27 Jun 2010

Brent Transport off the Rails - Planet Earth calling Chiltern Railways and TfL

No, not a scene from an early-morning weekday rush-hour, but the sight of commuters trying to get back to Brent and beyond by catching the last two trains from Marylebone on a Saturday night - the 2357 and 0010, to be precise. Both trains were destined for Aylesbury and were scheduled to make initial stops at Harrow-on-the-Hill and Wembley Stadium, respectively.

In the event, both trains were delayed for a good half hour with next to no information about where to board or when, just to add to the woes of the travelling public seeking an alternative route back home. This weekend, yet again, Brent residents had to endure no Metropolitan or Jubilee line trains in and out of the borough.

I shall spare you pictures of Brent in the region of the North Circular, daytime - think aerterial logjams galore. Nobody was going anywhere on the hottest weekend of the year. Throughout the general election campaign, I grew fond of quoting a friend on the hustings trail, "How dare we think of using public transport at the weekend!"

We need solutions, and not just in time for the unsustainable proposition which is the Olympic games in London. Greens campaign hard for a transport system that favours walking, cycling and integrated, accountable public transport. Why should not buses be able to carry notices of exactly which tube lines are down, and when, to enable passengers to plan their response to the disruptions? We don't all carry i-phones. Why should not passengers, sorry customers, be entitled to real-time display of bus schedules at Wembley Park station itself, following the multi-million pound revamp?

Shouldn't we be entitled to know exactly what work is going on for every single day a track is taken out of service? Without transparency we lack confidence in the justification for the closures, on a case-by-case basis. "Essential Engineering Works", doesn't quite cut it. An additional stop at Willesden Green when the Jubilee is down is no consolation when the Met is down, too! A letter-writer recently quipped that not even Germany in WWII could bring London to its knees quite so easily!

The scale and frequency of these line closures is affecting local businesses, too. Contrariwise, I do wonder what savings are being made by tube line contractors running buses instead of trains, surely a cheaper proposition? Why is it automatically assumed that weekends are fare-game for closure but not weekdays? Don't people also work at the weekend? Or doesn't non-working life matter? How dare we think of using public transport at the weekend?

Would you believe, on my way back from Wembley Stadium, whilst passing over Bridge Road at Wembley Park, I saw a Jubilee line train going southbound on what would have been Met line track. "Oh dear, TfL, Just when you thought it was safe to start running the trains without telling us? .... You get spotted ... at 0045hrs."

The impact of these continual travel disruptions is making a material and negative difference to the quality of life of Brent residents and their visitors. Politicians at every level, and of all political persuasion, must take an active interest in trying to reduce the misery which results. JS Mill once spoke about the greatest good for the greatest number, but this can't be it ... even taking future people into account.

The current disruptions are about as sensible as the real world response from the automated TfL service today - advising me to take the Bakerloo line to Oxford Circus and change to the Victoria Line for Warren Street in order to get from Queens Park to Euston, when the overground was running direct! I had to wait for an operator to get the confirmation I needed. I explained I'd been given duff information, and he replied, somewhat defensively, that the system wasn't yet perfect.

Nobody is asking for perfection. But this is beyond a joke.

21 Jun 2010


Pictures by Sara Cox

Picture and article by by Martin Francis from

A bustling Kilburn High Road, thick with Saturday traffic and shoppers, witnessed early resistance to the cuts when lecturers, students and their children, trades unionists, Brent Trades Council and local supporters marched to demonstrate against the closure of Kilburn Centre. The College of North West London is closing the £5.5m centre only three years after it opened in order to save money. At the same time it has an unused building in Wembley Park worth £4m that it is refusing to sell off because it is waiting for the property market to recover.

Sarah Cox of Brent Trades Council, addressing the open air meeting in Kilburn Square rightly said that the CNWL should be educators, not property speculators. She emphasised the importance of the Centre as a local resource and the necessity for a building within easy walking distance for parents with young children.She remarked that the political parties had been vocal at the public meeting in support of the Centre during the General Election campaign but only the Green Party were present today.

