I’m very proud to announce Brent Council’s new domestic abuse early intervention service. Our new team will complement our existing IDVA advocacy service, and will be crucial to getting survivors of domestic abuse the help they need, as soon as they need it.
It is a momentous time. This year we mark the anniversary of the October revolution, which sparked on of the greatest repressions of religion and faith in history. But let us remember the inspiration for this comes from a profound misunderstanding or religion’s role within society and the words of Comrade Marx. He is famous for invoking religion as the opiate of the people, but to take this in isolation means the opposite of the point made. Religion offers us an escape route from the relentless ethos of consumerism and profit, the hard edge of soulless types of logic at the expense of spiritual and material wellbeing. This has been a frequent theme of Pope Francis, but it is present in the logic of the reformation, in the epics of Hinduism, in the Exodus story of Judaism and in the logic of the protestant reformation as it brought religion closer to the people it was always there to serve.
It is a means of community resistance in the face of the things which divide men and women from our brothers and sisters. The famous line about being the opiate is preceded by the words “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions.” In this sense, faith is a respite and a guiding point; even as a secular humanist myself, it is very plain it is important for us as humans to have something to live for and something to live by.
This time is also momentous because of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. The EU is intricately bound up with the ECHR, and has therefore stood as a barrier between religion and the state in a way which is positive for faith.
Article 9 ECHR – Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
We might be losing our relationship with the EU, but this ethos is one which we will preserve in Brent at all costs. All people have a right to their faith and we will protect that.
And the final part of what we celebrate today is not the rights that accompany faith, but its obligations. The golden rule that we treat others as we would wish to be treated is the foundation of the ethics, laws and spirit of faith – the beating heart of faith itself. Regardless of our own relationships with god or morality, we find ourselves bound to it, and compelled by the spirit of these ideas to carry out good works – something also represented in the Jewish term tikkun olam – the idea that we must act to heal the world. It compels us to work together and to respect each other.
I often look to the Christian socialist concept of the brotherhood of man – a notion from faith which expands beyond any individual creed. Locally in Brent and in the world more widely, we look to people of faith to provide leadership in creating a world which is just, sustainable, and better for the soul. We look to you to help us build a place where relations between faiths and ethnicities are tolerant and rich. The people of Brent expect this from leaders of faith, and in the spirit of the faith covenant, together we must make the shared commitment that they will not be let down. Thank you all for coming.
In my role as the cabinet lead in Brent for stronger communities, I find myself covering areas like crime and safety, arts and heritage and community cohesion. These are all pretty fertile areas for someone on the left to throw around ideas and implement their vision, along with that of the Labour Party. One minor frustration though is that in roles like this you can never really reach a full expression of what your politics is about.
I’m a convinced environmentalist. I believe that global warming is the major threat our entire species faces. Further, when you consider the impact of global warming on food and habitation, some of the issues of migration and war we have seen for recent years will impact heavily on people in temperate climates. In my opinion, it’s not good being a social democrat or a socialist if you are not also ecologist in your thinking – a rose must grow green if it is to flower red.
But the environment is not all about big stuff. For that reason, developments like the coming together of local pressure group Clean Air for Brent are entirely welcome – around 1300 people per year are dying prematurely in London due to breathing pollution. Our environment matters because of the impact it has on our surroundings and our every day lives. So I thought I would divert slightly to talk a little about what we are doing on the Council to increase biodiversity and promote cleaner air, via the work of the Labour Party and my colleague, Cllr Southwood. Continue reading
I am running to be reselected as a Labour candidate in Willesden Green. I have seen plenty of Councillors in a number of Boroughs taking their status for granted, and I think that works out terribly for those involved. Below is the statement I will be circulating to members.
I have been honoured to serve as a Councillor since 2014, and Cabinet Member for Stronger Communities since November 2016. I would like to thank members for the support, ideas and inspiration you have given me since I was first selected. Now I hope to win your backing again.
Before becoming a member of the cabinet I worked for the mental health charity Rethink Mental Illness, where my job was to campaign against government cuts and for decent support and services for people with mental health problems. I am a socialist and an active GMB member. I now spend my week on council work, representing Willesden Green, and putting in place policies to make the whole of Brent safer.
If you support me I will fight for the following priorities:
• Against government cuts – I will be a political voice against austerity and inequality and I will fight for policies which give the most protection to our diverse community. I will continue to work with trade unions to get a fair deal for local workers.
