|Protestors outside Brent Town Hall tonight|
A previous last minute amendment at a Budget meeting by the then leader Ann John had doubled ward working funds. This time she spent the entire meeting reading what appeared to be a novel on her Kindle and made no contribution to the meeting.
The Lib Dem amendments which included £500k for volunteer libraries and reduced expenditure on the senior management team of the Council were voted down by Labour. No Labour councillors challenged the budget despite cries of 'No Cuts' and 'Resign' from the public gallery.
Much of the meeting was taken up by the usual grand-standing speeches and barracking which Councillors seem to enjoy as a sort of Pantomime Politicians' Club but there was a measured, coherent contribution from Cllr Alison Hopkins in her role as Chair of the Finance and Budget Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
Her colleague Cllr Hunter drew disbelieving gasps when she appeared to suggest that the way to tackle child poverty in Brent was to have more effective family planning now that the Council is in charge of public health. The Rev David Clues was not present but Cllr Gavin Sneddon made a sober speech criticising the pantomine and extolling the virtues of cross party cooperation.
When the vote was finally taken there was considerable confusion with some councillors heard to ask each other, 'What are we voting on? and it was certainly hard to follow the Mayor's chairing from the public gallery.
Below the surface of the debate loomed a recognition that next year's cuts of £19m (nearly 12% of the Council budget) will be disastrous. Perhaps, by then, the pantomime will have stopped.