Alf Filer of the UCU and Harrow College delivered a message of support and spoke about how the impact of cuts and recession had hit his own family. Hank Roberts of the NUT spoke about education cuts in general and called for direct action citing the occupation of Wembley Playing Fields in opposition to the building of the Wembley Academy.

Not speaking, but evident from the posters - and very welcome, was the support of the Kilburn Times for the battle to save the Centre.

Standing in for Pete Murry, ex-CNWL lecturer and Secretary of the Green Party Trade Union Group, who had a meeting elsewhere, I pledged the support of Brent Green Party for the campaign. I said that Further Education was particularly important to me because as an '11+ failure' who had left school at 16, attending FE evening classes in my 20s had enabled me to get the qualifications to enter teacher training.

Further Education is a lifeline, a second chance, and has the capacity to change lives. That is why we must defend it. At the same time at the other end of the age spectrum Children's Centres, which are geared to improving life chances in the early years, are facing an uncertain future. Funding is only guaranteed for one year and with 20 Centres on stream, Brent may be faced with mothballing new buildings.

These buildings in our borough have been paid for by our taxes. They are OUR buildings and as such rather than letting them be mothballed and useless, we should take them over for community use. I could have added that with the policy on so-called 'free schools' we should be wary that they might be the target for private companies or charities to set up their own schools, funded by us, but outside any democratic accountability.

If we are to fight climate change and create a low carbon economy, we need to invest in education and training. It will be a scandal if the people of Brent, with its high unemployment rate, should miss out on such opportunities.

Sign the Campaign Petition HERE Contact the campaign to offer help at

18 Jun 2010



Hi - We hope you can come to our next public meeting on 23 June on "The Facts About Climate Change". We have an impressive line-up of speakers, including speakers from the Climate Outreach Information Network and Oxfam, with a short video.

The main speaker is Dr Saleemul Huq, who was the lead author for two reports to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Dr Huq's specialism is the effect of climate change on the world's less developed countries, but like the other speakers he will answer any questions you want to put on climate issues or the current status of climate science.

A leaflet is attached with further information and for display.

If you have any queries about the meeting or Brent CaCC please e-mail me at Our website at is still under construction but is worth a visit for newsfeeds on current climate issues.

We hope to see you on the 23rd.

Ken Montague
For the Brent CaCC Steering Group

16 Jun 2010

Obstructive Works and Obtrusive Ark

Brent Greens have been at the forefront of the campaign against granting planning consent to an Academy school in Wembley Park. We object in principle to the privatisation of state education, and to the risk of harm done by lack of accountability for educational quality and lack of transparency of funding. For more on our previous campaign see Wembley Matters.

Unfortunately, approval was granted and work began on the construction of the Academy in 2009. Brent Greens have, however, kept a watchful eye over the progress of the construction work, to monitor whether planning conditions were at risk of violation.

This week pedestrians have found their right of way impeded by an encroaching hoarding. The hoarding is temporary and there does not appear to be any construction work going on between it and the true boundary of the Academy. However, the passing place has been significantly narrowed on a busy throughfare to and from the tube station and bus shelter. Brent Greens' commitment to road safety and pedestrian prioritisation is proven, after a long, but fruitful campaign to get Asda to redesign their loading bay, just round the corner from here (result).

The Ark Academy must also take better care. The following images were taken on consecutive days this week:
A further complaint (now aesthetic), is an apparent discrepancy between the colour of what passes for a structure on the roof with the architectural drawings emblazoned on the permiter fence itself. An obtrusive red roof structure is visible above the tree-line from a distance:
Notwithstanding that the following architectural drawing disguises the true height from the front elevation, it does clearly show a predominately plain roofing:
Shahrar Ali, Brent Green Party spokesperson for Environment and Planning
Pictures S Ali.

Brent Greens Call to Safeguard Climate Jobs

Brian Orr, chair of Brent Green Party writes:

We anticipate cuts in council budgets as a consequence of the government's stated intention to reduce the budget deficit - £6.2bn savings for 2010-2011 announced by the coalition government. The pressures on the Council to include making staff redundant as part of the savings necessary to meet the strictures imposed on local government spending will be considerable.

