Brent Breathes: air quality scrutiny inquiry to go to Cabinet on 14 January

A scrutiny inquiry into air quality in Brent, chaired by one of the Sudbury Councillors (Cllr Thomas Stephens), has now been published. It’s been endorsed by the Council’s Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee, and will be formally considered by Cabinet in the New Year.

Because of the snap General Election it’s been quite a while since I posted an update on this blog, but before we all break up for Christmas and the New Year I just thought I’d post a quick update on something I’ve previously written about. With Brent now taking more and more steps to deal with the climate emergency and poor air quality, I hope it gives people at least some cause for optimism!

In July 2019, I was delighted to be appointed by the Council’s Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee to Chair a scrutiny inquiry into air quality in the borough. Five fellow Councillors and two co-opted organisations – Clean Air for Brent and Brent Cycling Campaign – kindly agreed to serve as members of the inquiry.

It’s certainly been a busy six months, and we’ve spent a lot of time reviewing the evidence, commissioning briefings from the Council and speaking with as many people as possible about what more Brent can do to improve air quality in the borough, and whether we can learn from best practice. We’ve had very useful discussions with King’s College London’s Environmental Research Group, Transport for London, the Football Association, Clean Air for London, the Trade Union Clean Air Network, the National Education Union and local schools within Brent, to name just a few.

I’m very pleased that our 113-page report has now been published, and was endorsed by the Council’s Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee on 4 December 2019. You can access the full report here:

Final-Report-Air-Quality-Scrutiny-Inquiry-4th-December-2019

In all, we make ten key recommendations to the Council, Transport for London and others to help further improve air quality in the borough. There’s quite a lot to digest, but probably the most interesting recommendation – which was picked up by the Harrow Times in their write-up on the report – is that the Council devise a strategy to tackle non-resident air pollution caused by people who travel through the borough, particularly during Wembley Event Days. I hope this will go some way towards reassuring people that we’re taking a balanced approach to improving air quality locally. Residents shouldn’t be made to feel they’re being unfairly targeted, but rather everyone across the whole borough – including businesses and those who just travel through in passing – need to play their full part in improving our environment for future generations. There’s lots more in there though and as always, I’m very happy to take questions, thoughts or ideas on this report – just get in touch!

Now it’s been formally endorsed by the Scrutiny Committee, it’s been sent over to Cabinet, who’ll consider each of these recommendations. They’ll be formally responding to the report at the next Cabinet meeting, on 14 January 2020. At the moment Brent Council lacks a dedicated team of Officers with sole responsibility for improving the environment and tackling air pollution – like most Local Authorities, severe cuts to our budget from central government have made this very difficult in the past. However I’d suggest that given the growing public interest in the environment and air quality – and the Council’s recent declaration of a climate emergency – we now need to seriously reconsider this and put a dedicated team in place.

Cllr Thomas Stephens

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