Brent Council pays BBC presenter to help them make £54m worth of cuts

The two events are taking place inside Brent Civic Centre

The two events are taking place inside Brent Civic Centre - Credit: Archant


Cllr Muhammed Butt

Cllr Muhammed Butt - Credit: Archant

Brent Council has been slammed for paying a TV presenter £2,500 to host two special meetings today about its plans to make £54milion worth of cuts.

The town hall has splashed out the four-figure sum so Jo Coburn, the host of the BBC’s Daily Politics Show, can chair the consultation meetings with the public at the civic centre in Engineer’s Way, Wembley.

The revelation has infuriated Sujata Aurora, a community campaigner from Willesden, who attended the first event which took place at 2pm today.

She said: “With the greatest respect to Jo Coburn is there no council officer who’s capable of chairing a couple of meetings?

“It seems like again Brent Council have got a very skewed sense of priorities.

“We’ve already had the 25 per cent increase in councillor allowances, £100,000 spent on an opening ceremony for the civic centre and £700,000 spent on laying granite outside the civic centre.

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“They’ve got to get a grip on spending money on ridiculous things like this when they’re cutting services to vulnerable people.”

Among the cuts proposed by the council over the next two years includes axing their funding for all youth services in the borough, the closure of a leisure centre, a reduction in children’s centres and respite care and a day care centre for disabled residents to go to.

A spokesman for the TaxPayers’ Alliance, a lobby group that campaigns against the wastage of public funds, said: “At a meeting to discuss savings, it does seem strange to spend a four-figure sum to bring in a chair, despite Jo Coburn’s undoubted experience as a well-regarded broadcaster.

“The council has to provide a far fuller explanation of why this spending was approved, particularly in the context of a multi-million pound savings programme.”

According to the council the cuts must be made to plug a financial hole left by half of their funding being slashed by central government.

Cllr Muhammed Butt, Leader of Brent Council, said: “Ms Coburn is a powerful independent voice and an expert chair. She will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to look carefully and objectively at the budget savings proposals being considered by the cabinet, and to provide honest and independent advice on the whole budget process.

“This is in addition to hosting two consultation events with the public.

“It is extremely important for councillors to get the views of residents, community groups, and voluntary groups when making difficult budget decisions imposed on us by severe reductions to our government grant.

“For this we are paying £2,500 which I believe represents value for money considering the importance of the council having to save £54 million.”

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