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Friday, 31 October 2014

Brent Council in Private Eye's Rotten Boroughs

I see that Brent Council has featured in Private Eye's Rotten Boroughs.  In the bad old days of the 1980s and 1990s, this was a regular event.  When I got elected to the Council in 2006, I recall an officer proudly telling me that "Bent" Council had not featured in Rotten Boroughs for some years, so it is sad to see the circle turn.  The cause this week is the finding of racist bullying in an employment tribunal, although the curious relationships of members and officers are also mentioned.  This strikes me as more damaging to the Council's reputation than an article a little while ago that mentioned the curiosity around the disposal of the former Tokyngton Library.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Car Clubs and Air Quality

Car clubs are once again being put forward as a solution to the problem of London's growing population, increasing congestion and falling air quality.  There are already suggestions that technological change is making car clubs easier, and integrating them with oyster cards would be a sensible thing for any progressive London Mayor to look at.  By lowering costs for residents, car clubs also help the cost of living crisis which has been one of Ed Miliband's major themes.  Brent some time ago was catching up with this agenda, but subsequently progress has stalled.  Perhaps it is time to look again at the possibilities.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Paul Krugman and Derp

One of the pleasures of reading Paul Krugman is his invention of useful terms.  I have just come across "derp" that he has apparently used for some time.  I shall add it to incestuous amplification, zombie ideas and confidence fairy

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Failure and Accountability

Jonathan Portes hands in a damning judgement on the failure of Iain Duncan Smith at the DWP, but I am struck by the lack of accountability.  Here we  have a minister ignoring repeated warnings of inevitable failure, brushing aside clear evidence of totally unobtainable objectives, huge private sector failure and billions of taxpayers' money wasted.  Yet no one resigns, or even admits culpability.

The whole ship of state just goes yet further in unnavigable waters, and no one stops it.

At the same time ministers are pilloried for personal indiscretions, gaffes (which sometimes consist of telling the truth) and relatively minor misconduct.  Doesn't our whole political system have its priorities wrong?

Monday, 27 October 2014

Kilburn Literary Festival

Interested to read of a new Kilburn Literary Festival coming up.  It sounds like a good initiative, that could help the regeneration of Kilburn High Road.  I hope it survives, and that Brent and Camden Councils can find ways to support its development. 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Council Buildings and Potential Clawback

I did a couple of posts about the former Preston Library building here and here.  As I explained, there are a number of problems with the hope of the Friends of Preston Library to simply take control of the building.  In my view, indeed, they are insurmountable.

One that I didn't mention is the importance of guaranteeing performance.  The days when Brent just gave people money and let them get on with it ending a long time ago, which given the potential for abuse is probably no bad thing.  The many organisations that get grants from Brent: Brent CAB, the Tricycle Theatre, all sorts of ward working schemes and many others are required to report on progress towards whatever the objectives of the grant are.

Essentially, you have to list your objectives, have some sort of reporting mechanism on whether you are achieving them, and a correction mechanism if you do not.

In the case of a building, I would expect this to be a clawback mechanism, where if the building ceases to be used for the stated purpose it returns to the ownership and control of the Council.  This is a long established principle of such arrangements, for example it applied to the old Carlyon Plant, the Bridge Park Sports Centre, Brent Museum and others.  I have remarked before that, despite their increasing ubiquity, there appears to be no agreed criteria for measuring the success of community managed libraries.  The closest I can find is this

Ignoring such issues does not make them go away.