Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Brent Labour Executive Vote for Cuts

The largest public attendance at Brent Executive for years
Tonight's meeting of the Brent Executive was crowded with the public who had turned up to protest about various cuts and closure plans. Some were locked out when the room became too crowded but the mood was subdued as if everyone knew that the Labour councillors would just nod it all through. And so it came to pass.

The biggest turn-out was from Charteris Sports Centre and the various library campaigns. Speeches were eloquent and often emotional.   The Council's consultation processes once again came under attack with figures described as inaccurate and often misleading and with overwhelming lack of evidence for some of the claims made in documentation.

One library campaigner described the Civic Centre as a 'white elephant which nobody wants' and evidence of the Wembley-centric nature of the Brent Council. He said, "The Council knows the price of the libraries but not their value" and claimed closing libraries was as much a crime as burning books.

Another said that by saving money in the short-term the Council was permanently damaging the borough in the long-term.

Supporters of the Charteris Sports Centre said that it had above average use by youth and disabled groups and that the local police had said that crime was likely to go up in the area  if it closed. They were proposing a council-community partnership and condemned the lack of an Equalities Impact Assessment on the closure plans. To cheers the representatives  expressed their determination to keep up the fight.

An amendment to the budget motion from Cllr James Powney, stating that the council remains in talks over library services and Charteris Sports Centre which may have an effect on the budget, was adopted by the Executive.

Jamie Ritchie spoke on behalf of the Brent Law Centre and said that the Council had given a demonstration on how NOT to treat the voluntary sector. They should not tell an organisation that they had funding for a year and then cut it halfway through and not say that they will consult and the decide to close it before the consultation was completed. He said the Law Centre was experiencing a double whammy from the Council and the Government. He pointed out that law centres ave the authorities 10 times as much money as the amount that is spent on them. Law Centres were required more than every and demand was increasing. Deprived of such assistance people would turn to 'self-help' in the form of crime.

In a heart-felt presentation two parents who use the Three Trees Children's Centre in Kensal Rise described the strong support they had received from staff and how it had changed their lives. Councillor Ann John stated that there was no intention to remove any substantial services and that there would be consultation over changes. She insisted that no Children's Centre would be closed, but did not mention that  three planned ones will not now open.

There was no debate about the budget proposals on the Executive and no questions. There were brief presentations from the lead members, often inaudible to the public, and then each proposal was agreed unanimously.

Action will now move to the full Council meeting on February 28th where Brent Fightback will be holding a lobby from 6pm outside the Town Hall. Campaigns are urged to bring banners and placards and as many supporters as possible.

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