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


A message from the Brent Borough Commander

Last week Operation Hawk hit the streets of Brent, a number of activities instigated by information provided by members of the community were actioned by Police and partner agencies. Weapon sweeps were conducted, ANPR operations run and a number of uninsured vehicles were taken of the streets. Drug addresses were searched and Community Payback schemes were supervised by the probation service. A Passive drug dogs operation was held in Willesden green tube station and a knife carrying passenger on a bus was arrested. In total, 23 offenders were arrested. Hawk will be an on going operation to address local issues and concerns.

 

This week end following some good observational skills, your local police arrested two members of a distraction theft gang, who had stolen 37 mobile phones from concert goers. These individuals have been arrested, questioned, charged and kept in custody over the weekend, to go to court. Brent Police will not tolerate this type of criminal behaviour.

 

This week there has been some criticism of police in relation to the summer riots. My answer is that if there is well founded learning and criticism, we will listen. What kind of learning organisation would not? However, my view on the 274 criminals who were arrested as a result of the riots and were consequently asked why they did it, if given the opportunity to blame someone else, they will. Brent Police responded really well to the challenges of the summer disorder. We policed fairly, firmly and robustly where appropriate. We managed changing locations, crowds and dynamics extremely well and there was very little disorder. We responded swiftly with our partners on good community intelligence. Please remember Brent is a safe place to visit and live.

 

Christmas time is quickly approaching and sadly every year there are always those who seek to break into other people’s houses and steal property including Christmas presents. Please be vigilant around the Christmas period, keep doors and windows locked, don’t leave uncollected mail if you are away and remember to cancel milk. Lastly please stow away cardboard wrappings that protect your gifts, as this is a good indicator to burglars about what you have received. If you see something suspicious please dial 999. Should your require more Crime prevention advice please contact your Local safer neighbourhood team www.met.police.uk/saferneighbourhoods/. On a similar note if you want to receive email information from your safer neighbourhoods teams, please register on www.neighbourhoodlink.met.police.uk. If you do not celebrate Christmas, I hope you will have some quality time to spend with family and friends.

 

The Brent police partnership Unit has been working closely with local large stores, to reduce offending behaviour, improve security and confidence of both local businesses and communities.

 

This has included an innovative initiative, "Mystery Shoplifter", which involves local officers, volunteers and MSC testing the security and management systems of stores. The initiative was established with the consent of the stores management team.

The learning and findings were then subsequently fed back to the stores management; who invested resources and finance into rectifying the identified weaknesses and improving security. The initiative has resulted in some outstanding results including:

 

·         Stores improving their CCTV to cover vulnerable locations, including areas vulnerable to internal theft

·         Staff training to detect offenders

·         Reduction in offences

·         Property tagging systems reviewed.

 

This is one of many initiatives that volunteers are involved in. If you have some spare time and would like to become involved in joining ‘Team Brent’, please contact Mahmud on This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

On top of all this, last week Brent police arrested 246 people.

 
November Recycling Figures

 

·         We recycled or composted 42% of the waste collected in November. Our target for the first full year is 40%.

 

·         The data for the first 2 months of the new service is set out below. We are seeing a healthy drop in landfill tonnage and good performance from the new blue bin system. The combined recycling rate for October and November is 43% compared to 32% last year.

 

 

Landfill

Recycling

Compost

Rate %

Oct/Nov 2010 / tonnes

11983

2786

2764

32%

Oct/Nov 2011 / tonnes

8236

3514

2750

43%

Diff+/-

-31%

26%

-1%

 

 

·         The estates roll-out is well underway and will be completed by the end of January. Most blocks are now done.

 ·         Our education blitzes have now started in problem streets. We have spoken directly to many residents and the response has been helpful. We will let you know when we visit your area.

 

·         On street cleansing, the leafing programme is now behind us and we are now working with Veolia to improve streets that have struggled since the drop in frequency. We are trialling a new approach in problem streets and at weekends. Our aim is to make better use of the remaining resource to provide extra cleaning at zero cost. I will provide more detail once the effect is better understood.

 

·         We are ready for the winter season. We have 3,000 tonnes of grit in stock and our bins are now on the street. The milder weather is very welcome. Despite some over-eager (and wasteful) activity in neighbouring boroughs, our gritters have stayed in the depot so far.  

 
The Future of Labour's Foreign Policy

Progress is pleased today to launch The Future of Labour’s Foreign Policy, a new pamphlet looking at new approaches for Labour and Britain on the international stage.

The report is conducted by the ‘New Diplomacy Platform’ (NDP) and draws on 30 interviews with senior foreign policy figures such as former foreign secretary David Miliband and current shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy, as well non-party-affiliated commentators such as Mark Leonard of the European Council on Foreign Relations and Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House.

The report finds that:

•    Thirty senior party figures and foreign policy experts claim that being strong and central player in the EU is in Britain’s long-term national interest

•    Being a peripheral player in a two-speed Europe means Britain is seriously damaging its image in Beijing, Delhi and Brasilia

•    Thirteen years of ‘open internationalism’ is being replaced by the introversion and isolation of the  ‘Major years’

•    The Labour party should form a taskforce of experts to address the legacy of Iraq by using the experience to create a new ‘set of rules’ on ‘when and how’ to intervene abroad

While in ‘every other area of the world the nation-state is being empowered’, the report says, ’the only exception is the EU where member states will become increasingly reliant on its collective leverage. The bottom line for the UK is that as the world’s power shifts east the only way to remain influential is by being at the leading edge of the EU.’

