Tag Archives: Paul Lorber

Sudbury councillors’ surgery returns to Barham Park

Sudbury councillors’ regular advice surgery will return to Barham Park next Wednesday (16 April) following the refurbishment of the Barham lounge.

Bob Wharton, Councillor Paul Lorber, London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon and Richard Sissoon outside the Barham Park buildings

Sudbury councillor surgeries have returned to Barham Park buildings. Now we need the library back too, according to local Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Lorber (second left)

The lounge closed in October to allow work could be carried out. The closure was meant to last for two months but Brent Council has only recently completed the project, four months behind schedule.

Councillor Paul Lorber said:

I am very pleased to be back at Barham Park, which is an ideal location for my surgeries. The Liberal Democrats are campaigning to make the Barham Park buildings once again a centre of community activity. The complex has been sadly neglected since Labour closed Barham Library in 2011.

Whether or not local people get their library back depends on how people vote at the local elections. The Liberal Democrats will re-open the library while Labour plan to change the use of the building to office and light industry and get rid of it to an external organisation.

The Barham Park complex of buildings were gifted to local people by Titus Barham in the 1930s. The venue is very convenient for most Sudbury residents and is served by the 18, 92, 182, 204 and H17 buses.

The first surgery in the refurbished lounge will take place between 7pm and 8pm on Wednesday 16 April.

 

Liberal Democrats will introduce democratic decision-making to Brent Council

Brent Liberal Democrats will make Brent Council a more open and democratic organisation if they gain power in the forthcoming Brent Council elections.

Councillor Paul Lorber in front of Wembley Stadium

Councillor Paul Lorber, Leader of the Liberal Democrat group

According to the Liberal Democrats many of the council’s biggest mistakes over the past four years – such as shutting half of Brent’s libraries, reducing street cleaning and wasting money on vanity projects – are in part the result of an over-concentration of power in the hands of Labour Executive members.

Currently many committees to which councillors are appointed are mere talking shops with no power to make decisions on behalf of local residents. Some Labour councillors are notorious for turning up to meetings and spending the time playing with their iPads and iPhones while saying nothing. This is a waste of public time and money.

The Liberal Democrats have renewed their call for all councillors to have a role in decision-making. This would be achieved by distributing the power currently exercised by the all-powerful Executive among a small number of committees where councillors from all parties could work together to make decisions on behalf of residents.

The Liberal Democrats would also make public involvement more meaningful by forcing leading councillors to respond directly to issues raised at meetings by members of the public, including by petitions. At the moment members of the public can make statements at meetings but the issues raised are routinely ignored by the Labour majority.

Liberal Democrat group leader Paul Lorber said:

Under Labour Brent Council has gained a reputation as a council whose leadership is arrogant, out of touch and ignores the views of local people. It’s time to put residents at the heart of the council’s thinking and involve all elected representatives in decision-making.

Frequently local councillors are able to identify problems with policies long before they are implemented. For example Councillor Mark Cummins and I highlighted many problems with Labour’s plan to scrap visitor parking scratchcards. Yet Labour rushed ahead to implement the system causing great problems for many residents and running into exactly the problems we warned about.

A reformed system would give councillors the power to propose changes before the decision is made.

Power was concentrated in the hands of the Leader and portfolio holders by Tony Blair’s Labour government. The Coalition Government has given councils the power to choose between the current and other more democratic systems of governance.

The Liberal Democrats proposed reform of the decision-making system at Brent Council in September 2011 but the proposal for more democracy was voted down by Labour councillors.

Brent Council wastes £10,000 on former library planning appeal

Councillor Paul Lorber and other library campaigners with library placards outside the former Barham Library building

Councillor Paul Lorber and other library campaigners are working to re-open Barham Library

Brent taxpayers are in the bizarre position of paying for both sides of the argument over whether the former Barham Park library buildings should be converted for office and light industrial use.

One part of of the council will soon argue to the independent planning inspector that Brent Council planning committee’s decision to refuse permission should be upheld. At the same time another part of the council will pay a consultant to argue that the councillors’ decision should be overturned.

Labour-run Brent Council has not revealed full details about the forthcoming planning appeal, which is against the planning committee’s decision last November to refuse an application to change the use of part of Barham Park Library buildings from community use to offices and light industrial.

This is an outrageous use of public money to subvert a democratic decision made by elected councillors from all parties,

said Sudbury Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Lorber.

