27 Jan 2017

Community groups get a grip on Brent's air pollution problem

Mounting diffusion tubes in Queen's Park
Four Brent community groups have been monitoring air pollution in the southern part of the Borough as part of a citizen science project across London. Four more voluntary associations have now joined forces with them in a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of air pollution and improve air quality in Brent. Brent Council are supporting this effort.

In late 2016 Transition Town Kensal to Kilburn (TTK2K), Transition Willesden (TW) and Queens Park Area Residents' Association (QPARA) put up “diffusion tubes” to monitor nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in their areas. They surveyed main and residential roads, outside schools and in parks. The results are shocking: three quarters of the twenty sites the Transition groups tested exceeded legal limits for the pollutant. This complemented a similar survey of Chamberlayne Road NW10 by Kensal Rise Residents' Association (KRRA) in 2014. All the findings are consistent. They demonstrate that the closer you are to busy routes the more exposed you are to illegal pollution levels.

All eight groups, now including Brent Friends of the Earth (BFoE), Aylestone Park Residents’ and Tenants’Association (APRATA), Kensal Triangle Residents' Association (KTRA) and Brent Eleven Streets (BEST), met last week with Queens Park Cllr Ellie Southwood, Cabinet Member, Environment. They now plan to campaign together and work with others in the community to alert residents of the dangers of air pollution, show how people can reduce their exposure to it and improve air quality. This work builds on a successful track record of residents' associations coming together to energise and engage the Queens Park ward community on air pollution.

Air pollution is a health hazard. It is estimated to be responsible for the premature death of 9,400 Londoners a year and many serious illnesses. This compares with 127 deaths from road accidents in London in 2014. There were 112 early deaths in Brent from air pollution in 2010. Medical research shows that air pollution is linked with cancer, strokes, heart disease and respiratory problems. The main pollutants are nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, particularly from diesel vehicles. The principal source of air pollution in Brent is road traffic, though emissions from heating systems also contribute.

Viv Stein from Transition Willesden says, “Not surprisingly we found the highest levels of NO2 pollution along busy main roads – Cricklewood Broadway down to Kilburn High Road, with many other areas also above what's considered safe. In view of this we are pleased to learn that greener buses will be coming to this heavily polluted route under the Mayor of London's Low Emission Bus Zones, though we will have to wait till at least 2018.

“Though our findings show only a snapshot of pollution over a short period, results are in keeping with other studies across London. We would like to do further monitoring, and involve schools, businesses, residents, health providers and the Council to raise awareness and take action on this public health issue. Along with other local groups we are now planning to raise awareness about vehicles idling, and about the damaging impact of all diesel vehicles, including diesel cars which now make up nearly half of the cars on the road.”

Janey McAllester from Transition Kensal to Kilburn says, “Pollution affects us all. Drivers need to be aware they and their passengers are breathing in a lot more pollution inside their cars than walking or cycling. The less time we spend in cars, the better for everyone. We want to encourage more cycling and work with the Council to help people cycle and walk more.”

Souraya Choukeir from QPARA says, “Air pollution is not something you can see so people are often not aware of how bad it is or of the harm it does. But there are things that we all can do to reduce it and protect ourselves from it such as switching to cleaner, non-diesel vehicles, driving less, and, where possible, walking on less polluted side streets.”

Cllr Ellie Southwood says, “It was great to see residents’associations and green groups coming together to share hard evidence about the problems of air pollution in Brent. I look forward to their helping us develop actions to deliver the Borough’s new Air Quality Action Plan and I am looking forward to working with them to make a positive difference to the air we breathe in Brent."

The two Transition Town groups each set up ten diffusion tubes to monitor NO2 in their areas between September 24th and October 8th. They also tested for particulate matter at a number of sites. This was part of the Cleaner Air 4 Communities programme run by the London Sustainability Exchange (LSx). QPARA monitored ten sites around Salusbury Road in August and October. BFoE have also started monitoring this month.

