Likely cause of Sonia Gardens fire revealed

Following the tragic incident in my ward on Saturday, the Fire Brigade has issued a statement saying that fire investigators believe that a chest freezer may have caused the fire.

Local people are still in shock over what has happened. Scenes at the Crest Academy were very emotional when I went over to meet with staff and the Principal to assist on matters from the Council’s side of things.

The London Fire Brigade has issued advice about fire safety on their website here: LINK

Thoughts and prayers are with all those affected.

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Full Council Meeting 22nd November 2010 (last night)

Yesterday was the night of the Full Brent Council Meeting.

One of the items on the agenda was the first reading of the Council Budget. Not one Tory or Lib Dem Councillor seemed to ask a question on any items in the paper. It seems that they have been asleep for the past few years. They talked of financial mismanagement of the last Labour Government totally ignoring the banking crisis as if it was some imaginary incident.

What was really surprising was how outdated their Councillors are. Lib Dem Councillor Sami Hashi described £7 billion as ‘chicken-feed’. Tory leader Councillor Harshadbhai Patel quoted the £100 million in cuts and the £37 million that Brent Council would have to make next years as ‘nothing’ echoing ‘words of wisdom’ from a senior Tory last week who claimed that we’ve ‘never had it so good’. He also said that the Labour Government gave nothing to Brent. That is simply not true. The evidence is all there in people’s everyday lives. Record levels of investment in our NHS, record levels of investment in our schools, the Winter Fuel Allowance which benefits many of our elderly residents year-on-year, Children’s Centres, the transformation of the Central Middlesex Hospital, The Crest Academy, Wembley High, Capital City Academy… I could go on and on.

The Tories left our primary schools with catastrophic levels of underinvestment. Schoolchildren in Brent had to go outside in the cold to get to toilets that would be on the other side of the school building. That is beyond underinvestment. It was a scandal.

Labour did fix the roof while the sun was shining and Brent is far better off after 13 years of a Labour Government than it ever would have been under the Tory and Lib Dems.

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.”

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 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”.

Liberal Democrat Council are failing our Children

The John Kelly Schools on Crest Road opened up last week as a new Crest Academy. Pupils started school following the summer break in their new purple themed uniforms entering what promises to be a new era for the school. However, the opening at the same time has uncovered scandalous failings of the Lib Dem led Brent administration.JKGTC room

In 2005, when Labour had control of the Council, £5 million was put aside specifically for the John Kelly School(s) to purchase extra land adjacent to the building for the purpose of rebuilding the school. The agreement was also in place to purchase the much needed land through what is called a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO). However, the Lib Dems have failed to act on this and follow through the CPO process meaning that the site will now have to be built on the existing inadequate site.

If the extra land was purchased, the new school would be built within two years with creation of a second accessable entrance to the school. Under the Liberal Democrat plans, construction will now take four years to complete. Children of the school will now have to continue to carry on with inadequate recreation, sports and play areas. For sports lessons and sports days, the children will have to travel off-site to use external facilities, costing the school extra money.

At a Council meeting this week, the Labour group this week tried its luck again and according to Kensal Green Councillor James Powney:

Labour made another attempt to get Brent’s Liberal Democrats and Tories to return to their previous policy of a full expansion of the Crest Academies (formerly John Kelly Schools). After a chaotic debate, the Tories and Liberal Democrats voted down our motion to buy more land so that it had greater sports facilities (which Ofsted has identified as the schools’ Achilles heel).

Source: James Powney

The whole saga is just another example of why Brent cannot afford to have the Lib Dems in charge any longer.  Dawn Butler has opened up a petition on the BrentLabour website. To support the campaign, visit the following link:

PROTECT OUR CHILDREN’S FUTURE Petition