Fire safety in housing blocks in Brent

Following the tragedy in Grenfell, residents are rightfully concerned about fire safety, particularly in blocks of flats.

Brent has been in regular contact with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) to offer assistance.

So far Brent has provided staff to assist RBKC at their Borough Emergency Control Centre at Kensington Town Hall. Our local authority liaison officers and rest centre managers are also on standby and are ready to respond should they be required. We have also offered our employee assistance programme to London Fire Brigade staff to help support them through personal mental health issues they will inevitably be experiencing following the tragedy.

As part of the recovery operation we have asked whether housing in Brent with be required by Grenfell Tower residents. We understand that RBKC’s strong preference is to rehouse Grenfell Tower residents within their borough wherever possible but have said they will be in touch with us next week to discuss this further.

The support from people across London in donating clothes and essentials has been fantastic and RBKC have now advised us that the best way to support those affected is through financial donations rather than goods. The details for the website which has been set up have been promoted by us locally and further details are here LINK

The Leader has also made a statement about fire safety which is available here LINK

A ‘Talkback’ event was held with tenants and leaseholders on Wednesday evening (June 14) where officers from BHP and the council were also able to directly answer questions from tenants and leaseholders about fire safety.

Understandably, some Brent residents living in high rise blocks have been contacting BHP and the Council for information and reassurance regarding their homes. BHP has been responding to these queries and information is available on the BHP website. Any members who have specific questions from themselves or from residents should email them tobhp.compliance@bhphousing.co.uk who will respond as soon as possible.

The facts in Brent are:

– We have 37 high-rise (5 storeys or more) blocks in Brent, all of which are 100% fire risk assessment compliant.

– We have never directly used Rydon Limited or Harley Facades Limited, the contractors who worked on Grenfell Tower. We do not yet know about other registered providers and we are seeking this information from them.

– Since the incident began the Compliance and Risk team at Brent Housing Partnership have been responding to questions about fire management policies and processes and the steps that have been taken over recent years to reduce the risk of fires in council run blocks.

– More than £10million has been spent over the past 4 years on measures to reduce the risk of fires in council run properties.

Estate inspectors and compliance experts have been mobilised to provide additional re-checks of communal areas and exit routes to remove any remaining rubbish, bicycles and other hazards which could hinder access and exit in an emergency. They are also doing extra checks of the blocks with cladding to ensure all remedial works, which form part of business as usual, are actioned as a priority, ahead of the prescribed schedule.

Finally, it was announced yesterday (June 15) that there will be a full public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire to get a full understanding of went so wrong and how similar tragedies can be prevented in the future.

The Government has also announced an emergency review into fire safety in tower blocks. Once the findings are known we will of-course review and, if needed, amend our fire management processes and strategy accordingly.

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Brent issues call for sites

Are there any sites in your local area which are vacant, rundown or underused? Through redevelopment could they make a more positive contribution to your area?

To assist the development of local plans, the Council is carrying out a ‘call for sites’ exercise to identify sites within Brent that may have potential for development. The ‘call for sites’ is an early opportunity for individuals and organisations to suggest sites within the borough for development. This could be development for uses such as:

  • Housing
  • Employment
  • Retail
  • Leisure/Sport/Recreation/Open Space
  • Community uses including education/potential schools
  • Art/cultural uses
  • Mixed use development
  • Strategic Infrastructure

You can submit sites online.

The deadline for submitting sites is 6th April 2017.

It’s Time to Talk About Hate Crime, Thursday 21 July

Hate crime is the initial focus of a new series of public meetings which aim to tackle difficult issues in our community.

Taking place on 21 July, the hate crime event is part of the Council’s wider ‘It’s Time to Talk’ campaign which aims to empower residents and community leaders to talk about difficult issues and work together with the authorities to tackle them. Important challenges such as hate crime, child sexual exploitation, extremism, gang culture, domestic abuse and harmful practices are all expected to be discussed at separate events throughout the year.

