Wednesday 7 January 2015

Brent Council public consultation on 'Brutal' cuts on January 13th

Brent Council's Borough Plan puts much emphasis on working with the voluntary sector to deliver services in an era of cut backs.

At Scrutiny Committee last night Cllr Mary Daly asked if any figures had been put on what was expected from the sector.

Deputy Brent Council leader Michael Pavey responding said:
To be perfectly honest I don't know how much the voluntary sector can absorb. Cuts of £54 million will be brutal. We will just have to do what we can. We are working hand in glove with the voluntary sector to ameliorate the impact of cuts.
Pavey welcomed the Budget Scrutiny Task Group's report and its emphasis on equality but said:
 But I have to be candid. There will be a disproportionate impact on the less well off. That is the reality.
He felt the Task Group had been harsh to question the limited choice in the budget options. The Group had said:
The range and extent of public consultation, both with regard to the draft Borough Plan and the council budget options was welcomed by the scrutiny task group. However, given the severity of the financial reductions the group was concerned that the degree of ;choice; between various options was still limited and this needed to be clearly set out during the consultation events planned for January 2015.
Cllr Eleanor Southwold remarked that residents who had put much effort into responding to the consultation on the Borough Plan had been disappointed with the draft Plan and felt that it did not reflect what they had said.  Cllr Dan Filson said that although the suggested cuts of £54m was exceeded by the budget proposals which totalled £60m, giving some leeway in terms of the final decision, £35m still had to be cut in the first year.  He said that efficiency savings were much easier to find in a 'steady state' authority than one facing such drastic changes.

Cllr James Allie was keen to find out more about improving returns on Brent investments. He was concerned about always having to look at cuts and wanted to look at income:
If it is just about cuts I have to ask myself, what is the point of being elected?
Cllr Pavey replied that reserves were lower and investing for a higher return would be a risk and Brent Council already had experience of that (a reference to the Icelandic banks).

Michael Bowden, Operational Director of Finance, said that the budget proposals contained no assumptions about the level of  Council Tax or changes in the Council Tax Support scheme. Responding to Cllr Cowill he said that the Council Tax base had increased by 4% as the result of new build which was about £3.8m. The return on investments was average for comparable London boroughs. Any long term borrowing by the Council would currently be at an interest rate of 4.5%.

The Council will be holding two consultation events on the budget on Tuesday January 13th and these will be followed by consultations at the Brent Connects meetings. The paper on savings/cuts that went to Cabinet on December 15th can be found here LINK

The Council is expecting a high attendance at the January 13th meetings with media in attendance. It is likely that much discussion will centre around what services can be 'saved' given the £6m that can be clawed back from the £60m worth of cuts proposed. This could lead to a sort of bidding process between proponents of different services and leave the whole issue of whether the council should be implementing Coalition cuts to one side.

This is what appears on the Brent Council website:

Budget consultation event

13 January 2015, 2pm to 4pm, Brent Civic Centre
13 January 2015, 7pm to 9pm, Brent Civic Centre

We have to make £54 million worth of savings over the next two years and we want to hear your views about this.
Over the last few years we have already made a number of savings but, with around a 50 per cent reduction in central government funding between now and 2018 coming we have to do more.
Our budget plans so far include the further streamlining of our senior management, renegotiating contracts with suppliers to get a better deal and focusing the biggest cuts on back office services such as IT, Finance and HR.
Despite these steps, significant and wide-ranging cuts to frontline services are 'inevitable' the Leader of the Council has warned.
Come along to have your say as we look to make further cuts to our budget.
Former Executive member Cllr James Powney makes some interesting comments on the complexity of budget consultation and whether some of the proposed cuts are realistic, or indeed legal, on his blog: LINK


Anonymous said...

Of course the draft plan did not reflect what people said! It was written and finished before the submission deadline! no other way could a rigorous document be produced 6 hours after deadline.

Anonymous said...

More of this, please. Expose their 'consultations' for what they are until they won't even dare mention the c-word because of the gales of laughter which will greet them.
Then start again, with a new word, clear expectations and no bullshit.

Anonymous said...

Yes Martin a high turnout at the consultation events much be expected, so much so that they've lined up BBC political correspondent Jo Coburn to facilitate them.

Anonymous said...

How much are they paying this BBC bod and what are they cutting in order to pay her fee? Is there no councillor or member of staff capable of chairing a meeting?

Anonymous said...

Celebrity Cuts?

Alison Hopkins said...

The Mayor of Brent costs about £100K a year and is suppoosed to chair things like this.

G.Lee said...

Half of that would fund Stonebridge Adventure Playground for a year and keep hundreds of children and young people off the streets!

Anonymous said...

And half of Fiona Leddens' payout would've funded it for for a few more years.