A Liberal approach to attendance as a third of Lib Dem Councillors go AWOL in the middle of last night’s Full Council meeting

Less than two thirds of the Liberal Democrat Group attended the Council meeting on Monday 23 January 2012. By the end of the meeting only five Liberal Democrat councillors were still in attendance.

Historically the Liberal Democrats have always had a liberal approach to attending meetings with the worst attendance of any of the three parties represented in the Council Chamber, especially when they are in opposition.

However, on this occasion their absence follows their crushing defeat in the Wembley Central ward by-election. What’s more is that attendance figures on the Council’s website will not reflect the fact that certain Councillors left the meeting half way through.

The Labour Leader of the Council, Councillor Ann M John, OBE lambasted the Liberal Democrats for their absence.

Councillor John said:

”Every councillor receives a basic allowance of £7,974 per annum and as a basic minimum they are expected to attend full council meetings. How can they expect to represent their constituents if they are not here?” 

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Coalition in denial about child poverty

Brent Labour is concerned about the impact of the Lib Dem and Conservative policies that are putting more people into poverty. The renowned Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has produced a report which says that the UK is seeing a big rise in poverty and that 600,000 more children will be pushed into poverty.

With one in three children living in poverty in Brent, Labour is concerned that the Coalition Government is making things worse for our future generations.

Lead member for Children and Families Cllr Mary Arnold said,

“Changes to tax credits for working families, reduction in childcare grants, increasing VAT, scrapping of Building Schools for the Future, fewer opportunities for apprenticeships than Labour proposed, slashing the Education Maintenance Allowance and the trebling of tuition fees is making it more difficult for the next generation to reach their aspirations.”

Leader of Brent Council, Cllr Ann John OBE said,

“It is not fair that that people are being affected in this way, when at the same time, the Government has refused to continue the Bankers Bonus Tax that was in place last year and could be used right now to help pay off the deficit. There is a fairer way to address this deficit; a Plan B, which the Government are not looking into.”

Dispelling Lib Dem myths on libraries

The Lib Dems have falsely accused the Brent Labour Party of wanting to get rid of libraries for a long time. The issue arose at the Willesden Area Forum, which I chair, when a resident showed a paper which suggests that the Council is going to close libraries.

Brent Council leader Ann John said that it was presented as an option to the then Labour administration who rejected the idea claiming that officers do often present reports that are rejected by decision makers and when this was presented to the Labour executive, Labour answered with an emphatic no. Cllr Lesley Jones has more on this here – LINK.

Stinks of typical local Lib Dem tactics to ‘pick an unpopular cut and champion it’ as reported here (LINK) as ‘we are not running the Council, it’s not our problem’.

Fib Dems give all politicians a bad name

Voters have always been cynical about politicians who make extravagant promises only to renege on them a few months later but never in recorded history has a party betrayed every principle it ever stood for as the Liberal Democrats have done since May 6th.

Before the election, the Lib Dems supported Labour in not wishing to cut too fast too soon for fear of a double dip recession. Now they have supported the largest cuts package in the western world. Before the election they described Tory plans to increase VAT as a ‘secret VAT bombshell’ but they have since voted to increase VAT to 20%. Before the election, they gave a commitment to universal child benefit but they have since supported scrapping child benefit for some middle income families but not others. For years, they promised to abolish tuition fees; indeed it was the subject of Sarah Teather’s maiden speech. Now they are in favour of doubling tuition fees. In March this year, Sarah Teather berated the Tories for planning to abolish subsidised rents for Council and housing association homes; now they support new council tenancies at 80% of market rents and the abolition of security of tenure for those tenants. During the election, the Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg described the alternative vote system (AV) as “a miserable little compromise”. By September he was saying that “AV is infinitely fairer than what we have at the moment”.

Brent Council’s Labour Leader, Councillor Ann M John, OBE has compiled a brief list of Lib Dem quotes made in the run up to the May election all of which have been comprehensively disavowed in the five months since the election.

I will be publishing extracts from the list which is entitled ‘The Fib Dems in their own words’ on my blog page over the next few weeks

Councillor Ann John said:

“The Fib Dems are the harlots of British politics. They will say anything and do anything to get into government. In less than six months they have betrayed every policy they fought the election on. They give all politicians a bad name”.

