Wednesday 8 February 2012

Rage against these cuts

The Budget document going to Brent Executive is a massive and dense tome with pages of technical information and is unlikely to be read in its entirety by any of the councillors or commentators, let alone understood by them. The most you can do is try and glean some kind of overview on the financial plight of the council and some detail (from Appendix D) of where the axe is going to fall but there are major headings with no elaboration. I have covered the latter in previous postings.

Cllr Krupesh Hirani in a letter to the Brent and Kilburn Times this week asked 'Is it fair that Brent has to make cuts in the region of 27 and 28% of our controllable budget whilst other councils are not being hurt as badly as Brent? Brent is losing out on £73 per resident whereas Guildford faces a cut of £10 a person and Richmond £5.39 a person'.

The answer is of course it's not fair but the next question is, 'What is the Labour council doing about that if they recognise a cut of this magnitude is going to seriously damage local people and threaten the Council's ability to provide effective and efficient services?'

That is where the answers so far have been unsatisfactory and often contradictory. Despite Ann John telling people at Area Consultation Forums that the situation is dire,  her consultation, to the frustration of the audiences, did not contain any details of the cuts her administration are going to make - only the global figures. They were available on the council website in time for the Kingsbury and Kenton ACF but I doubt that many had accessed them. At the same time the cuts are dressed up in the misleading guise of 'transformation', 'savings', 'One Council' and 'efficiencies' and do not contain any details of their actual impact on real people. We need to be honest - a cut is a cut and cuts hurt.

If the cuts are as horrendous and as unfair as some Labour people claim then surely we should not 'be going gentle into that good night'. We should be standing up for the people of Brent, combining with other councils in a similar position, and taking on the Coalition. Instead Labour nationally, under the leadership of the two Eds. seems only to be concerned about what happens in 2015 and not the damage that will rip the heart out of many families and ruin the lives of the young, disabled, the mentally ill, the homeless and the elderly before that election takes place. Labour councils are left to find their own way through the maelstrom with no national leadership.

As Dylan Thomas went on 'rage, rage against the dying of the light'. Is Brent Labour so frightened of the shadow of the old 'loony left Brent' stereotype that they cannot see that they must rise up, enraged, at the injustice that is being perpetrated against its citizens?

Okay, after the rage some bare statistics from the Budget Report beyond 2012-13

Savings required 2013-14 £9.3m   (Cumulative £9.3m)
                             2014-15 £11.6m (Cumulative£20.9m)
                             2015-16 £5.3m   (Cumulative£26.2m)

This includes no allowance for price inflation but assumes a Council Tax rise of 3.5% in 2013-14 and 2.5% each  in the following two years. If council tax is frozen then further savings will be required.

How did we get there and what is being cut?

Service area Budgets (reductions in red increases in black)
Service Area
2011-12 £’000
2012-13 £’000
Children and Families
Environment and Neighbourhood
Adult Social Services
Regeneration and Major Projects
Central Services
Finance and Corporate


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