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Latest news from Cllr Michael Pavey
Deputy Leader of Brent Council & Labour Councillor for Barnhill
Deputy Leader of Brent Council
The last month has been difficult. One of my best friends in the whole world, Cllr Tayo Oladapo, passed away following a long and courageous battle against serious illness. Grief is never easy. But grieving for a young man in his early 30s just feels wrong.
Tayo was unique. He took his work astonishingly seriously. But he didn’t take himself seriously at all. In the Civic Centre he was known for his humbleness, his decency and the earnest sincerity with which he delivered his speeches. But away from politics he had a wonderfully irreverent sense of humour and loved to laugh at himself. His greatest passion in life wasn’t politics, it was Michael Jackson.
We became friends almost a decade ago, pounding the streets of Kilburn together as young activists. Often it was just the two of us, climbing block after block in South Kilburn. We had to climb them because Tayo was scared of lifts! The doorstep was where he was happiest and he had a rare gift for instantly connecting with people. He had no front, no pretences – people could immediately sense his sincerity.
Politics is a dirty business and desperately needs good guys. Tayo was one of the good guys. I miss him dearly.
Equally sad was the passing of Barnhill resident and Labour stalwart Tony Burleton. At 90 years, Tony was in a very different place from Tayo. But the sadness is the same.
I first met Tony when I was pitching to be Labour candidate in the 2012 Barnhill by-election. My knocking on his door woke him up and he told me in no uncertain terms that this wasn’t a good time! In some ways this set the tone for our friendship. We disagreed on Europe. We disagreed on gay marriage. We disagreed on the monarchy. In fact, I can’t immediately recall anything we actually agreed on! But I respected him immensely and secretly had great affection for him. There was something Churchillian about him: gruff, uncompromising, stubborn – but principled, determined and deeply loyal. He will be missed.
Life is a cycle and after these bereavements it was a real pleasure to visit Alperton School sixth form to see the next generation in action. I was invited by Leesha Varsani, the brilliant Chair of Brent Youth Parliament, to take part in their EPQ presentations. Listening to these young people articulately debate topics such as feminism, euthanasia and obesity was truly inspiring. The media like portray young people in a negative light – absolute nonsense. Young people today work far harder under far greater pressure than in my day. The future is in good hands.
Some great news this month. Following an external review, Brent has become one of the only Councils in the country to be rated “excellent” for our work on equalities.
In 2014 Brent lost an ugly Employment Tribunal on grounds of racial discrimination and I was asked to lead a fundamental review of our equalities practices. My review made some very challenging recommendations to tackle unconscious bias and to diversify senior management at the Council. I’m delighted that these interventions were singled out for praise in the external review. There is still a long way to go and we must never take our eye off the ball in pushing for true equality, but this “excellent” rating is a big step forward.
More good news this month saw the Brent Cabinet agree a ground-breaking new Investment Strategy. This marks a radically new approach to the Council’s reserves and borrowing. It is also a major statement of intent.
The strategy transforms the Council’s approach to investment from safety-first conservatism to proactively seeking out “game-changing” investments. Investments which could genuinely transform Brent, such as securing a university campus or a Crossrail station in the Borough. And to prove that this isn’t just rhetoric, the new strategy releases £12m from the Councils reserves to pump-prime these new investments. It’s a huge change of ethos from Brent and genuinely exciting.
Labour Councillor for Barnhill
It’s great to see a lot of investment going into Brent Housing Partnership homes across Barnhill. The blocks on King’s Drive have received a major overhaul including new windows, new roofs and redecorated balconies. Meanwhile the homes off The Mall are receiving external cladding to improve their insulation and reduce energy bills.
Several residents have contacted me concerned that this cladding will reduce air circulation and create condensation. I’ve discussed this with BHP and have been assured that no existing vents will be blocked, and that by warming the external walls, the cladding will actually make condensation less likely. Please let me know your experiences and get in touch if you’d like more details.
I received lots of positive feedback in response to my comments about fly-tipping last month. We’ve decided to hold a series of community clean-up days to tackle this horrible blight on our area. The first will be in Chalkhill on 23rd April, with sessions elsewhere in Barnhill to follow. Please get in touch if you’d like to help out!
Finally, you might remember a few months ago I mentioned the brilliant Denise Brown who is training local young people about the fashion industry. She’s holding a showcase of the young people’s work in Chalkhill on 25th April – full details here. Please come along, I know it’s going to be great!
My great political passion is Sure Start Children’s Centres. It is a tragedy that these wonderful hubs for young families are being comprehensively dismantled by the Tory Government.
This week I’m launching a pamphlet with Yvette Cooper MP highlighting the vital role of Councils in protecting these vital services. Brent exemplifies this, protecting every one of our Centres. Apologies for the ridiculously notice but everyone is very welcome to come to the launch in Parliament tonight, full details here. If you can’t make it, why not take a look at my summary of the pamphlet here.
And to end on a really positive note, the wonderful Wembley Primary School, where I am a proud governor, has secured another “good” rating from Ofsted. Every year the Government raises the bar on inspections and it took an immense amount of work from staff and parents to preserve this status.
The Government want to force all our primary schools to become soulless franchises of private sponsors. But Wembley Primary’s long journey to become an inclusive, ambitious and successful school is testament to what a community can achieve when it works together. We don’t need the backdoor privatisation of academisation, we need shared values and a shared determination to improve the lives of our young people. Have a great month and please feel free to contact me on any issue, using the details below.