The groups' findings will add to Brent Council's own monitoring data which measures NO2 at 27 locations across the Borough. Much of Brent is designated an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) as clean air standards are not being met. The Council's new Air Quality Action Plan will be going out for consultation soon. The voluntary groups hope that the plan will engage with their efforts, and make all residents and those who work in Brent aware of the need to combat this serious threat to our health and well being.

To find out more about the Transition groups' project, see their results and join in, see More on QPARA's project is at

26 Jan 2017

Brent Trades Council 25/1/2016: College of N.W.London, NHS ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’,Harlesden Post Office Threatened, Brent Unite Community

Brent Trades Council 25/1/2016  (Report By P.Murry Brent & London Green Party Trade Union Liaison Officer)

1)      College of N.W.London

I attended as an observer because Indro Sen UCU Branch Secretary of the College of N.W.London had been invited. I was trying to find out for Green Party TU group and UCU retired members’ branch more info re the dispute at CNWL. Sen did not attend the meeting and info was still needed on  the current state of the dispute ie: were the merger plans for CNWL and Westminster College, whether there were any redundancies and was Sen himself suspended or dismissed, I’ll try some other contacts at the College.

2)      NHS ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’.

There two speakers on this subject, one whose name I didn’t note, and Anne Drinkell. In summary STP’s are the latest plan for NHS ‘reform’ seen by many as an attempt to prepare for a privatised health service and introduction of insurance related health provision. STP’s had been secretively planned with minimum public and professional consultations. N.W.London ( Hounslow, Kensington& Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, Brent, Harrow and Ealing) was a prototype area for STP’s . The rationales given of improving specialist care, such as Cardiac provision, didn’t make much sense as specialist provision was already available. Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals were immediately under threat. STP’s could also foist more responsibility onto local authorities for social care onto local authorities which couldn’t cope with the responsibilities that they already had.

A more detailed summary of the issues around STP’s from the London Green Party Campaigns discussions on 14/1/2017, is added below.

Considerable professional and public opinion against STP’s appears to be gathering, the BMA has opposed them. Well attended public meetings had taken place in Hammersmith and Brent Labour Party was campaigning ahainst  them at its regular  stalls.
I t was reported (by G.Durham), to have instructed Brent Council to oppose although Brent Labour group leader  had advocated a ‘dented shield’ strategy of being involved with STP’s in order to mitigate their worst effects. The Trades Council agreed to support the NHS demo on 4 March (, the Green Party was supporting this.

3)      Other matters discussed
a)Post Office Closures: Harlesden Post Office Threatened: impractical scheme of re-Locating Post Offices inside local shops. (see
b) Brent Unite Community branch being set up (contact Robin Sivapalan


Heather Finlay, Green Party activist in Hackney and lay member of Hackney CCG, also of Hackney Healthwatch: the Sustainability and Transformation Plans; what they mean, how they threaten major cuts, how to respond to this.
Merril Hammer, Save our Hospitals Campaign Hammersmith and Charing Cross; experiences of opposing hospital closures and how to campaign to preserve what we have.
Helen Mercer; People vs PFI
Pam Zinkin; Islington KONP (Keep our NHS Public)
Some web sites to look up for background:-
Health Campaigns Together:
Keep our National Health Service Public (KONP):
People vs PFI:
There was quite a lot in this meeting about ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’. Each group of London boroughs has one – they aim to reduce the cost of the NHS by various ‘savings’ which include moving people out of hospital faster and treating more of them as outpatients in the first place. All this throws extra burdens on the grossly over-stretched local authority social care budgets. A number of local councils have refused to endorse the STP for their area, or merely to ‘note’ it rather than say they support it. Campaigning to avoid these cuts can be addressed to councillors as well as to central government. Hopefully resistance from local councils and from within the medical profession will induce the government to put more money into the NHS and into social care. The various CCGs were supposed to sign contracts with NHS England to accept their local STP on 23 December. What follows is a lengthy consultation period in which the nature of the cuts can be debated and challenged – although unless central government changes its mind, the extent of the ‘savings’ demanded has already been set.

