Saturday 28 February 2015

Brent Labour slams down the shutters over Council Tax debate

My grandad, brought up in the Victorian era, had a rich collection of' 'naughty' sayings and rhymes.   Apparently innocuous when said slowly, they were rude when spoken quickly. He delighted in encouraging his grandchildren to utter them at speed and would then gleefully accuse us of swearing.

One was 'I chased a bug around the room, I'll have his blood, he knows I will.'

Another, which came to mind today after I heard about last night's meeting of the Brent Labour Group, was:
'She shuts the shutters and sits in the shop.'
Well the shutters have come down on last night's meeting as the hunt for the leakers intensifies and I expect some councillors have been accused of s*itting in the shop!

The meeting was called at short notice to discuss the controversial issue of the possibility of a Council Tax increase before Monday's Full Meeting of the Council.

Cllr John Duffy had challenged the decision of Michael Pavey and Muhammed Butt to ignore the Group's vote in favour of a council tax increase  at the previous group meeting and wrote a letter of complaint to  the Constitutional Officer of the Labour Party at this affront to democracy.

Whether the short notice group meeting was a result of a ruling by the Labour Party authorities or the Cabinet trying to head off a public revolt is not clear.

There was clearly a possibility that there would be a split when it came to voting on the Council tax rise and even the potential for an amendment to raise the tax. Elsewhere on this blog I have listed some of the services that could be saved even with the comparative small sum of £1.4m over two years. This could include Energy Solutions, School Crossing Patrols,  Stonebridge Adventure Playground and the Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre.

Anyway, with a little bit of what used to be called Kremlinology in the old days of the Soviet Empire (when I worked at Reuters, TASS the Soviet Union's news agency was in the same building so I am used to interpreting nudges and cryptic silences about totalitarian regimes) I guess that a formal vote on a Council Tax rise was taken and that it reversed the previous vote in favour of a rise.

I would conjecture that this was the result of pressure from the leadership and a bigger turnout from the 56 strong group than the 30 or so who had attended the previous meeting. I also assume that the leadership offered no crumbs in return.

I could be wrong and that really the meeting was about whether to support the Lib Dem amendment to reduce Council Tax for cat owners and aroma therapists,  or the Brondesbury Park Conservative's motion to reduce  Council Tax by 2.5% to be paid for by closing the Civic Centre's Melting Pot restaurant and replacing it with a Super Casino.

All will be revealed on Monday - or, more likely - all will be concealed on Monday.

You can watch the live streaming of the meeting on Monday from 7pm HERE


Anonymous said...

Local people can simply put the blame on cuts to local Brent services on Brent Labour.

Councillor Butt and his cronies can't continue claiming Tory Lib Dem cuts as Brent could easily say we shall increase Council Tax so the more affluent start paying a bit into the coffers.

Anonymous said...

Big Test for Labour Councillors on 2 May 2015, are they with Lutfur Rehman of Brent or with Brent residents.

Anonymous said...

Big test for Labour Cllrs on 2 March, their vote will prove who they care for, their political career or people of Brent who gave them heavy mandate in May 2014.

Anonymous said...

Exactly - they promised no Council Tax increase and should be held to it

Anonymous said...

Surely a modest Council Tax rise is warranted.

Elections promises are broken all the time.

I am sure a very small council tax rise would not have had a dramatic impact on voter intentions in 2014.

Subsequent to May 2014 there have been events that have been far more damaging than Council Tax rise.

Cara Davani ring a few bells, plus the costs associated with her complete disregard for Brent workers.
Guess who is footing the bill for Cara Davani Yes Brent residents by cuts in services rather than an increase in Council Tax. I bet wealthier in the Borough if they had a choice between supporting Cara Davani and higher Council Tax they would immediately say get Rid of the liability of Cara Davani and claw back her pay from her company for poor quality service not up to the standards of Brent Council.

As it is cutting services poorer people are pay for Cara Davani to stay in post.

Revolt Councillors

Pete Firmin said...

Why this constant reference to the "Lutfur Rahman of Brent"? What's that about?

Alison Hopkins said...

Dodgy electoral practices, I suspect.

Anonymous said...