Taxpayers are footing the bill for the consequences of Labour councillors’ decision to close Barham Library in October 2011. The council invited bids to rent the empty space. The bidding documents made clear that the successful bidder was responsible for obtaining planning permission. To everyone’s surprise the successful bidder, the Notting Hill-based Association for Cultural Advancement through Visual Arts (known as ACAVA), did not submit a planning application. Instead Brent Council agreed to to do so at public expense. The planning application was prepared by Brent Council officers and the £2,500 fees were paid by the council from public funds.

To the delight of local people, the planning application was refused by members of Brent Council’s planning committee. However Labour councillors then decided to submit a planning appeal at a cost of up to £10,000, mainly on consultants’ fees. The council has appointed a planning consultant but has refused to provide details of the tender document or the costs.

Councillor Lorber added:

Clearly Labour Councillors are ashamed of closing Barham Library and five others and hope their betrayal of local people will not cost them votes in the local elections in May.

Barham Library has been empty for nearly 30 months and has cost local taxpayers tens of thousands of pounds to keep vacant. Brent Liberal Democrats have pledged to reopen Barham Library and to support volunteer library groups across the whole of Brent.

Councillor Paul Lorber is a volunteer with Friends of Barham Library which operates two volunteer libraries from small premises at Sudbury Town Underground Station and 428 High Road Wembley. The volunteer libraries provide thousands of books to borrow and buy and activities for people of all ages including a chess club, reading club and arts & crafts activities for children on Saturdays in Sudbury Town.

Their campaign to get back into the closed library building in Barham Park continues.

Recently long standing library campaigner Francis Henry of Daniels Estate Agents urged residents across Brent to use their votes at the forthcoming election to vote for library supporters and against Labour candidates in order to deprive Labour of control of Brent Council.

Lib Dem plans to re-open libraries and reintroduce scratchcards blocked by Labour

Stacks of coins

Brent Council last night set its budget

Labour councillors last night (Monday 3 March) blocked Liberal Democrat plans to:

  • re-open local libraries closed by Labour councillors
  • repair damaged roads and pavements
  • re-introduce visitor parking scratchcards and freeze parking charges
  • resolve the problems caused by Labour’s changes to rubbish collections
  • reverse Labour withdrawal of school crossing patrols from many schools

The extra spending would have been funded by reducing unnecessary council spending including abolish new senior management posts created by Labour and streamlining back-room functions. The Liberal Democrats set out their plans at last night’s Brent Council budget meeting.

Sudbury councillor and Liberal Democrat Group Leader Councillor Paul Lorber said:

Liberal Democrat councillors listened to residents and proposed a budget amendment that reflected local people’s priorities.

Residents are angry at Labour’s decision to shut half of Brent’s libraries, frustrated by Labour’s new visitor parking system and fed up with the state of our roads. Sadly Labour councillors refuse to take notice of residents’ concerns.

Labour’s arrogant refusal to recognise their mistakes and listen to local people shows why the local elections in May are so important. By voting for the Liberal Democrats they can support cleaner streets, customer-friendly parking policies and the re-opening of local libraries.

The Liberal Democrats supported the decision to once again accept the Coalition government’s council tax freeze grant. This government funding means Brent Council’s share of the council tax has not increased since 2009.

Brent Labour councillors pay for politics and socials at taxpayers’ expense

Information uncovered by the Liberal Democrats has revealed that Labour councillors have been living the high life at public expense – by getting local taxpayers to pay their £150 a year subscription to a Labour Mayors’ Association, which organises get-togethers and social events for Labour Mayors and former Mayors.

Masthead from London Labour Mayor's Association facebook page

The association’s Facebook page describes it as a social and political forum

According to its Facebook page the London Labour Mayors’ Association is “a political and social forum” where members meet for political discussion and social contacts, visit places of interest and “enjoy a twice yearly lunch for members and guests”.

Councillor Paul Lorber, who leads the Liberal Democrat group on Brent Council, said:

Very little surprises me any more about how Labour runs this council. However I was really shocked that leading Labour councillors think it is OK to charge the taxpayer for their social jollies with a party political organisation.

It’s yet another example of Labour’s cavalier approach to wasting public money, like the £98,000 they spent on throwing a party to celebrate the opening of the Civic Centre.

Last month Labour faced criticism for spending £1,000 a year on curries for councillors to eat after council meetings, rather than using the cash to support foodbanks and groups in need.

Details of the political payments were uncovered when Councillor Lorber followed up revelations of similar payments by Islington Council. Islington’s borough solicitor ruled that the payments were unlawful and Islington’s Labour councillors were asked to pay back the money taken from council coffers to fund the political subscriptions.

