Sunday, 7 December 2014

Youth, children, carers, environment hit by Brent Council cut proposals

Brent Council has now published its draft proposals for cuts in services that will be considered by the Cabinet on Monday December 15th.  The document is available HERE 

I advise readers to read the whole document as it is impossible to prove the full detail here. Please post comments drawing attention to anything I have over-looked or to outline its impact on staff or service users.

This is the beginning of the budget making process.  See side panel for  the timetable.

The cuts are divided up into four categories:
  • Stopping Services Completely
  • Leverage in Resources and Income
  • Building Independence and Community Resilience
  • Driving Organisational Efficiency
The document needs careful study but the headlines are:
  • Cessation of all Youth Services in the borough
  • Close 10 of the 17 Children's Centres
  • Close Welsh Harp Education Centre
  • Cease all School Crossing Patrols
  • Close Energy Solutions
  • Cease funding for Stonebridge Adventure Playground
  • Cease grant to Energy Solutions
  • Close one Leisure Centre
  • Gradually reduce grant to Tricycle Theatre to zero
  • Reduce respite care by £450,000
  • Reduce Day Care by up to 40%
  • Reduce Connexions to the minimum
  • End rough sleepers service
  • No litter clearing in residential roads, no pavement mechanical sweepers, no weekend litter service in parks
  • Reduce face to face customers service at Civic Centre to 2 days a week by appointment
One of the problems in reading this report is the avoidance of the word cuts and the selling of them in some cases as advantageous for service users. It would be much better to admit that they are severe cuts and are going to seriously affect service users. The pretence feeds into the Coalition's justification for cuts and claims of local government profligacy.

How many different ways can you avoid saying cuts?

Under the 'Organisational Efficiency' heading there are are a number strategies that could worsen services or undermine the working conditions of employees.

These include in Adult and Social Care The report's terminology):
  • Negotiate with Residential and Nursing Care providers to ensure value for money
  • Reduce service user and carer engagement to a minimum
  • Close New Millennium and Kingsbury Resource Day Centres
  • Change Tudor Garden Residential Home to Supported Living accommodation
  • Increasing the number of Direct Payment personal care assistants
  • 'Transforming' the Mental Health Social Care model to save £750k
  • Reduce social work staff in Adult Social Care by 20% over two years
  • Reduce Learning and Development to statutory minimum
In Children and Young People
  • Early Years - review future resource requirements in general workforce budgets
  • Reduce support and delivery costs of the Youth Offending Team
  • Reduce cost of Special Educational Needs assessments by restructuring staff
  • Integrate Children's Information Service with other customer services - reduction of 50%
  • Children's placements - includes some Looked After children currently in residential placement moved to independent foster agencies
  • Children with disabilities -end summer playscheme, more direct payments, reduce overall level of support
  • Reduce managerial posts in Children's Social Care
Environment and Neighbourhood Services
  • Transfer management of libraries to an established library trust resulting in business rates savings
  • Reduce library book stock to CIPFA bench-marked average
  • Delete Environment Projects and Policy Team
  • Stop nearly all Sports Development work including school holiday programmes
  • Brent Transport Services - end the employment of in-house drivers and attendants
  • Reduce the Emergency Planning Team by one post - will require arrangement with another borough to maintain 24/7 coverage 
  • Review regulatory services  and consider shared services with another borough
Regeneration and Growth
  •  Reduce the number of Housing Options Officer posts by 4, over a two year period from 2016/17
  •  Proposals will be developed for increased income from the Civic Centre. The additional income assumed from 16/17 onwards assumes that an additional floor being made available and a tenant found to occupy the space on a commercial basis from 2016.
    Human Resources
    • It is proposed  to carry out a major reconfiguration of the HR service in 2015/16 saving £1.4m by 2016/17. This will result in the merging of some areas in order to reduce the number of managers required in the new structure.  It is the intention to devolve responsibility for some existing activities undertaken by the Learning and Development team to HR Managers.  Other activities will be accommodated by a new performance team with a broader remit which will include resourcing, workforce development, policy and projects.
    •  In addition it is proposed to cap the existing trade union facilities time allocation awarded to GMB and Unison to a maximum of 1 x PO1 post per trade union, to move the occupational health service inhouse saving £60k and reduce the learning and development budget by £67k. In year 2016/17 further reductions in staffing can be potentially achieved through shared service arrangements within payroll, pensions, HR management information and recruitment.
    This marks the end of Brent Council as we know it. Surely this is the tipping point for local councils? It is no longer a 'dented shield' approach to the cuts but throwing down the shield and running into the enemies' swords.