The event on 21 July has a number of high-profile speakers attending, including Dr Stevie-Jade Hardy – Centre for Hate Studies, Stephen Brooks MBE – Coordinator of the Disabled Hate Crime Network and special guest keynote speaker – creative pioneer Samuell Benta. Topics such as what exactly a hate crime is, how big the problem is in Brent and the role of social media in the context of hate crime, will be discussed.

Please do come along. To book a free ticket, please visit https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/its-time-to-talk-hate-crime-tickets-25991098074.

Brent Council Cabinet Confirmed

Cllr Harbi Farah and Cllr Wilhelmina Mitchell Murray have both join the council’s Cabinet for the first time following the council’s Annual Meeting and Mayor Making ceremony last night. Harbi is also the first Councillor of Somali origin to serve on Cabinet in Brent.

The appointments were made after Cllr Ruth Moher, former Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, and Cllr James Denselow, former Cabinet Member for Stronger Communities, both decided not to stand for their positions previously.

It was a hotly contested AGM process. Labour is the largest Party at the Council and we held a vote between the Labour Group on Saturday to put forward to the Council for appointment. Cabinet appointments are now up until 2018 which is when the next local election will be held.

There are direct individual elections for the Leader and Deputy Leader positions. Cabinet is then elected using a pooled voting system where anyone wishing to stand can put their names forward and the top six

The council’s Leader and Deuputy Leader are:

  • Cllr Muhammed Butt – Leader of the Council
  • Cllr Margaret McLennan – Deputy Leader of the Council

Cabinet is then elected using a pooled voting system where anyone wishing to stand can put their names forward and the top six are then chosen to be put forward on to the Cabinet. The Leader then appoints Cabinet Members to Portfolio positions. The Cabinet Members and their portfolio positions are:

  • Cllr Krupesh Hirani –  Community Wellbeing
  • Cllr Harbi Farah – Housing
  • Cllr Roxanne Mashari – Regeneration, Growth, Employment and Skills
  • Cllr Michael Pavey –  Stronger Communities
  • Cllr Eleanor Southwood –  Environment
  • Cllr Wilhelmina Mitchell Murray – Children and Young People

Now that the AGM vote is over and positions are confirmed, we are all looking forward to working together and Leading in our respective areas.

I will be covering Adult Social Care and Public Health as I was before, but in addition I will now also be responsible for Sports and Leisure, which I will be developing going forward using the Council’s Public Health remit. I will also now be chairing the Health and Wellbeing Board – previously Chaired by the Leader of Brent Council Muhammed Butt.

Doing more for people living with Dementia – A whole community approach in Brent

Cllr Krupesh Hirani with Dianne CampbellIn Brent, we are working with the Community to make our area a Dementia Friendly Borough. We were recently featured on London Live where I gave an interview on the issue. Dementia is not just about providing core services but for me it is about a whole community approach on the issue to make sure that everyone is aware of the issue and is mindful of Dementia when they are going about their everyday lives; be it going shopping in a supermarket or queuing to be served at a bank cashier.

This video here explains more has a real life experience from Dianne Campbell who was diagnosed with Dementia at the age of 44.

http://www.londonlive.co.uk/embed/news/2016-04-14/call-to-make-brent-a-dementia-friendly-community

Community Action on Dementia (CAD-Brent), a local charity, is working in partnership with Brent Council, Brent CCG and a number of other organisations to improve the support for people living with memory loss.

Brent supports Dry January

Brent Council is supporting the Dry January Campaign run by Alcohol Concern working with Public Health England – encouraging people to give up alcohol for January and promoting the health benefits of doing so.

Giving the body a break from drinking alcohol will see a number of benefits including weight loss, improved sleep, improved energy levels as well as saving money.

