Brent’s budget is annually assessed by the Government’s Audit Commission. The Audit Commission has now reported back to the Council about their findings from the 2010 / 2011 Audit. The Audit Commission has confirmed that “the Council has proper arrangement to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the use of its resources.”
It says that “significant changes are required over the next few years and tough decisions will be required to make them…. The Council’s transformation programme is helping it prepare and make the savings required for future financial stability”.
The report reminded me of the context of the cuts that Brent is making and said “Following the announcement of reductions in grant funding by government in May 2010, the Council approved an in-year savings plan of £15 million.
The medium term financial strategy (MTFS) was updated to include £106.7 million savings over the next four years to 2014/15. £41.7 million of savings have been included in the budget setting strategy for 2011/12. The Council is currently reviewing its approach to deliver the residual savings of £65 million between 2012/13 and 2014/15….. These substantial savings will have to be delivered against a background of increasing demand for council services and reduced management capacity…. The Council’s general reserves are low and earmarked reserves are falling while pressure on the Council’s resources in the coming years is significant and unprecedented. The maintenance of strong financial control will be essential if the Council is to achieve its plans. When setting its budget for 2012/13, the Council must continue to have regard to the increasing level of risk in setting its reserves.”
So with the £41 million plus cuts that the Council has already identified, a further £65 million has to be cut from Brent’s budget within this spending review period.
The Audit Commission acknowledges that “the achievement of such a significant savings plan whilst continuing to deliver quality services will remain challenging.”
Areas of improvement identified by the audit are to do with producing quality financial monitoring systems. Although there is acknowledgement that “It has been a particularly difficult year for the Council, implementing new financial systems and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) whilst also dealing with structural change, staff losses, and a highly challenging budget settlement. This has stretched finance resources and impacted on the Council’s ability to produce good quality financial statements and working papers.”
I previously mentioned here, that I would provide greater detail to reduction in Central Government Grants allocated to Brent Council for Children and Families. In Summer 2010 the Government cut £1,882,000 to Brent Council’s Children and Families Grant.
The detail of Sarah Teather’s Government cuts stemming from the reduction in ‘hidden grants’ to Brent’s Children are impossible to justify or defend.
- £68,000 reduction to care at home packages.
- £101,000 reduction in grant to fund Connexions. This will lead to non-renewal of four staff contracts and reduce contracts with the voluntary sector. Connexions provide information and advice to people to help make the decisions and choices in their lives.
- £26,000 grant to help tackle young people’s substance misuse. This could lead to a reduction in outreach work and targeted support.
- £162,000 reduction in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.
- £211,000 reduction in the Children’s Fund grant which could lead o a reduction of contracts for ESOL classes, parental support for vulnerable families, targeted sexual advice and support and an e-safety programme.
- £27,000 reduction in Teenage Pregnancy Grant which could lead to reduced services provided to children in Brent at risk of becoming parents.
- £45,000 reduction in the Youth Opportunities Fund which will lead to schemes being reduced or re-prioritised.
- A whopping £326,000 reduction in the Think Family grant, which will lead to a reduction in support to parents which is available at universal as well as targeted levels as well as a reduction in the Family Intervention Programme.
- £75,000 reduction in the Playbuilders grant which will lead to ceasing or scaling back of schemes that were already agreed to extend children’s play facilities.
- £30,000 cut to the Brent Community Friends grant, which will lead to some loss in services that are provided directly to looked after children.
As the Government Minister in the Department for Education, it is atrocious that MP for Brent Central Sarah Teather is inflicting so much damage to Brent’s children. Especially to those who are most vulnerable as the outlined cuts mentioned above suggest.
Further to my post of Central Government Grant reductions here, I mentioned that I would provide greater detail to reduction in Central Government Grants allocated to Brent Council. In particular, this blogpost will focus on reductions to the Performance Reward Grant.
I cannot stress the importance of Central Government Grants to Local Authorities. Brent Council receive around 80% of our funds from Central Government. 20% is raised through Council Tax.
In simplified terms, the Performance Reward Grant is awarded to Local Authorities to provide services. Reductions from the Coalition Government to our Performance Reward Grant impacted on multiple services. Below are just some of those impacted:
- £71,000 cut to Domestic Violence Prevention Programme. This money contributes to an advocacy advice service.
- £60,000 Volunteering Programme cut which was previously funded through the Performance Reward Grant.
- £287,000 cut in Sports Development for disabled children and diversionary activities for children at risk of getting involved in crime schemes as well as encouraging adults to be more physically active.
- £90,000 cut the Performance Reward Grant which was used for the Sustainability Green Zones scheme. Project support funding from National Government was halted resulting in the loss of two members of staff.
- £155,000 cut to a range of work to tackle Climate Change. Brent may now only be able to pursue meeting statutory minimums in this area.
- £100,000 cut to Library funds which was to be spent on improving library book stocks.
- £83,000 cut to Private Housing Services which was set to be used to meet the demand needed for the Disabled Facilities Grant. This Growth would have provided two new surveyors for Brent.
- £90,000 income maximisation cut which focused on reablement and hospital discharge projects. This was to support 500 people between the summer and March 2011.