• Hard work: I will support a campaigning ward party which involves members and uses their talents, and I will continue to take casework on for residents treated unfairly by the council or other services
• Cleaner, greener, safer: I will continue my fight against illegal dumping, irresponsible landlords, drug dealing and anti-social behaviour. I will work with local people for local regeneration with greener public space, modern public buildings, and a vibrant, high quality high street offering.
But what have I actually done?
Since first being elected in 2014 I have worked hard for members and local residents. I have taken on a number of new casework items every week, fought successfully (as promised) to get the Council resurfacing and not just filling potholes. I have improved our relationship with community groups such as the Town Team. I was part of the campaign to save the Queensbury Pub and appeared at planning to help make the case. Later I was successful in winning a new pub protection policy in our planning rules. I campaigned alongside other Councillors to get new paving in Willesden High Road. I have successfully fended off proposed cuts to children’s mental health. I have authored a scrutiny report setting out over 20 recommendations for working better with housing associations.
As a cabinet member, I have won investment to introduce a complete overhaul of CCTV this year, and have allocated money to bring 12 new Police officers under our control in Brent. I have funded work to reduce violence against women and girls. I have put in place a strategy for working with community libraries, a covenant for our work with faith groups, and will be working on new plans around gang violence and community cohesion later in the year.
I need your support more than ever. I hope that working hard has been enough to persuade you. I am a solid campaigner, and I have put in many hours in order to bring change to our community. Please help me to continue this work.
Christmas Tree Recycling
From 9 to 15 January 2017, residents will be able to recycle their real Christmas trees at one of 21 drop off points in parks or open spaces across the borough. A full list of sites can be found here.
Posters will be placed at each location to assist residents in dropping their trees at the correct place and to ensure that other park users are not affected. Veolia will collect all trees from the parks from the 16 January 22 January.
In addition, residents are able to take their Christmas tree to the Reuse and Recycling Centre, Abbey Road, London NW10 7TJ for free, or use their garden waste bin, if they are signed up to the service. Trees must be cut into manageable pieces and placed inside the garden waste bin; not left next to the bin.
Garden waste renewal
From the 3rd January, residents will be able to sign up and renew their garden waste service for the 2017/18 collection year which starts on the 1st April 2017. The cost of the service for 2017/18 remains at £40. The easiest way to sign up is to visit www.brent.gov.uk/gardenwaste and reminder e-mails will also be sent to existing subscribers from January.
Recycling and Waste Collections
There is very little change to the collection of recycling and waste collections over Christmas and the New Year. There will be no collections on Monday 26th December; however collections will take place one day later for all residents for that week. If a collection is due on Monday 26th, it will take place instead on Tuesday 27th. If a collection is due on Friday 30th, it will take place on Saturday 31st. Collections revert to their correct day from the 2nd January. Residents who do not have a copy of their collection calendar are able to find their collection day by using the ‘Find Your Collection Day’ search facility at www.brent.gov.uk/recycling.
There isnt much changed about this, the one reminder for residents is that it’s a bad idea to tip fat down the drain! This can cause expensive damage to pipes, and could leave you with a pretty unpleasant cleaning job. It’s best to let fats harden and remove them as normal food waste.
And finally, if residents are unsure about what items they can recycle or which bin to use for their food waste over the festive period, they can use the Recycleopedia search facility; available at: www.brent.gov.uk/recycleopedia.
We also have a guidance video on how to use the app on www.brent.gov.uk/recycling.
Happy recycling, and for those of you celebrating it – Merry Christmas.
Reflecting on last week. There was one particularly happy moment which moved me almost to tears – working hard with Council officers we’ve managed to sort some accommodation for a man who has been sleeping rough for months.
“You don’t realise how much your body stretches out when you sleep on an actual bed. The day I moved in here I had the longest sleep of my life! And now my whole body feels different. Thank you for not giving up”.
He’s now able to comply with a family court order which compels him to look after his son for at least a day a week. I had to work on this for two months, but it’s been a reminder of how rewarding casework can be if you achieve a win. It’s also a reminder that local authority staff can salvage some humanity for these struggling bureaucracies by going the extra mile and keeping some faith that things can be made better.
The sense of personal reward you get as a Councillor when something like this actually comes off is immense. But of course there can be no room for complacency. This has been a positive outcome. But now I’ll be turning my mind back towards all the people out there in similar situations. And there are a lot of them.