Labour’s budget for 2012/13 has two main themes, social mobility and local democracy. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has cited the UK as one of the worst countries for levels of social mobility and this is in the number one priority in Brent. Council Tax is also yet again frozen this year.
Most Brent residents have incomes lower than the £26,000 benefit cap, 12,000 (9.3%) of them are unemployed and youth unemployment is a particular problem. One third of Brent children are living in poverty (that is living in households where the household income is below £15,000 a year) and the changes in the welfare reform bill and localisation of housing benefit will make the situation even worse. Children born into poverty are most likely to become poor adults.
In Labour’s budget proposals is a pledge to establish a Commission on Social Mobility to be chaired by an academic to ensure that council policy is geared towards enabling local people to achieve their full potential. Meanwhile, the Council is providing £350,000 as starter funding to develop a new employment service to work in partnership with other agencies to help local residents back into work.
Meanwhile, in order to address the democratic deficit caused by the Coalition government’s removal of powers from local government, Labour Brent is to double the budget for ward working whereby local people working with their local councillors determine activities and projects within their own communities. From now on every ward will receive £40,000 to spend on local initiatives that matter to them.
Brent Council’s Labour Leader, Cllr Ann M John, OBE, said:
“The gap between rich and poor is growing all the time with the top ten per cent of earners now earning twelve times as much as the bottom ten per cent. In Brent average earnings are only just at the national average whilst house prices are twice the national average. Social mobility and getting people back to work has to be our number one priority. But we are also giving local people a say in projects in their area by doubling the ward working budget. The government may talk about localism but we practice it”.