New year message: There’s still cause for optimism

EDITORIAL USE ONLY Justine Simons OBE, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries and Muha

Cllr Muhammed Butt with deputy London mayor for culture and the creative industries Justine Simons, unveiling an installation by Rasheed Araeen at The Library at Willesden Green as part of the first Brent Biennial, presented by Brent 2020, London Borough of Culture. - Credit: PA/Anthony Upton

Managing expectations is a big part of leadership, nowhere more so than in politics. If you say you’re going to do something, you better be able to do it.

On this latest last-minute lockdown, the chief complaint I’m hearing from friends, neighbours, and residents isn’t really about the restrictions – it’s having had false hopes irresponsibly raised then inevitably dashed by the prime minister.

That said, we’re a resilient people, and it’s hard to argue against levels of infection warranting temporarily tighter constraints.

Resilience aside, lots of people will struggle as a result of this year’s austere end.

As a council we’ve done our best to support as many people as possible throughout the worst of these past nine months.

We stand ready to do so again, so if you or someone you know needs help, please get in touch, via www.brent.gov.uk or 020 8937 1234.


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That said, for everything we’re having to endure, there’s still cause for optimism as scientists the world over make real progress against the virus.

In holding our nerve we stand the best chance of putting the worst of this awful mess behind us. And yet, for everything awful about it, the crisis brought out the best in a lot of people.

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People whose first instincts were to ensure friends and neighbours were prepared.

People who care about the world around them, who know their lives are made better by the lives of others being made better too. Whilst there’s much to be proud of, clearly, we’re not yet out of the woods.

Still ahead is COVID’s aftermath. Thousands furloughed or on Universal Credit, and a generation of young people caught between the end of their education or training and the beginning of their careers.

In truth, these are national problems requiring national solutions. But unless the prime minister sets himself apart from his austerity wielding predecessors, my fear is that a population ready and willing to recover will be prevented from doing so by the economically illiterate choices of a serially incompetent government.

Rather than waiting to find out, we’re concentrating on what we can do to move this borough forwards.

Things like putting the insights of the poverty commission at the heart of helping people lift themselves out of deprivation.

Breathing life into the unprecedented potential of the Black Community Action Plan, embedding its ethos into the fabric of this council’s endeavours.

Responding to the undeniable global climate emergency, going beyond undoing the damage already done, instead leaving behind a better borough, and indeed better planet, for those that succeed us.

The Duchess of Cornwall meets participants of The Agency programme during a tour of the Kiln Theatre as part of her visit to Brent, the London 2020 Borough of Culture.

The Duchess of Cornwall meets participants of The Agency programme during a tour of the Kiln Theatre as part of her visit to Brent, the London 2020 Borough of Culture. - Credit: PA/Eamonn M. McCormack

It’s also worth remembering, amongst all of this, 2020 was still Brent’s year as London’s Borough of Culture.

It was also the first in our history to be named Council of the Year!

Celebrating these accolades won’t mean we’ve become complacent. After all, there’s still much to do before we’re all truly safe, secure, happy, and healthy. Before we each share equally in this borough’s prosperity, where every resident can build for themselves a real and lasting future upon the strong foundations that life in Brent provides.

Ours is a borough determined to do all this and more. Until then, take care this Christmas, make good decisions, and best wishes for the chance of a far happier new year. 

  • Cllr Muhammed Butt is leader of Brent Council.

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