Sunday 13 January 2013

Muhammed Butt promises to consult on Brent budget

Following my posting on the lack of consultation on the Brent Budget LINK, Brent Council leader Muhammed Butt has sent me this comment:
I can assure you that we will be consulting on the budget. I am formalising dates and times with the consultation team and will get back to you and we will let everyone know as soon as things have been set.

We have not been able to put the budget on the agenda due to the government giving us our funding settlement figures so late and they are still giving us the data in chunks which is making setting the budget process very difficult.

Everyone has the opportunity to use the soap box to highlight any issues and concerns to us at every forum and would encourage you to use that and you can always suggest topics of conversation for the forums.

We are always looking to find different formats and topics that will allow us to engage better with our residents.


Anonymous said...

Q. When is a consultation not a consultation? A. When it's a Brent one. Sadly Brent's recent history in listening to residents' views amounts to nothing more than window dressing. How many residents opposed the closure of our libraries? How many supported it? And what was the result?

The leadership change at the council promised a new open style of communication. Sadly that's just what it is - style but little substance. Last year Muhammmed Butt promised serious consideration of a needs budget - where is it? He promised to be at the forefont of of any campaign of councillors fighting back against cuts - where is he? A couple of hand wringing letters to the Guardian does not make a campaign.

The widely publicised and well attended Brent Connects debate on housing last week showed that there is real desire for the council to make an effective stand against cuts and that there would be a huge level of residents support if they were to take this approach.

Genuine consultation is not about inviting people to get on a tokenistic 3 minute soapbox which is then ignored, it is a 2 way process, involving proper debate on our options and then responding to residents collective wishes.

Anonymous said...

Good comment - what do you mean by effective action against the cuts? Remember if balanced budget is not past Officers takeover and pass one regardless

Anonymous said...

There are lots of ways the Council could take actions against the cuts.

Firstly, by protecting Brent's poorest communities from their impact. If you were at the Brent Connects debate you would have heard people call for the council not to carry out evictions from council housing, for them to help people restructure their housing rental debts in the same way the mortgage debts are restructured. There are many small examples like this that would mean the council are not doing the dirty work of the LibDem/Tory coalition.

Secondly, they could look at more creative accounting methods. Local authorities are are permitted only a small amount of borrowing but there are always loopholes to exploit. They could sell commercial assets, cut councillor expenses or top exec salaries to raise funds which would protect services.

Thirdly and most importantly, they could publish a "needs budget", i.e. a budget which sets out the funds required to provide the the level of services the borough needs. This would highlight the funding gap and would become an important campaigning tool. Consulting widely on a needs budget would have the effect of exposing the full effect of government cuts.

Yes, if councillors ultimately set a "needs budget" it would lead them into conflict with central government which is why it is so important for them to consult and campaign and win support for these ideas among residents.

Frankly, whether a councillor votes for cuts gladly (as the LibDems/Tories will do) or with a heavy heart (as Labour will do) the impact is the same. Ultimately I want councillors to protect residents against these cuts by fighting them by whatever means they have.