Despite this, Brent Green Party calls upon the newly elected Council to protect those council posts designated for the task of implementing the Brent Council's Climate Change strategy.

On climate change, although an extremely telling case can be made for giving it very high priority - to ensure the calamitous consequences of pursuing 'business as usual' are substantially mitigated in the decades to come - the temptation to put off immediate action until the economy is on the mend must be strong indeed.

Delay for such reason would be a gross false economy. The prime function of the Council must surely be to serve the best interests, immediate, medium-term and long-term, of the people of Brent. Brent residents will, unavoidably, be facing serious threats to their standard of living as unemployment increases and the costs of essentials increase as the nation's economy is brought more into line with what we can afford - and in accord with the economic strategies adopted by most other countries.

The people of Brent will need every bit of help and advice they can get to help them through this period of tough economic adjustment. On the one hand, they will need substantial guidance on how to make sensible economies and investments so as to avoid unacceptable hardship and on the other, they, and particularly the business sector, will need guidance and encouragement in exploiting the opportunities that the adjustments to our economy will be throwing up.

One of the main adjustments required in how we run our affairs will be in the energy sector. By pursuing energy saving in homes, offices and how we travel we will save money and reduce our carbon foot-print: we will be better able to weather the current economic downturn and make our due contribution to reducing the threat of calamitous climate change to ourselves and the world at large.

But this win-win strategy will not develop with anything like the desired speed without vigourous leadership and encouragement from an appointed task-force employed directly under the Council and responsible to them. To have such a unit in place with professional staff that facilitates the linking-up of Brent residents and businesses needing to know how to achieve the substantial energy savings open to them in the form of better insulation, more efficient heating systems and better energy control systems with expert technical advisers, builders, engineers and energy-based businesses (particularly those based in Brent) will lead to the saving of hundreds of millions of pounds across Brent and act as a major stimulus of jobs. A clear illustration of a Green economy in practice.

Cut out such a unit from Brent Council's services and a saving of a few hundred thousand pounds over the course of the economic retrenchment might be made: the lost opportunity for saving across all sectors within Brent that will arise from this 'penny pinching' could well be 1000 times greater, spread as it will be across all the people living and working in Brent. Any claim that the new Council takes climate change seriously would not have any credibility.

Cameron addressed these issues shortly before the general election when he made it clear that he expected businesses, communities, families and individuals to rise to the challenge of climate change - essentially by cutting our carbonemissions, with the active involvement of government.

Either Brent can wait for Central government to request that the council begins to make its contribution to making Brent more energy-efficient across the board. Or it can ensure it is already moving forward when the request is made.

Brian Orr, Chair, Brent Green Party

PS. We have written to key members of the Council.

Illustration credit: Viscount insulation.

7 Jun 2010


Brent Fightback-defend jobs, defend services

THURSDAY 17TH JUNE 7.00 p.m.
Learie Constantine Centre,
43-47 Dudden Hill Lane
London NW10 2ET

Nearest tube station - Dollis Hill

The ConDems plan cuts in jobs and services-£6 billion now and more to come.
This will aim to attack jobs, pay and local services. There are no limits to what they plan.
However we have seen a fightback and resistance growing locally, nationally and internationally.
This will require maximum local support by all of us if we are to succeed in repelling these attacks on the jobs and living standards of local people.
We do not believe that working people should pay the price for this crises.
Greek workers are in the forefront of challenging the attacks internationally.

We hope to invite speakers from Greece, local unions, the Brent Trades Council, community groups, the Right To Work campaign, local user groups and many others.
We hope that you will support this rally to discuss how to resist and build up a fight back in defence of jobs and public services in Brent.
Unity is Strength
We hope to organise public stalls, petitions and leafleting.

More details to follow.

