Saturday 29 November 2014

Butt suggests combined West London Authority as 40% central staffing cuts sought in Brent budget

The  Report for the First Reading Debate on the Council Budget LINK was up on the Council website by 23.45 last night. It includes a section on the Borough Plan Consultation which is fast work as the consultation only closed at 5pm yesterday.

Full Council was changed from November 17th to December 8th ostensibly to enable a report on the Borough Plan to be made.

The report states (4.3)
Between 16 September and 28 November the council, with its partners undertook a major consultation exercise to gather information on local people's views of:
  • The area where they live
  • Their aspirations for the future of the borough
  • Their spending priorities, including those services they felt should be protected and areas where they felt we could do less
  • What more they, the community group, or others could do to help build strong communities in Brent in the context of shrinking public resources 

On the third area it seems that residents were not keen on being Turkeys voting for Christmas. The report notes:
People recognised the difficult decisions facing the council as it seeks to make savings on the scale required. However, perhaps understandably, people were mostly reluctant to identify specific service areas which they thought should be cut.
I would identify this response as a reluctance, or perhaps a refusal, to go along with the Coalition austerity and cuts agenda. An agenda which a future Labour government seems unlikely to change to any significant degree.

The report goes on:
The maintenance of clean, safe pubic spaces and care for the genuinely vulnerable in our society were consistently identified as priorities.
On the fourth area the report says that:
A significant number of consultees expressed enthusiasm for playing a greater role in service design and delivery, provided that the council, along with the voluntary sector organisations, supported them to play this role, either by working in partnership, or providing by appropriate support at the points services were handed over if they were to be run entirely by the community in future.
It appears that voluntary organisations and volunteers are seen as one of the answers to managing on the sharply reduced budget.

The revised budget gap for 2015/16 is £35.8m and for 2016/17 £18.1m.  The report says that officers are seeking to limit the impact on front-line services by focusing reductions on support services. A new corporate management structure is proposed that will 'drive organisational efficiency'.

However the report admits that the final proposals  will go beyond action to maintain the current level of support and outcomes:
In some cases, services may be reduced to a statutory minimum with a clear focus on those in the most need and in some cases stopped altogether in order to balance the budget.
Particular  departmental areas being considered for 'savings' include:

Children and Young People
  • Children's Centres
  • Youth service
  • Support costs across the department 
Environment and Neighbourhoods
  • Review of Brent Transport service
  • Parking Enforcement and charges
  • Sports development
  • Charging for bulky waste collection
  • Reduction in school crossing patrols
Regeneration and growth
  • Procurement and re-tendering
  • Assessment of welfare reform impact on temporary accommodation  budget
  • Reduction of revenue budget support for regeneration
  • Development of a single Employment and Skills service
  • Reconfiguration of customer services
  • Use of reserves to fund benefits processing work in advance of the implementation of universal credit
 Central departments
  • Savings of 40% are being developed through reductions in staffing levels
  • Pursuing opportunities to share services with other councils
  • Targeted approach for provision of support services base don assessment of risk
  • Greater reliance on self-service
The sharing of services with other boroughs will be a controversial issue in the context of Muhammed Butt's suggestion in a Local Government Chronicle exclusive LINK that discussions are underway on the possibility that the 16 year West London Alliance link between Barnet, Brent, Ealing, Harrow, Hillingdon and Hounslow be formalised into a single combined authority.

Butt, who is the new chair of the WLA, said that this was the only way to fight further budget cuts. He would like the new body to have more powers and responsibilities around strategic planning, transport and infrastructure and employment and skills.

Butt admitted that some people were concerned that such an authority  would add another layer of bureaucracy.


Anonymous said...

Very impressed that officers and councillors work late on a Friday night to read, analyse, summarise, make recommendations and write up a report on this "major consultation" on how our borough will be shaped for the next 6 years - all in just 6 and 3/4 hours!

Anonymous said...

Will we have the same cock-up as with Oracle One which is across several boroughs where the financial system is now worse than what we had before? Of course 'A significant number of consultees expressed enthusiasm for playing a greater role in service design and delivery,' money in the pocket for them isn't it.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps these people are aiming to win the Brent Council Staff Award that should be going to Rosemarie Clarke. Either that or it was fixed!

Anonymous said...

Could this be summed up clearly and effectively, added to all the other examples (such as the recent Brent website 'error') and then regularly published to remind people of precisely how seriously the word 'consultation' should be taken? Though most people are now pretty sceptical about the c-word it is still blithely used by government bodies to attempt to mitigate the effect of any announcement of a potentially unpopular proposed action (eg "Leader Butt said 'No ifs, no buts. My proposal to convert Stonebridge Adventure Playground into an exercise, play and excretion area for Cara Davani's dogs will only be carried out after extensive consultation with stakeholders").
The aim should be to make the public's reaction to use of the c-word one of derision, anger or even violence such that no person in power would ever dare use it again.
Please submit other examples from your own experience.

Mike Hine

Anonymous said...

Example 1: Copland Ark 'consultation'.
Written by Ark, on Ark paper using Ark questions based on Ark assumptions designed to provide the answers Ark wanted. Meetings organised by Ark, lack of effective publicity (mis)organised by Ark, presentations by Ark functionaries. Questions they didn't like (eg proportion of BME teaching staff in Ark ?) effectively ignored/dodged by Ark.

Voting by affected individuals?: Ark rejected by staff, students and parents.

Result: Victory for Ark. who take over last local authority secondary in Brent.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a jolly effective consultation to me.

Anonymous said...

Sad to say you couldn't make this up! Sounds like a script from yes prime minister, so much for localism.

Desperately hoping these clowns don't get given any more powers due to Scottish devolution.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous30 November 2014 19:45

The great leader Mo Butt children attend Copeland. Any surprise of a stitch-up?

Anonymous said...

Would you please share the budget report link?

Martin Francis said...

Now in first line of article and here:

Anonymous said...

Many thanks Martin