Brent Labour’s Budget Proposals

On Monday 1st March Brent Council met to determine its budget for 2010-11. Labour opposed the package of cuts and redundancies proposed by the Lib Dem/Tory administration. Labour also re-affirmed its promise to scrap the £25 charge for bulky refuse collection, which has led to an epidemic of dumping across the Borough Other proposals included:

FREE PARKING TO ENCOURAGE LOCAL SHOPPING FOR LOCAL PEOPLE

Labour will be proposing free parking for the first hour in council car parks (all of which are close to local shopping centres) in order to discourage local people from driving to ‘out of town’ shopping centres like Brent Cross, where parking is free, to encourage people to shop locally. This would have the effect of reducing carbon emissions and also have the effect of boosting local businesses with local people using local shops.

Labour’s Transport Spokesperson, Cllr Lena Ahmed, said:

“We believe that parking restrictions and charges in local shopping centres are bad for business and we want to encourage local shopping for local people so that local people use local shops. The cost in lost revenue is a mere £96,840, which is a small price to pay for a significant boost to the local economy during the world economic downturn”.

Labour is also calling for residents’ parking charges to be linked to carbon emissions with higher charges for vehicles which cause the most pollution.

These measures will form part of a ‘Green Charter’, which Labour will present to the electorate as part of its manifesto.

AN END TO THE LIB DEMS’ CARE CHARGE RIP-OFF

Having promised free personal care for the elderly before the last election, The Brent Lib Dems have increase some home care charges by nearly 300%. Labour voted against these increases and is pledged to review the charges. However, the government has now introduced the Personal Care at Home Bill, which will eliminate many of these charges.

Labour’s Spokesperson for Adults, Health & social Care, Cllr Ruth Moher, said:

“Those who receive home care are amongst the most vulnerable people in our borough and we will protect them”.

NO TO HOUSING ON PUBLIC OPEN SPACE

Labour’s budget proposals contain a specific pledge to reverse the Lib Dems’ plans for housing development in Barham Park and to protect all public open space from rapacious developers. In December, the Lib Dem controlled Executive agreed the sale of 776-778 Harrow Road, Wembley, which is in Barham Park, for housing development and Labour fears that a tower block may be built there.

Labour’s Environment and Planning Spokesperson, Cllr James Powney, said:

“The Lib Dems sneaked this report through the Executive just before Christmas and entitled it ‘Disposal of 776-778 Harrow Road’ in the hope that nobody would notice that the site is in fact IN Barham Park. The report allows for housing development on the site. Labour is opposed to any housing being built on public open space and we will fight this proposal all the way”.

Labour’s budget proposals also sought to reverse the sale of the scout hut at Oliver Goldsmith School.

ACTION FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

With Brent South Labour MP, Dawn Butler, being Minister for Young People, it is no surprise that Labour’s budget proposals seek to improve services for teenagers and young people. The party proposes a multi use games area in every suitable open space and regrets the Lib Dems’ decision to remove years 2 & 3 funding from the budget for improvements to Kingsbury’s Roe Green Park. Labour is also committed to restoring the cut in funding for the ‘Positive Activities for Young People’ programme, which is a Youth Service project working with young people at risk of social exclusion engaging them in constructive activity programmes in order to assist their progress into education or employment.

Labour’s spokesperson for Children and Families, Cllr Mary Arnold, said:

“It’s a false economy to cut youth spending because with nothing better to do, young people can sometimes drift into trouble, become a nuisance to everybody else and miss out on educational and employment opportunities, which will affect their life chances. Given the opportunity for positive activities, young people generally develop their talents and skills and they will thrive”.

SUPPORT FOR ADVICE AGENCIES

Labour will maintain the £22,000 one off increase in funding for advice agencies and seek to develop innovative ways to link advice, debt management and job seeking support services.

Kilburn ward Councillor Mary Arnold, who has campaigned against the closure of Brent In2 Work and cuts to advice services, said:

“Brent is slowly emerging from the world wide recession but the recovery is fragile and will be put at risk if the Tories or Liberals are in power. It is therefore important to retain the extra funding for advice agencies and to link advice, debt management and job seeking support services.

REPAIR POT HOLES BEFORE PAYING CONSULTANTS

Labour Councillors will slash spending on consultants by £1.5 million and use the money saved to repair pot holes and broken pavements. The Council’s own budget report shows that the cost of claims for injuries sustained on broken pavements has risen by over 30%. The Lib Dem and Tory council is also proposing to cut spending on street cleaning.

Labour’s Environment Spokesperson, Cllr James Powney, said:

“There are more pot holes in Brent’s roads than there are in the Yorkshire Dales and they are a danger to motorists in general and especially to cyclists. Meanwhile, broken pavements are an ever present danger to disabled residents and others with impaired mobility. Instead of wasting money on consultants who tell us nothing new we should repair our roads and pavements”.

Labour will also be seeking to reduce the grossly excessive spending of £16 million a year on temporary and agency staff.

Labour’s Deputy Leader and Finance Spokesperson, Cllr Muhammed Butt, said:

“How can the Lib Dems and Tories justify employing nearly 600 temporary and agency staff at a cost in excess of £16 million a year when we are sacking 250 permanent staff?”

Labour Government ready to guarantee funding for Crest Academies

At the Council meeting in September the Liberal Democrats and Tories who run Brent Council rejected a Labour motion to pursue the compulsory purchase of land adjoining the new Crest Academies (formerly John Kelly schools) to ensure outdoor sports facilities. They rejected the motion on the basis that further delay would jeopardise government funding. The Council’s failure to pursue the purchase of the land will also prolong the construction period from 18 months to four years and the £5 million earmarked for the purchase will be wasted on temporary accommodation.

It was apparent at the September meeting that the Lib Dems and Tories had made no attempt to meet with Government ministers to ascertain whether Government funding would in fact be at risk if the compulsory purchase was pursued. Accordingly, Brent South Labour MP, Dawn Butler arranged a meeting with Schools Minister Vernon Coaker on 21 October 2009 and that meeting was also attended by local Labour Councillors Ralph Fox and Lena Ahmed who both represent Dollis Hill ward and by Labour’s Education spokesperson, Cllr Mary Arnold.

Mr Coaker has now written to Dawn Butler to confirm that full government funding would still be available should the Council revisit its decision on the CPO (compulsory purchase order). If you would like to see a copy of Vernon Coaker’s letter, email me on krupesh@bclabour.org.uk.

The Leader of Brent Council’s Labour Opposition, Cllr Ann M John, OBE, thanked Dawn Butler for brokering the meeting with Mr Coaker and thanked her colleagues for attending.

Cllr John welcomed the Government’s decision and said:

“The Minister is effectively asking the Council to look at this again and pursue Labour’s original plan for first rate academies with first rate facilities, including outdoor sports facilities to be built with the minimum of disruption to the existing school community. The Lib Dems and Tories now have no excuse for building the new schools without acquiring the adjacent land”.