    1. It’s worth following the link to the cuts proposal document and reading down through the items in the ‘Description’ column. It makes frighteningly clear precisely what Osborne and the ConDem coalition mean by the shrinking of the state and what the Institute for Fiscal Studies last week called ‘a fundamental reimagining of the role of the state’. Martin has set out the headlines already but the details of the proposed barbarity are even more disgusting and made even worse when accompanied by the management-speak clichés (‘driving efficiency’, ‘leveraging’, ‘resilience’) which some council operative has chosen to wrap them up in.
      Where is the Brent Labour councillor who, feeling the stirring of some vague folk-memory of what the Labour party is supposed to represent, will use this opportunity to publicise, in language free of Apprentice runner-up shiny suit bullshit, precisely what ‘Austerity’ policies mean to people’s lives (whether they are carried out by sociopaths like Osborne or in ‘Austerity-lite’ form by Balls)?
      This would be a good moment for one or a group of Labour councillors to distance themselves from the grubby distractions of the last year and to reconnect with their party’s supposed principles and with the people who voted them in. Remind people that (again according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies) what we are seeing in these cuts proposals is the effect of only £35bn of cuts; there are still £55bn’s worth to come. Use the platform the council gives to demonstrate where the blame lies for the council’s cuts and keep at the end of a very long barge-pole the sort of people who, through nepotism, old boys and girls networks or simple old corruption, manage to carry on comfortably coining it whatever the political or financial weather.
      Is there anyone on the council capable of such action?

    2. Ironically Welsh Harp Education Centre was reported to have been saved by local private family in 2011 ?

      What happened ?

    3. 'Chancellor’s Autumn Statement ‘will be good for Brent’
      Ibrahim Taguri, The Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate for Brent Central, quoted in Brent and Kilburn Times last Thursday.

    4. 5 years of a self imposed Labour council tax freeze - cutting parking fees (helpful if you own a car not so much if you take transit, cycle or walk) - focusing resources on 'nice' vote rich areas like Queen's Park while cutting services in places like South Kilburn and Stonebridge - are we actually surprised by this budget? This has nothing to do with what happens at Westminster and the autumn statement - this is a plan to asset strip Brent by Councilor Butt and his friends by crippling revenue.

      1. 'This has nothing to do with what happens at Westminster'. Oh dear.

      2. No it does not 21:17. If these people at Brent Council worked for a private company they would all be sacked. Bunch of mis-managers

      3. Maybe they could get a job running a bank. Or G4S. Or Serco. Or Capita. Or Union Carbide Or a free school. Or.... have you read the papers in the last 10 years? Or 50?

      4. You can only increase council tax by 1.99% and most of the money coming into councils are central government grants, so that wouldn't really make a dent.

      5. 21:17 while you are busy huffing and pointing fingers at the Tories - Brent's problems are much closer to home. Handy distraction though. Just you watch as Butt's army fast track the sale of public assets and knock down prices.

    5. Grim Repears visiting for Christmas.

    6. At what point do they suggest raising the obvious source of funding - Council Tax. Leverage it on the higher bands.

      No private/ public/ cooperative company would behave in this way.

      "Freezing" council tax might have won votes, but it has directly lead to this situation. Short termist electioneering has resulted in this long term problem.

