One of the big issues on the horizon which could change Kilburn – in a positive way – is the proposal to regenerate the area around the Belsize and Abbey Roads crossroads.
Camden is in dire need of new council housing, so the central idea is to redevelop the site where the multi-story car park (pictured) on Belsize Road currently stands, with new flats. Some of these will be sold privately, to fund the building of new council flats, improvements to existing blocks, and improve the look of the surrounding area. Options are currently being reviewed, with no final deicsion made yet.
That’s a very quick précis. There’s much more detail on the Council’s website, here.
Unfortunately, some of the local media’s reporting has been a tad sensationalist. This week’s front page of the Kilburn Times is a case in point. I can understand them wanting to big up a story, and I’m certainly not denying that many people were dead against the idea of a tower block the same height at Snowman, Mary Green and Casterbridge, but it’s not really correct to say that this was the only idea the council had, and that this has now been defeated.
The truth, as ever, is more prosaic. I’ve written to the Times to explain my perspective on the process and the issues. I don’t know if they will print it, but I’ve pasted it in below, so at least readers of this blog can get a different (and I would say more accurate) perspective:
I’m afraid your story about the Abbey regeneration simply created a paper tiger and then knocked it down (‘Victory’, Kilburn Times 23 Sep).
The tower block option for the project was never more than that: just an option put forward on paper by architects.
At the start of the year, the council secured funds from the GLA to look into redeveloping the car-park and surrounding site at the crossroads of Abbey and Belsize Roads. This money was used to see what was feasible. One suggestion was a high-rise block, but it became clear talking to local people that no-one wanted to see that. Fair enough – we asked, people said no, we move on to look at the other options which are left.
However, I do want to correct one impression given in your report. We are emphatically not doing this simply to build private properties. We are in dire need of additional council flats in Camden and we have chronic over-crowding in many homes. This is an opportunity to build new council homes, renovate flats in existing blocks, bring new shops to the area and improve the look of the surroundings. Sadly, we can’t afford to do this without building private properties too, and using the proceeds from their sale to finance the rest of the development. Most sensible people understand that.
However, the council is pursuing this development itself, rather than giving the opportunity to a private firm who will cream off the profit. This way, all the money made from sales of private flats will be ploughed back into the area.
As I said when I last wrote to the Times on this issue, I would really welcome any residents who have any concerns or questions about this project to get in contact with me by phoning me on 07881 515260, emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to me at Camden Town Hall, Judd Street, London WC1H 9JE
Cllr Mike Katz
I hope that puts the record straight. But I’m afraid I won’t be wholly surprised if it doesn’t…
The big news of the moment in Camden is the announcement on Wednesday that Camden and Islington councils are seriously exploring the possibility of sharing a Chief Executive and senior management team.
The idea behind this sort of move – talked about a lot, but a first in London – is that you save money on your back office costs, so as to ensure as much money as possible can be spent on frontline services. In the context of the ConDem’s government slash-and-burn approach to public services, in reality, this means minimising cuts to services – something both Labour councils are absolutely committed to.
The savings don’t come just from minimising senior staff costs; it’s about the wider savings which come from joint buying of goods and services. For instance, this has started in some areas; earlier this year both councils committed to jointly procure the new school meals contract, saving over £150,000.
If you want more details, you may find this Q&A briefing prepared by Camden of interest.
People in Kilburn and West Hampstead have already asked me if this will affect our relationship with Brent, and force a more ‘easterly’ bias in Camden.
In all honesty, I don’t think so.
Kilburn councillors in both Camden and Brent have already been talking to each other, and our respective Cabinet members, about the special needs and potential for the High Road. We both work with groups like Kilburn Business Friends and other community organisations, as well as campaign on issues of joint concern, like the closure of the Kilburn CNWL campus.
We’re in regular contact and looking to foster co-operation between the two boroughs; we’d be doing this if it had been Brent, rather than Islington, Camden had ended up progressing this plan with. And we’d be doing the same if there were no plans to share senior management with anyone.
(And on a practical level, one of the reasons Islington is an obvious partner is that their Chief Executive is due to step down next year, making the whole idea much easier.)
It’s exciting for Camden to be in the vanguard of such innovation. But, thanks to the close working relationship we have with fellow Labour councillors in Brent, we’ll be in a good position to share the benefits and experience of this innovation.
