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Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Ibrahim Taguri Not Standing

I gather Ibrahim Taguri is not standing after all, so it will be up to Lauren Keith to lose for the Liberal Democrats in Brent Central.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Have Brent Volunteer Libraries Reached a Dead End?

I was involved in a twitter exchange about Brent libraries with some one who thinks that Brent has three volunteer libraries actually operating.  This is not so.

There are four groups that want to operate libraries in Brent.  The one closest to doing so is the so called "Barham Library", which is operated by former councillor Paul Lorber and other Liberal Democrat sympathisers.  It is not clear whether it is actually lending books or selling them.  If you sell books, in my opinion you are a bookshop, not a library.  The stated aim of the group is to take over the former Council building in Barham, but as this has now been leased for 15 years to ACAVA, this seems unlikely.

The other three groups are linked to sites in Kensal, Cricklewood and Preston.  The former Kensal Rise library is now in private ownership.  The owner is trying to sell it, leaving the site in limbo until is becomes clear who the new owner is and what they want to do with it.  The Cricklewood site is also in private ownership, and has planning permission to convert to housing combined with a community space.  It is not clear what the community space might be or when a conversion might occur.  Again the owner has put the building on the market, so the eventual outcome depends on the will of the new owner.

This leaves the former Preston building.  I have pointed out that there are a number of obstacles to developing this building as a library.  It is not clear whether these include asset of community value status

All this is to my mind something of a distraction from the successes of the Brent Libraries Transformation Project.  The last stage in this will be the opening of the new Willesden Library Centre in the Summer.  Hopefully Willesden Library will become as great a success as Wembley Library now is.  That would be the crowning glory of the strategy. 

Would Volunteer Libraries Help?
Those who are still hoping to form community managed or volunteer libraries really just never accepted the strategy in the first place.  I recall one member of one of the campaign groups even claiming that the judge had decided against the Council even though the published Judgement shows that is nonsense. 

The danger is that such groups could seek to persuade the Council to rewrite its winning formula to suit their own desires for voluntary libraries.  It is not commonly appreciated that these may actually have extra costs.  One example would be in technology and book stock.  But there are various other ways in which extra voluntary libraries, far from adding to a service, actually drain resources from it in terms of management expertise, training and so on.  So I hope that if the Council tries that route it is mindful not to damage the existing Brent Library service in the process.  After all, by now Brent Libraries are probably some of the most improved in the country. 

Monday, 30 March 2015

SNP Holding Feet to the Fire

It seems to me that the SNP's suggestion of holding Labour's feet to the fire is unravelling.  The most recent pledge to back Labour's plans on Income Tax implies it is the other way around.  The SNP, a party with little or no commitment to social justice judging by its record at Holyrood is finding itself adopting Labour policies.

It is rather different from the "King maker" role Alex Salmond envisaged.  The basic reason is that having ruled out a deal with the Tories, the SNP have nowhere else to go other than supporting Labour.  All very strange.  

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Brent Central Liberal Democrat Candidate Admires David Cameron

I see that the Liberal Democrats have announced their Brent Central candidate as Lauren Keith, who was defeated in Mapesbury last year.  Entering the campaign so late means that she is really just a paper candidate, as I imagine she would have been in Barking where she was due to stand before Ibrahim Taguri was forced to drop out.  Sarah Teather MP has endorsed her just as she did Ibrahim Taguri.  I wonder whether Mr Taguri still plans to stand as an independent.

Ms Keith's political take seems to a bit different to the way Sarah Teather has usually pitched herself.  Here is Ms Keith:

"I am not a Liberal Democrat who is going to apologise on the doorstep for the Coalition. I think it was the best situation that could have transpired.
The Conservatives are not the party they were in the 1980s; they have a leader who is clearly much more in the centre-ground of politics, and his and Nick’s personal chemistry certainly attest to a political dovetailing as well. You need look no further than the disquiet about Cameron and the coalition coming from the traditional right-wing elements of the party, and the brewing arguments over defence spending to see that Cameron’s Conservatives are a different breed.
Our parties share the same ideas about Localism and Civil Liberties, and I am sure that this Parliament will see new and revolutionary action being taken on these issues and that this will prove to be the major legacy of the next five years.

Full article here.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Business Fears Over the SNP

I have just seen the lead story in the Financial Times this morning.  A survey of chairmen and chief executives of FTSE100 companies reveals that the fear a Labour/SNP government.  The only specific policy objection comes from someone who thinks SNP involvement would lead to a rise in Corporation Tax.  Should we not be worried that senior Executives are so ignorant that they don't realise that cutting Corporation Tax is the only tax policy the SNP have?  The SNP is a really quite right wing party more interested in cosy corporate deals that any sort of social reform.

George Osborne's Housing Disaster

As usual, Red Brick Blog does an excellent takedown of George Osborne's irresponsibility in housing policy.  Essentially the Tory Party refuses to understand that the housing market does not build in response to demand or to house prices going up.  In pumping up the housing bubble, he simply unbalances the economy still further.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Police Investigate Ibrahim Taguri

Some more details on Ibrahim Taguri have emerged despite the Liberal Democrats ongoing silence.  According to Matthew Holehouse of the Daily Telegraph, police are investigating "potential evasion of restrictions on donations" after the Electoral Commission asked them to.

Parking and Benefits

The Guardian recently gave some examples of the kind of petty reasons that can trigger benefit sanctions.  Many of them appear trivial, and some outside the ability of the person sanctioned to control.  The effect of cutting someone's benefits when they have very limited financial resources can involve real hardship including hunger, and one would think a humane society would be less strict.  It would not be hard, even in those cases where someone has done something wrong, to have some sort of warning system.  Instead, the whole system seems to set out to be as harsh and demeaning as possible.

I am struck by the efforts of ministers to relax parking enforcement.  I suspect the reason for the contrasting attitudes is simply class hatred.  Minister genuinely hate people on benefits, regarding them as an American style underclass (even those most work on low pay); in contrast getting a parking ticket is something they can imagine people like themselves getting.