John Rolfe

The sad death of former Kilburn councillor John Rolfe has come as a real shock for us all.

He started his political activism as a tenants’ leader, and it is fitting that he was still showing his zeal and commitment to tenants in Camden, particularly the north-west of the borough, as Chair of Hampstead District Management Committee when he died.

His fellow former ward councillor, Phil Turner, knew John far better than most; and has kindly given permission to reproduce this tribute to John which was sent to Camden Co-operative Party members:

I had the good fortune to be a councillor for Priory Ward with John from 1998 to 2002 and then for Kilburn ward from 2002 to 2006. Before becoming a councillor John had been a highly effective representative of Hilgrove Tenants Association and as a councillor he continued his work on behalf of tenants and those in housing need. In the years after 2006 he chaired the Camden Tenants Federation and latterly Swiss Cottage Community Association.

John was a man with a powerful social conscience who was prepared to devote much time and energy to helping individuals and working for tenants’ rights and economic and social justice. He will be sorely missed by many tenants and residents in Camden and particularly by those who knew him well – he was a man of principle and of good humour. He liked to define himself as a community activist: he was exactly that and the Camden community – and the Co-operative Party – is the poorer for his passing.

Phil Turner
Secretary, Camden Co-operative Party

We send our deepest condolences to his family and friends – RIP, comrade.

Summertime in Kilburn

It’s just a year now since Glenda Jackson chaired a meeting with the local community about re-energising the Kilburn Partnership to revitalise the High Road.

In April we discussed progress at the joint Camden and Brent Kilburn Forum meeting at the Kilburn State. Since then we have supported the Movement for Change campaign to tackle the worrying growth of Payday Loans shops springing up on the High Rd, adding to people’s concern about the disproportionate number of betting and gambling outlets. We are aiming to install access to alternatives such as credit union and debt and money management advice.

I’m pleased to say that there is now real progress with the ‘meanwhile’project which aims to increase the footfall on the High Rd and bring business innovation and diversity through alternative approaches to training and job creation. Due to our persistence the project will kick start shortly. Here is a preview:

The London Boroughs of Brent and Camden are working in partnership with an organisation called Spacemakers to deliver the project ‘Learning from Kilburn’. The project will see a currently vacant retail unit along Kilburn High Road temporarily become the University of Kilburn. The shop front university will deliver a series of courses, talks and networking over two terms, starting in late September through to the end of March next year. All the courses will be rooted in Kilburn and engage with local people.

The ‘alternative’ university will take conventional subjects such as the arts, architecture and the humanities and explore afresh with leading professionals and local people, starting a wider conversation with the community. The university aims to tap into the knowledge of Kilburn’s citizens and unlock it, engage with local residents and encourage people to the area.”

The shooting on the High Rd the day before the Notting Hill Carnival, which tragically robbed a 24 year old nursery nurse of her life, has shocked the business and local community. We are working with the police to make sure Kilburn High Rd is safe and feels safe by day and night.

There are other High Rd related initiatives and what with the reports on the Future of the High Rd following Mary Portas work, it is time to co-ordinate and maximise our energies in a Town Team so that additional funding can be leveraged in and the much loved High Rd given a better chance.

Let me know if you can help

Cllr Mary Arnold, Kilburn Ward, LB Brent

The Future of Kilburn High Rd:how Brent and Camden can work together – Joint Forum on April 17th

More good news for Kilburn residents – both shoppers and shops!

Brent and Camden Council leaders have committed to reinvigorate the Kilburn Partnership which aims to revitalise the High Rd. Cllr Mo Butt and Cllr Sarah Hayward are supporting plans which will be discussed at the next Brent Connects meeting – a joint forum for local residents from Brent and Camden to be held at the iconic Gaumont Kilburn State, courtesy of Ruach Ministries, on April 17th at 7pm.

Put this date in your diary and come along to discuss the plans and ideas with a panel representing Brent and Camden residents and the Local Government Association (LGA) Economy and Transport.

