Tuesday 8 January 2013

Butt under pressure but sticks to strategy of acquiescence to cuts

There was a lively discussion yesterday evening when Brent Council leader Muhammed Butt met with members of the Brent LRC (Labour Representation Committee) which is a group of left-wing Labour supporters. Cllr Butt was accompanied by his political adviser.

Butt reiterated his commitment to setting a 'legal' budget although observers pointed out that it was not illegal to set a needs based budget and no surcharge is involved under current legislation. All that would happen is that council officers would implement the Coalition imposed cuts.

He said that there would be an additional 2% of cuts on top of those in the three year budget plan but that in 2013-14 the overall cuts are  likely to be less than in the last 2 years. Although figures must have been drawn up by now he gave no details to the audience. More cuts are in the Coalition pipeline for 2014-15 and onwards.

It was unclear what, if any, public discussion or consultation would take place about the budget despite requests (including mine at the Budget and Finance Scrutiny Committee in December)  that the period be used to build support for a needs led budget. This would be used as campaigning tool backed by  the Brent  public so that pressure, alongside that of other councils could be put on the Coalition to reduce or reverse cuts in local government funding.

LRC members were disappointed by  what they see as the council's acquiescence in Coalition cuts. One commented, 'They lack any concept of, or confidence in, a class fightback. At best they can see the need for modestly ameliorative policy measures. Even that takes a struggle with the right wing. That's how bad things are.'

Further disappointment came when Cllr Claudia Hector, who has previously been critical of cuts, said according to one source that the public were not in the mood for a fightback so that the Butt programme was all that could be done. Another source, who attended the meeting,  felt this wasn't an entirely fair summary of her comment stating,.  'When someone compared the situation to that of fighting the Poll Tax at the end of the 1980s, Claudia  said that there wasn't the same level of public awareness on the issues'.

Asked if paying employees the London Living Wage, which is Council policy LINK,  had been written into the multi-million Public Realm contract covering waste, recycling and parks maintenance that is currently being procured, Cllr Butt said it had not - leaving his audience somewhat puzzled.

On a slightly more optimistic note Muhammed Butt  made it clear that he opposes academies and free schools and would issue a statement on the issue if there was any local action.


Anonymous said...

Hi Martin,

Not quite sure where you got your info from but to be fair to Claudia, that's not really a true representation of what she said. When someone compared the situation to that of fighting the Poll Tax at the end of the 1980s, she said that there wasn't the same levbel of public awareness on the issues.
Mike P

Anonymous said...

Who is Butt's "political adviser"? And why does someone on £40K a year from Brent need one?