However Brent Labour councillors have not reimbursed any of the money that was paid to the Labour Mayors Association by Brent Council. Brent Council officers are investigating how many year’s worth of subscriptions were paid to assess the total amount lost. So far they have confirmed that payments were made by Brent Council to the London Labour Mayors’ Association in 2013, 2011 and before 2010.

Councillor Lorber said:

It’s quite clear that these payments to an internal Labour organisation should never had been made. Councillor Butt must ensure Brent taxpayers are paid back from Labour Party funds immediately.

Vale Farm must stay sports venue urge Sudbury Lib Dems

Sudbury Liberal Democrats are urging local residents to have their say about the future of Sudbury by responding to the public consultation on Sudbury’s Neighbourhood Plan.

They have highlighted in particular the importance of preserving Vale Farm as a centre for sports and recreation.

Playying field at Vale Farm behind Wembley Football Club

Vale Farm should be protected for sport, say Sudbury Liberal Democrats. (picture: ca1952rr on Flickr)

Local Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Lorber said:

Developers will take any opportunity to get their hands on green spaces, but the playing fields and open space at Vale Farm are vitally important to the local community. The Neighbourhood Plan is an important opportunity for local people to influence our area.

It is vital that Brent Council and the Neighbourhood Forum make it clear in the plan that Vale Farm will be protected for sports and recreation into the future. Once green space is lost it is gone for ever, so we must protect what we have.

One section of the draft plan describes Vale Farm as “a wonderful asset” and supports existing planning policies which say improved indoor and outdoor sports and recreation facilities should be provided here.

This is in line with Liberal Democrat support for a modern sports centre with a swimming pool and all-weather athletics track at Vale Farm.

However a separate section of the draft Neighbourhood Plan titled “development opportunities” says “the community will promote and support development that results in the strengthening of Vale Farm as a regional centre for sports excellence” but does not place any limits on the scale and type of development. This could potentially leave the door open to inappropriate residential or commercial development on green space at Vale Farm to fund improvements to the sports facilities.

Under Labour Brent Council sold public land in Willesden to build flats for overseas investors and pay for a new library and council offices. Local residents wish to avoid green space in Sudbury being built on to raise money for the council. In their submission to the consultation Sudbury Liberal Democrats call for the planning policy about development at Vale Farm to be deleted or reworded.

Residents can download the Neighbourhood Plan consultation document [PDF] and complete a questionnaire at www.stra.org.uk. According to the website the the deadline to respond is Friday 8 March.

Lib Dem leader writes letter calling on police to resume Kensal Rise fraud investigation

Liberal Democrat council group leader Paul Lorber has written to the City of London Police Commissioner, Adrian Leppard , about the failure to pursue the apparently fraudulent emails submitted to Brent Council in support of plans to demolish Kensal Rise Library.

Group of Liberal Democrat campaigners outside Kensal Rise library

Councillor Barry Cheese (second right), Councillor Paul Lorber (right) and other campaigners at the volunteer pop-up library outside Kensal Green library before it was destroyed.

The City of London Police is the lead police force on fraud and works with the National Fraud Authority to deliver the fraud reporting centre Action Fraud, to which the original complaint was directed.

Councillor Lorber said:

It is in everyone’s interest that attempts to corrupt the planning process are challenged – so we need the truth about these dodgy emails.

This whole sorry saga – with the all public money it is costing – would never have happened if Labour councillors had not closed Kensal Rise library and then acted to ensure the transfer of the building to All Souls College.

Brent Council should have kept a community library at Kensal Rise by working with library volunteers and campaigners, as Liberal Democrats said at the time. This would have protected the library from falling into the hands of All Souls College and developers.

The text of Councillor Lorber’s letter to the Police Commissioner is:

Dear Commissioner,

As you know, most planning decisions in London are the responsibility of borough councils. These issues are often sensitive and controversial and generate a great deal of interest from the public. It is very important that the process both is and is seen to be open and free from abuse.

If anyone attempts to corrupt the process it is essential that they are taken to task.

It is clear that an abuse of the process happened in the case of the application relating to the Kensal Rise Library building (Brent Council reference 13/2058). Brent Council has gathered evidence and presented it to the police, via Action Fraud, for investigation.

It has been suggested that the police have decided not to take further action because of lack of resources or because this is not their priority.

If so, I consider that this is a wrong decision. Neither local councils nor the police work in isolation. We need to support each other to uphold the law and to eliminate abuses which undermine public confidence in our systems and institutions.

I urge you therefore to ensure that the investigation into the Kensal Rise planning application case is concluded and appropriate action taken.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Councillor Paul Lorber