Just over a month after the announcement that over 700 schools across the country would be denied their BSF funding, Michael Gove has made a U-turn and announced building work can now proceed on South Camden Community School, Swiss Cottage Specialist SEN School and the UCL Academy.
Glenda Jackson, Labour Member of Parliament for Hampstead and Kilburn, has expressed her surprise that Mr Gove has suddenly managed to “find” these magical reserves despite repeatedly claiming that the cuts were necessary because there was “simply no money”!
Glenda Jackson MP said: “I am thrilled that this much-needed renovation and expansion work can now continue on
our Camden schools. Why it has taken the uproar of constituents and MPs, signing of petitions and continued pressure from all sides to make the Government see sense is beyond my comprehension. The distress and anxiety caused to the parents, children and teachers throughout this whole process is wholly unacceptable. Better late than never, I
Glenda has been irate at the decision to axe the BSF funding, announced on 5th July, and criticised the Tory-Lib Dem government of for using “slash and burn” economics which not only deny our schools the expansion they need, but also deny the construction industry the contracts their employees and suppliers were replying upon. Since the announcement, Glenda has launched an online petition and has been speaking out both in the House of Commons and to local press about the funding cuts which would bring on an immediate crisis in schooling. She would like to offer her warmest congratulations to the parents and teachers who tirelessly campaigned against the cuts to save our schools.
The school funding announcements have been characterised by a series of blunders on the part of the education department which has increased confusion and heartache, and further proved their incompetency and disregard.
We are yet to hear Michael Gove’s decision on the Brent Schools in Glenda’s constituency, and so Glenda would like to urge everyone to continue to sign her petition at www.glenda-jackson.co.uk
Please contact Glenda Jackson on 020 7219 4008 if further details are required.
Thomas, Mike and Maryam, the three Kilburn councillors on the Camden side of the High Road have just sent out their first eNewsletter reporting back on local issues and what we’ve been up to.
This issue reports on the new police squad dedicated to the Kilburn High Road, how the new Labour council has already started to deliver on its manifesto pledges, consultation on the Abbey area regeneration and the future of the BSF academy.
By Mary Arnold
The coalition government’s recent announcements cancelling Building Schools for the Future capital programmes has deprived Brent schools of £80m funding allocated last January to rebuild, remodel and expand four secondary schools initially and a further £300m for the remaining secondaries.
This is an enormous setback for the children, teachers and indeed communities who have invested in the plans, been inspired and had their expectations raised by the promise of a 21st century learning environment. And judging by the stories emerging at the recent rally of parents, schoolchildren and unions to lobby MPs at Westminster, this is the tip of the iceberg across the country. It means that children will be taught in buildings not fit for purpose and in larger classes as there will not be enough school places for Brent’s children, as a result.
SIGN the petition against ConDem education cuts on Glenda
Jackson’s website http://glenda-jackson.co.uk
The announcement, which initially did not name the four schools accurately, came on top of £1.8m government cuts in grants affecting Brent’s children’s services, meaning less funding for youth projects and activities, less for careers and other advice and less for improving nursery places, just at a time when young people need more help to achieve their potential and to get a job and families need more help accessing quality childcare, especially if both parents want to work.
Over the last 13 years, Labour invested in Brent’s schools, year-on-year, producing higher standards with results above the national average and narrowing the achievement gap. Fewer schools have been in special measures and more children have stayed in education or training including apprenticeships. But instead of building on success, the Lib Dem/Tory government has put all this is at stake with no alternatives for capital investment as it rushes through the Academies Bill inviting schools to opt out of local authority control.
This coalition government option is initially for ‘outstanding’ schools in contrast to the original model, meaning that schools already doing well could opt to attract additional funds from local authority central services leaving less to support Brent’s family of schools. These new ‘academies’ would not be accountable to the local authority (and taxpayer) and there is some doubt whether their admissions criteria would be subject to its approval. As the school year ends in a policy vacuum, it is important to thank teachers in recognition of their enormous contribution and to collaborate in the interests of all Brent’s children in the future.
Copies of the front page done by Nick Ingram to celebrate Glenda’s amazing election victory are being sold to raise money for local Labour coffers.
The plan is for high-quality A3 size prints, signed by Glenda, to be available framed for £42 each (unframed £35) with at least £30 from each sale going to party funds. The exact profit will depend on production costs but the more orders we get, the lower the unit cost.
Click on the page to see a larger image.
