Monday 2 March 2015

Butchery at the Civic Centre as Labour closes playground and approves £54m cuts

Demonstrators held these signs up at the meeting
No 'rebellion' emerged at tonight's meetiong of Full Council and the cuts were voted through by the Labour majority.
I spoke to Stonebridge Adventure Playground before the meeting and they told me that they would not be attending. They had thrown themselves into a campaign gaining massive support from the community that they have served for almost 40 years, had been lied about by Cllr Margaret McLellan and had passionately put their case to the Cabinet last Monday.

They said that attending tonight would have been like going to their own execution.

They were right.

Now they have to make staff redundant and break the news to the children.

There was a demonstration outside the Civic Centre before the meeting protesting both at the Coalition's cuts and Brent Council's implementation of them.

The only real sign of revolt came from Cllr John Duffy who initially protested at the lack of democracy in the allocation of time to councillors in the debate. The administration and opposition leaders got 15 minutes and back benchers only 3 minutes.  He said this was not enough to deal with the complex issues involved in the budget.

Labour leader Muhammed Butt and his Deputy Michael Pavey basically made the same 'dented shield' speeches they had made at Cabinet. Butt said his heart was with the demonstrators outside but they council had to obey the law. Pavey said that he respected those Labour members who wanted a rise in Council Tax and this might be something to consider next year.

Conservatives proposed a Council Tax reduction of 2.5% but at the same time wanted to save Stonebridge Playground. Labour challenged their 'sums' which seemed to be based on raiding the reserves. It was hard for me to judge as the detailed Conservative budget was not available to the public. Public scrutiny is meaningless in such circumstances. Cllr Warren said that the budget consultation was more about scaring the people of Brent than really getting their views.

Cllr Nerva (Labour) quoted the Conservative leader of Buckinghamshire County Council who had said that there was no more room for deeper cuts without damaging services and claimed, 'we can;t go on cutting year after year. We face difficult decisions about how to protect Brent residents.'

One 'difficult decision' may be to raise Council Tax. Cllr John Duffy claimed that his Labour colleagues  were making  £2m more cuts than Eric Pickles required. He was referring to the £1.7m that would be yielded over 2 years by a 1.99% rise in Council Tax which would have saved some of the services being cut tonight including the Adventure Playground, Energy Resources and the Welsh Harp. He said that the Council had lied to local people by claiming that the consultation would make a difference.

On Stonebridge Cllr Duffy said that the Council was behaving like a bad landlord by mixing funding cuts up with development proposals, throwing the Playground out of its site to make way for housing.

However Duffy, to the disappointment of the public gallery, then said that nonetheless he was staying with Labour and would 'fight from inside the tent'.

Veteran Councillor Janice Long (Labour) warned that the Council's Scrutiny was inadequate. Backbenchers hadn't known when the meetings were and had no access to the papers.  She said, 'If we don't scrutinise properly the cuts will go wrong and we'll end up having to cut even more.'

Certainly the report the chair of Scrutiny presented was a mere echo of what the leader and deputy leader had said.

She called on the Council to set an example by making councillors pay to park at the Civic Centre and ending the provision of food at meetings.

This all seemed small beer compared with  the cuts that were then voted through by the Labour group as demonstrators staged a silent protest holding up the 'Only Butchers Make Cuts' posters.

Muhammed Butt, who had been barracked through by former Labour Councillor Graham Durham for doing the Coalition's dirty work and putting vulnerable children at risk, finished by listing all the services that had been 'saved' some of which will be farmed out to the voluntary sector.

Certainly his claim that the council had 'listened't o residents and was protecting the vulnerable  rang hollow when they had ignored 3,000 people who had signed the petition to save Stonebridge Adventure Playground.

He did not mention that the original list of cuts put out to consultation amounted to £60m over two years and that actually 'only' a  £54m  cutwas required. As mentioned on this biog before, there was always £6m to play for that could then be used as PR to give the impression that the Council had listened and thus put a gloss on the massive £54m cuts that had actually been made.

On the Stonebridge Adventure Playground Facebook Page, Glynis Lee posted the following message tonight:
At tonight's Council meeting Brent (Labour) voted NOT to save Stonebridge Adventure Playground...they all turned their backs on Bridge.....and will go ahead and sell the land to property developers, and give even more to Stonebridge school.....

