Saturday 28 January 2023

Brent Council Tax to rise 6% to £1924.45 for Band D, council rents up by 7%, district network energy up by eye watering 196%

 Brent Cabinet will be putting forward a budget to Full Council which includes an overall Countil Tax increase of 6%, equating to £109.20 increase on a Band D property to £1924.45. The amounts for all the bands are shown below:

Recognising that the rise will hit residents the report to Cabinet outlines current support:

While it is acknowledged that increasing Council Tax will be difficult for some households, it should also be recognised that the Council continues to invest in the Council Tax Support scheme, which provides over £32m of support for around 28,000 households who are financially vulnerable. This support will be supplemented in 2023/24 from the Government’s £100m Council Tax Support Fund, which will enable Brent to reduce bills for Council Tax Support claimants by up to a further £25. In addition, the Council’s Resident Support Fund has made available additional funds for residents who are having difficulty due to unforeseen financial circumstances as a result of COVID-19 and the cost of living crisis.

The Council Tax increase includes an increase  of 4.99% (the government maximum) by Brent and 9.7% by the GLA.


Council Rents Rise by 7%

The Council will be raising council rents by 7% as set out below:

The rents for residents of the former Stonebridge HAT, now managed by the Hyde Group also rise:

 The gross rent for NAIL (New Accommodation for Independent Living) includes service charges and rises by 7%.



Service charges - some increase by up to 100%

 Rent of course is not the only charge to tenants. There are additional charges which vary according to the accommodation with, for example, some of the new properties having a concierge.

There is no increase for grounds maintenance, laundry and TV ariel but other charges rise, particulalrly those hit by the energy crisis. The heating and hot water rise is actually more but has been capped by the council at 100%.



District Heating Network in South Kilburn charges up by 196%

Wembley Matters has previously reported on concerns over District Heating Charges in the light of surging energy costs. The rise in tariffs justifies the concern.


 'Savings' NOT 'cuts'?

The Scrutiny Committee's Recommendations LINK  are included on the agenda but do not appear to have affected the report, which is not surprising given the time scale. Cuts by the Labour council are still referred to as 'savings' although the Tory Chancellor does make cuts:

The additional resources provided in the provisional local government finance settlement have resulted in a reduction in the savings requirement for 2023/24 and 2024/25 to £21.0m, profiled £13.5m in 2023/24 and £7.5m in 2024/25. This enables the deferral of £4.5m of the savings previously identified for 2023/24 to be deferred to 2024/25. Based on current estimates, this leaves a budget gap of £3m in 2024/25. However, this settlement also deferred many of the spending cuts that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had set out as necessary in his Autumn Statement to return the nation’s finances to a sustainable position over the medium term. Therefore, it remains likely that further savings will be required from 2025/26 onwards and this will be kept under review and reported to Cabinet throughout 2023/24.


School budget deficits and potential staffing cuts

School budget funding comes directly from government according to a formula and for local authority schools is distributed via the local authority based on decisions by the Schools Forum. Academies and Free schools received funding directly from the government.The budget report notes the difficulties some schools are currently facing previously covered on Wembley Matters.  This will result in staff cuts and there is a possibility of school amalgamations or reductions in forms of entry:

The number of Brent schools experiencing difficulties in 2022/23 has increased with 67% projecting an in-year deficit. 23% of these schools’ plan to use over 50% of reserves to balance their budgets in 2022/23. Schools are feeling the impact of rising inflationary costs, including increases in energy prices alongside teachers pay increasing by 5% in 2022/23 and starting salaries rising by 8.9% to £30k. A number of Brent schools are also experiencing falling rolls and as a result have had significant reductions in funding. This is requiring schools to make strategic decisions to mitigate the impact of this, including the consideration of staffing restructures. Alongside measures to support schools, such as capping admission numbers, the Local Authority has established a School Place Planning Working Group to review the sustainability of provision in primary planning areas.


Use of Strategic Infrastructure Levy for major projects

The amounts allocated are not  listed here but I will endeavour to find more details. I am particularly interested in the allocation to the College of North West London for its new building in Wembley Park which followed a deal with the council.