 

EXCLUSIVE: BRENT LABOUR LOBBYING WINS CREST REPRIEVE

The Crest Academies (formerly John Kelly schools) to be excluded from school building cuts

The Liberal Democrat and Conservative government has relented on its decision to suspend funding from building the Crest Academies (formerly the John Kelly schools) in Dollis Hill. The government had previously announced that it would cease all funding under the Building Schools for the Future programme, which was to cover the re-building and expansion of Copland Community School, Cardinal Hinsley Catholic College, Queen’s Park Community School and Alperton Community School. At the time Brent Council was also informed that the money for the Crest Academies was also at risk.

Source: biomapping

The decision to allocate capital funding for the project follows lobbying by Cllr Ann John, Labour Leader of Brent Council. Councillor John accompanied by Ms Beverley Bell, Head Teacher of Crest Academy (Girls) and the Council’s Education Director, Mr John Christie met with Michael Gove on 22 July. The delegation made the point that the plans for re-building were already well advanced, large sums of public money had already been spent and to withdraw funding now would be a false economy as well as putting the life chances of young people at risk.

Councillor Ann M John, OBE, Labour Leader of Brent Council, welcomed the news but warned that the withdrawal of capital funds to other schools will still cause huge problems. Cllr John said:

“I am delighted for the Crest Academies but it really would have been madness to withdraw funding when the plans are so far advanced. However, the withdrawal of funding to other schools in Brent still leaves us facing a crisis in school places and it will inevitably lead to overcrowding and poor conditions, which will affect the life chances of our young people for generations to come.”

Creating a Pickle

In addition to the Building Schools for the Future cut from the Lib Dem Tory coalition Government, there were also local government cuts announced by Department for Communities and Local Government Secretary of State Eric Pickles.

The total amount that Brent will have to cut in this financial year as a result of the Con-Dem Coalition Government’s Budget is £2.25 million.  The largest element of this is the Education based grant reduction of £1.88 million (pdf. LINK).

Council Leader, Cllr. Ann John OBE, told a recent meeting of Labour Party members that it was too early for precise details of the impact of this cut to be worked through yet, but the Council would endeavour to protect services and save as many front line jobs as possible.  Some job losses appeared inevitable.

What’s more, is the conduct of the Government in announcing the cuts. Local Authorities were not contacted to be made aware of the cuts that they were being dished out. Instead they were left to find out through media sources.

Government Savages School places in Brent

Conservative Education Minister, Michael Gove, supported by his junior minister, Sarah Teather, MP for Brent Central, has withdrawn £80 million worth of funding for Brent schools under the ‘Building Schools for the Future’ (BSF) programme. The decision forms part of the Liberal Democrats ‘savage cuts’ agenda announced by Nick Clegg at last year’s Lib Dem conference and being implemented by the Con Dem coalition Government.

Brent has a rising school population and a shortage of school places at both primary and secondary stages. Seven of the borough’s secondary schools are in very poor condition, not fit for purpose and require urgent replacement. The first phase of the BSF funding was to cover the rebuilding and expansion of Copland Community School, Cardinal Hinsley Catholic College, Queen’s Park Community School and Alperton Community School.

In addition, the rebuilding of the Crest Academies is also ‘under review’. The Ark Academy is not affected by the cuts.

The Government’s decision means that Brent will not be able to meet the demand for new school places.

The Leader of Brent Council, Councillor Ann John, OBE, has condemned the Government’s action, which, she says, is driven by outdated right wing ideology. Cllr John said:

“This decision means that the future prospects of Brent’s school students are being sacrificed on the altar of an outdated right wing ideology which dictates that debt must be repaid over the shortest possible period irrespective of the damage to public services and to the economy. Moreover, scrapping capital projects like this damage the economy and increases the prospect of a ‘double dip’ recession. Any recovery will be led by growth in the construction industry and this is bad news for them as well”.

The Lead Member for Children & Families, Cllr Mary Arnold, added:

“This cut will lead to overcrowding, larger class sizes and a return to the days when Brent kids were taught in corridors rather than in class rooms. The government are creating slum schools of the future”.