      1. Nothing to do with neo-liberal shrinking the state then. You're worrying about the sparklers while your house is burning down

      2. Rik, raising council tax by 1% will raise less than £100k of extra revenue. The cuts in government grants are over £100 million. It might be a small start but a council tax raise is never going to come close to dealing with this problem.

      3. You cannot raise council tax on selected bands - it's all or nothing. It's a regressive tax

    7. Can anyone remind me of any consequences to failures in Brent Labour's self described 'manifesto contract'. To me, this would indicate multiple breaches.

      1. Fight your real enemy, for God's sake. Unless you lift your eyes from your petty local squabbles you're going to have Osborne's definition of the state running civic life in this country for the next generation.

      2. Hence why I'm a Green as there is no other party that is anti-austerity.

        As a reminder Labour have pledged to match and perpetuate the Tory & LibDems spending plans. They may as well all merge and go into coalition together.

      3. Osborne is a distraction - the most expensive asset owned by the people is land and that is controlled at the local level. While you foam at the mouth and shake your fists at those evil Tories - wolves in Labour clothing are selling the ground from underneath your feet.

    8. I guess this is why Brent is currently tendering a New Volunteers Centre.

      The future is volunteers only.

      While those at the top each cream away 200k per year.

      We could employee 10 extra people on 20k each if each at the top accept their own public duty to volunteer and gave their excessive salary to those below.

      It is not as those at the top are skint. Gilbert and Davani have both creamed over a Million in past few years.


      1. Confirmed by Osborne today:
        'The chancellor also refused to accept thousands more public sector jobs would be lost with future public spending cuts.
        "It depends on the decisions we are prepared to take on pay. If we go on taking what I think are realistic decisions on public sector pay then we can still afford to have people in sufficient numbers in the public sector to do the job we ask of them."
        'Realistic decisions' = work for nothing and we might let you keep your job.

        Isn't this what THE BIG SOCIETY was all about?

    9. Surprised no-one's mentioned the complete cessation of CCTV in the borough. Can't imagine the coppers will be best pleased...

      1. On this specific cut, the public and the coppers will be exposed by the untold successes of CCTV in Brent since the first installations for Euro96. Millions spent that will now be wasted and residents less secure especially when the street lights go out every night as part of 'dimming'. A paradise for thieves and muggers, back to the bad old days of the 1980's and who in power gives a damn? Few of the senior officers live anywhere the Borough boundary, and can sleep peacefully I guess. Unlike the Ruling Council, so you know who to blame when the crimes rocket and clear-up rates take a hit.

    10. Look, it is undeniable that there is huge waste and mismanagement at Brent Council. We are all angry at the 100,000 spent opening the Civic Centre, the 700,000 on granite outside the Civic Centre, 350,000 on iPads, holograms , councillor expenses etc etc etc. But let's talk reality - these cuts amount to well over £100 million cut from central goverment grants. The waste we all see and hate is annoying but it's a drop in the ocean in comparison. Unfortunately even a rise in council tax will have little impact - most council revenue comes from government grants and council tax only makes up a very small percentage of income

    11. ... Continued, so while we are angry at our council for these cuts it's not they who have instigated them - it's national government. The problem we have is that we are seeing very little resistance from Brent Council other than the occasional handwringing letter to the Guardian and a few grimaces at Brent a Connects meetings.

      While our council *says* it doesn't want to implement these cuts (and I do actually believe that they don't) they are complicit in them and in doing so they are attacking the poorest, and most vulnerable members of our community.

      It IS possible for them to resist cuts. Refuse to do the Tory's dirty work, launch a mass campaign in the community, led by the councillors who are SUPPOSED to represent us, join with other London boroughs who are also suffering and stand up to this viciousness.

      1. Isn't that what Brent Fightback is supposed to be?

        Also, you know that public authorities can't spend money on political campaigns? Camden etc. have had legal troubles even with a few little posters.

