A “perfect storm” of high inflation, rising demand for services, and reduced government funding will mean Brent residents face tax rises and further cuts to public services next year.

Brent Council has warned it must find another £8 million in savings between 2024/25 and 2025/26, after making cuts of around £210 million since 2010.

A consultation on Brent’s draft budget proposals is currently under way, with a report noting that the seriousness of the financial position “can’t be understated”.

Council leader Cllr Muhammed Butt has promised to be “open and transparent”, and says some decisions facing the council are going to be difficult.

Cllr Butt said: “We just don’t have any low hanging fruit, that’s long gone. Now it truly is going to impact on how we deliver services. We have had to make some of the most horrific choices in order to protect the most vulnerable.”

Brent Council says its most visible cuts are likely to come from the adult day care services – specifically the Millennium Day Centre, which provides facilities for adults with physical and learning difficulties.

Staff and buildings are the biggest expenses for councils, meaning buildings could be sold and staff laid off.

A visibly upset Cllr Butt said the decisions “[go] against every fibre of who I am and why I came into politics” but concedes they have to be made or essential services, and the people who rely on them, “will suffer more”.

Cllr Butt added: “For me, it’s personal. I was born in Brent, my family is in Brent, and everything I do is about delivering for everyone in Brent. Having to make tough choices like this is hard, it plays on my mind every day, every night.

“When I’m sitting at home that’s what I’m thinking about; What else can I do? Have I explored every option? Have I had every discussion? Have I pushed everyone hard enough?”

The budget proposes raising council tax by 4.99% – the maximum allowed without a referendum – as well as a rise in business rates and below inflation increases to fees and charges, such as pest control, garden waste collection, hosting events, and parking.

Brent Council currently has £18 million in reserves but officials warned these would be “rapidly depleted” if spending carried on at the current rate. Cllr Butt has introduced spending controls to ensure the council doesn’t end up facing a Section 114 notice, the equivalent of bankruptcy.

He added: “They are about saying to every person in this organisation, ‘are you spending the money wisely? Why are you spending that money?’ and making sure it is being used correctly because, if I don’t do this now, Section 114 could be down the road. […] How much more can local government absorb?”

Last month the council warned that its finances were “on a knife edge” as it revealed a £13 million budget overspend in the housing services department – particularly due to rising homelessness and the need for more temporary accommodation.

Cllr Butt explains that between 130 and 150 people a week are currently coming to the council looking for housing support. He said: “After the cost-of-living crisis it’s the housing crisis, they go hand in hand.”

Brent Council was awarded a £7.9m new homes bonus by the government for increasing the supply of homes more than any other borough last year. Cllr Butt believes this demonstrates its commitment to building homes people need, but with homeless applications up 22% on last year, these new houses are needed urgently and immediately.

The government’s homeless grant, which helps councils with temporary accommodation, only went up by three per cent in the year 2023/24 – way below the 10 per cent inflation the local authority is facing.

The cost of delivering services has been hit by inflation, growing demand – particularly in housing services, as well as children's services and adult social care – and decreased government funding. The council’s deputy director of finance, Ravinder Jassar, told the LDRS that these have “really hit [Brent] hard”.

He said: “Since 2010, [the government said] that core council services could be funded by local taxation, not national taxation. So as you saw a decrease in central government funding, you have seen a massive increase in local taxation. We are funded more now by council tax and business rates than we have ever been before. It’s made up some of the difference but not enough.”

He added: “The only way local government is going to be sustainable is for the government to put more money into the system.”

Cllr Butt called the dependency on grants “no way to run local government” and is urging the government to “fund it properly” and give the council more power to make decisions for the community. He said: “The best placed organisation to look after its residents is the council, we know and deliver for them on a daily basis.

“Then you have people sitting in Whitehall who think they know Brent from a spreadsheet. We know where the issues are, that’s why we set up the community hubs, the café in Stonebridge Park, that’s why we work with Brent Health Matters partners.” He added: “Give us the authority and the resources, let us make those decisions so we can protect the residents that need our help and support.”