Tuesday 22 November 2011

Cuts will have 'enormous and profound' impact on Brent - Ann John

I was a bit miffed at having to leave a particularly good edition of Radio 4's, 'I'm sorry I haven't a clue', to attend last night's meeting of Brent Council.  I needn't have worried as the Council seemed to be running its own version.

There was a lot of the usual knockabout stuff with taunts running along well worn lines and Cllr James Allie doing his impression of a recalcitrant adolescent challenging the teacher (Mayor)  from the back of the class.

The mood darkened when Ann John, leader of the council, spoke about the 'enormous scale' of the Coalition government's 'social engineering'  which would have 'an enormous and profound' impact on the people of Brent with 10,000 households s unable to afford local rents.  Alongside this  was the enormous impact of a 38% cut in Brent's grant from central government.

She said that 10,000 households in Brent would find their rent unaffordable and that this would have a 'huge and profound' impact: Tory policy was taking us back to the 80s. Brent Central had seen a rise in youth unemployment of 106% since January and we were producing a generation that would go straight from school into unemployment 'never knowing work'.

John said 700 council jobs had already gone and that there would be another 300. By the time the Council moves into the new Civic Centre the Council workforce would have shrunk by 1,000. For me of course, this raised more questions about the project. How many people will be working for Brent Council in 25 years time when the project has finally paid for itself, if indeed Brent Council still exists? Will the 'Civic Centre' be mainly let out to other organisations?

Cllr John said the the Council would in future be much smaller and what it does will change significantly. She outlined the Council's priorities for next year on creating opportunities for employment through training and apprenticeship schemes, improving quality of life through neighbourhood ward working, provision for young people before they leave school, integrating social care with health provisions and continue the improvements created by regeneration.

Opposition parties in their response did not challenge these priorities. Instead the Lib Dems pointed out that the Council had spent more money on closing libraries that would have been spent on keeping them open. Both Lib Dems and Tories called for the libraries to be re-opened. The Tories said that the Council should not put the £2.6m grant for freezing Council Tax into reserves but use it to protect services and keep the libraries open. They also said that monies recovered from the Icelandic banks, 'that had almost been written off' should not be put into reserves.

The issue of reserves deserves wider discussion. Last December a report was published that showed Brent reserves were the lowest of London boroughs and below what was financially prudent. The Tory argument is that they have not be used this year and so should not be added to. LINK to reserves report

A further are for discussion before the 201213 budget is set is the decision on whether to raise the Council Tax. The Budget Report warns about the erosion of the Council's tax base caused by year on year freezing of Council tax and Cllr Moher from the front bench said that he saw no reason not to ask council tax payers to pay for 'quality services'.  It appears that the Labour group see raising of Council Tax as an option to be considered.

I have called before for wider discussion of the budget so that it involves the wider public, rather than decisions made in committees and at 'away days'. There is still time for this to be done before final decisions are made.


Anonymous said...

i know that this isnt the best place to write this but i wanted to ask you a few things martin;

a - can u locate a list of candidates for Wembley Central asap please in order to get the word out on why not to vote for certain candidates (ahem labour)

b - which candidate will wembley matters be supporting. i know you are a green party member but lets be realistic here and support someone who will take labour out in this ward

c - can rumours of cllrs leaving the labour party be investigated by your good self

d - will there be active campaigning to stop labour winning in wembley central---- we can send them a message

e - i hear that laboru have put some 20 year old girl with no experience out as a candidtae---- lets knock this bloody confidence out of a party that is messing with our lives

cheers mate

Martin Francis said...

Krupa Sheth is the Labour candidate selected from a short-list of 4. She is 20 years old.

The Green Party will be finalising its selection tomorrow. I will be campaigning for the Greens. We would welcome anyone actively campaigning with us. The Lib Dems held it at the last by-election despite their previous councillor being imprisoned!

There are three versions of why Jayesh resigned: personal, pissed off over cuts, and one which I can't/won't publish until it's confirmed. If true it won't reflect well on Labour - but still, look what happened with the Lib Dems!

Anonymous said...

is the news on jayesh to be published soon?

please make sure that every voter hears about labour cuts to nurseries, youth clubs, libraries, etc.

ive overheard krupa Sheth openly attack labour in private meetings i can tell you what was said