|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...