So we must close at the end of this month.

So very sorry...we fought hard and long, and had tremendous support especially from the local paper and from the local community. I don't think we could have done any more.
We nearly made 40 years and thats an achievement in itself...


Unknown said...

I've never seen such shifty looking people as Cllr Long highlighted that they could have chosen not to cut some services by cutting Cllr Perks (like free food) but clearly decided not to.

Scott Bartle

Anonymous said...

How many people attended the protest against the cuts outside?

Anonymous said...

"Pavey said that he respected those Labour members who wanted a rise in Council Tax and this might be something to consider next year"

Shutting door after horse as bolted. Clear as day council tax was a calculated decision prior to the election.

Anonymous said...

Not many.

Anonymous said...

What Rubbish

Obey the law and push through a budget making more cuts !

Tell that one to the greedy bankers who caused the mess and even now even after 7 years into the financial crisis are still behaving illegally HSBC just for example.

The truth we need to make a stand against the banks who raped and pillaged society for their own benefit. Brent Council are not acting in the interests of the people.

Get rid of Labour, Tories and Lib Dems in May.

Alison Hopkins said...

I thought they cut the curries after - are they still getting sandwiches? That's what allowances are supposed to cover! A lot of it gets wasted, too, from what I saw.

Scrutiny: one committee CANNOT do it all. And Brent dumped the officers who provided very real support and help in report preparation, so it's not surprising it's shallow.

I do wonder if Butt read that speech before he gave it. The whole meeting was an exercise in utter pointlessness.

Anonymous said...

I attended the Council meeting last night, and was amazed by the speeches of Cllrs. Butt and Pavey in support of their budget. Listening to them, I was thinking 'Cuts? What cuts?'.

Having witnessed the Council's treatment of Stonebridge Adventure Playground (Cllr. Duffy was right to describe it as the actions of a bad landlord, cutting off funding so that it could evict a sitting tenant in favour of a developer), other local community facilities might like to make a note of some promises made in these budget speeches, so they can be quoted back to the elected members who made them if they should chose to go back on these commitments at a later date.

Cllr. Muhammed Butt said: 'We will not close the New Millenium Day Care Centre.'

Cllr. Michael Pavey said: 'I guarantee that every one of our Children's Centres will remain open.'

Cllr. Pavey also said: 'This budget unashamedly protects the most vulnerable in our community.' Only one Labour councillor had the decency to apologise to those vulnerable people in the borough who would lose out as a result of that budget, and to the Council employees who would lose their jobs as a result of the cuts being made. Then, it appeared, all of the Labour councillors present (there were several who had sent apologies for absence) voted in favour of the Cabinet's budget proposals.

Philip Grant.

Anonymous said...

Democracy in Brent with Labour administration = 0+0=0. Real opposition is Sajuta Arora aka Pukkah Punjabi and Martin Francis.

Anonymous said...

Thank God for Cllr Duffy (and, to a lesser extent, Cllr Long).I watched the live streaming of the Council meeting last night and found it unremittingly grim on many levels. The ‘votes’ were depressing but predictable but the level of communication was a real surprise and very worrying. Do voters know what these people are like when they put the cross by their name? The opposition, (apart from the irritating young Tory-boy who looked like he’d told his mum to tune in and wanted to make her proud of him), seemed to have prepared nothing but were happy to grumble out their incoherent Daily Mail platitudes until their time ran out (which could be quite soon by the look of most of them).
I don’t know who wrote Butt’s speech but it can’t have been him as he didn’t seem to recognise many of the words on his prompt sheet notes (even though, as the bullshit bingo card revealed, they were nothing if not predictable). Pavey was leaden and dull. Compared with the rest of the Labour speakers, however, Butt and Pavey were the 3-parent twin progeny of Nye Bevan, Catherine Tait and Chris Rock. God were those Labour councillors dull! There was talk by some of protecting ‘elders’ which I take to be the acceptable term among them for old people, pensioners, seniors or whatever. But these guys were like elders themselves, but in the other sense of the word: the Brent village elders, given power because they’d become old enough to inherit it, it was their turn, they were there because they were there because they were there, possibly forever. They’d have been worthy of some respect or sympathy if only it was possible to forget what they were there, without any dissent, to do: ‘bleating their acquiescence’, in Pukkah Punjabi’s vivid phrase, to Osborne and Cameron’s cuts.
Thank God, then, for the authentic Labour voice of Cllr Duffy. It’s reassuring to know that roughly 1.5% of Brent Labour group seems to understand what it’s there for (and who it’s there for).
Hanging over the whole meeting, though, was the issue which, until it’s resolved, is going to continue to dog Cllrs Butt and Pavey and, by association, the entire administration and every Labour councillor. As Butt and Pavey tried to get us to believe how much they had agonised over the tough decisions, how they were the party who cared about the people of Brent and how the protection of the vulnerable was always their first priority, it was impossible not to think about the treatment of Rosemarie Clarke by Cara Davani and Christine Gilbert, about the judge’s verdict at the Tribunal and about Butt and Pavey’s continuing and expensive protection of their guilty friends.
Credibility is a very easy thing to lose but it's almost impossible to get back.
Mike Hine

