Brent Council to make £54m worth of cuts

Cllr Muhammed Butt read out his full speech at the council meeting on Monday night

Cllr Muhammed Butt read out his full speech at the council meeting on Monday night - Credit: Archant

Stonebridge Adventure Playground is fighting to survive

Stonebridge Adventure Playground is fighting to survive - Credit: Archant

The leader of Brent Council has issued a warning that the borough will face swathing cuts across the board to in an effort to save £54million over the next two years.

Cllr Muhammed Butt accused the government of ‘hacking away at public services’ as he revealed a public consultation will be launched to allow residents to choose where the axe should fall.

In a damning speech made at a full council meeting on Monday evening he said: “Good evening Mr Mayor, In May of this year, the people of Brent returned this Labour administration to power with a landslide result.

They did that because they trust our Labour values.

Cllr Butt made his speech at a full counil meeting on Monday evening

Cllr Butt made his speech at a full counil meeting on Monday evening - Credit: Archant

They knew that a new Labour administration would make the right decisions during tough times.

They knew we would go as far as we could in protecting the most vulnerable.

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They knew we would maintain the services that working people depend on.

As I said last year, the people of Brent have chosen us to be their shield.

Their shield against the continued attack by a dangerous and predatory government.

A government that lashes out at the poorest and most vulnerable in the hunt for a cheap headline.

A government that has, quite simply, hacked away at precious public services.

The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have sat, blissfully ignorant in Westminster; blind to real need or reason.

How else do you explain the NHS re-organisation that no-one wanted and cost millions?

Or explain the tax cut for millionaires at a time when we are having to cut vital services?

David Cameron and Nick Clegg may say ‘we’re all in it together’. George Osborne said it again last week.

But I don’t think when they say ‘we’; they don’t mean the people of Brent.

When they say ‘we’, they mean the healthcare giants that are ready to make a fortune from our NHS.

When Brent Labour says ‘we’, we mean ‘the people of Brent’.

The people of the borough where I was born and where I am proud to raise my children.

The people of this borough that we represent: North, South, East and West

The people of this borough invested their trust in Labour in 2010. And they invested that trust again this year.

The people of this borough put their trust in Labour because they know that we will be straight with them.

We won’t make false promises like Nick Clegg. We will tell our fellow residents the truth.

That’s why we are presenting proposals for a two year budget.

We want to be clear with the people of Brent about the scale of the challenge over the next two years.

We will consider proposals for £60 million worth of cuts over two years.

We, as a borough, have to choose £54 million of those cuts if we are to sustain this council.

These cuts have been imposed on vital public services in this borough by the coalition government, represented by the Councillors opposite.

This £54m is in addition to last year’s cuts of £18 million. By 2018, Brent will have lost more than £100m of funding since 2010. An unprecedented attack on YOUR public services. Such an assault by the coalition in Westminster, cannot be answered by a group of politicians under attack in the Civic Centre, however overwhelming their mandate.

It can only be answered by the people of Brent – our communities, our people - working together.

That’s why we have taken our Cabinet meetings out side of the Civic Centre and into the borough and engaged our communities through Brent Connects.

We have opened the doors of our Health and Wellbeing Board to our fellow residents. We have engaged in the most wide-ranging consultation for a borough plan ever.

We will continue that conversation with our fellow residents about how we face these financial challenges together.

After tonight, I urge all councillors, to go out to their residents to engage them in the budget setting process.

It is time for residents to tell us what they want to save. The final budget needs to be a true expression of

how the people of Brent can best survive the assault from David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

I would urge the same from our amazing community groups - get involved in this debate.

We are already working with partners to make Brent a better place. By working with our NHS partners, we can further bring health and social care together and preserve as many care services as we can for vulnerable adults and enable them to be as independent as possible.

We are focusing our capital programme on school places, an investment in our future. And we are committed to building affordable housing. But such difficult times also force us to face difficult truths.

Many were shocked when I said that voluntary organisations in the borough would have to stand on their own two feet financially.

But it is time for such truths, however uncomfortable they may make us feel.

Too often in the past, the council would sign a cheque for voluntary organisations and walk away. Those days are over. But I promise you that we will support you in every way we can to become financially and organisationally secure.