S106/Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) will be utilised to undertake major infrastructure projects meeting the conditions or terms for funding. The capital programme includes CIL funded schemes totalling £46m. The total CIL allocation includes contributions towards the fit out cost of 3 medical centres, a new facility in Wembley for the College of North West London, the new Morland Gardens educational facility, a new pedestrian and cycle bridge in Alperton and contributions towards community facilities in Stonebridge, Preston Community Library, Learie Constantine Centre and Brent Indian Community Centre


Full Council Decision

Given the top down nature of the Cabinet system of local government  and the huge Labour majority, adoption of this budget by Full Council is inevitable.  The Tory and Lib Dem groups may put forward alternatives and they will be voted down.




Anonymous said...

Why are they persisting with the awful and far too expensive scheme at Morelands that include the destruction of one of Brent few remaining heritage assets? Not one of the flats will be affordable and Brent's adventures into education have always failed to provide any education of worth streching back over 30 years (Remember Middlesex ITEC, what a waste of money that was providing poor quality training), now is no different with Brent First unless you want a certificate to say you can turn a PC on and off, or sweep the floor. What a bunch of "we know better than you" councillors we have who keep trying to bankrupt the borough.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, so now NCIL can be used to build schools? Interestingly the funding will also pay for the foundations for the flats above! Is this legal?

David Walton said...

Then add to that- all Brent Council estates, their diverse public services facilities and green public open spaces being all brownfield designated since 2010, the no European Court of Human Rights, "we can do whatever what we want now" power elites dividend, and guess where flammable clad, flammable insulated, remediation by design new build is zoned.

Brent looks hyper classist Local structured for a 2020's of roaring inequalities inside its USA style urban zonings, planned poverties and deprivations UK unseen for 70 years red-line zoned (literally in Brent political terms).

The Grenfell Inquiry Reports 2023

Anonymous said...

Everyone complains but they still vote Labour in Brent giving the Labour Councillors carte blanche to ruin our borough!

At the next local elections vote for anyone other than Labour!

Anonymous said...

Extracted from the Brent and Kilburn Times website today the 10th February 2023

Brent Council cabinet approves £2m civic centre revamp

By Grant Williams Local Democracy Reporter

Brent Council will spend around £2 million on a town hall makeover" which will include creating a more “engaging” and accessible staircase and adding “better room acoustics”.

The local authority wants to make changes to the public areas of the Civic Centre, in Engineers Way, Wembley Park, which cost £90 million when it opened ten years ago.

Works include changing the main entrance, expanding the libraries, creating more private spaces, replacing the spiral staircase, and addressing acoustic issues.

At a cabinet meeting on Monday (February 6), Cllr Eleanor Southwood, who is responsible for jobs, economy and citizen experience, said: “At the time it was a state-of-the-art building, and in many ways it still is. What we also know is that the look and feel of the building needs to evolve in line with what our customers need from it.”

She added: “We’ve seen changes over the past few years in both who visits the Civic Centre and what people need when they come here.”

The existing staircase is said to have an “accessibility problem”. A council document says: “They can be difficult to navigate and in general most people choose to avoid taking them and take the lift instead. To improve wellness, we propose the installation of a staircase that is engaging for users.”
Integrated seating would be installed under plans to “attract users” to the stairs and avoid the lift, while “feature walls” will be used to draw people up towards the library.

Cllr Southwood said: “We also noticed that for disabled people, for people who might be feeling vulnerable or experiencing a level of distress, the acoustics downstairs is really challenging.”

She added: “As a blind person myself, I find it incredibly challenging and it’s very difficult to orientate. I think that causes people quite a lot of challenges.”

There will also be more confidential spaces made available for private meetings and for people coming to the centre in distress.

Cllr Southwood said: “It’s not always a dignified experience, it’s all very open, it’s all very public.
She added: “We want to make sure the building is arranged in such a way to provide dignity for those people and ensure they feel supported and welcomed.”

The £1.96 million plans were given the green light by the cabinet at a meeting on Monday (February 6) and are expected to be completed in December of this year.

In the same meeting, the cabinet agreed budget proposals which means the average ‘Band D’ resident faces paying an extra £100 in council tax from April. The final budget is due to be agreed upon by the full council on February 23.

Council leader Cllr Muhammed Butt said: “After ten years, it’s good that we are taking stock, things have changed a lot in the last ten years. I think it’s quite right and appropriate that we continue to ensure that the building continues to function as a building that delivers for residents.” He added: “Some of the changes that we are proposing will make it a lot easier for some of our residents."