Monday 18 July 2011

Brent's 4 Year Budget Strategy Agreed in 30 seconds

Councillor Butt summed up the 2012/13 to 2015/16 budget strategy up in one sentence, no one wanted to speak on it, and it was approved - all within 30 seconds. The budget envisages cumulative 'savings' of £67.5m by 2016. That works out as over £2m per second!

There was a much longer discussion over the Festivals and Events issue. Cllr Ann John said she had been in talks with the Hindu council who no longer wanted to speak. She claimed that the policy had to change because of new Equality legislation which meant that the events funded had to be inclusive and this ruled out financing religious festivals. Cllr Paul Lorber challenged this saying that Festivals such as Eid had always been open to people of all backgrounds and were designed to aid understanding and improve relations amongst Brent's diverse communities. He queried the funding of fireworks night in the context of the gunpowder plot, oppression of Catholics and the events celebration of a protestant victory. Cllr Ann John said that this festival would continue to be funded on health and safety grounds, not religious, because it prevented people being injured by providing an alternative to setting off fireworks in back gardens.

Cllr John  insisted that this year's festivals including Eid, Navaratri,Christmas lights and St Patrick's Day would still take place but the new policy would be implemented next financial year. There was no time however to properly organise Respect and Countryside Day.  Cllr Powney said that new equality legislation had drastically changed what the council could fund. The council was not stopping the festival, just stopping funding them..

There was no discussion of the Street Cleaning savings which will mean the loss of road sweeper jobs and huge reductions in street cleaning frequency. To his credit Cllr Moher was clear about the seriousness of the cuts but was cut off in mid-stream by an impatient Cllr John. Moker did manage to say that he hoped to claw back something from the current negotiations with Veolia.

Other high-speed decisions were made to approve the Alperton Master Plan, future ownership of Brent housing stock and the Arts development strategy. Twelve items were disposed of in 40 minutes much to Ann John's delight.

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