Saturday 5 December 2015

Butt: Brent Council being forced to cut to 'the muscle or even the bone'

Brent Council released the following statement on the 2016-17 budget yesterday.
Brent Council is having to cope with a halving of central government funding. We are working hard to keep the negative impact on the services you value the most to a minimum by squeezing the most out of every last penny of taxpayers' money. However these tough times are forcing us to face some difficult choices.

Cllr Muhammed Butt, Brent Council Leader, said:

"The recent spending review handed local authorities the most severe cuts of any government department. This comes on top of five years of progressively harder funding settlements since 2010. During this time our main core government funding has already been reduced by over £80m and there will be further significant reductions in the years to come.

"After taking account of these revenues falling by more than a half over the next four years, and the money we generate ourselves, overall funding is expected to fall by another quarter in the next four years. As a result, we are working harder and harder every year to balance our budget without cutting into the services and facilities that Brent residents value the most. All the while we have tried to recognise that local people have been facing hard times too, which is why we've frozen Council Tax levels for the last six years.

"The proposals we're publishing today try to squeeze the very last penny out of the money we have to spend on services, by being more efficient and modern in our approach, driving down costs, and maximising income from our commercial assets. We are doing our best to keep the negative impacts on front line services to an absolute minimum but there will be significant changes given the budget position."

"It's time to face the fact - the easier savings can each only be achieved once, and when the following year brings the need to cut more money, our options become narrower. We can only sell our buildings and consolidate onto one site once to save money. We can only create digital channels to save money over more expensive face to face ways of working once. We can only cut out any element of waste once to save cash. After cutting the fat year after year, sooner or later you get down to the muscle or even the bone."

"I agree with Lord Porter, Conservative Chair of the Local Government Association, who said just recently:

"It is wrong that the services our local communities rely on will face deeper cuts than the rest of the public sector yet again, and for local taxpayers to be left to pick up the bill for new government policies without any additional funding.

"Even if councils stopped filling in potholes, maintaining parks, closed all children's centres, libraries, museums, leisure centres and turned off every street light, they will not have saved enough money to plug the financial black hole they face by 2020."

"I'm confident that we're not in the position in Brent of having to make cuts like that - not yet at least. But it really is getting harder and harder every year, and there are years of this to come. It is just as well that the people of Brent are so strong, united and resilient, as we are really being tested."

Have your say

We have arranged five public consultation meetings to discuss the budget with local people, and will be arranging two additional budget specific public meetings in January. These five Brent Connects meetings are:

All meetings above start at 7pm.


Anonymous said...

I note that there is no mention from Cllr. Butt that the financial problems Brent is now facing would have been slightly less if Brent had raised Council Tax by 1.99% last year (which it could have done).

Cllr. Butt also ignores the "hole" in Brent's finances caused by the Employment Tribunal settlement with Rosemarie Clarke (hushed up in September 2015 by a last-minute "out of court" deal) and the "pay off" to former Director of HR, Cara Davani (hushed up by a secrecy clause in her June 2015 leaving agreement), whose actions meant that Brent had to pay those costs.

Where is the "openness and transparency" that Cllr. Butt promised when he was elected Council Leader in 2012?

Philip Grant.

Alison Hopkins said...

They could have raised council tax by 1.99 percent every year since 2010. They could have not spent £800K on granite paving, £12K on that blasted hologram. almost a million to WLWA for sheer incompetence and not raised councillors allowances. They could choose not to prop up the old Neasden Library rents. And then, there's all the other payoffs besides Davani's. Civic Cente opening do: £90,000. Mayor's office annual costs - given Mo goes to the opening of an envelope, why do we need £250K a year on a mayor?

Never mind the muscle and bone, how about trimming the flab?

G.Lee said...

Why is Brent Council spending £100k on draining a cricket pitch in Kind Edwards park which has now been fenced off from the public for over 3 months despite a sign saying 'some disruption for about 5 weeks' ? Whats all that about ?

Anonymous said...

Resilient is the new robust. Now a cliché enema for The Leader WOULD be money well spent.
Mike Hine

Anonymous said...

If council taxes are raised, everyone complains. If they're not, there are still complaints. It's a no-win situation! Those wretched Lib Dems propping up the Tories back in 2010 - year or year cuts to grants - I hope they're proud of themselves.

Anonymous said...

Not everyone complains if Council Tax is raised. There was a very good discussion about this on Wembley Matters last February, and it is unfortunate that Brent Councillors were not allowed as much discussion, or a free vote,about a possible increase:

For most local households, a 1.99% increase in Council Tax for 2015/16 would have cost less than an extra 50p a week. It would have saved at least £700,000 in cuts to services for local people for this year, and for every succeeding year (unless Council Tax was actually reduced, which is not a viable prospect when Central Government funding is being cut so severely).

Yes, George Osborne, and his Lib-Dem supporters in the coalition government from 2010 to 2015, must take some of the blame, but at a local level, Cllr. Butt and his Cabinet are responsible for some very bad decisions as well.

Philip Grant.

Anonymous said...

Even if council tax was raised Labour have shown time and time again that they just can't be trusted with our finances. Not only have they been extravagant in their spending on Marble, apple products, holograms etc over the past number of years, but they've also given away assets that belong to us all (e.g. Willesden Library Site & Kensal Green Library), they've also wasted a fortune on agency staff (including not having the CEO on a proper contact).

Their priorities are also completely broken - how they justify the large amount of money they spend on an office of 'Mayor' whilst destroying places that really build community cohesion (and cost much less) like Stonebridge Playground is beyond me. If they wanted some extra income they would bring these outsourced council provision back in house and stop giving our tax money to companies such as Veolia to fritter away as profit. The only valid outsourcing would be a CIC owned by Brent Council tasked with reinvesting any money into providing a proper service and if that was done then we might have a lot less rubbish on the streets.

Scott Bartle.