When we talk about the council tax increase its worth remembering that poorer residents, who were previously exempt from council tax, now have to pay 20% of the full rate. This includes people on jobseekers and ESA. This is a result of the government reforms but it was Brent who set the 20% proportion, which is the second highest in London. Other boroughs charge between 8-15%. This was an extra 21,000 of our most vulnerable residents being charged council tax and led to a situation where 13,000 people were summonsed to court for non payment.

So our poorest residents have had a huge increase in council tax already - yet the richest residents are paying nothing extra.

What sort of values leads to this situation?

Anonymous said...

Christine Gilbert worked very close to Rahman in Tower Hamlets as officer for education and member for education.

Take what you think out of this previous relationship.

Alison Hopkins said...

Precisely. And said Gilbert was returning officer last May. She was seen by several being pressured by Butt, and caving in. Gareth Daniel would have told him where to go.

Pete Firmin said...

I don't have a lot of time for Mo Butt or his policies, but I think these references miss the point totally. Whatever Mo Butt his guilty of, no-one has come up with anything about dodgy electoral practices. If you really have evidence of such, then go to the police. As for the fact that Christine Gilbert worked for Lutfur Rahman, she also worked for various other people are you saying they are all guilty of something?

Anonymous said...

Caving into what and when? Alison I could well believe anything of Butt, but if you have a specific allegation to make then make it, otherwise stop with the innuendo.

Martin Francis said...

Edited (by MF) response from Alison Hopkins:
Pete - a full account of assorted irregularities both at the count and during voting was sent to Electoral Services last year. I've a lengthy email train concernign them. Electoral Services stated that a report on them would be produced, then recanted on that undertaking. I've now passed that information elsewhere. The point about this is that it affects democracy - the Greens are as vulnerable as any other party.

Anonymous said...

What does that mean?

Is there evidence worthy of a charge, or not? Too much nudging and winking going on here.

Martin Francis said...

Moderated comment from Alison Hopkins: 09:45. I am happy to share what I have with a named individual, like Pete or Martin, especially as this affects them as well. Martin has asked that I be circumspect here and I respect that. I have no wish to compromise him in any way.

Anonymous said...

Martin, why are you indulging these unsubstantiated smears? If she has evidence, it should be published and properly investigated. Political pressure on Electoral Services is an extremely serious allegation. If she has nothing more than these cryptic innuendo she should shut up. Stop feeding this debate. Publish or be damned.

Anonymous said...

I think you'll find that most ultimately-substantiated allegations begin as whispers, hints, nudges and innuendo. The alternative is what : no mention of dodgy activities until there's a cast-iron case or a court (employment tribunal?) verdict? That would restrict comment to those in possession of the funds (or able to dip into the public's taxes) necessary to use the justice system.

Martin Francis said...

This is the Council's reply to concerns raised (one slight edit removing a name):

Following the elections you raised concerns regarding postal votes and registration connected to specific addresses and I responded to you on these. I also sent you a note of the reports I had received from two of the POs working at Braintcroft school. This confirmed some of the points you made but did not indicate any systematic wrongdoing. You also requested the a break down of the votes cast for Dollis Hill which I supplied. You asked if there were any rules regarding the use of a Freepost address to return postal vote applications. The costs of supplying postal vote application forms and the freepost address are incurred with respect to registration rather than campaigning so they should not be considered an election expense and are not declarable. You also asked about to use of cabs to ferry people to and from polling stations. The costs of transporting voters to and from polling stations (if the means of transport are provided on behalf of a candidate) should be declared on the candidate in question’s spending return after the election. If a cab firm or an individual provides the means of transport on behalf of the candidate free of charge, the candidate’s agent should make an honest and reasonable assessment of the value of this service and declare it as a notional expense on the spending return. For candidates, if the notional expense is over £50, it should also be declared as a notional donation. This applies even if the candidate owns the company in question. I have no seen no evidence that Councillor X, who you suggested ran a cab firm, does do so. His register of declarations does not indicate this. (ref given)

From our discussions and my investigations it is clear that there was some activity in the area on the day of poll that might be seen as being inappropriate. This was concerned with groups of people assembling outside polling stations. Whenever we receive feedback from elections we look at how we can improve things or take steps in readiness for the next election. Accordingly, we will be paying particular attention to this next May.