Businesses including a Polish restaurant and a shoe shop were blessed and sang to by residents as part of an ancient ritual re-created in Willesden Green again last weekend. Residents were joined by a team of spoken word artists, led by Rachel Rose-Reid, as they marched down the High Road to honour their local food providers. Wassailing is a tradition dating back to pre-Christian times in which a group of people sang a traditional winter song to their weather-beaten apple trees in order to encourage a good harvest. Artists joining included Muslim hip-hop duo Poetic Pilgrimage and Willesden Green Vocality Choir. When the march reached the library centre, “Transition Town Willesden” provided a special Wassail punch made from locally picked apples.
We have been pleased to be included in the London Mayor’s Outer London Regeneration Fund and to receive around half a million to help regenerate Willesden Green with projects such as refurbishing empty shop units to help emerging businesses. Brent put in a bid for 1.65 million to continue the successful work started in the High Road. It was therefore a surprise to see that both of Brent Council’s second bids have been refused, ignoring the needs of outer London’s most diverse borough. The second bid was for 1.8 million for Ealing Road between Wembley Central and Alperton. The programme was designed to promote Ealing Road to deliver physical, economic social and cultural benefits to Ealing Road, Wembley and Brent. My colleague, Cllr George Crane, Lead member for Regeneration, said he found it difficult to understand why all our neighbouring boroughs have received money and why Brent has been singled out to have both projects rejected.
Objectors to Surrey County Council's proposal to pass the management of some libraries to volunteers applied to the court for a judicial review. To their surprise, the judge issued an injunction much quicker than expected and the Council has two weeks to serve its evidence to the High Court, which would then decide whether the case should go to a judicial review. Brent's recent experience of court responses is very different as all parties involved have had weeks and months to wait for decisions.
Got a call from a journalist wanting a view on the possibility of WIllesden Police Station closing. This is not a new item as I first heard about it in 2008 when the Met Police had a review of assets. 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 is likely to remain the strongest argument against it staying open. The then Deputy Commissioner, Tim Goodwin, I quoted in my blog at the time (18/09/2008). He said at the time that they needed to save £48m. The force was facing "considerable pressure" which could see "unfit" police stations and custody suites replaced with front counters. Mark Toland, then Borough Commander, said there would be no closures before a suitable replacement building is fully established. For Harlesden and Willesden these new buildings need to be in high profile areas and readily accessible to local people. If there's a stark choice, I would rather see officer numbers maintained rather than unfit buildings and suspect this would be a view shared by a number of Willesden residents. Don't think buildings are the main issue. As I said to the journalist, the main issue should be the ease of access to the police at a local site and the quality of service received. There may be yet another "campaign" by opposition groups: we have had a few from saving post offices to saving festivals and police stations. Generated a lot of publicity but 'saved' nothing that I can recall.