Plans include improving pedestrian safety and reducing congestion on the High Rd and increasing the footfall by diversifying and introducing new business opportunities through meanwhile or pop-up shops. Ideas for improving access to fair credit and financial support for residents and traders are also topical in Kilburn.

Please tell your friends and neighbours to come along.

Cllr Mary Arnold, Kilburn Ward
Lead Member for Children and Families, LB Brent

Business Breakfast comes to Kilburn taking the creative approach

The latest in a series of meetings showcasing the ways businesses are helping the community came to South Kilburn Studios in Peel Precinct yesterday. It’s the latest in a series of events hosted by Brent Council and the Employer Partnership and it’s one of the ways BrentLabour is supporting growth in the local economy, our top priority during these tough times. These events are a great resource for Brent businesses.
Three successful projects were presented on taking the creative approach which is popular in Kilburn and there is now a Kilburn Business website to help the local economy and where you can see more

Mary Arnold
Cllr, Kilburn Ward, LB Brent
Lead Member for Children and Families

Response to Police & Crime Plan

Given the concerns many residents have expressed about aspects of Boris’s plans to cut police numbers and close police stations front counters, I’ve responded to the consultation on the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime’s Crime and Police Plan 2013-17.

(Health warning: it’s long, but there was a lot to respond to!)

Don’t forget that there’s a meeting to discuss the future of West Hampstead police station this coming Thursday (7th) at 6:30pm at West Hampstead Library, with Camden’s cabinet member for Community Safety and the Borough Commander.


Response to MOPAC’s consultation on the Police and Crime Plan 2013-17

1.       I am responding to this consultation as a councillor for Kilburn ward in the London Borough of Camden, and a resident in West Hampstead.

2.       Kilburn faces some of the biggest crime and policing challenges in the Borough. We have an unhappy history of anti-social behaviour (ASB) and youth violence in and around our estates in the ward, which has manifested itself in a range of activity, from low-level nuisance, through persistent drug-dealing to fatal stabbings.

3.       Fortunately, through ongoing engagement between our Safer Neighbourhood police team (SNT), residents (through the Safer Neighbourhood Panel) and council officers, many of the issues have received focused police attention, which has led to some effective resolution.  For instance, after many years of continually having to make ASB on the Alexandra & Ainsworth Estate (commonly known as Rowley Way) a SNT priority, success in driving this down has enabled us to shift focus away and deprioritise that estate.  This would have been unthinkable as little as eighteen months ago, and demonstrates the effectiveness of the SNT model of community policing.

4.       It is for this reason that I am very concerned about the dilution of the link at ward level between a strong officer team and local residents.  We have an excellent Panel, which meets quarterly or bi-monthly and which is effectively an open meeting.  This encourages active reporting of ASB and other issues and is an essential tool in helping the police team, along with Camden’s community safety officers, prioritise what matters to local residents.

5.       Our neighbouring wards have quite different demographics, types and levels of crime activity and thus different crime priorities. Under the ‘cluster’ model proposed for community policing in the Plan, I share the concerns of residents and the Chair of our SNP that Kilburn’s voice and needs will be marginalised.  This is in no way a criticism of neighbouring wards’ SNPs and SNTs; merely a reflection that others wards in the proposed north Camden cluster have much more in common with each other than they have with Kilburn.

6.       Ultimately, this will serve to marginalise some of the most disadvantaged residents in Camden, whose estates and homes have been at prey from some of the most persistent gang-related violence and ASB in the borough.

7.       Furthermore, these proposals risk a return to the pre-SNT “sector based” policing model which has been largely discredited since the introduction of the superior, ward based, safer neighbourhood approach.  The SNT model has been widely praised across the political spectrum and has strong support in my ward, and across Kilburn.

8.       Linked to this is, of course, huge concern over the proposal to dedicate just one PC and PCSO to each ward; as part of wider concern over the wider reduction in numbers of officers in Camden, and the manner in which those figures have been presented.  It is worth noting that the effect of this reduction would be even more marked in Kilburn, which has a slightly larger establishment than a standard SNT (one additional PC) than a standard SNT, in recognition of the challenges the ward faces.

