Down at the Methodist Hall on the Neasden roundabout members were subjected to 'Death by Powerpoint' style presentations and separate cafe style discussions on different services and the cuts proposed. A familiar process for those who have experienced 'Shaping a Healthier Future' or Brent Plan consultations. It is a method that seems to dilute opposition and impose the control of the organisers.
I expected little from this 'Shaping a Broken Borough' consultation and that was confirmed by Graham Durham's posting on the Brent Fightback page on Sunday:
There are consultations with residents tomorrow (see image above) where there will be a temptation to argue for specific services in the £6m cap between the cuts set out in the draft budget and the total actually required. However Brent Fightback wants a much more militant approach by the Council"Well what a poor turnout at the All Brent Labour Party meeting yesterday on the £54million cuts proposed by the Labour leader, Cllr Butt. By the time votes were taken only 12 ordinary Party members were present - the rest were councillors. Reasons for this poor attendance vary - obviously considering how to destroy services to the poorest and most vulnerable in Brent is not everyones cup of tea as a priority for 10 am on a Saturday morning. There is also a democratic deficit in the Labour Party as ordinary members know that whatever they say the Labour councillors will ignore it.This cynicism grew when Labour councillors awarded themselves a 25% pay award this year - so councillors now have an interest in turning up to ensure their huge allowances are protected. As usual the trick of proposing slightly more cuts ( £60m) was used so Butt and co can claim later they saved this or that ...but otherwise there were the usual crocodile tears from Cllrs Butt and Pavey that Labour councillors do not want to attack the most vulnerable at all but feel obliged to do so.The cuts themselves were set out in a series of PowerPoints prepared by Council officers - and sadly most of the justifications were read by Cabinet members from scripts prepared by Council officers -as ever it was clear Labour councillors were doing what they were told by officers and exerted no control over Council decisions at all. When the detail of the cuts were revealed there was much unhappiness- in the children's service for example over the £8.4 million cuts.Cllr Ruth Moher tried to present £2.3milion of these cuts as 'uncontentious'-as they represent a £700k loss of residential placements for the most needy children in care ,cuts of £650k in spending on quality remand placements . They were, of course, deeply contentious. Worse was to come as £900k was to be lopped off what is left of the Youth Service, carers and study advice to the most vulnerable young people was to be slashed by £500k, Stonebridge Adventure Playground was to be slashed by £118K, up to ten Children’s Centres closed etc etc.When it was pointed out that there is an epidemic of child abuse in Brent and everywhere else and all these proposals and more put children more at risk of abuse it suddenly dawned on some councillors that they were attacking the very children they had been assured would be protected. One new Brent North councillor declared she spent her working life working for vulnerable children and became quite upset when she realised she was required to vote to damage these very children.When a vote was taken on a Kilburn ward motion to refuse to make the cuts and to campaign against them Party members were tied in the vote - but twelve highly paid Labour councillors were allowed to vote to rule this out (only one Cllr Rita Conneely abstained). There will be sleepless nights counting those allowances between now and March 2nd when the Council budget is set.
A well placed senior source reckons that Muhammed Butt currently has the support of about three quarters of the Labour Group so a revolt seems unlikely at present, although those who are disaffected are VERY disaffected.Fightback believes the Council should resist the cuts, tell the government that they are totally unacceptable and refuse to implement them, that they should organise a march to Eric Pickles' office or Parliament and ask the people of Brent and all the other Labour Councils and the people of other boroughs to come with them. It would be good if Fightback supporters could go to these meetings and make these points