Brent Council spends £5k on software so residents can tell them how to make £20m worth of cuts

Cllr Muhammed Butt is the leader of Brent Council

Cllr Muhammed Butt is the leader of Brent Council - Credit: Archant

Council chiefs have been criticised for spending £5,000 on software so that residents can choose where £20million worth of cuts should be made.

Town hall bosses rolled out the “online budget simulator” on Monday after revealing they must wield the axe across the board to plug a financial hole caused by a fall in government funding.

Slashes to services, further closures of public facilities and job losses are not being ruled out as Brent Council battles to balance its books for 2014/15.

The final figure for the funding it will receive from the government will be announced in December but it is estimated at £95m – down from £115m.

The interactive tool allows residents to choose how they would prioritise funding for council services and shows the impact that has on council tax and the overall budget.

It also shows the cuts equate to a 19.1 per cent hike in council tax bills.

However, the council would be unable to push through an increase of more than two per cent without carrying out a referendum.

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It is the first time the council has used this method as a form of public consultation.

Michael Calderbank, spokesman for anti-cuts group Brent Fightback, said: “The online simulator is an empty exercise.

“Brent Council has just spent £5,000 on software that tells voters what they already know; that councillors are faced with carrying through the coalition’s cuts by taking an axe to jobs and services in Brent.

“Instead of such self-serving gimmicks, they should be mobilising the community to resist these attacks.”

Council leader Cllr Muhammed Butt denied the simulator is a gimmick.

He told the Times: “I am helping the community by going out to them and showing them what a dire financial situation the council is in.

“The simulator is part of a process to engage with residents in the best possible way. This gives me the widest possible access to the most people.

“A short consultation costs between £15,000 and £20,000 so I am using taxpayers’ money in the most effective way.”

Visit www.budgetsimulator.com/brentcouncil to take part in the online consultation.

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