hackney will face a £221 cash cut for the financial year starting April 2012, equivalent to 6.8%. In Windsor and Maidenhead, the cash cut will be £28, or 1.89%.The most disadvantaged communities, confirms JRF, are shouldering the burden of the cuts, both proportionately and in absolute terms, and with little of the capacity of more affluent households to cope with the withdrawal of local services, whether libraries, youth clubs or Sure Start. The design and phasing of Pickles' cuts programme, it says, made this "inevitable".One might expect the government to spin and mislead; but it only adds fuel to the JRF thesis that at a national political level, addressing deprivation has been "substantially de-emphasised in national policy making".
At the grass roots, for the poorest people in the most deprived communities, facing the biggest cuts, the future is more stark: in these areas, speculates the report, it is no longer even certain whether:

"...English local government can continue to serve deprived communities."
with courtesy of Guardian