EXCLUSIVE: BRENT LABOUR LOBBYING WINS CREST REPRIEVE

The Crest Academies (formerly John Kelly schools) to be excluded from school building cuts

The Liberal Democrat and Conservative government has relented on its decision to suspend funding from building the Crest Academies (formerly the John Kelly schools) in Dollis Hill. The government had previously announced that it would cease all funding under the Building Schools for the Future programme, which was to cover the re-building and expansion of Copland Community School, Cardinal Hinsley Catholic College, Queen’s Park Community School and Alperton Community School. At the time Brent Council was also informed that the money for the Crest Academies was also at risk.

Source: biomapping

The decision to allocate capital funding for the project follows lobbying by Cllr Ann John, Labour Leader of Brent Council. Councillor John accompanied by Ms Beverley Bell, Head Teacher of Crest Academy (Girls) and the Council’s Education Director, Mr John Christie met with Michael Gove on 22 July. The delegation made the point that the plans for re-building were already well advanced, large sums of public money had already been spent and to withdraw funding now would be a false economy as well as putting the life chances of young people at risk.

Councillor Ann M John, OBE, Labour Leader of Brent Council, welcomed the news but warned that the withdrawal of capital funds to other schools will still cause huge problems. Cllr John said:

“I am delighted for the Crest Academies but it really would have been madness to withdraw funding when the plans are so far advanced. However, the withdrawal of funding to other schools in Brent still leaves us facing a crisis in school places and it will inevitably lead to overcrowding and poor conditions, which will affect the life chances of our young people for generations to come.”

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Creating a Pickle

In addition to the Building Schools for the Future cut from the Lib Dem Tory coalition Government, there were also local government cuts announced by Department for Communities and Local Government Secretary of State Eric Pickles.

The total amount that Brent will have to cut in this financial year as a result of the Con-Dem Coalition Government’s Budget is £2.25 million.  The largest element of this is the Education based grant reduction of £1.88 million (pdf. LINK).

Council Leader, Cllr. Ann John OBE, told a recent meeting of Labour Party members that it was too early for precise details of the impact of this cut to be worked through yet, but the Council would endeavour to protect services and save as many front line jobs as possible.  Some job losses appeared inevitable.

What’s more, is the conduct of the Government in announcing the cuts. Local Authorities were not contacted to be made aware of the cuts that they were being dished out. Instead they were left to find out through media sources.

Government Savages School places in Brent

Conservative Education Minister, Michael Gove, supported by his junior minister, Sarah Teather, MP for Brent Central, has withdrawn £80 million worth of funding for Brent schools under the ‘Building Schools for the Future’ (BSF) programme. The decision forms part of the Liberal Democrats ‘savage cuts’ agenda announced by Nick Clegg at last year’s Lib Dem conference and being implemented by the Con Dem coalition Government.

Brent has a rising school population and a shortage of school places at both primary and secondary stages. Seven of the borough’s secondary schools are in very poor condition, not fit for purpose and require urgent replacement. The first phase of the BSF funding was to cover the rebuilding and expansion of Copland Community School, Cardinal Hinsley Catholic College, Queen’s Park Community School and Alperton Community School.

In addition, the rebuilding of the Crest Academies is also ‘under review’. The Ark Academy is not affected by the cuts.

The Government’s decision means that Brent will not be able to meet the demand for new school places.

The Leader of Brent Council, Councillor Ann John, OBE, has condemned the Government’s action, which, she says, is driven by outdated right wing ideology. Cllr John said:

“This decision means that the future prospects of Brent’s school students are being sacrificed on the altar of an outdated right wing ideology which dictates that debt must be repaid over the shortest possible period irrespective of the damage to public services and to the economy. Moreover, scrapping capital projects like this damage the economy and increases the prospect of a ‘double dip’ recession. Any recovery will be led by growth in the construction industry and this is bad news for them as well”.

The Lead Member for Children & Families, Cllr Mary Arnold, added:

“This cut will lead to overcrowding, larger class sizes and a return to the days when Brent kids were taught in corridors rather than in class rooms. The government are creating slum schools of the future”.

Labour hits the ground running at the Town Hall

The new Labour majority, which will take charge of Brent Council following the Council’s Annual General Meeting, has already taken a number of steps to improve the lives of local people.

