Wednesday 14 January 2015

Stonebridge child gives Labour Council leaders some home truths

Outsdie Brent Civic Centre last night
One of the children from Stonebridge Adventure Playground surprised workers who had accompanied her to last night’s Consultation event at the Civic Centre. They said what happened ‘made the whole event worthwhile’.

The girl had been scribbling away on one of the comments cards that had been distributed and onlookers assumed she was doodling out of sheer boredom.  But then she took the microphone  and gave an impassioned speech from her notes.  She mentioned the hardship that would be caused to single and working parents, and how the closure of the Adventure Playground  would mean there was nowhere for the community to mix, people would just stay in their flats and not let their children go out. She also mentioned CCTV cameras which she said aren¹t as necessary when young people have somewhere to go.  

The councillors responded that at an earlier meeting the users of the Millennium Centre had spoken up for their centre in a similar way (thereby apparently implying it was pointless trying to argue from a human perspective) 

Doug Lee from the Playground spoke about the six months that kids aren't at school, the length of time the playground has been in operation and the money Brent Play Association has raised on behalf of other groups in Brent (supplementary schools, CVS, Pakistani Workers Association to name just three) 

Glynis Lee said that the council were saying 20% cuts to front-line services but Stonebridge Adventure Playground  was getting a 100% cut. The cuts were going to decimate front-line services, whilst councillors sat in their glass tower taking a 20% rise and people in Brent were suffering.
Although Jo Coburn from BBC Politics, who chaired yesterday’s meetings for a fee of £2,500, wanted to get into the subject of where the cuts should be made, Glynis was having none of it.

She told the councillors they were elected by the people of Brent as Labour councillors and were doing the work of the Coalition. She asked, ‘how do you guys sleep at night?' 

Deputy Leader Cllr Michael Pavey said they did have trouble sleeping but to not go ahead with these measures would be breaking the law and they weren't prepared to do that.  

The Youth Parliament representatives also mentioned the increase in councillors' allowance and Butt responded they wanted to attract the best councillors and not just retired people or those with enough funds to do it.

People in the room also asked about proposals to work with the voluntary sector to continue to provide services in some way, and Anne O'Neil from Brent Mencap pointed out that the procurement process would hinder this unless it was vastly improved. 

An important question was raised from the floor about the use  of  Section 106 money for communities affected by redevelopment. Cllr Butt answered this, unsatisfactorily according to some, implying  that these funds just went into the general pot, and not to the respective communities. 


Anonymous said...

Regarding Section 106, it would actually be better if the Section 106 money DID go into a general pot.

For instance, there is very little development in Stonebridge/Harlesden/Kensal Green, which is one of the SUB-divisions the council is using, and so very little expenditure returned.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately its not just the work of the coalition - Labour voted for this economic policy yesterday

Anonymous said...

"Butt responded they wanted to attract the best councillors and not just retired people or those with enough funds to do it."

If anyone else has browsed the members interests such as I it is clear that the majority of the councillors we have are a moneyed lot and/or career politicians. Therefore it is clear that the money argument is null and void. If it really was a concern, they would have considered means testing.

Anonymous said...

Have a second think about that argument. The increase was made after the election, so it won't be until the next local elections that we see a broader panel of candidates.

Anonymous said...

Have a think about that argument again as you are beginning to sound out of touch. £7500 for a part time job for someone without any money or who might be attending a food bank is a lot of money. The local Labour Party also chooses its candidates for election. Being a MP is well rewarded yet the local Labour party still chose candidates who have abused the system. Dawn with a second home further away from Westminister than Brent with a nice Jucuzzi and Barry buying his second home and furnishing it with luxury goods from Harrods. Why arent these two from a broader panel of candidates? Because a broader set of people do not trust politicians and opportunities by local party to select someone different has been lost.

Anonymous said...

I understand that Brent's Labour Councillors "donate" 10% of their allowances to party funds. The increase of 25% in those allowances means that Brent Council Taxpayers, while losing vital services because of "government cuts", are paying £56,000 each year to Brent Labour Party, an increase of £14,000 above what it would otherwise have been.

This may seem "small beer" compared to the size of the overall budget cuts, but surely many of those elected Labour Councillors can appreciate how this appears to the ordinary people of the borough? And yet they remain silent about so many of the key issues they were elected to represent their constituents over. No wonder people have become disillusioned with politics and party politicians.

Philip Grant.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else object to a discussion about the axing of kids' facilities being chaired by someone charging £2500 for the privilege. What did the person chucking this kind of money around think some tv person would bring to the discussion which couldn't be achieved by an averagely competent IKEA-priced chair? A bit of cheesy reflected showbiz glitter maybe? That would fit well with the fiddled expenses and jacuzzi tat alluded to in other contributions here.

Unknown said...

I've put in a fairly comprehensive freedom of information request on what led to the decision to hire Jo Coburn for £2,500. Since Muhammed Butt has claimed that Ms Coburn will be providing "honest and independent advice on the whole budget process" I've also asked for a copy of any reports or advice she produces.

Details here:

Anonymous said...

Good that Butt has gone for the 'honest and independent' advice option (as opposed to the crooked, partial and biased one which is presumably the norm).

Anonymous said...

Incredible yet depressing observation.

Scott Bartle.

Alison Hopkins said...

Councillors have pushed for a breakdown of S106 money by ward spend for years. Never happened.

The Mayor is supposed to fulfill the office of chairing meetings. His function costs some £100,000 a year.

Some interests have not, in my belief, been declared.

Phillip, Brent Labour has long constructed allowances and SRAs to make the most of their tithe. Every party does indeed require a contribution to funds from councillors - the rationale is that the party supports you, so you support the party. But Labour makes much more of it, including the £10,000 a year that Ann John handed over. Plus, the civic centre is increasingly being used for political purposes, as are other resources. Does Barry Gardiner pay for using it for his surgeries?

And yes, I agree: that increase sent out a message that was wholly unacceptable.

Council resources are increasingly being used for party political purposes: Butt shows up at every event, as does Butler. The Mayoral role is supposed to cover being the figurehead of Brent, but the Butt/Butler axis has taken this over. Thatcher started to politicise the civil service, and that got built on by successive goverments, especially Blair. Butt is politicising Brent officers, not just by misuse of resource, but by ensuring his cronies are the embeds.

Anonymous said...

Section 106 is used to mitigate the immediate impact of a development, or provide improvements to the immediate environment. However, under the recent introduction of CIL, contributions made through this (if they are liable to this charge), rather than S106, does indeed go into a general pot for the authority to spent as they wish across the borough.

Anonymous said...

£14.000 which could be used within the community.

Anonymous said...

Staff are always saying that the council is now run by a lot of greedy and unintelligent people both officers and councillors, so not surprised anymore.