Matt Harmer's March Newsletter

Secondary school places, dogs, music and miscellany

Related Links

Matt's February Bulletin

Liberal Democrats' January Newsletter

Matt's January Bulletin on Snow and Stuff

Councillor Ruth Cadbury thinks Tory budget "a farce"

Matt's December Bulletin on Brentford Towers, Recycling, Adverts and more

Matt's November Bulletin on Brentford Towers, Recycling, Adverts and more

Matt's October Bulletin - Fire Hazards, Dog Mess, Police and Parking

Matt's September Bulletin

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* Lessons in schooling *

Secondary schools have been the main issue over the past few days, with a number of Brentford families very concerned to find that their child has been allocated a school a long way from home.

To explain the context, early March is when families find out if their choice of secondary school has been successful. Families are asked to choose six schools that they would like their child to attend and then the council applies the allocations policy to all the applicants. If there is a sibling at the school already, then that gives the first priority. Once the siblings are accounted for, the remaining places are decided on distance from the family home to the school via the shortest walkable distance. (There are other deciding factors but this email would be far too long if I covered them all).

This year there seems to be a serious problem in Brentford. Councillor Ruth Cadbury and I have had many calls from and held meetings with parents who have been told that none of their choices have been successful. We are at a disadvantage in that we don’t have a mixed secondary school in the area, and many families have been given a school two bus rides away.

Why has this happened? Local primary schools report that this year has a slightly higher number of leavers and it may be that there are fewer families opting for fee paying schools. In terms of population growth, the number on the electoral roll in Brentford ward in 2009 stood at 10,073, compared to 9,661 for 2008.

More importantly, what do we do? Well, in the long term we need to provide another mixed secondary school in the area. At present, there are government programs that will finance the building of a school. If the land is in the ownership of the local council then that can be used, otherwise there is the harder job of finding a site. My Brentford ward colleague Ruth Cadbury and I have met with the Director of Education to discuss this on various occasions. We are told that things are happening but (as seems to be the case too regularly) progress is slower than anticipated.

In the shorter term, we are looking to see if an extra class can be introduced to take account of the additional numbers. Logistically not easy, but surely not impossible. Before we move on with this it will be helpful to keep up with how the affected families are moving up the waiting lists. If you are affected by this then please do get in touch. Reply to this email or call me on 020 8560 7033. For latest information keep an eye on Ruth’s website at

One other thought. It could also be bad news for Brentford if the demand goes down. The last thing we want is for families to start considering the choice of secondary school, realise that there are none in the neighbourhood, and move on. To build a truly sustainable community we need to have excellent, available education. The demand for schooling is a good thing, the challenge is how to provide schooling to encourage families to move to and stay in Brentford.

* A fine for a mess *

One of the bigger postbags that this email received followed the story about dog mess last year. The story so far – a local policeman got in touch to ask where he could get fine tickets to give to people who persistently let their dogs foul parks and footpaths. It turned out that the police couldn’t just do this, they needed permission from the council, and that permission had never been given.

It’s fair to say that the response to this story indicated that dog owners of this kind – a small minority of dog owners, I hasten to add – were not thought of kindly by the readers of this email. So I’m glad to say that there’s been some progress.

Although it still needs to get signed off at a senior level, it looks likely that Brentford will host a trial of a scheme to help with this problem. There’ll be a £50 fine (going up to £80 if it’s not paid) for anyone not removing dog mess, persistently letting dogs off the lead where they are supposed to be on a lead and letting dogs onto places where they are not supposed to be. Local police will be the ones giving out the tickets, should it be necessary.

I know that some people will think this to be a bit draconian, but I think it will help prevent what people have reported to be a problem. Hopefully the possibility of getting a fine will do the trick and no tickets will be issues at all – for me that will show that the trial has been a success.

Given the glacially slow progress of local government it’s not clear when this will all start – I’ll let you know as soon as I hear. Thanks to everyone who got in contact and helped make the council aware that the problem was serious enough to deserve proper consideration.

* Muso corner *

I’m always happy to pass on information about local events, especially when they are as good as the ones I’m about to plug. On Friday 30th April, Nick Lowe will be playing at St Paul’s Church, supported by the estimable Phil Martin and the Brentford Belles.

Being a reader of this email you are undoubtedly a person of taste and distinction and won’t need me to tell you that Nick Lowe is one of the finest singer songwriters (and producers) of the last thirty years. Anyone who was at his concert in Stripes a few years ago won’t need me to tell them that the chance to see talent of this magnitude close-up is not to be missed.

Better still, it’s a fund raiser for the excellent Open House café, who serve up excellent lunches daily at St Paul’s.

For tickets, go to and follow the instructions. It’s not clear how many are left but as of two minutes ago it was possible to make purchases. Come and say hallo, I’ll be sitting near the front.

If you prefer the Canvey Island Scene then you must make your way to the Musical Museum on March 25th to see Julien Temple’s film about Dr Feelgood, Oil City Confidential, being presented as a fundraiser for our excellent Toy Library. If you need an excuse to see it, parts of it were apparently filmed in the area but this is less important than the chance to hear the finest pub rock ever produced. It'll be on the evening of Thursday 25th March in the theatre at the Musical Museum. For tickets go to

Again, I’ll see you there.

For younger readers who are a little confused by all this, find a middle-aged man and they should be able to give you full details.

* News in brief *

I hope no-one will mind if a pass on some bits of local news that may be of interest.

Lateward/New/Hamilton/Clifden Road residents should be aware that the second stage of consultation will be starting soon. Look for details coming through your door shortly

Windmill Rd residents north of the A4, I’ve had a promise that the pavement in front of the new flats next to the Globe will be restored within the next four weeks – it’s been a mess for too long

A4 cyclists, I’ve contacted Transport for London to ask that the cycle lane be restored on the A4 following the laying of a new pavement

St Paul’s playground users, I’m still talking with the contractors over replacing the missing playground equipment in St Paul’s Recreation Ground – they’ll be replaced but I want to make sure that the new equipment is of the same kind as was taken out

There you are, a quick guide to some of the things that come in. And no mention of the resident who’s received a water bill for £19,000…

*Anything to report?*
As a councillor, my first task is to try and assist residents with problems. Please get in touch if you think I can help, either by emailing me at or calling 020 8560 7033. You can also take a look at

Councillor Matt Harmer
Brentford ward Labour councillor
London Borough of Hounslow

contact: 153 Ealing Rd
Brentford, Middlesex TW8 0LF
telephone: 020 8560 7033


March 11, 2010