9.       Taking the presentational point first, I note that Joanne McCartney AM has written to the UK Statistics Authority seeking clarification about the accuracy of the figures used by the Mayor and MOPAC in this consultation.  Currently, information on the number of police officers is made publicly available through the Mayor’s London Datastore but this information differs from that being used by the Mayor in his public consultation.

10.   Given this seriousness of the matters under review, and the long-term nature of the plan, any attempt to manipulate or distort the data being used for public consultation is a matter of deep regret.  It requires speedy clarification and, if proven at fault by the Statistics Authority, for the consultation to be re-run using accurate data about current and future police numbers.

11.   Whilst the Plan’s forecast for more police officers is strictly accurate, this claim is heavily dependent on the year chosen as the comparator base year: 2011. At this point, there was a police recruitment freeze and numbers had dropped dramatically. (Nevertheless, the Mayor’s claim for extra officers based on an end date of 2015, is slight – just an extra two officers, across the whole Met.)

12.   I would contend that a fairer period of comparison would be from May 2010, when the Coalition Government came to power and inherited the police service from the previous Government, to the Mayor’s chosen end point of 2015, when Government’s term of office expires and the next general election is due.

13.   For Camden, the total number of police officers in post in May 2010 was 884; the projected number of officers for 2015 is 751 – a net loss of 133 officers, or an 11 percent reduction over the five-year period.

14.   Turning to the SNT teams, the total number of officers in Camden falls by an even greater proportion.  In May 2010 there were 122 SNT officers in post.  The projected number of officers for 2015 is 103 – a net loss of 17 SNT officers or 14 percent.  It is also worth noting that the current numbers also reflect the substantial subsidy from Camden Council to pay for extra SNT PCs for Camden Town. It is not clear if the Met will continue this arrangement.

15.   Kilburn also benefits from the presence of the Kilburn tasking team, which deals exclusively with commercial and non-residential crime on and around the Kilburn High Road.  As this road is a local authority boundary (between Camden and Brent) the team operates very effectively as a cross-border force. It has had numerous successes in dealing with a wide variety of crime on the High Road (including illegal pavement sellers and shops being used as a front for stolen goods).  It has also had the not insignificant additional benefit of freeing up ward SNTs to focus solely on residential crime.  Prior to the introduction of the tasking team in 2010, ward SNTs were tasked with dealing with crime priorities linked to the High Road economy, as well as ‘residential’ crime like anti-social behaviour.  I would urge the retention of the special team, given its successful track record and benefits it brings to SNT policing.

16.   Turning lastly to the issue of contact points and police properties, the proposal to close West Hampstead, Hampstead and Albany police stations to the public is to be deeply regretted. It means there will be no police station open to public access in the north and west of the borough at all, with Kentish Town being open for just 40 hours per week.

17.   It leaves Holborn, in the far south of Camden, as the only station open round the clock – not readily accessible to residents in NW2, NW6, NW3 and NW8.  Whilst more reporting of crime by phone is to be welcomed, it cannot be the only answer for victims of crimes of a sensitive or personal nature, like rape or domestic violence.  Also, it will make it far more difficult, time-consuming and potentially expensive for those required to answer bail at a police station.  This could lead to high levels of bail default, which of course would take up more police time and thus prove a false economy.

18.   Far greater clarity about the location and function is required for the proposed replacement “contact points”.  Comments made by the Deputy Mayor for Policing, Stephen Greenhalgh, during the consultation event in the Camden Centre on 22 January 2013, that contact points would not be used for crime reporting, directly conflicts with statements in the draft Policing Plan.  Now it seems that plans for using coffee shops and post offices have been abandoned, restricting contact points to Met-owned property.  These proposals have been so confused and unclear that any consultation on them ought to be rerun, following much greater clarification of what services would be available where – listing putative locations and having undertaken some proper feasibility studies of non-Met sites (if these are to be used) including discussion with current owners/occupants about the way the building would be used by the police.