This changing relationship with community and voluntary organisations is spearheaded by this Labour administration supporting groups to access new sources of funding.

This new outlook has helped maintain the meals on wheels service to vulnerable adults by working with community groups.

And it’s also underpinned our work with the Tricycle Theatre, to ensure they can make the transition to this new financial reality and still provide vital activities for Brent children in these difficult times.

Our track record shows exactly what can be achieved when we work together.

We know that many have found the proposals for the site currently occupied by Stonebridge Adventure Playground controversial.

The plans would create 140 new social homes amid a housing crisis. And extra school places that we desperately need.

I respect those for whom the adventure playground remains a key part of their community. I admire how people have stepped forward to say ‘this matters to me, this matters to my family.’ The reality is that we cannot continue to fund projects like this in the way we once did.

Over the last few months, we have asked those who run the adventure playground to work with us to see whether supervised play can continue on that site or be relocated. And so, we hope the adventure playground will respond to our call, to work with us for the good of the people of Stonebridge and Brent.

We have to work with all our communities, businesses, schools, and voluntary organisations if we are going to keep as many of our services alive.

It pains me to say that the sustained attack from the coalition government in Westminster threatens our school crossing patrols, children’s centres, Connexions and educational opportunities for children, such as those at the Welsh Harp Environmental Centre.

But we can protect more if all those who have a stake in Brent step forward.

Not only have communities and voluntary organisations stepped forward in recent years, but so too have Brent businesses.

We are working with our businesses to secure apprenticeships for young people.

Together we are helping to ensure that 1,000 residents who have suffered long-term unemployment get back into work.

We are commissioning a ‘volunteering centre’, working with businesses, to recruit 1,000 volunteers each year.

And we will work with our businesses to ensure that when our residents put in a fair day’s work, they get a fair days pay – a living wage.

Brent is open for business, and Brent businesses are open to play their part in our community.

We also need to look at how we protect our most vulnerable. This will mean the Council working in entirely new ways.

…when Brent is under such unprecedented

financial attack from central government…

…when sports centres, respite support for carers

and CCTV services are under threat…

…we have to look at all options for how we can protect those vital services without the fear of political retaliation by central government.

We need to be innovative. Be Ground breaking in protecting as many of the vital services we currently provide. …and yes, we must examine the potential for charges.

Because when you are looking to defend a borough, you must be guided by the good of that borough.

We know however painful this process is, it will be much more painful for our fellow residents who depend on these vital services.

It will also be painful for many of our dedicated hard working staff.

I’ve been around politics long enough to know the games I expect our political opponents to play.

There will be the pretend anger and the theatrical gesturing.

So I ask them one thing… When you work out which bandwagon to jump on, don’t dress it up in the language of social justice….these cuts are threatening the most vulnerable on the streets of Brent that you claim to represent.

Tell us, what do you want to protect and why? And tell us where to aim your Coalition Governments cuts?

For every penny of criticism of a charge or cut in service, you must identify an alternative.

Because this is not a moment for petty politics or narrow gain. We all need to come together for Brent.

It may surprise you, but I remain optimistic about the future for our great borough.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are making the biggest cuts to urban councils in history, where their parties are rapidly becoming an endangered species.

But I’ll tell you what they can’t cut….They can’t cut the vitality and community out of the people of Brent.

They can’t dampen the spirit to better yourself, to ensure that you can build on your parents’ hard work and provide a better future for your own children.

The coming two years covered in this budget are going to be difficult. Many will feel the pain.

But I have a deep faith in the people of Brent. I have that faith, because I have seen their dynamism, their dedication and their compassion my entire life.

All the answers to the challenges we face won’t come from the leader of a council alone, or a cabinet or even 63 councillors.

They will come from the people of Brent. The people who are our neighbours, our friends and our families.

They have put their trust in the Labour Party and our values. That we will achieve more if we work together for the benefit of all the people of Brent, instead of just for our own narrow gain. It is impossible to make such deep cuts without

causing pain.

And so tonight’s budget presents a challenge to all of us, inside and outside this hall.

• to work together to protect Brent

• to work together to sustain Brent

• to work together to make sure Brent thrives.

I am sure that the people of Brent, will answer that call.

Thank you, Mr Mayor.”

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