In addition to the scrapping of the unpopular £25.00 charge for bulky refuse collection, Labour will:

  • Cancel the sale of the Scout Hut at Oliver Goldsmith School in Fryent ward;
  • Seek to cancel the sale of land at Barham Park, on which the previous administration had sought to build a block of flats;
  • Bring forward plans for new youth facilities in Chalkhill;
  • Bring forward an urgent report on the health and safety issues relating to the dining facility at Byron Court Primary School;
  • Investigate sharing services with neighbouring councils in order to achieve the savings needed to avoid cuts in front line services;
  • Ensure that low paid staff are protected during the difficult financial times which lie ahead.

The Leader of Brent Council, Councillor Ann John, said:

“It is important that we deliver on the promises we made during the election campaign and we will continue to make progress as quickly as we can. We will work closely with our local Labour MPs, Barry Gardiner who represents Brent North and Glenda Jackson, whose Hampstead & Kilburn constituency covers part of the borough, to secure real improvements in the quality of service to local people”.

Barry Gardiner, Member of Parliament for Brent North, said:

“Ann John has lost no time in getting the Council back to work for the people of Brent. These dramatic initiatives are precisely what people voted for last week. Voters will be delighted that she is moving to deliver real change so quickly”.

Labour Landslide Produces a Council that Reflects Brent’s Diversity

An ethnic majority team for an ethnic majority borough

+++ Dumpers’ Charter to be scrapped

Labour has taken power in Brent following a landslide victory in the local elections. Labour made a staggering nineteen gains winning seats in wards like Barnhill, Northwick Park, Preston and Sudbury for the first time ever. Casualties of the Labour tide included Lib Dem Education Chief, Bob Wharton, veteran Tory councillor Irwin Van Colle and the Mayor of the borough, Jim O’Sullivan.

The new Labour group of councillors is the most representative in the history of the borough, 57.5% are of African, African-Caribbean and Asian heritage and 7.5% were born in Ireland. Councillors from the Somali and Tamil communities have been elected for the first time. Labour’s councillors include representatives of all major faith groups including Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Jewish. 40% of Labour’s councillors are women including, of course, the Leader of Council, Councillor Ann M John, OBE.

Councillor Ann John, said:

“Last November I predicted that we would win the local elections and become the first multi racial borough in the country in which the controlling group truly reflects the diversity of the community it serves. The face of the Labour Group is now the face of Brent.

We have worked hard for our victory and now we will need to work just as hard to protect local services during the difficult times which lie ahead. We intend to keep the key pledges we made during the election campaign starting with the abolition of the £25.00 charge for bulky refuse collection (the Dumpers’ Charter).

LABOUR’S TEAM FOR BRENT – A MULTI-RACIAL TEAM FOR A MULTI-RACIAL BOROUGH

Only 15.9% of councillors in London are Black or Asian. In parliament only 15 MPs are black or Asian – 13 of those are Labour MPs and 2 are Conservatives. Despite winning a post war record of 63 seats, the Liberal Democrats have no black or Asian MPs.

Labour’s team for the local elections spent a day at the Bridge Park Community Leisure Centre in Stonebridge to discuss policies and campaigning for 2010. Whilst a detailed manifesto has yet to be finalised, there was unanimous agreement that the next Labour administration will scrap the £25.00 charge for bulky refuse collection, which has led to an epidemic of dumping and introduce fairer care charges for elderly and disabled residents.

Labour has now selected candidates for all of the wards in Brent Central, two of the three Brent wards in Hampstead & Kilburn and several of the wards in Brent North. Most of the candidates attended the Bridge Park ‘Awayday’ where they were joined by local MPs Dawn Butler and Barry Gardiner.

Labour Leader, Councillor Ann John, said:

“Our team for 2010 is younger, more representative and more talented than at any time since I first came on the council nearly 20 years ago. 59% of Brent’s population are of Asian, African or African-Caribbean origin and so are 59% of our candidates. We will be the first party in the history of Brent to put forward an ethnic majority team of candidates for an ethnic majority borough. That team of candidates is committed to improve the environment, give a fair deal to elderly and disabled residents and the best possible start for our young people with additional school places and new sports facilities”.

A photograph of some of Labour’s candidates is below.



Labour Government ready to guarantee funding for Crest Academies

At the Council meeting in September the Liberal Democrats and Tories who run Brent Council rejected a Labour motion to pursue the compulsory purchase of land adjoining the new Crest Academies (formerly John Kelly schools) to ensure outdoor sports facilities. They rejected the motion on the basis that further delay would jeopardise government funding. The Council’s failure to pursue the purchase of the land will also prolong the construction period from 18 months to four years and the £5 million earmarked for the purchase will be wasted on temporary accommodation.