Notes of discussion – main practical proposals
1)    Green Parties should be seen to oppose STPs. It’s not too late for councils to object. They can also impose conditions on the STP partnership.
2)    As individual Green members we can join existing campaigns like HCT and KONP. It helps those organisations if Green Parties affiliate.
3)    We can also start our own campaign in our area if there is none- but they tend to be more effective if non-party. People can start a branch of KONP or HCT if there is none locally.
There is a helpful resource pack on the HCT web site about campaigning, including against STPs.
4)    We can and should support the NHS Reinstatement Bill, which has its second reading in the House of Commons on February 24th – see
A helpful amendment which could be proposed to this bill would be to alter the way in which re-nationalisation of PFIs would be dealt with – as per Helen’s talk – to take back the assets rather than the debt. Replacing the debt with government bonds would help the companies rather than deprive them, and of course add to the national debt. Alyson Pollock and Peter Ruddick may try to secure an amendment to reflect this change.
PFI burdens on local authorities are huge – this impedes them from taking responsibility for social care properly.
Contracting out of some NHS services means it is effectively being given away rather than sold for money – see article in the latest Green World (the one about to come out ?).  (This was from Mike Gold; see also his own blog,
Although there is little money left in the NHS for adequate monitoring of services, the public can hold PFI companies and sub-contractors to account through Healthwatch. There are meetings where the results on ‘key performance indicators’ are presented and can be challenged. There are financial penalties if these key indicators are not achieved.
Some debate as to the relative importance of local actions like this and national lobbying and Parliamentary intervention. However…
5)    the meeting was impressed by Heather Finlay’s role on the CCG and Healthwatch in Hackney, and concluded ‘every Green Party needs a Heather’ – though with a warning that this sort of committee work is very time-consuming.
It’s hard to get the public to believe and take in what is happening to the NHS – they just think everything is ok unless their own or their family’s treatment hits an obstacle.
6)    It’s important to issue lots of leaflets, which must be very simple and avoid acronyms. Green Parties can help distribute KONP, HCT etc leaflets with Greens’ own material. So when we do a leaflet round, we can add a health related leaflet to it as well.
7)    Publicising the issues about the NHS crisis and its roots in STPs, PFIs and sub-contracting can also be done through social media; especially useful to create video clips.
8)    The March 4 demo about the NHS will be very important and we should start mobilising for it.
9)    We should set up a London group within the London Fed to support local parties in health related campaigning and coordinate between them, for example the several boroughs who share a particular STP ‘footprint’.

Helen Mercer of People against PFI outlined the dangers and costs of PFIs and – as described above under point 4 - mentioned an apparent flaw in the forthcoming NHS Reinstatement Bill; that it calls for re-nationalisation (i.e. public buy-back) of the PFI debt, whilst a better policy would be to call for the buying back of the much smaller amount of equity capital in the PFI company, thus acquiring the assets involved. The arguments she made are already online at:-

Merril Hammer of Health Campaigns Together talked about the STPs (Sustainability and Transformation Plans) and strategies to oppose them including by and involving local councillors. Text of talk ...scroll down...

Forthcoming health related events:-
Saturday 28 January

London Rally & Protest - Hands off our NHS 12:30 Old Palace Yard. Invite your friends on Facebook here.

Message about 4 March demo from Health Campaigns Together:-
The leaflet for the 4th March Demo will be available by 12th January; please send Louise your orders        (make sure you include a postal address).
It is a generic leaflet. If groups want a PDF designed with their local details about coaches or contacts added to the design let us know and we can get it designed and sent back to you for local printing. We are very grateful to People’s Assembly for leaflet design and to Unite for printing.

Some groups are doing a day of action on Saturday 14th to help build for the demo and if you would like leaflets for that please let Louise know as soon as possible so we can get them to you in time.

We also have a website now
Please send any information about local groups’ arrangements, coaches and contact details and we will upload to the website. This will be particularly helpful for people who find out about the demo but don’t know about local transport arrangements.

