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Brent Council slammed for spending £420,000 on ‘self-congratulatory’ scheme while making £14million of cuts

PUBLISHED: 17:58 01 March 2012

Brent Council will double funds allocated to Ward Working scheme to £420,000

Brent Council will double funds allocated to Ward Working scheme to £420,000

Archant

Town hall will double the amount of funds allocated to Ward Working project

Campaigners have slammed Brent Council, saying it pledged more than £400,000 to a “self congratulatory” council-led scheme, while announcing savage cuts across the borough.

The 2012/2013 budget was rubber-stamped by councillors on Monday, meaning various cuts will be implemented across the borough as the council attempts to save £14million over 12 months.

A reduction in funds for disabled children’s transport is planned, as well as stripping the Connextions scheme of £500,000.

Funding was slashed from projects designed to raise awareness of mental health issues in schools, and two nurseries face an uncertain future.

However, it was announced during the meeting that each of Brent’s 21 wards would have their Ward Working (WW) scheme doubled to £40,000 – a total of £840,000 across the borough.

The plans were not mentioned in the initial budget papers or discussed at consultative forums – leaving anti-cuts campaigners furious.

Gaynor Lloyd, a member of Brent SOS Libraries, branded the decision “vindictive”.

She said: “We have always highlighted the Ward Working fund as a way of saving money to keep the libraries open.

“The council assumes it has won the library battle, so this decision seems a very obvious and vindictive way of trying to prove that to us.”

WW is designed to give people the chance to work with councillors to suggest what they would like to see in their community, but it has been met with criticism and some residents claim it goes towards vanity projects.

Ms Lloyd added: “When you are making cuts to libraries and children’s services, it’s crazy to spend increased money on such trivial schemes.”

Cllr Suresh Kansagra, leader of Brent Conservatives, said the money should be spent on re-opening libraries.

He said: “The council has repeatedly said it did not have the money to keep the libraries open but it can find the funds for this.

“The scheme can work, but often seems like a self -congratulatory method used by councillors to reward themselves. Now is not the time to be increasing it.”

The extra funding is said to have been paid for by the removal of the Chief Executive’s Performance Fund Budget and lower interest costs on capital financing in central items.

Cllr Ann John, leader of the council, said WW allowed councillors to “make a real difference” in their community.

She said: “We are giving local people a say in projects in their area.

“Our idea of localism is for Brent people working with their local councillors to have their say about activities and projects in their own communities.”

She added that budgets were a complicated process where announcements were often made on the night.


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