19.   For residents in Kilburn, West Hampstead and Fortune Green, I would urge the retention of counter services at West Hampstead police station.  The Plan stresses that the “most deprived communities in London need face-to-face access, particularly where there are language barriers”.  Some of my constituents in Kilburn fit this description; it is unclear how face-to-face contact will be guaranteed for them.

20.   Finally, I would add that it is extremely unfortunate that the Mayor and his Deputy have risked politicising our professional, non-partisan police force by asking them to take so much of the lead in presenting the Crime and Police Plan.  Aspects of this plan are highly political and contentious; it is neither right nor fair that the Mayor and Mr Greenhalgh have failed to take a clear lead in explaining and justifying the funding cuts which are at the heart of this plan and are driven by the Mayor’s political objective of managing down the GLA precept on council tax.  We all value the professionalism of our police personnel; the Mayor’s approach to presenting and advocating this plan has put this at risk and is deeply regrettable.

Concerns on closing West Hampstead police station

999sosAs you may well be aware – we’re facing a multiple threat to our local emergency services in Kilburn and West Hampstead, thanks to Tory Mayor Boris Johnson’s disastrous budgeting decisions.

A massive reorganisation of community policing and a decision to close West Hampstead police station in Hillfield Road to the public risks a severe diminution in access to local police services for people living in NW6.

I’m especially concerned that the proposals to close the counter service at West Hampstead hasn’t been thought through – with the decision to close Albany Street and restrict Kentish Town to 40 hours, it leaves only Holborn police station open 24/7.

Having worked with our Labour Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Cllr Abdul Hai, on the issue, I’m really pleased he’s going to be leading a public meeting for residents with the Borough Commander on the issue at:

 18:30 to 20:30

 Thursday 7 March

West Hampstead Library, Dennington Park Road, NW6

Please also remember to respond to the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) consultation on the new policing plan.

Also, I’ve tabled a motion at the next meeting of Camden Full Council (Monday 4 March) – because I want to air my concerns not just about the police cuts, but cuts to our fire service too:

This council believes that the safety and security of residents in Camden is being put at risk as a result of cuts to emergency services being pushed through by the Mayor and the Conservative led government to our key emergency services, particularly the Metropolitan Police Service and London Fire Brigade.

Furthermore, this council:

  • condemns the proposal to close Belsize Fire Station could have a huge impact for residents in the north of the borough.  This fire station covers a wide area of the borough, from Kilburn in the west to Gospel Oak in the east.  These are densely populated wards which can suffer from extremely congested roads.
  • notes that Camden currently has the second best fire service attendance times in London, and that the decision to close Belsize Fire Station, and also stations in Islington and Westminster, along with the decision to abandon plans for an extra fire engine replacement for Euston will mean attendance times in Camden on average will increase by 45 seconds- a huge impact, given that a fire doubles in intensity every thirty seconds.
  • notes that the Mayor’s decision that police stations at Hampstead, West Hampstead and Albany Street are to close their doors to the public completely means there will be no police station open to public access in the north and west of the borough at all, with Kentish Town being open for 40 hours per week.
  • calls for much greater clarity about the location and function for police ‘contact points’, given that comments from the Deputy Mayor for Policing, Stephen Greenhalgh during the consultation event in the Camden Centre on 22 January 2013, that contact points would not be used for crime reporting, directly conflicts with statements in the draft Policing Plan
  • notes that, by the time of the next election in 2015 the projected number of police officers in Camden will be fall by 133, or 11%, compared with 2010; and that the number of officers in Camden Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNTs) will fall by 17, or 14%, over the same period
  • warns that the Mayor’s proposal that each SNT will have just two officers actually allocated to the ward – a PC and a PCSO – with remaining officers working across a much larger cluster may make it harder for SNTs to reflect the specific needs of residents in each ward, and instead heralds a return to the pre-SNT “sector based” policing model which did not work

The council believes that the cuts are going too far and too fast and that the many millions of pounds being cut from the budgets the Metropolitan Police Service and the London Fire Brigade will lead to longer response times and make their services less accessible to Camden’s residents.

