Deputations (if any)
To hear any deputations received from members of the public in accordance with Standing Order 32.
The Mayor advised that one deputation had been received within the required timescale under Standing Order 32. The deputation had been requested by Dr Markandu Alalasundaran representing residents from Evelyn Avenue and related to concerns about the state or repair of the pavement and road surface in their street.
In addition a further deputation request had been received in support of the Non-Cabinet Member debate on the use of foodbanks, although the Mayor advised this had been submitted after the formal deadline had expired. The request had been received from Dee Woods, manager of the Granville Community Kitchen foodbank. Given that this request had been received after the formal deadline for submission the Mayor advised Members that if they were minded to accept it there would be a need to suspend Standing Order 32 in order to allow it to be heard.
Given the subject matter of the additional deputation, Members indicated they would be willing to make an exception in order for it to be heard. It was therefore RESOLVED that Standing Order 32 be suspended to allow the additional deputation from Dee Woods to proceed.
The Mayor then welcomed Dr Markandu Alalasundaran and invited Councillor Kabir, as one of the ward councillors for Queensbury where Evelyn Avenue was located, to introduce the deputation. Councillor Kabir introduced Dr Alalasundaran, highlighting the time and effort he had spent organising local residents on this issue in an attempt to improve the local environment. These efforts had been supported by all three local ward councillors, who had been working closely with residents in an effort to prioritise the road for action.
Dr Alalasundaran was then invited to address the meeting and he began by highlighting the deterioration of the pavements and road surface in Evelyn Avenue over recent years and the associated safety concerns. He pointed out these had been compounded by works undertaken by the utilities companies, which had resulted in further damage. Residents had photographic evidence of the state of the road and pavements in Evelyn Avenue, which had been included in support of a petition they had also submitted. Residents felt their area was being neglected especially when compared to recent works in other areas, such as Princess Avenue, which had resulted in their pavement and road being resurfaced.
Amongst the safety concerns highlighted were the appearance of regular pot holes and trip hazards being caused by tree root uplift and large cracks appearing in the pavement. Having lived in the area for 30 years, Dr Alalasundarn advised he could not recall the road being resurfaced in that time and felt this had led to the road looking neglected compared to the surrounding area. Local residents felt that constant re-patching and repair works were no longer acceptable and were therefore asking that the Council consider undertaking urgent works. These included replacing the pavement and resurfacing the road in order to address the concerns regarding safety and improve the overall atheistic look of the area and surrounding environment. He concluded by thanking the local ward councillors and Barry Gardner (as local MP) for their support in seeking to address the concerns raised and looked forward to a positive response in terms of any actions identified as a result of the deputation and petition.
The Mayor thanked Dr Alalasundaran for his comments and then invited Councillor Southwood, as Cabinet Member for Environment, to respond to the deputation. Councillor Southwood thanked Dr Alalasundaran and all residents involved in the campaign and advised she was pleased to see so many local residents taking an active interest in where they live and working with their local ward councillors, who she confirmed had been lobbying hard on their behalf.
Councillor Southwood recognised the specific concerns raised in relation to Evelyn Avenue which had she felt had also served as a reminder about the condition of other roads across the borough. Whilst sharing the view that the condition of roads and pavements needed to be treated as a priority, she outlined the difficulties caused as a result of central government funding reductions which had led, for example, to Brent receiving no funding from Transport for London (TfL) towards its principle road maintenance programme. This had now meant all roads having to compete for much more limited funding. In terms of Evelyn Avenue, she reassured local residents that the local ward councillors had requested inclusion of the road within the 2018/19 programme of works which be considered in accordance with the standard process. She ended by once again thanking residents for taking the time to highlight such an important issue at Council.
Before moving on Councillor Duffy raised a point of order seeking clarification on the nature of the budget reductions referred to. Councillor Southwood clarified that she had been referring to the removal of excise duty that was passed through TfL to fund the principle road maintenance programme alongside the £700m overall cut in Government funding to local authorities which had impacted on the Boroughs ability to fund a wider programme of works.
The Mayor then welcomed Dee Woods and invited Councillor Mashari as lead member for the Resource and Public Realm scrutiny review on the use of food banks in Brent to introduce the deputation. Councillor Mashari introduced Dee Woods as manager of the Granville Community Kitchen food bank and a community activist, award winning cook, broadcaster and independent researcher with 25 years local experience working with a range of diverse communities. Councillor Mashari highlighted the central role that Dee Woods and the Granville Community Food Bank had played in the scrutiny review, with the community kitchen set up as a community led organisation in 2014 using food as a medium to empower local communities and now serving over 200 meals per week. Members were also asked to welcome representatives from the Sufra community food bank who were attending in support of the deputation and Non Cabinet Member debate.
Dee Woods was then invited to speak and began by thanking Members for the opportunity to address them. She advised that her original aim in setting up the community kitchen had been to provide a more proactive approach towards problems identified with support available from the welfare state which she felt were having a negative impact locally on public health and wellbeing. This had included, as an example, increasing number of families struggling to provide nutritional and culturally appropriate food. She felt the issue was not related to food poverty but instead involved the government’s failure to deliver welfare reform resulting in families living in poverty without the means to provide a healthy and hot meal due, for example, to the lack of a cooker or fridge.
From her experience, it was felt that London was increasingly becoming a community of have and have nots which she advised had led to her wanting to take action as it was felt no-one should need to go hungry, especially the young or vulnerable. She highlighted the current pressure on charities and other organisations in the voluntary and community sector such as the community kitchen and Sufra, with organisations now at breaking point in terms of capacity. It was felt the roll out of Universal Credit would make this position worse.
Dee Woods felt that a reliance on food banks and the voluntary and community sector as a means of plugging these gaps in the welfare state should not become the norm. It was therefore important to identify and address the root causes over the short, medium and long term. In her view a more joined up approach was needed with no complacency about the seriousness of the issues needing to be addressed. Members were therefore encouraged to support the recommendations made as a result of the scrutiny review alongside the suggested establishment of a multi stakeholder food council, good food charter and support for community based food growing projects.
The Mayor thanked Dee Woods for her comments and then invited Councillor McLennan, as Deputy Leader, to respond to the deputation. Councillor McLennan advised that as the deputation was linked to the Non Cabinet Member debate due to be considered as the next item she would be responding jointly on both items.
The Mayor advised he would therefore move straight to the Non Cabinet Member debate.