James Denselow's Councillor Blog
Commentary on politics and local matters in Queens Park, Brent


Guest Post: Louis Charlebois from Queen's Park

Commonhold: A Credible Solution for our Housing Shortage?

We have a serious housing shortage. The Institute for Public Policy Research estimates that on current trends, we will have a shortage of 750,000 homes by 2025. This seems mild compared with an estimate made by the New Statesman in January, last year, stating that there are 4.5 million on waiting lists for affordable housing and estimating a rise by a further 1.25 million (total 5.75 million) with current spending cuts. Neither the coalition nor Labour appears to have a solution, based on their own self-serving comments. It is surprising therefore, that the solution is already here. The solution is not more subsidies.

The solution is Commonhold

Commonhold applies to multiple dwelling developments such as a block of flats. Each flat (called a unit) is separately owned. The tenure is perpetual freehold. Anything else is common property and is owned in common with all other unit owners (there is provision for places like a car parking space or a storage space to be restricted to the use of one unit owner or another). Together, the unit owners form the Commonhold Association and the Commonhold Association is the owner of the Common Property. The Commonhold Association acts within the Commonhold Community Statement. The Commonhold Association must vote in annual assessments and raise supplementary assessments where necessary. It must also carry a reserve. Unlike some other shared ownership concepts, one owner can’t veto the due administration of the Commonhold. Similarly, the commonhold Association cannot avoid its obligation to maintain the Common Property in good order and repair.

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Deputy Leader Budget Speech

Mister Mayor

I could stand here tonight, like other Councillors up and down this country, and tell you how this budget is not of my making, but of the Coalition governments.

Of how reductions in Brent’s grant settlement have been front-loaded.

Of how our funding has been reduced from the £190 million that barely satisfied our needs, to only £152 million.

Of how my hands have been tied behind my back.

Given the difficult decisions I have been forced to make, I understand why so many councils are turning to protest in order to justify their decisions.

But that is not what the people of Brent elected me and this Labour administration to do in May 2010.

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A BUDGET FOR SOCIAL MOBILITY AND LOCAL DEMOCRACY

 

Labour’s budget for 2012/13 has two main themes, social mobility and local democracy. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has cited the UK as one of the worst countries for levels of social mobility and this is in the number one priority in Brent.

 

Most Brent residents have incomes lower than the £26,000 benefit cap, 12,000 (9.3%) of them are unemployed and youth unemployment is a particular problem. One third of Brent children are living in poverty (that is living in households where the household income is below £15,000 a year) and the changes in the welfare reform bill and localisation of housing benefit will make the situation even worse. Children born into poverty are most likely to become poor adults.

 

In Labour’s budget proposals is a pledge to establish a Commission on Social Mobility to be chaired by an academic to ensure that council policy is geared towards enabling local people to achieve their full potential. Meanwhile, the Council is providing £350,000 as starter funding to develop a new employment service to work in partnership with other agencies to help local residents back into work.

 

Meanwhile, in order to address the democratic deficit caused by the Coalition government’s removal of powers from local government, Labour Brent is to double the budget for ward working whereby local people working with their local councillors determine activities and projects within their own communities. From now on every ward will receive £40,000 to spend on local initiatives that matter to them.

 

Brent Council’s Labour Leader, Cllr Ann M John, OBE, said:

 

“The gap between rich and poor is growing all the time with the top ten per cent of earners now earning twelve times as much as the bottom ten per cent. In Brent average earnings are only just at the national average whilst house prices are twice the national average. Social mobility and getting people back to work has to be our number one priority. But we are also giving local people a say in projects in their area by doubling the ward working budget. The government may talk about localism but we practice it”.

 
Brent becomes a Fairtrade Borough

Congratulations to the councillors and staff who have made Brent a Fairtrade Borough, committed to supporting Fairtrade and using products with the FAIRTRADE Mark. Making Brent a Fairtrade Borough was a Labour manifesto promise. Fairtrade is a strategy to alleviate poverty and support sustainable development and so create opportunities for producers and workers who are economically disadvantaged or excluded from the conventional trading system. By joining Fairtrade they can achieve fair access to markets, better trade conditions and overcome the barriers to development. Brent's contribution will be celebrated at an event at 10.30am on Saturday 3 March with Cllr Aslam Choudry, Mayor of Brent, Mr Mike Gidney, Fairtrade Foundation and the Revd Dr Peter Lemmon, Founder of Brent Fairtrade Network. Raffle and refreshments. Convent of Jesus & Mary Language College, Crownhill Road, Harlesden, NW10 4EP 

 
Queens Park farmers' market has won the FARMA Certified Farmers' Market of the year.

(Message from the team that runs the Farmers' Market)

"Cheryl collected the award in Edinburgh last week and we're pleased and delighted for everyone at the market; farmers, producers and you who shop there. It's your local market and your enthusiasm and passion was evident to the judges who said:

 'This is a farmers' market that's alive with a passion for food! It connects with its customers through conversation, great good humour and an infectious generosity of spirit.'

Thank you for shopping and supporting the market through rain or shine, we hope we continue to see you at market over the next few years. The award, a giant hand-cast bell, will come to the market soon, we'll let you know!

As you may have noticed, the cold weather is well upon us. Well done to the large number of you who braved the cold to make it out to market last weekend.

Of course this means that the farmers have a tough job on their hands - roads into London are more treacherous, and some of the more heat-reliant vegetables are halted by the frost.

On a positive note however, for many of the winter varieties, flavour is improved quite noticeably by this cold patch - the frost and snow break down the fibres in a lot of root vegetables, really enhancing their flavour. Perry Court Farm in Kent have contacted us to note that their root veg is tasting fantastic when picked at this time of year, and the same obviously holds true for the produce of the other veg farmers at the market. Often-overlooked winter veg such as swede, turnip, spring greens, cabbage, kale, spinach, chard, parsnip, celeriac, onion and leek are really bursting with taste during this cold spell.

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