Councils to have wide-ranging powers in private rented housing?

The Local Government Chronicle reports on a parliamentary inquiry which has said that councils should gain wide-ranging powers in the private rented housing sector. These would include powers to improve the sector’s standards, easier imposition of licensing schemes, fixed penalty fines for breaches of housing conditions and recovery of housing benefit from offending landlords. The committee’s report called for councils to be able to recover housing benefit paid to any landlord convicted of letting property below legal standards, using the cash raised to finance their enforcement work.  This is what Brent's proposal to register private landlords aims to achieve.

Post boxes

Has anyone noticed that red post boxes have been newly painted? Now light and bright with no graffiti. Maybe being paid for by the excessive profit made from the sale of Royal Mail?


Closure of Brondesbury Park – routes 52 and 302

Buses are being temporarily diverted due to nearby building and sewer works from 0930 Saturday 5 April 2014, for about four weeks. 

Brondesbury Park will be closed at the junction with Willesden High Road. 

Route 52 will be diverted in both directions via Donnington Road, Harlesden Road and Pound Lane, and will be unable to serve Sidmouth Road, Staverton Road, Brondesbury Park and Willesden High Road. 

Route 302 will be diverted in both directions via Donnington Road, Harlesden Road, Pound Lane and Willesden High Road, and will be unable to serve Sidmouth Road, Staverton Road, Brondesbury Park and Willesden High Road (between Brondesbury Park and Dudden Hill Lane). 

Nearest bus stops: Route Towards Bus stops 

52 Victoria WY in Pound Lane (at Willesden Bus Garage), or B in Chamberlayne Road (at All Souls Avenue) Willesden E in Chamberlayne Road (at All Souls Avenue) 

302 Kensal Rise DG in Dudden Hill Lane (at Chapter Road), or B in Chamberlayne Road (at All Souls Avenue)  Mill Hill E in Chamberlayne Road (at All Souls Avenue), or WL in Dudden Hill Lane (at Meyrick Road)  Buses will also serve stops on diversion, if requested to do so. 


Cultural Centre: building progress

These pictures show the 
progress on the library side 


Growth in betting and money lending shops

Many councils are alarmed at the proliferation of betting shops and payday lenders in high streets, particularly in the poorer districts. In Brent statistics show that the borough has at least twice as many bookmakers as the London average, based on population.  With current planning policies there is little a council can do to limit the number of betting and money shops, nor can it stop some categories of retail, such as cafes, pubs and restaurants from changing to these types of businesses without planning permission. Hackney Borough Council, together with 62 other local authorities, has submitted a proposal for the government to create a separate planning use class for betting shops so that councils have new powers to address the problem. It is to be hoped that the growth in betting opportunities on line, such as casino and bingo sites can also be monitored. The recent budget could be said to encourage more to bet on at bingo with cuts in their tax liability. 


The Queensbury

Very pleased the Brent planning committee have rejected the application to demolish this building and build at least 10 floors of flats. Suspect the developer will go to appeal, which can take up to 6 months. Opposite result from inspectorate possible.


Sign the pledge?

Just recently there have been articles in the local press where a prospective candidate is seeking all council election candidates to be fully accountable by signing a pledge that they would stand down if 51% of residents who had voted were dissatisfied with them. It appears to be an attack on all councillors in the area when it is said Willesden has suffered “absent and unresponsive” councillors. Could agree to being outraged by Lib Dem councillors going AWOL, but totally unfair about others. Being elected four times against strong opposition must indicate effective accountability on my part!

On the face of it, the idea looks promising, but considered in more detail looks somewhat pointless. The Lib Dems proposed something similar for parliament but it was squashed by David Cameron who probably recognised the difficulties in implementation. Other reasons include:

- unenforceable in current electoral law

- there's not been a councillor elected by 51% of the vote let alone one debarred by the same number

- In last two WG elections around 4,500 people voted. Half of registered electorate.  51% would be around 2,300 voters. A lot of people to collect a complaint or petition from

- Labour candidates have already signed a strict code devised by the party. Other parties may have similar.

- Who is to collect and check the complainants - and they would have to be checked for legitimate addresses

- Who pays and who does the monitoring?  Party members (risk of bias?). Council officers (limited resources, risk their impartiality)

- Doubt the Lib Dems would sign considering how many have gone missing.


Sale of Willesden Police Station

The potential sale of the old Willesden Police Station has been known about since a property assets review in 2008. The argument for closure has always been that the building is not fit for the purpose of modern policing and together with budget cuts, this was likely argument against it staying open. It has now been sold to a developer well known in the area. The interior of the building is currently being gutted and will probably be converted to flats once planning permission is sought. Residents of Huddlestone Road, next to the Police Station were naturally alarmed when contractor and big lorries were trying to access the site through the car park, risking damage to the footways and neighbouring walls. In addition, the contractors were working outside of the standard hours for construction. Building Control officers were quick to visit and to put an enforcement order on the work, with conditions including specifying hours of work and safe construction practice welcomed by residents. 

Pizza delivery and parking

Solo motorcycles can park for free in CPZ bays and in Brent car parks. But  motorcycles cannot park on yellow lines or on the footway. Residents have complained about pizza delivery bikers parking on the pavement and causing problems for pedestrians. I spoke to the manageress and was promised the practice would stop. Visiting a bit later, there were still 3 bikes on the pavement even though there was a loading parking area just in front of the shop. Bikers thought the request to move was amusing. I've alerted the parking service to the practice and hopefully, with a few penalty notices, bikers will be more thoughtful of pedestrians in future.


The Queensbury latest

Very pleased that The Queensbury pub has been recognised as an Asset of Community Value. To quote The Save the Queenbury site:
"Brent Council has confirmed today to accept the pub on their list stating it provides a significant role in the community. Being on the list means that if the building is sold, the clock stops for six months to enable the community to bid to buy it. More importantly for us, we will be pressing very hard to have the pub’s community status featuring prominently as a “material planning matter” when Brent considers the plans for The Queensbury early next year."