The meeting agreed that there should be continued principled opposition to the council implementing government cuts.
There were different views points on the possible 4% Council Tax rise (2% to protect adult social care and 2% to protect some (but not all) vital services).
One view was that the proposed rise still accommodated cuts through making the poor pay more. Another was that support among some in the Labour Group for a rise was a significant shift from last year when Cllr Duffy’s call for a 2% rise was strongly opposed - that shift should be supported. This was qualified by a demand (also in the Scrutiny Budget Panel report) that any rise should be accompanied by changes in Council Tax Benefit to protect the most vulnerable from the increase.
Information is needed on how much would be raised by the increase (The Scrutiny Budget Panel said £12m by 2018/19) and what that could achieve in terms of protecting services. Also what changes in Council Tax Benefit would be needed to offset the imapct of the Council Tax rise for the most vulnerable?
There was also discussion on the possibility of using some of the council’s reserves to avoid cuts. This was something that Cllr Michael Pavey promised to review at the Scrutiny Committee. In the past the Audit Commission ruled that Brent did not have sufficient reserves and more has been added over the last 2-3 years.
Although the visit of Muhammed Butt and Michael Pavey to government ministers to argue that the cuts to Brent’s budget were unfair was welcome, there needed to be much more mobilisation of the public and joint work with other councils to mount a national campaign against the cuts.
Cllr Butt reports back on his meeting with ministers
There is a Budget Consultation Meeting at Brent Civic Cente tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7pm where these issues can be raised.