Please share the information with your local contacts and on social media via Facebook and Twitter (#ourNHS). There is a demo Facebook page :

Finally, any donations would be welcome towards our costs. You can donate to Health Campaigns Together and the details on how to send donations are on the HCT

(Louise said) I also attach our list of demo supporters so far. (it is not complete). If anyone has any to add please let me know. It would be good to have the growing list of supporting organisations on the website.

The HCT meeting on 21 Jan will discuss plans for the demo and we are hoping there will be a wide representation of campaigners there.

Any queries just email or you can phone me on 07922 277395.

Best wishes and happy new year to you all,

Merril’s talk on STPs:-

·        Sustainability and Transformation Plan
·        Slash Trash and Privatise
·        Slash Trash and Plunder
·        44 ‘footprints’ across England, 5 of them in London – combining CCGs and local councils
·        Govt and NHSE – to improve health provision in the context of a population that is growing older, living longer and is presenting more complex problems.
·        Reality: cutting funding and moving to more privatisation. What is proposed is politically driven and not driven by health concerns. Tories never liked the NHS. Elected on a ‘no more top down reorganisation of NHS’ they have, first, had the Health and Social Care Act 2012 implemented. This rolled out the marketisation of health care. (Caroline Lucas is fighting this with the NHS reinstatement bill), and now, with no legislation and no full parliamentary debate, instituted the STP top down reorganisation.
·        CUTS. Nationally, the NHS has to deliver £22bn in cuts by 2020/21
·        Huge reduction in hospital beds, closing A&Es, moving to more ‘care in the community’ – it varies to some extent between STPs – but let me give some figures for the NW London STP
·        Closure of 2 hospitals and more than 500 acute beds to be lost, despite effects of earlier A&E closures… Aim to cut more than £1.3bn in NW London … increased workloads for already overstretched GPs … more online GP consultations … privatisation through American-style ACPs … and by encouraging prevention and wellbeing so people don’t get sick!!
·        Lack of evidence – and what they do present is ‘unfit for purpose’ – and the costings etc. don’t add up!
·        Dependence on social services – now hugely cut and without more than a minimal ‘bribe’ from NHSE. And dependence on unpaid carers … in our STP, 103,001 unpaid carers.
·        Innovation in context of cuts simply cannot work
·        Not only are STPs being implemented without parliamentary approval; local consultation is a farce – more a sales job to a very limited no. of people
·        Further, STP governance is moved further away from any form of local accountability. Meetings will not necessarily be open to public. Much local control disappeared with the 2012 Act and the setting up of unaccountable CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) which are really a market mechanism. Now, the governance will move even further from local accountability.
·        Clearly a result of ongoing cuts to the NHS, particularly hospital services. In NW London, there has been no recovery from the disastrous closure of 2 A&Es – and yet 2 hospitals are to be closed and turned into glorified UCCs  (Urgent Care Centres) when they can neither cope with current emergencies and the growing backlog of non-urgent operations.
·        This is a pattern being repeated across the country
·        In Worcester, only this week, 2 people died waiting for care, one after a 35 hour wait on a trolley; the other of an aneurism after many hours on a trolley.
·        More people being seen in corridors etc.
·        The details being covered in the press are the tip of the iceberg!
·        One patient in NW London, with acute appendicitis, was not seen for 16 hours in total. She attended one hospital, was transferred to another and then to another … with long waits, in pain, at each. This is shocking!!
·        Overwhelmingly, the crisis is being caused by lack of beds for seriously ill patients, staff shortages partly because of funding and partly the result of recruitment issues (a real problem in London) and NOT because people are inappropriately using A&Es. The government is moving blame from itself to the patient – this is dangerous. A small anecdote on staffing: Richard Sykes (Chair of NHS London); ‘working our staff to death’ – there are no efficiency savings left to be made.
·        Health care expenditure in Germany, Sweden, France, Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium and Austria in 2015 was higher than UK expenditure as % GDP – and it has fallen significantly since. Indeed, this week The Guardian said that % GDP spent on health is already at 6.6% - compared to 11% in Germany and an EU average of 9.9% in 2015.
·        Practicing doctors per 1000 population. European average 3.5; UK average 2.8 – only just above poor eastern European countries
·        MRI units – Europe average 15.4; UK – 6.1 per million population
·        CT scanners – key for cancers – Europe average 21.4; UK – 8 per million population. And for both, the no of actual MRI scans or CT scans are well below the European average. Also interesting, then, that cancer survival rates are poor in the UK.
·        Indeed, mortality rates for pneumonia and COPD in the UK are also significantly worse than the European average.
·        Hospital beds per 1000 population. European average is 5.2; UK is 2.7 – and Germany has 8.2.
Give some consideration to priorities for Green Party, Green councillors and individual Green party members.
·        Get the Green Party, locally and nationally, to oppose STPs. It is NOT too late to get councils to object! Signing up without proper scrutiny etc.
·        Join, as individuals, local campaigns – non-party political but would be welcomed with open arms
- London STP areas and local campaigns
     NW London: Westminster, K&C, H&F, Hounslow, Ealing,
              Brent, Harrow, Hillingdon
SW London: Croydon, Kinsgton, Merton, Richmond,         
          Sutton, Wandsworth
SE London: Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich, Lambeth,
          Lewisham, Southwark
NE London: Barking and Dagenham, City of London,
          Hackney, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower
          Hamlets, Waltham Forest
N Central London: Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey
- start a campaign if there isn’t one in your area
·        Get the Green Party – nationally and local branches – to affiliate to KONP (Keep our NHS Public) or HCT (Health Campaigns Together). See web sites and
·        Familiarise yourself with information about STPs and campaigning – see HCT website
·        Support the March 4th demo.