In Brent we have services available for people who are concerned about their drinking. B3 offer a confidential and supportive peer to peer drop in service each Saturday, 12noon- 5pm and Sunday 1pm-4pm for people with substance issues. The drop in session is held at 97 Cobbold Road, NW10. Find out more on their website.

As part of its support, Brent will share information on its communications channels about Dry January and also signposting people to B3 for support. Working with B3, Brent will be holding an information stall on Thursday, 14 January where B3 will be talking to people about the amount of units in different types of alcoholic drinks, offering support and advice available for people that feel they drink too much as well as discussing alternatives to alcohol.

Last January over two million people participated. To find out more and to pledge to give up alcohol for the month go to http://www.dryjanuary.org.uk

Brent Council aims to save £1m through joint service with Lewisham Council

Brent Council’s cabinet has agreed proposals for sharing its ICT services with Lewisham Council, from April 2016. This new shared service will help Brent towards saving £1m each year in the amount it spends on ICT to support the full range of council services.

Cllr Michael Pavey, Brent’s Deputy Leader, said

“This is an absolutely ground-breaking deal. It will save a huge amount of money whilst safeguarding an outstanding service. The Government have slashed our funding in half, but through creative work like this we can protect essential services for residents.”

Now this has been agreed separately by both Lewisham and Brent’s cabinet, this new partnership will be overseen by a joint committee of two councillors from each local authority, and managed by a senior officer from each council. The two councils will then appoint a new lead officer working in both areas to manage the shared service. As the majority of the staff that will be working for the shared service are currently employed by Brent it was agreed that staff currently employed by either Lewisham or their external ICT supplier will also be transferring to Brent; however all staff will be expected to work across both council locations.

The shared service will be looking to provide services to more organisations going forward in order to reduce costs even further.

Brent has already agreed a target of reducing its overall IT spend by £1.62million a year, and this joint service will make the largest contribution to that savings target.

Under a separate arrangement already in place, Brent Council provides ICT services to the Local Government Association and that income also helps contribute towards reduced costs to the Brent council tax payer.

Calling on Dudden Hill residents to get involved with landlord licensing focus groups

The council is specifically looking for Dudden Hill residents to take part in a focus group on landlord licensing proposals. I have earlier blogged on this issue before LINK

We are looking for 12 -20 people to take part a face-to face focus group for Dudden Hill ward.

There is currently some information and the online consultation on the Council’s website too – LINK

If you would like to participate, contact Bola Olatunde on bola.olatunde@brent.gov.uk

Brent Leadership Team confirmed for 2014/2015

Brent Cabinet 2014-2015

At the Council AGM on Wednesday, the Brent Council Leadership team was confirmed.

The cabinet has been cut down by 20% to just 8 now. With the Council faced with number reductions at Director and staff level, it was only right that this was reviewed too.

The full cabinet

Leader of the Council – Cllr Muhammed Butt

Deputy Leader – Cllr Michael Pavey

Adults, Health and Wellbeing – Cllr Krupesh Hirani

Children and Young People – Cllr Ruth Moher

Employment and Skills – Cllr Roxanne Mashari

Environment – Cllr Keith Perrin

Regeneration and Housing – Cllr Margaret McLennan

Stronger Communities – Cllr James Denselow

Cllr Kana Neeharathan will be the Mayor of Brent and Cllr Lesley Jones will serve as Deputy Mayor. Chair of Scrutiny is Cllr Aslam Choudry and Cllr Sarah Marquis will now Chair the Planning Committee.

The Tories probably stole the show on the night as it emerged that they would split into two political parties – the Brondesbury Park Conservative Group and the Conservative Party.

It seems bizarre as it was only a couple of weeks ago that residents in Brondesbury Park voted in three Conservative Councillors.

Brent Transitions Service highlighted as a national success

In the Government’s latest Disability and Health Employment Strategy, Brent’s transitions service has been quoted as an exemplar case study example.

Brent Transitions

I have also previously expressed my pride in the service which falls under my responsibility as Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care for here – LINK