Away from Europe, the report also calls on Labour to continue to support the doctrine of humanitarian intervention even after Iraq, but to drop the toxic language of ‘liberal interventionism’. It goes on to underline the need for Labour to put stricter parameters in place ‘to ensure humanitarian intervention is not used as a justification for regime change’. This, the report claims, would help to re-emphasise the original meaning of Tony Blair’s Chicago speech, which was about intervening to protect people, not enforce new forms of governance on them. The researchers suggest the formation of a taskforce of former and shadow Labour ministers, bipartisan experts and even a ‘citizen jury’ to formulate the criteria for intervention.

Please read the pamphlet here and read press coverage here

 
Cameron turns Britain from an outlier into an irrelevance

James Denselow is the director of the New Diplomacy Platform

(Left Foot Forward) Cameron’s decision to deploy the veto and push Britain to the periphery of Europe should not come as a surprise to veteran Tory watchers. What makes the decision harder to stomach is that the nettle which was a public debate and defence of Europe was not truly grasped under the previous Labour administration, with Tony Blair regularly seen as great at talking about Europe to the Europeans but not necessarily his own public.

A new report (pdf) into Labour’s future foreign policy priorities released today suggests a future Labour government must stand up for multilateralism and Europe more effectively than ever before with Cameron’s cack handed attempts to play the statesman providing the party with fresh political space to compete over.

Over a three month period in the spring and summer of 2011 we interviewed more than 30 MPs, former ministers and political advisers, newspaper editors, foreign policy specialists, and former civil servants to garner their opinions on Labour’s record in office over the past 13 years, what its foreign policy focus should be, and how it can reclaim its position as the agenda-setting party on international affairs.

There was near-unanimous despair, even among non-Labour affiliated interviewees, about Europe. The shortsightedness of the government’s rhetoric and action on Europe was highlighted as a particular cause for concern. Among others, David Rennie, political editor of The Economist, and Charles Grant both highlighted the anti-European legislative and diplomatic action by the current government.

Grant warned:

“Britain has opted not to attend meetings of the ‘euro plus’ group Of the 27 EU member states only the UK and two or three others are choosing not to attend these meetings, following last week’s events that could now be narrowed down to the UK alone.

“There is also a danger that, when the ‘euro plus’ group starts to hold summits, the UK will arrive at an EU summit and find 26 countries have already fixed their position on a key economic policy issue. This is damaging for our national interest.”

Rennie echoed these sentiments:

“We have always been an outlier but we are now risking becoming completely irrelevant.”

As Chatham House Director Robin Niblett put it:

“In every other area of the world the nation-state is being empowered. The only exception is the EU where member states will become increasingly reliant on its collective leverage.”

The bottom line for the UK is that as the world’s power shifts across the globe the only way to remain influential is by being at the leading edge of the EU. The Chinese, Indians and Brazilians for example will respect and listen to the UK only if they see us as being a leading player in the EU and a key liberalising force when it comes to market access.

Labour has always prided itself on its internationalist values; former Blair Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell told us:

“Values can be placed on a matrix that defines principled idealists against pragmatist realists, and open internationalists against closed little Englanders.”

Cameron’s decision must be seen as an opportunity in opposition to both lead and win a debate on the twin issues of the future of multilateralism and the EU.

 
I'll tighten rules on basements over 'disruptive and damaging' work, says Ken Livingstone.

(Evening Standard) Ken Livingstone has vowed to introduce tighter controls on basement extensions in London after branding the practice "expensive and environmentally damaging".

The Labour mayoral candidate said he would develop a "London-wide strategy" to deal with the rising numbers of underground excavations if elected next year. His home in Cricklewood is near a £9million house in Hampstead's Templeton Avenue which was recently given permission for a "ballooning" basement.

Westminster North MP Karen Buck led a parliamentary debate on the issue after it emerged that there had been 86 applications for basement extensions in 12 months in St John's Wood alone.

Mr Livingstone said: "Basements are so disruptive. It is such an expensive and environmentally damaging thing." He told a local newspaper: "I would look at developing a London-wide strategy with a presumption against basements. Simply because another Russian billionaire wants a swimming pool underground is not good enough."

His claims come after safety inspectors issued 76 enforcement notices at 40 of 109 basement construction sites raided in London last month.

Despite this crackdown, which saw four projects deemed so dangerous that inspectors were forced to close the sites, the number of plans for conversions shows no sign of slowing. Plans for a huge extension beneath the garden of Boris Johnson's father's former home were approved by Camden last month in the face of fierce opposition.

In a separate application, a Kensington developer has drawn up plans to build a "beach" and pool in the basement. If allowed it will mean that more than half the properties in Upper Phillimore Gardens will have been transformed into "iceberg homes", where most of the living space is below ground.

 
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