To order your copy please email Nick at email@example.com giving the number you require, your name, address, contat details and branch you belong to (it is the intention that branches should get a small percentage of the funds raised, with the rest going to the CLP).
By Pete Firmin, Brent Trades Union Council
There will be a meeting to organise the campaign against cuts, privatisation etc on Wednesday 25th August, 7.30 p.m. at Brent Trades and Labour Hall, 375 High Road, Willesden, NW10 2JR.
This meeting is open to all those opposed to the cuts, and it is important that we have a large meeting with people from the various trades unions, user groups etc affected by the cuts, so please encourage others to come along.
If you know of cuts already happening locally please pass on details so we can discuss concretely how to build the campaign.
By Tayo Oladapo
There is no pretending that our beloved High Road is… well, not so beloved anymore.
Gone are the throngs of smiley-faced shoppers who poured in from the four corners of the capital, and with them many of the shops that once gracefully adorned either side of the High Road. Kilburn’s pride and joy is now at the mercy of a handful of locals and a few outsiders whose hearts must fill with pity at the sight of the sleeping beauty.
Years of neglect by a Liberal Democrat era which felt the pressing need to prioritise the increase of betting shops could only lead to what befalls our eyes so. Envisaging a society of great gamblers and other associated vices must have been of mouth-watering appeal to our former leaders, and thus Sleeping Beauty’s finger met the spindle.
Now help is at hand, the new Labour Council in Brent is fervently putting regeneration initiatives together. I and fellow councillors have been consulting with residents, businesses, officers and organisations, most notably the Kilburn Business Friends.
A lot of ideas are on the table which in time should bring results. Issues like more and suitable parking spaces, less controlled parking, proper signage and crime reduction are high on the agenda. It is also our intent to get the involvement of some High Street major players which would be of tremendous benefit.
In our discussion with Brent Council’s Lead Member for Regeneration and Economic Development, Councillor George Crane, it was a huge relief to learn that South Kilburn is one of their main priorities. This is excellent news for the High Road as at a time when we are faced with severe funding cuts by the ConDem government, we do have strong backing from Brent’s Labour-run council.
Our cherished Kilburn High Road is getting a new lease of life.
After what seems like more than just a month in limbo, Education Secretary Michael Gove finally confirmed yesterday that the Swiss Cottage academy secondary school, sponsored by UCL, would be getting the funding promised by the last Labour Government under the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme.
This followed from the debacle a month ago, when his Department took five attempts to get the list of BSF projects being cancelled. At that time Gove announced that he was cutting the funding to refurbish Camden’s existing secondaries, and that he hadn’t decided on the fate of Academy (as well as that of Swiss Cottage special school and the expansion of South Camden).
Whilst many of us have strong reservations about the governance, accountability and curriculum of academies, and there’s no denying that there is a very strong case for a new secondary south of the Euston Road, ultimately it has to be good news that there will be more secondary place for kids in Kilburn. And if you have to have an external sponsor, there are far worse ones than UCL, one of the foremost universities in the country.
Camden’s education chief Labour councillor Heather Johnson said: ”I am very relieved that we will now be able to go ahead with these three key projects. Camden families certainly need these additional secondary school and special school places and it’s good news that at least some of the work that’s been put in by heads, governors and students will be realised.
“However, this is just one third of the programme we had planned. Many other schools that deserved to benefit have lost out and this is a huge disappointment to young people right across the borough. We will continue to press the government for the resources that the other schools still desperately need.”
I’m also a governor at Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children, which is having to move to make room for the new school We’ve just gone through four years of fighting the previous Tory-Lib Dem administration which ran Camden to ensure a viable future for the school on a new site.
Given all the hard work we put into campaigning and the support we had from across the borough and beyond (not to mention the prize we eventually secured of a brand new school on the King’s Cross development) it would have been a tragedy for this to have been snatched away.
As CNJ news editor Richard Osley put it on his blog: “Again: whatever you think of academy sponsorship deals, the train has left that station and was so far down the track it would have actually have been mighty cruel to have shunted into the sidings at this stage.”
Update 14 Aug: A couple of eagle-eyed readers have noticed that I got my megatives in a bit of a twist in my original post when talking about the merits of a new school south of the Euston Road. I’ve updated the post to correct this; for the avoidance of doubt, there clearly is a very good case for a new secondary school for the south of the borough.