G.Lee said...

many of the Stonebridge Campaign group wanted to attend, but were assured that it would be akin to attending their own funeral ...therefore we watched on live streaming...It was hardly worth attending anyway as no member of the public was allowed to speak...the councillors mumbling and incoherent for the most part...and all whipped into the party line. I am very happy that we persuaded the team not to attend, especially the was hardly a shining example of democracy in action

Anonymous said...

I am devastated for you Glynis. Cruel bastards very single one of them.

Anonymous said...

Anon, why bother to ask the question you asked at 07.17 when you obviously intended to answer it yourself at 08.00. Don't you have anyone else to talk to? You don't deserve to be published within a mile of Glynis's post.

Anonymous said...

Real opposition and also only source of entertainment and wit during council meetings. Thanks for last night's efforts, both of you.
Mike Hine

Anonymous said...

But what of Duffy's admission that he would vote for the budget he disagreed with so as "to stay inside the tent"? This is as clear a statement as can be that he was threatened with expulsion if he obeyed his conscience and voted against.

Anonymous said...

Sheep the lot of them. The most respected Labour politicians have minds of their own e.g. Robin Cook, Diane Abbott and yes Neil Kinnock. Some of these people want careers in politics but have no chance without the courage to act on their thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Imagine if we could get both elected!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately you're wrong. Being a yes-man/woman is the quickest and easiest way to establish a political career.

Anonymous said...

I think Martin has a long record of trying to do exactly that

Anonymous said...

One of the Labour councillors who got up to spout party political rubbish looked so young that he reminded me of the schoolboy William Hague, sucking up to Maggie T. and the Tory faithful at a Party Conference in the 1980's. I just hope that this particular political career does not blossom too quickly and easily, so that I am no longer around if he ever has any real political power. (I'm sorry to have to be personal, Matt, but that is exactly how it made me feel.)

Philip Grant.

Anonymous said...

There were very good economic reasons for a 1.99% increase in Council Tax this year (such as stopping the Council's tax base from being eroded even further), quite apart from the fact that it would have avoided some of the really damaging cuts which are now being made as a result of this budget.

Cllr. Butt and Cllr. Pavey insisted on a Council Tax freeze for political reasons (even the Chief Finance Officer's report says that the "freeze" is based on a 'political judgement'). They and their fellow councillors were elected last May to serve the local community, but instead are playing national party politics with the Council's budget, in order to seek a Labour Party victory at the General Election.

Voters in Brent should bear this in mind when they decide who to vote for on 7 May. It will not be your only consideration, but which party's politicians you feel you can trust (if any), will be a factor in deciding who governs the country after the election.

Philip Grant.

Anonymous said...

P.S. to my at 14:53 comment:-

Further apology, to Matt B. this time. I overlooked that there are two young Labour Matts. I was referring to Matt K.


Anonymous said...

You should run for election PG - start putting your money where your mouth is

Anonymous said...

Matt K works in Parliament for an MP so he's already halfway up the greasy pole

Anonymous said...

Brian Sewell's back then ..........

Anonymous said...

You sure theres just more than 1 matt? They're all Matt's to me. Door matts.

Anonymous said...

Very disappointed. Labour should have increased council tax by. the allowed amount (2%?) to try protect services.

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