      2. Other than through this blog, where IS the fightback?

    12. The only reason we have to have cuts is the rich ie hedge funds, bankers etc who hold must gov bonds could not possibly accept a true default where their wealth gets wiped out.

      So sadly those at the bottom of society pay while those at the top try and protect their wealth.

      Defaulting on the debt could easily be done and would result in a redistribution with the rich loosing.

      Any party that advocates a default will be elected.

      You are seeing this in Europe and we need to be starting to talk about this in UK as an alternative solution.

      The debt after all is only numbers in a computer.

    13. If such severe cuts have to be implemented then so be it but this has to be done properly and with skill and vision. I do not detect much skill let alone any vision in these proposals.

      Brent Council has been mismanaged for far too long. This unhealthy and self-serving relationship between Cllr Butt and CEO Christine Gilbert needs to stop and it needs to stop now. There seemingly is no scrutiny of decisions nor any accountability by senior officers and I for one have no faith whatsoever in the current management structure to see through any further changes.

      Ms Gilbert, Mr Butt, you must now do the right thing and allow professional managers and leaders take the helm in this new round of changes.

      1. 'So be it', eh? That reminds me of the accounts of WW1 French infantrymen who, as they were marched to the front, would make 'bah'-ing sheep sounds to convey their passivity and their resignation to what was their inevitable fate. Their resistance would have meant a firing squad. Our resistance is a little less dangerous.

        Regarding the 'p' word: I would have thought that Gilbert was a consummate 'professional': a series of top management jobs, experience, connections, networks etc etc . Same with Davani and the rest. They play the game in an affectless way and couldn't give a crap.

        We don't need more 'professionalism', we want principles, honesty and competence.

      2. Agreed.
        Dr Johnson had it about right: 'Professionalism is the last refuge of the scoundrel'.

      3. Dr Johnson has it right - and Davani is the ultimate in 'professionals' She wanted the ear of the council leader Butt for herself so she manipulated and manoeuvred Ledden and other managers to get rid of Clive Heaphy in order to achieve her objective.

        Based on this and everything else I have seen, I would make an educated guess as to the following scenario.

        Davani knew that she would need someone to front her various plans and plots. Obviously her friend Gilbert had to be protected and her closer friend Potts had to be even more protected, so it was necessary to find someone expendable to fill this admirable role. Who better than Ledden?

        Ledden has now served her purpose and Davani has probably shoved her unceremoniously out into the rain without an umbrella (else why the mystery about her absence from work?) as she was never part of the Butt /Davani /Gilbert inner circle, she was just the poor kid invited to the rich kid's party to provide 'entertainment' for the other rich kids........

      4. In case your educated guess is wrong you should file a missing persons report to the police.

      5. You've convinced me, Nan, though I still find it difficult, in my naïve way, to get used to the idea that people so distanced from normal human feelings have managed to get so far into their lives without being picked up by social services as requiring and deserving of some kind of treatment.
        Care in the community is all very well but not when it costs Brent taxpayers getting on for £200k a year for each patient.

        Mike Hine

      6. Or maybe she's just off sick, which is what happens to busy people at this time of year.

        Might not be as exciting, nor fit Nan's bitter narrative, but rather more likely.

      7. True enough Anon at 10.36. However, if it were me though, I suspect I would be suffering every seasonal ailment going plus a large dose of nervous breakdown if I found that I was being made redundant a month before I would be eligible to claim my early retirement pension.

      8. Presumably Rosemarie Clarke had to have time off sick because it was a busy time of year too. Must be an occupational hazard.
        Bitterness is never attractive, Nan. Gullibility is much more becoming.

    14. No, being unrelentingly bullied and victimised by Davani is not seasonal but it is an occupational hazard. And no Rosemarie did not take time off work because it was a busy time of year, it was due to the fact that working under Davani is a nightmare which is clearly evident in the ET judgement.

      1. I think that's the point 20.08 was making to 10.36.