Protesters storm Brent town hall as the council votes through �42m cuts

Cllr Ann John, Brent Council leader, said the budget was ‘very difficult to pass’ because of the depth of the cuts

Demonstrators stormed Brent town hall last night (28) as councillors voted through an array of cuts in early year’s education, the festivals and the library budget totalling some �42million.

The break away group of around 100 protesters furious at the proposals, branded by them as one of the greatest attacks on the public services in a generation, sneaked past a line of police officers and security guards hired in to keep them out.

They lined the civic centre’s stairwell with their banners hoisted high, and their cries of ‘No ifs, no buts, public centre cuts’, rang through the main chamber as councillors voted through the deepest package of spending cuts since the Second World War.

Cllr Ann John (Lab; Stonebridge), Brent Council leader, defended the administration, which she described as ‘responsible’, ‘brave’, and ‘courageous’, for producing a difficult budget in straightened times.


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She said: “It was a very difficult budget to pass. If we are taking millions out of children’s services and adult social care, or closing libraries which people are upset about, they are all difficult.

“These are painful decisions. Every single redundancy is a person who is no longer employed – that’s personal.”

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She added: “The Government is cutting too fast, too deep, and councils are being forced to do their dirty work for them.”

Protests

Among those protesting were Samantha Warrington, and her two children 9-year-old Jackson Mainoo and his 7-year-old sister Jasmine, who spoke against the proposed closure of half the borough’s libraries.

Jasmine, who is a regular visitor at Preston library and whose favourite book is The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy, said: “I love the library because there are so many books which I can borrow. I go there a lot.”

Her mum, Samantha, said: “In our neighbourhood there is hardly anything for the community. Preston library is so popular and always busy, it will be a real crime to close it.”

The demonstrators were initially blocked by security from entering the town hall, sparking fury from the activists who claimed the decision to bar them from the night’s proceedings was a ‘betrayal of democracy’.

Cuts

Large job losses are being incurred at the council, with around 400 staff being made redundant.

Two amendments tabled by the Conservatives and the Lib Dems to keep funding the borough’s six threatened libraries were voted down, meaning that no lifeline was thrown to the popular campaigns to save them. Although a final decision is not made until April.

Inflation busting hikes in charges for parking, allotments, pest control, and other services, reported in the Times last year, have been given the green light. On and off-street parking charges will soar by as much as half from February 1.

The children and families budget is being sliced by almost 15 per cent with plans to axe around half of all children’s centre staff pushed through despite opposition from parents, while cuts to adult social care are expected to save �1.25m by 2012.

The Charteris Sports Centre in Charteris Road, Kilburn, had its �155,000 budget cut, paving the way for its closure.

Brent’s popular St. Patricks Day parade, and annual Chanukah, Eid and Navratri, celebrations are being ditched.

Saved

The popular Welsh Harp Education Centre will continue to operate and teach pupils about the countryside after the council struck a deal with the local firm Careys which will co-fund it.

Brent Law Society, Brent Private Tenants Rights Group and Brent Citizens Advice Bureau have had their funding reinstated. Cllr Ann John said the decision had been taken in recognition that ‘because of the Government’s policies their services will be swamped’.

There was good news for young people as the council leader pledged to keep open Wembley Youth Centre, St. Raphael’s youth centre, and continue to run Dennis Jackson youth centre from Copland School, in Cecil Avenue, Wembley.

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