Brent Council passes a legal budget for Social Mobility and Local Democracy

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”.


Alan Milburn’s appointment is a great advert for Labour

There’s been a great deal of hoo haa over former Labour Party Minister Alan Milburn’s appointment this weekend as the Coalitions Government’s mobility Tsar. John Prescott has branded him a collaborator and Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham has gone on record to say that Milburn should reconsider his position. Whilst I am disappointed with Frank Field’s and John Hutton’s appointments, I’ve come to a different conclusion with Milburn’s appointment.

The appointment represents an acknowledgement of the lack of talent in the Conservative and Lib Dem benches. David Cameron and Nick Clegg clearly do not have anyone within their own party ranks capable or possessing the right qualities to advise on social mobility.

It also signals a bitter blow to the think tank, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), founded by former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, as the CSJ have been looking into the field of social mobility for years. A Labour politician being given the role disregards the work of the CSJ.

With all the cuts coming from this Government and the lack of investment in young people, his expertise can at least bring some progressive element into this Coalition Government who have done nothing but damage the prospects of young people so far.

The reason I have time for Alan Milburn is his approach to internships. Many MPs exploit the system and give young people internships to avoid paying them a wage, when in fact, they are carrying out roles with job descriptions to which there is a competitive recruitment process. For young people, there is no other route to break into Westminster and no alternative but to take the intern route into politics.

When in Parliament, Alan Milburn was one of the few that paid a national minimum wage to ‘interns’ and all MPs should follow suit.