25 Jan 2017

London Greens need to campaign against London school funding cuts

The Tories are redistributing rather than increasing the money spent on schools despite increases in costs of salaries, national insurance and an increase in pupil numbers. Standing still on the national total means a cut in real terms but this is exacerbated by redistribution away from cities when schools face problems of child poverty and high pupil mobility as well as teacher recruitment and retention when housing is so expensive. 

London schools are often cited as a national success story but this will be put at risk by funding cuts.

London Councils published this information today:

The National Funding Formula (NFF)will remove £19 million of funding from London’s schools.

Taking this into account as well as the increased cost pressures identified by the National Audit Office, London’s schools will need to make savings of £360 million in the first year of the new national funding formula (2018/19) to balance their books. No school will gain enough funding from the NFF to compensate for increased cost pressures due to factors such as inflation, pensions and national insurance.
As around 70 per cent of a school’s budget is spent on staff salaries, funding reductions are likely to result in fewer teachers and support staff posts in schools, as well as increased class sizes.
This is significant because top quality teachers who are motivated and highly skilled are the main reason that children make progress and achieve good results in their education.
Without the right qualifications and skills, London’s children will be unable to access jobs and contribute to the national economy. Over 60 per cent of jobs in inner London require a degree and around 45 per cent of jobs in the rest of the capital require a degree.
Analysis of the NFF shows that:
  • 70 per cent of schools (over 1,500) across the capital will face budget cuts.
  • The impact is widespread – 802 schools in inner London and 734 schools in outer London stand to lose funding due to the NFF.
  • At least one school in every London borough will experience a reduction in funding.
  • 19 London boroughs are set to lose funding, with losses ranging from 0.1 per cent to 2.8 per cent.
Combining the impact of the introduction of the NFF and wider cost pressures, headteachers at London schools will have to make savings totalling £360 million in the first year of the NFF (2018/19).
The savings required are equivalent to:
  • 17,142 teaching assistant posts, on an average salary of £21,000.
  • 12,857 qualified teachers, on an average salary of £28,000.
  • This amounts to cutting 7.5 teaching assistant posts per school or cutting 5.6 qualified teachers posts per school, given that there are 2,297 mainstream schools in London.

If the government’s proposals are brought into effect, 70 per cent of schools in the capital will face budget cuts, on top of pre-existing funding reductions. London will also see larger reductions in funding than anywhere else in the country.

This comes on top of National Audit Office figures showing that educational standards across the country could plummet as schools in England face an 8 per cent real-terms cut per pupil by 2019/20 thanks to wider cost pressures.