It was apparent at the September meeting that the Lib Dems and Tories had made no attempt to meet with Government ministers to ascertain whether Government funding would in fact be at risk if the compulsory purchase was pursued. Accordingly, Brent South Labour MP, Dawn Butler arranged a meeting with Schools Minister Vernon Coaker on 21 October 2009 and that meeting was also attended by local Labour Councillors Ralph Fox and Lena Ahmed who both represent Dollis Hill ward and by Labour’s Education spokesperson, Cllr Mary Arnold.

Mr Coaker has now written to Dawn Butler to confirm that full government funding would still be available should the Council revisit its decision on the CPO (compulsory purchase order). If you would like to see a copy of Vernon Coaker’s letter, email me on krupesh@bclabour.org.uk.

The Leader of Brent Council’s Labour Opposition, Cllr Ann M John, OBE, thanked Dawn Butler for brokering the meeting with Mr Coaker and thanked her colleagues for attending.

Cllr John welcomed the Government’s decision and said:

“The Minister is effectively asking the Council to look at this again and pursue Labour’s original plan for first rate academies with first rate facilities, including outdoor sports facilities to be built with the minimum of disruption to the existing school community. The Lib Dems and Tories now have no excuse for building the new schools without acquiring the adjacent land”.

The Writing’s on the Wall at the Town Hall

park graffitiI have highlighted the problem of Lib Dem neglect in Brent and issue of graffiti in the past.

AJ- Town Hall graffiti
Brent Labour Group Leader Councillor Ann John

Now The Liberal Dem led Brent Council is failing to tackle the rising tide of graffiti vandalism even at it’s own Town Hall as the attached photographs taken by Labour Councillor James Powney, illustrate. See pictured Labour Leader, Cllr Ann John next to the offending graffiti outside Committee Room on the second floor at Brent Town Hall.

Councillor James Powney who is also Labour’s Environment Spokesperson, said:

“The Lib Dems cannot even clean up the Town Hall let alone the Borough”.

THE PRICE OF FAILURE – at least 300 redundancies as fear stalks the Town Hall

Morale of staff at Brent Town Hall has hit a deep thumping low.  You can hear staff members grumbling, moaning and venting their concerns for their futures at the Town Hall on a daily basis.

In his newsletter to staff, Brent Council’s Chief Executive Gareth Daniel has admitted that the new Improvement and Efficiency Plan will result in at least 300 job losses (10% of the Council’s workforce). The Council has already issued redundancy notices to staff in school support services and redundancies are planned in children’s centres.  This inevitably will have an effect on our Council services which are already underperforming under the Lib Dems.

Council employees are wondering who is next for the chop as fear stalks the Town Hall.

The Leader of the Council’s Labour Opposition, Councillor Ann M John, OBE, said:

“Front life staffs are set to pay a high price for the LibDems’ failure”.

Power to the People – Brent under Labour

brent chamber
(c) Steve Cadman

Brent Council’s Labour Group has proposed a radical package of measures to give local people more say in the way the Council is run.

The package included:

  • Televising council meetings so that the public can see their elected representatives in action without having to visit the Town Hall;.
  • Televising Citizenship ceremonies held at the Town Hall;
  • Holding Scrutiny Committees in a variety of accessible venues across the borough and not just in the Town Hall in Wembley;
  • Making Executive decisions subject to a ‘People’s Call In’. If 120 registered electors write in within a week of the Executive decision, the items shall go before the relevant scrutiny committee in a similar manner to a councillors’ call in.
  • Extending Area Forums to one per ward to bring Councillors closer to their constituents;
  • Giving backbench Councillors the right to ask questions at meetings of the Executive.

The Labour Group has already promised that, if returned to power next May, a Labour controlled Executive would honour decisions taken by a majority of Councillors and would not hide behind legal loopholes as the current administration did over the Kingsbury Road traffic scheme.

Labour Group Leader, Cllr Ann M John, OBE, said:

“Public confidence in politicians is at an all time low and that is true of local government as well as national government. We need to restore public confidence in Brent council and involve our residents in decision making. Our package of measures seeks to address the democratic deficit but I believe we need to make a start in bringing local government closer to the people”.