Speakers invited include :
Local trade unionists ,users of services, community groups and those fighting cuts, closures and redundancies such as at the Wittington Hospital, The College of N.W.London, local schools, voluntary/ community groups, public transport groups, the postal services and many more.

plus other speakers invited include:
Pete Murry -Sec Green Party Trade Union.Group
Hank Roberts - Brent N.U.T. and ATL secretary
Joshua Mckenzie - Harrow College students union and N.U.S.
Christine McPherson- CNWL UCU member
John Rees- Cant pay wont pay coalition of resistance
Right to Work Campaign- speaker to be announced
Speaker from the Greek coalition of resistance

and many others invited to be confirmed later.

Decide at the meeting how you want to take this campaign forward.

The fightback and resistance starts now.

Mobilise for the 22nd June demo against the emergency budget by the Condem Government.

Join us and show that working people and their famillies in Brent say no to these attacks.

Save our college

Save our college

Students at the College of North West London (CNWL) created this website to protest against the decision to close the Kilburn Centre on Priory Park Road.

Why are we unhappy?

Managers came into our classes on Monday 15th March and Tuesday 16th March to tell us of their decision to close the Kilburn Centre on 1st August, 2010.
We are very unhappy because the Principal, Vicki Fagg, didn't ask us for our opinions before they decided to close the Kilburn Centre.
We want to go to college to learn. Most students want to improve their education by going to the next level. How are we going to do that, if they shut down our local college?
Many of us are parents with young children and we can't travel to the other centres at Willesden or Wembley because our children go to local schools. Other students young and old also don't want to travel far away to study.
We feel cheated because we have nowhere else to go and our education will be affected.

What's good about the Kilburn Centre?

We like this college because it has courses for young people and older students. The courses offered by the college help us to get qualifications, like English, maths and IT, which companies want when we apply for jobs.
The college is also part of our local community and easy to get to. The staff are very pleasant and helpful and the teachers make things easy to understand.

Why should the Kilburn Centre stay open?

The students can not express in words how important it is for this college to stay open. It is unjust and such a waste of money to close the college because it opened only a few years ago.
It is an important land mark in our community because there are not enough places where people can go to learn new skills. We have a right to an education which suits our needs.
Most students at Kilburn are doing ESOL courses because English is not their first language. Many of them had a difficult past. They rely on their local college and don't have the confidence or the money to travel to the other sites at Willesden or Wembley. If the Kilburn Centre closes, we have no way to improve our education and get the skills to get a job.
The management are holding our future in their hands.

What is the petition for?

The students want to show how strongly we feel about the closure. We are united in the way we feel as students who enjoy coming to this college and want to make a difference. All we ask for is a chance to better our lives and maybe pass some knowledge onto our children.
We really need your support to keep our college at Kilburn open.
Please sign the petition and help us keep the Kilburn Centre open.


From: "Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary"
To: "Mr P Murry" Dear colleague,

I am writing to urge you to support your union and to make your voice heard at College of North West London. I know you have faced a series of issues with your employer over the last year, including its continued failure to implement the nationally agreed 8 point pay scale, redundancies and now an attempt to worsen your contractual terms and conditions.

I wanted to write to you to express the national union’s support for you and to urge you above all to remain united.

What does unity mean? It means firstly, that your union advises you not to respond to the employer’s offer to you on an individual basis. Instead, I would urge you to ensure that the employer only hears one voice, the voice of the union united.

So, secondly, I would urge you to do everything possible to attend your branch meeting this Wednesday, where the employer’s offer is the only subject of discussion. The meeting will take place at 5.00pm on Wednesday 9 June in the Willesden Centre, Lecture Theatre E101. This is your opportunity to make your voice heard and to make sure that your employer gets a clear message from the union as a whole.

I know that your local and regional representatives are working hard to resolve this current dispute and have made a revised offer to the employer on 26 May, a fact that I understand has not been communicated to you by your employer.

Finally, I would assure you that you continue to have the support of the whole union, and at UCU Congress held last week delegates were united in sending you their solidarity.

I am sorry that I can’t be with you on Wednesday, but I wish you well. Please do everything you can to attend the meeting and make sure that your employer hears one, strong united voice from the UCU.

Best wishes

Sally Hunt
UCU general secretary