Stay tuned for the hidden grant cuts to Children and Families Grants, the sector for which Brent Central MP Sarah Teather has Ministerial responsibility for throughout the whole country. The impact on cuts to these services to Brent is despicable. Especially seeing as we have a Government Minister imposing these cuts on our own children.
Before the elections, we did know that we would have to make £50 million cuts. After the elections, this figure grew in the region of £63 million. The June 2010 Emergency Budget and the Comprehensive Spending Review as well as yesterday’s announcement from Eric Pickles has pushed this up to a massive £98 million plus. We cannot touch Council Tax.
Our Council Budget is around £284 million. Taking £98 million out of a £280 million budget is terrifying when you come to think about it.
Sarah Teather’s ConDem Government’s cuts are deceptive. The Comprehensive Spending Review said that Government cuts were around 19%. However, we in Brent have to make cuts of around 27% over the next four years. This is typical Tory treachery as the difference in the figures show that these cuts are designed to have the face of Local Government plastered across them.
There are Authorities that are less organised than us and to be fair with the previous administration processes that they started setting in motion mean that we have already delivered £10 million in savings. In that sense, we are in a better place than other Boroughs.
The cuts are front-loaded. Next year, we have to make £36.7 million in savings. The One Council programme will deliver £21 million of this which means that we have to somehow find £16 million from somewhere. In 2012 we will have to make further cuts of around £24 million; £14.5 million in 2013 and £23 million in 2014. As you can see, compared to local services, high earners are not even being touched by the cuts.
Leaving the Comprehensive Spending Review aside for one moment, in the summer of 2010, the Coalition Government reduced certain grants to Brent Council which has directly impacted upon residents. Most of these cuts attacked the vulnerable in society. Around £6 million was cut from the council budget at this stage in the financial cycle with much being imposed on programmes that were actively in operation or where plans and structures were in place to utilise the Central Government Grants.
Central Government Grant Reductions
- £57,000 reduction to the Working Neighbourhood Fund Which provides a Language to Work Service to local residents. This was a programme budgeted for 2 years with 12 classes per year. The £57,000 loss is likely to reduce class frequency.
- £390,000 reduction in Housing and Planning Delivery Grant which has impacted on Town Centre Manager posts and budgets. This will curtail progress on developing Town Centres in Brent.
- £143,000 reduction in the Free Swimming Grant which gave free provision of swimming to older people and children under 16. This will impact on free swimming provision for children.
In addition nearly £1.9 million was cut from Brent’s Children and Families Grant and a further £3.2 million from our Performance Reward Grant. I will be writing about these two cuts in further detail in the near future.
Following the Comprehensive Spending Review, Brent will not know in detail our precise settlement from Sarah Teather’s Coalition until mid-December. What we do know is that these cuts will be front-loaded.
To put things into perspective, there are two astonishing facts about Teather’s Government’s cuts.
1. The average cut that Departments have to make following the Comprehensive Spending Review fall in the region of 19%
2. Brent Council has to make cuts of 27%
That’s right 27% – making the cuts disproportionately impact on local Councils. Indeed the cuts are designed to have the face of the Local Authority on them when in fact they are stemming from the Coalition Government.
I’ll be blogging more on the cuts in the next few days and weeks ahead.
If anyone had any doubts that these cuts are ideological and out to hit areas most in need this article says it all.
While Brent is having to make cuts in the region of 27%, areas where deprivation is not prominent such as Tunbridge Wells and West Oxfordshire will see their budgets increase by similar levels. This is not fair. Why should Brent have to pay for Budget increases in richer areas.
Civil servants have realised this but there seems to be no desire from the Treasury to budge on this according to the report.
A picture tells a thousand words. Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander appear joyous and congratulate and pat George Osborne on the back as he delivers his regressive Comprehensive Spending Review.
IMMIDIATE BRENT COUNCIL LABOUR GROUP RESPONSE:
The Labour Deputy Leader of Brent Council, Councillor Muhammed Butt has warned that the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review will lead to acute hardship for local people and will threaten economic recovery.
Economic growth is at best anaemic, mortgage lending is at a ten low year and long term unemployment is rising. In the Brent Central constituency alone, male unemployment is already at 8.2%. School building and play builder programmes have been slashed, which will hit the construction industry – the engine of economic recovery – as well as a generation of school students; welfare benefits have been cut.
Local authority spending is to be cut by more than 25%, which will impact on poorer and more vulnerable sections of the community who most depend on public services. Tuition fees are set to more than double making it impossible for young people from working class and middle income families to get a degree. Meanwhile, the bankers who caused the crisis will continue to receive obscene bonuses.
Deputy Leader of Brent Council, Muhammed Butt said:
“Everyone agrees that the deficit needs to be reduced but it is a question of how quickly that is done. Before the election the Liberal Democrats agreed with us that cutting too fast too soon would damage the recovery – that speed kills. They changed their mind as soon as they were offered ministerial limousines. The government makes the analogy with credit card debt but a more appropriate analogy is with mortgages. What rational person would go without food in order to pay off their mortgage within five years? The truth is that these cuts are driven by the Tories’ secret agenda to destroy the welfare state, something they have always wanted to do and the Liberal Democrats are their partners in crime”.