Taking everything into account, London’s schools will need to make savings of £360 million in the first year of the new national funding formula in order to balance their books.

But at a time when UK schools are seen as underperforming by international standards, and when businesses based in London are facing massive uncertainty about recruiting skilled staff, there is an urgent need to invest in schools in London and across the rest of the country.

London Councils' Key Asks:
  • That all children receive a great education – every child in the country deserves this.
  • That the government finds an additional £335 million for the schools that stand to gain through the National Funding Formula without taking money away from other schools.
  • That the government revises the draft National Funding Formula to better reflect London’s needs and to avoid a decrease in educational standards.
    Key facts about London Schools 

     The figure is 94% in Brent
    London’s schools are the best in the country

  • In London 89 per cent of schools are currently judged to be good or outstanding by Ofsted, the highest percentage of any region in England.
  • Last year London’s schools helped pupils to achieve 60.9 per cent five A* to C GCSEs including Maths and English, the highest rate for any region and above the national average of 57.3 per cent.
London’s schools promote social mobility
  • London has the highest attaining cohort of pupils on Free School Meals in the country – 48 per cent of young people on FSM in London achieved five good GCSEs as opposed to only 36.8 per cent of the same group nationally.
Recruitment and retention of teachers is a challenge in London
  • Around 50 per cent of headteachers in London are approaching retirement. Schools must act now to ensure teachers in senior leadership roles are ready to become headteachers.
  • Living costs are higher in London. One example of this is private sector rents, which are more than twice the national average according to the Valuation Office Agency. Schools are therefore under pressure to ensure salaries reflect this reality.
School places:
  • Between 2010-2020 the school age population in London is anticipated to grow by almost 25 per cent
  • 110,364 new school places will be needed in London between 2016/17 and 2021/22 to meet forecast demand. This consists of 62,934 primary places and 47,430 secondary places.
  • At least £1.8 billion will be needed to provide sufficient school places in London between 2016/17 and 2021/2
 Resources on London school places and funding can be found HERE

More on the situation of schools in Brent HERE

21 Jan 2017

Conference - ‘Climate Refugees’- The Climate Crisis and Population Displacement: Building a Trade Union and Civil Society Response

Conference - ‘Climate Refugees’- The Climate Crisis and Population Displacement: Building a Trade Union and Civil Society Response
Organised by the Campaign against Climate Change and Friends of the Earth, supported by FBU, UCU, TSSA, CWU, PCS, NUT, Unite, Unison, International Trade Union Confederation, Stand Up to Racism, JCWI, Global Climate Jobs and BARAC UK
Saturday 11th February 2017, 10.30-16.45 (Registration from 09.30)
Climate change is devastating peoples’ lives and livelihoods and whole economies, and is a growing concern to trade unions for whom effective responses are now a fundamental issue of justice - economic, employment and income security. Yet people displaced from their homes have no legal status in international law, and are vilified as 'economic migrants'. The overwhelming majority are given safe haven by other poor countries, whilst in the West, racism and xenophobia are leading to demands for more walls and fences.
‘Climate Refugees’ - The Climate Crisis and Population Displacement: Building a Trade Union and Civil Society Response is supported by trade unions and environmental, refugee and human rights campaigns. It will include expert briefings, and new evidence of the impact of climate change on human security. We aim to dispel myths about refugees, debate the need for the need for a global response based on justice and solidarity including the need for legal protection for those being displaced by the climate crisis, and discuss how we can build a powerful movement that can demand stronger government leadership on this fundamental issue.
Venue: NUT Conference Centre, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, EuNational ston, London

20 Jan 2017


7pm, Thursday 19 January, St Pancras Church, Euston Road, NW1 2BA.
Amelia Womack - Deputy Leader, Green Party
Kevin Courtney - General Secretary, National Union of Teachers
Lindsey German - People's Assembly
Malia Bouattia - NUS President
Steve Turner - Assistant General Secretary, UNITE
Alex Gordon - Former President RMT.