Sunday 11 November 2012

Butt: First priority is maintaining budget integrity and making savings

In his report on administration priorities for the November 19th Full Council meeting, Council Leader Muhammed Butt outlines the pressures on the council and the likelihood that cuts in public expenditure will continue up to 2020, and concludes:
The Council therefore has a twin challenge. First to reorder its priorities to further provide individuals and communities with support in the face of these problems and secondly to make more cuts in expenditure whilst avoiding what the Local Government Association term the ‘Graph of Doom’. This Graph of Doom concept is a projection that if both cuts to public expenditure and demand for services remain on the same trend then by 2020 Local Government will end up only delivering waste and high end social care services. 

To achieve these two goals we are therefore proposing a package of proposals to address some of the immediate issues facing people. At the same time we are beginning a fundamental review of all the Council’s services. We must divert people from high end provision by supporting as many people as possible to live independent, fulfilling lives. It is only by fundamentally recasting what we do that we can serve the needs of local people.
However, these aspiration have to be seen in what he deems the first priority:
The first priority must remain protecting the integrity of the Budget and making savings.
He says that the One Council programme will deliver £80m savings by the end of the spending review period  but because of the pressures Members need to consider further project areas. The 'Members' may need help with translating the next section of his report:
However, as fundamental change is the only way to achieve genuine savings, long 'lead in times' will be necessary to reflect the growing complexity of cross council, and complexity of cross-partnerships, change and early indications form Members of avenues to follow will be vital.
Butt says that the Executive has set for itself 'three key and critical policy outcomes' for the next three years:

1. To promote fairness
2, To strengthen our community and
3, To support growth in the local economy

The question is whether those can be maintained given the funding gap that has to be bridged and whether   a more radical strategy is needed to avoid the 'Graph of Doom',  including setting a 'needs based' budget and mobilising against the Coalition's attack on local government.

The public are unlikely to have much information on the detail and extent of Brent Council cuts until early 2013 now due to slippage in the timetable.

Confirmation of central government funding for local councils will not be known until mid-December and the London Mayor will submit his draft budget on December 17th. Consultation with 'resients, businesses, voluntary sector, partner agencies and trade unions' on the Brent budget propoals is scheduled to take place 'up to Januaruary'.  The Budget Overview and Scrutiny Committee  will discuss the evidence collected and the 1st interim report on January 15th and the General Purposes Committee will agree the Council Tax and Business Rate bases on January 22nd.

The detailed  budget proposals will not be discussed by the Budget and Finance Overview and Scrutiny Committee until February 5th and just a week later, on February 11th,  the Executive  will consider the final proposals, including fees and charges for 2013-14 and cuts in the housing budget as well as rent increases.

The timetable means that public  'consultation' will take place over a very short period and that over the busy Christmas period.

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