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

Housing Benefit Changes and Housing Reforms - how it may affect you!

Laurence Coaker, Housing and Community Care, Brent Council


 The Government has introduced changes to the way that new claims for Housing Benefit are calculated.  A maximum weekly cap has been applied to new claims, depending on the size of the property, made after 1 April 2011. 


  Any existing claim for Housing Benefit, made before 1 April 2011, will continue to receive the same rate of Housing Benefit for nine months after the anniversary of the claim. After this 9 month period has expired, the maximum cap will apply.  The caps that have been set are:


o   £250 a week for a one bedroom property (including shared accommodation)

o   £290 a week for a two bedroom property

o   £340 a week for a three bedroom property

o   £400 a week for a four bedroom property


  The maximum rate of Housing Benefit will be limited to the rate for a four bedroom property

Calls for Sarah Teather to resign

(Kilburn Times) A Brent MP has faced criticism and calls to resign after failing to turn up to vote on the Government’s welfare reforms.

Sarah Teather, Liberal Democrat MP for Brent Central and Children’s Minister, said she was on “ministerial business attending meetings on special educational needs” when the votes took place in the House of Commons.

The reforms, which have been described as the biggest welfare shake-up for 60 years, include capping the amount of benefits any family can receive at £26,000. T

he votes were considered extremely important.

But a spokesman for Miss Teather, said: “It is normal and routine for ministers to be slipped for votes.

“There were Tory ministers who were absent for the same votes including William Hague Secretary of State for the Foreign Office, Francis Maude, Minister for Cabinet Office and Nick Herbert, Minister of State for Police and Criminal Justice among others.”

Education in Brent

Following the Brent Labour Education Conference in January, more detailed questions from members and school governors are being asked especially in relation to individual schools. Here are some answers to FAQs.

What will be the impact on Brent children, schools and the local authority if more schools convert to academy status?

Schools are setting budgets at this time of unprecedented cuts to public services. To address the shortfall, some are considering the possibility of academy conversion to gain direct additional funding for services normally provided by the Local Authority.

It is vital to understand the repercussions, impacting on the whole education community:

· Risks of fragmentation and greater insularity as more schools become academies, providing a more difficult context for partnership working and collective solutions which have been a strong feature in Brent and a factor in achieving good outcomes for young people

· Brent Local authority still have statutory functions to fulfil which are of key importance such as

strategic planning of school places

tackling underperformance in schools and some pupils underachieving

meeting needs of vulnerable children ( SEN, LAC, excluded pupils)

co-ordination of admissions and operation of fair access protocols.

If more schools become academies, it will become increasingly difficult for the LA to meet these functions effectively for all schools whatever their status

· If more schools convert, the operation of the top slice will increasingly affect the LA capacity to provide viable services. This will have most impact on those schools who do not wish to pursue academy status with the risk of creating a two tier system

The LA believe that there will be overall adverse effects on children and young people if strong collaboration and collective responsibility is not maintained and if the LA education function reduces to the extent that statutory responsibilities cannot effectively be fulfilled

Brent’s policy is to deliver its duties and services in close partnership with the Family of Schools, currently made up of a mix of maintained, foundation, voluntary-aided and academy schools.

Brent's Parking Shops

Whilst we have not yet reached any final decision, we are exploring potential options that include:

· sale of some permits through local shops,

· telephone solutions (automated and operator supported);

· wider range of permit durations, possibly to include 2 year or 3 year permits, or even rolling permits automatically renewed via direct debit, that would further reduce the frequency at which permits would need to be renewed; and

· simplification of permit purchase arrangements and requirements.

If our final decision is to close both Parking Shops (which is not yet certain), we will need to consider whether to do so in a staggered way, one advantage of which would be a better understanding any residual demand for personal visits before (and if) both shops are closed. If this identifies that personal applications are still a necessity for the sorts of reasons that you mention, then we will consider whether this could be accommodated at a Council Office. However, our preference is that customers should in future not be inconvenienced have to travel or wait for parking services such as permits.

If you have any specific suggestions, ideas or recommendations, it would help our considerations and development of improved replacement services if you could share these with me.


This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Snow Updates

The situation first thing this morning is as follows:


·         The main road network is clear and running fine. Four full gritting runs were undertaken during the weekend. The last was completed at 4am today.


·         Side roads and pavements remain very slushy. Temperatures will be around 4 degrees today so we expect a good amount of thaw.


·         Waste collections will happen as scheduled. Start time will be 9am rather than 7am to ensure better light.


·         The street cleansing operation is suspended with the operatives redeployed on pavement clearance. Town Centres, schools and medical centres are being prioritised.


·         Bulky waste collections and bin deliveries are also suspended to allow these operatives to be redeployed.


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