Sunday 5 February 2023

S.O.S. goes out to Labour backbenchers as debate threatens to rock the sleepy Brent Cabinet

 Let's face it, we all know Brent Cabinet is a rubber-stamping body whose calm waters are seldom disturbed by so much as a ripple of discussion, or (Lord Preserve Us!), dissent.

All the decisions are  made at a private pre-meeting of officers and Cabinet members (See LINK) so the meeting, despite an often huge agenda, is over in half an hour or so.   The format after the preliminaries is the Lead Member, in an address often written by their officers, reads out a short introduction to an agenda item. Another Cabinet member then says a few words of praise for a great policy, hard work etc.  Cllr Butt as Chair then says what a wonderful job Labour ia doing for Brent and it is approved.

There is no debate.

The meetings are held at 10am on a Monday morning which prevents working local residents (and working backbenchers) from attending.   A move to have Cabinet meetings out in community centres to enable more public participation was quietly dropped long ago.

But word has gone out that some opposition members have dared to give notice that they are to enter the mutual grooming sanctuary and actually disagree.

Despite Labour's massive majority this has appeared to have freaked out the Labour leadership. 

I understand that  a message has gone out urgently to backbenchers from the Deputy Leader of the Council that some opposition members have requested to a speak on the Council's (fait accompli) Budget Proposal for 2023-24.  Labour Group members are asked to contact 'Mo' (Muhammed Butt, Leader of the Council) if they would like to speak to 'balance the debate and 'particularly to highlight the impact of austerity started by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on council finances.'

Just to let you know what Mo knows!

Watch the Cabinet meeting HERE


Philip Grant said...

Readers interested in more detail about how Cabinet decisions are actually made are invited to read a guest blog I wrote in March 2022 - "Democracy in Brent - are Cabinet Meetings a Charade?":

Anonymous said...

Backbench councillors told to turn up and spout Mo's out of date narrative. Playing politics!!!

Anonymous said...

Any Labour councillors who turn up to do Mo's bidding - delegated to his Deputy so he can deny responsibility - should be named and shamed.

Anonymous said...

Brent has either a Dictatorship under Mo Butts leadership or the Cllrs including the cabinet are puppets ruled by officers. Either way not a democracy and a massive disaster waiting to happen. As already apparent with the decisions being made. God help us all.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with Anonymous 6 February 2023 at 09:56

What a bunch

Anonymous said...

Have the Brent electorate not voted to be ruled or governed in this way? Some may not like this is the only one we have.

Anonymous said...

Vote for anyone else except Labour at the next local elections!!!

Anonymous said...

Many other dictators have been voted into power in the past. They stay in power via patronage and various other types of influence and misrepresentation. It sounds just like Brent

Paul Lorber said...

I may have missed it because the Webcast did not work (again) most of the time but I presume at no point did any member of the Cabinet ask how it is possible for a Labour Council so hard pressed for money and so oppressed by austerity to find almost £2 million of Capital money for refurbishment/reconfiguring works in the Brent Civic Centre - a building only 10 years old.

Has Brent run out of potholed roads or crumbling pavements to fix first and use the £2 million on?

Paul Lorber said...

Austerity started in 2008 during a Labour Government when Gordon Brown and the Labour Party handed out £850 billion to bail out the Banks. Alistair Darling the Labour Chancellor at the time warned that as a result the "CUTS needed to pay for this would be worse than under Thatcher".

In his Mansion House Speech to Bankers and Business Leaders in 2007 (a year before the crash) Gordon Brown praised their "ingenuity" and claimed credit for the "soft touch" approach to regulation by his Labour Government.

We all know what happened next - the "ingenious" and out of control Bankers so appreciated by Brown almost bankrupted the world and almost brought down the economic order. WE have been paying for this Labour fiasco ever since.

David Walton said...

Also important to note that in Brent austerity is austerity zoned;

Conservation Area Queens Park has seen growth in public services quality as its flatted Victorian houses convert back into single family houses.

South Kilburn quintupling population container ship, Brent wants to build on the only park which National Planning Policy Framework and London Plan All London Green Grid protects? Main council Granville community centre is already being built on, with population massive growth arrives political consensus austerity extreme.

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."