This council challenges the Mayor’s position that the scale of cuts are necessary and acceptable. This council calls on the Mayor to stand up for Londoners against the cuts being imposed by the Conservative-led government and to reconsider his own draconian cuts to the emergency services on which we rely to keep Londoners safe.

The Osborne effect: serving up a triple-dip?

An excellently succinct post on Labour List today used the depressing news of negative growth to underline the disasterous stewardship of the economy by this economy.

The latest figures show the economy has shrunk by 0.3% in the last quarter of 2012.  As we are one more quarter of negatvie growth away from experiencing the unfortunate novelty of a triple-dip recession, the Government and Chancellor’s record is stark.

To recap the Labour List analysis:

  • our economy has grown just 0.4% in more than two years
  • it has shrunk in five of the nine quarters since the Government’s 2010 spending review
  • by comparison, over the same nine quarters, the US economy has grown by more than 45 (ten times as much); Germany’s by more than 3.5% and France’s by 1.5%
  • during the Government’s first quarter in office, operating under Labour’s spending plans,  the economy grew by 0.6% – there was more growth in this one quarter than in the nine which followed the Coalition’s spending review

Now it seems no-one is in doubt that the Government’s austerity plan is failing our economy and the country.  Consider the following views (courtesy of the Independent)

“The more time that passes, the clearer it is that America’s gradual and delayed approach to  fiscal tightening is the right one” Trevor Greetham, investment group Fidelity

“It’s worse than the 1920s; it’s worse than the Great Depression,” Stephen Boyle, head of group economics, Royal Bank of Scotland

“These figures are very disappointing. If the Government does indeed have a strategy for growth, it plainly isn’t working”  Mark Littlewood, Institute of Economic Affairs

“The hair shirt stuff, the Stafford Cripps agenda – that is not the way to get Britain motoring again.” Boris Johnson, Mayor of London

When it isn’t only bankers and city analysts criticising your policy, but one of the most right-wing think tanks and your own party’s Mayor of London, it really is time for the Government to drop the dogma and pursue a plan B.

Perhaps investing for growth and jobs is worth a go.  It can’t produce worse results than we’ve had over the past couple of years.



We want your views on childcare

Hampstead and Kilburn Labour Party is seeking local parents’ views on the pressing issue of childcare, at a meeting on Sunday 17 February.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I’ve spent a fair amount of time campaigning (successfully!) to address the deficit of primary school places in NW6.

As night follows day, it follows that there’s also real demand for properly affordable childcare, that suits the lives of busy, often working, parents (especially working mothers).  Camden deserves real credit on this score by restoring its universal provision of 25 hours of free childcare for three and four year-olds in its schools and childrens’ centres, as announced in the last few days.

However, we want to hear your views on what can be done to improve access to childcare, and thus enable more parents to work or train.  This isn’t just about getting hard-pressed families off benefits (although NW6 has more private tenants claiming housing benefit than anywhere else in Camden) – it’s about helping families at every level, from those on the minimum wage to the much-talked about ‘squeezed middle to be able to work the hours they need.

If you’ve got any views or experiences on the matter, please do come along and share them.

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Next Kilburn Area Action Group on 23rd Jan

The next Kilburn Area Action Group is on 23 Jan, at Kilburn Library from 7-9pm.  We’ll be discussing transport and road improvements, particularly to the High Road, and also the Camden Plan, which sets out the council’s vision for the next five years.

Do come along – it’s open to all residents, and gives local people a chance to talk to their ward councillors and put their view forward.

Jan 2013 AAG flyer

Picturing the reaility of Tories’ benefit freeze

They say a picture is worth a thousand words – so rather than writing about today’s Benefit Uprating Bill, I thought I would post two images which pretty much say everything that needs saying on the issue:

  • most people on benefits are in work, not feckless, idle or fraudulent
  • when the Tories say “we’re all in it together”, they either dissemble or fail to comprehend the real impact of their policies.

(Of course, I can’t claim credit for either – the Labour Party tweeted the first image; former foreign secretary David Miliband tweeted the second (a 1929 election poster), following his superb speech in the Commons debate today).