Tuesday 20 November 2012

'They're out to get you,' Butt warned

'Your main opposition comes from within the Labour Council Executive, the Labour Group on the council and some senior council officers,' opposition leader Paul Lorber told Labour Council leader Muhammed Butt last night. Butt's wry grin seemed to indicate that he recognised a grain of truth in the statement.

Lorber's comment came in response to Butt's speech for the Budget First Reading Debate where he lambasted the vindictiveness of the Government's welfare cuts predicting that their policies would lead to the wiping out of the advances made by 13 years of Labour government:
This is the deliberate effect of an ideological experiment designed by  (the Conservatives) and shamefully supported by the Liberal Democrats. It is a social experiment based on the Conservative belief that the rich should have no responsibility for the poor.
 Butt outlined  a package of 'reforms'  that would provide resilience and protection for the community:
  • Support for local business and their growth through working with them for shared objectives
  • Paying the London Living Wage to direct council employees and encouraging contractors to do the same
  • Create an energy cooperative to bulk purchase energy for residents
  • Investment in an innovative employment support package
  • A new deal for the voluntary and community sector helping troubled families and tackling health inequality
Butt said that the council would shift council resources from the 'treatment of problems to the prevention of problems'  and would 'squeeze contractors and providers' and get rid of 'inefficiewncy, duplication and waste'. He said that the council couldn't fight the residents' battles for them any more but could provide a 'dented shield'.

Cllr Butt said that the council budget had been reduced by 28% between 2010 and 2014 and that the failure of the government's policies had led to forecasts of a 7% reduction every year until 2020 at least. 

There was a conspicuous lack of detail on what that would mean in terms of cuts to council services except for a passing reference to looking at charges for services.

If there is to be any proper consultation on the budget, and particularly if there is to be any effective campaign  based on a needs budget, the specific cuts to services need to be spelled out as quickly as possible. Residents need to have a realistic view of what they face in the immediate future. Apart from the Living Wage and Energy Cooperative proposals the other 'reforms' are vague. It would be an insult to residents if the consultation just sought endorsement for the reforms and the gloss involved in 'community, fairness and growth'.

There was little evidence in Paul Lorber's speech that he had burned the midnight oil preparing a comprehensive alternative approach. He criticised the lack of substance in Butt's presentation but his own was a knockabout speech piling blame for the economic crisis on the Labour Government and more tellingly  emphasising Ed Balls' statement that Labour are 'going to be ruthless about public spending'. He ridiculed Butt's claim about strengthening communities when the council had cut grants to the voluntary sector, and supporting businesses when they had increased parking charges hitting reducing the trade of local businesses.  Conservative leader Cllr Kansagra  said little apart from drawing attention to the cost of legal action over the libraries and parking charges.

I thought there might have been more attention given to Sarah Teather's Observer interview about the welfare benefit cap. Cllr Jim Moher, in response to Lorber's quote from Ed Balls said it was not a question of 'whether we would make cuts but whether we would have made this scale of cuts' and went on to say there was no hint in Lorber's speech of the disquiet in Lib Dem ranks and amongst many Lib Dem councillors. The Sarah Teather 'elephant in the room' had been reduced to a hamster.

So what about the rest of the meeting?   I left before the motions but questions to the Executive included some effective ones from Cllr Alison Hopkins in libraries and Cllr Carol Shaw on the Willesden Green Redevelopment and a less effective one from Cllr Daniel Brown on the dangers of the failure to clear fallen leaves after the cuts in street cleaning.  Cllr Shaw criticised the cost of the Civic Centre perhaps forgetting that this was the brain child of the Lib Dem led previous administration - fully supported by Labour of course.

Cllr Hunter extolled the virtues of making 'evidence based' recommendations on health and not 'political ones' thus not opposing the closure of Central Middlesex A&E. She quoted Boris Johnson approvingly on the virtues of cross-party support for the Olympics.

 Labour backbenchers asked questions that enabled Muhammed Butt to make attacks on various government policies including the cutting of the Early Intervention Grant. Cllr Krupesh Hirani drew approval from across the chamber when he spoke about the hard work of carers and even more when he took a swipe at adult care provision in Brighton and Hove where there is a Green led minority administration.(Background HERE)

Entertainment was provided by spotting the councillors and officers who had fallen asleep, those that were tweeting and texting surreptitiously under desks or cardies on their laps, and of course seeing Cllr Zaffar Van Kalwala once again achieve a multiple orgasm just by listening to the sound of his own voice.


Anonymous said...

Brilliant last paragraph -
and yes, Cllr Zaffar really loves himself.

Martin Francis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martin Francis said...

To be fair to Cllr Zaffar wasn't it Wilhelm Reich who said that you couldn't possibly truly love someone else unless you loved yourself first? The film W.R. Mysteries of the Organism explored the links between sexuality and politics. Could this scene be transposed to Brent Town Hall? http://www.youtube.com/verify_age?next_url=/watch%3Fv%3D-FNha0znnnA

Anonymous said...

When I first met Cllr Zaffar I saw a Very confident know it all & my first thoughts were what does he know about Bridge & the youth of today, but after seeing the work & support he has put into Bridge I have been impressed as this is a man that has not given up & continued to support Bridge.
Don't judge a book by its cover but what it achieves!!!
Good luck in all you achieve Cllr Zaffar don't worry about the haters let them hate!!!