Friday, 23 November 2012

Draft Budget-Council tax freeze in Brent

COUNCIL tax will be frozen for another year in Brent in a budget that ‘will help to protect the most vulnerable residents’, according to the council leader Cllr Muhammed Butt.
Cllr. Muhammed Butt told Monday’s full council meeting: “As a result of the coalition government’s policies, what we face is nothing short of a budget emergency.
“Resolving this will require the complete transformation of the council as an organisation and the way in which we deliver services to residents.
“This Labour council will bring forward a package of reforms that will help to protect our most vulnerable residents.
“It will put fairness, jobs, growth and community at the heart of everything the council does.”
The draft budget includes £7.8million of savings combined with an extra £7.7m of spending just to address growing demand and the impact of inflation.
Mr Butt said the council will be leading the way for Brent becoming a Living Wage Borough – ensuring staff and contractors, except those in social care, receive at least £8.55 an hour.
It also wants to create an energy co-operative to bulk-buy energy and supply low-price power to its citizens, and will unveil initiatives to get rid of what Mr Butt branded ‘slum housing’ by ensuring the quality and management of the borough’s private sector accommodation is up to scratch.
The administration promises a ‘new deal’ with Brent’s businesses by introducing measures to foster enterprise and investment.
The 2013/14 budget also contains £3.4m to cover redundancy and restructuring costs, as well as £1.4m to meet the growth in the cost of Freedom Pass and £900,000 to underwrite the South Kilburn Estate redevelopment. In the capital programme, the council proposes to spend £33.8m on school improvements.
Councillor Paul Lorber, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, said: “There was very little substance in the budget. We have a number of concerns, one of those being the amount of money being wasted, both on getting rid of the chief executive and director of finance at a cost running into hundreds of thousands of pounds, and on the upkeep of empty library buildings.
“And the council has, under Labour, been extremely business unfriendly, in particular their parking charges.”

source Harrow Observer.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Liberal Conspiracy

Proposed changes by the Mayor of London to the ‘London Plan’ signal the death of social rented and family housing in London, says a key Labour Assembly Member.
The Plan is the overarching planning document for London, which amongst other things, sets guidelines that determine how much social and family housing will be built in London.
Under the current funding regime social housing is not currently delivered by the Mayor, it is delivered by the 32 London Boroughs.
Labour’s London Assembly Planning spokesperson Nicky Gavron says

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Election Update -

Labour's candidate Andy Sawford has won the Corby by-election with a majority of over 7,791. Andy was previously chief executive at the Local Government Information Unit.

In the other two Parliamentary by-elections last week, Lucy Powell won Manchester Central for Labour to become the city’s first female Labour MP and Stephen Doughty won Cardiff South & Penarth.

13 new Labour Police and Crime Commissioners have been elected, along with 16 Conservatives and 12 Independents. No Liberal Democrat candidates were successful. You can view a breakdown of the full results and further analysis. The LGA Labour Group Office will be contacting all new Labour PCCs this week to see what support might be useful from the LGA.

Just one in six voters took part in the PCC elections, with the Electoral Commission expressing "concern for democracy" and due to investigate the low turnout.

Labour's candidate Marvin Rees came second in the Bristol Mayor contest. The new Mayor, George Ferguson had been a Liberal Democrat councillor first elected as a Liberal in the 1970s, standing twice in the 1980s as a Liberal Parliamentary candidate, before resigning from the Liberal Democrats in May 2012 shortly before announcing he would stand as an independent candidate for Mayor.

People in Hartlepool voted to abolish the role of directly elected mayor in the town, following a referendum held last week.

source LGA Labour Group 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Benefit cap is “immoral”

The Observer carries an interview with Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather who says the Government’s plan to impose a £500-a-week cap on benefits is “immoral” and “divisive”. Ms Teather, formerly the coalition minister for children and families, says the policy will have devastating effects on many thousands of children whose lives will be disrupted as their parents are forced to uproot from their homes. She adds that there will be a “reverse Jarrow march” in the run up to next April as families leave London, in search of new homes.
Source: The Observer

Lunchtime takeaways banned?

The Sunday Times reports that Boris Johnson wants to ban pupils from leaving school at lunchtime to eat takeaways. He is also trying to curb the number of fast-food outlets located near schools. He will issue guidance to London councils on the matter this week.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Council eyes new locations

The Daily Telegraph reports that Brent Council is looking to strike deals with private landlords in Coventry, Birmingham and Swindon, where rents are cheaper, to house potentially more than 3,000 homeless people. The authority says that when the Government’s new benefit cap is introduced many of its tenants will be unable to pay rent. A report to the council’s executive calculates that in some cases the council will be left with a weekly shortfall of £172. Ed Ruane, Coventry’s cabinet member for housing, said Brent had not contacted his council. “I would never agree to housing residents from other authorities knowing the enormous burden we are already under here,” he said.

Source: The Daily Telegraph, Page: 4

Friday, 16 November 2012

The end of local government?

The brutality of spending cuts is leaving councils with little room for manoeuvre – and outsourcing is often no longer an option

Local government minister Eric Pickles listens to David Cameron's speech at the 2012 Conservative party conference in Birmingham. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
It was, looking back, ironic that the Tory party conference took place this year in Birmingham. Even Eric Pickles, a man not prone to worrying much about symbolism, might appreciate the poignancy of his address to members of the Local Government Association at a fringe event taking place just a few steps away from the striking facades of the modern building that will become Birmingham's new central library.
Those councillors who listened, mostly politely, to Pickles are now deep into the process of making brutal, unprecedented cuts. The figures are staggering: £600m must be taken out of Birmingham city council's budget alone by 2017. As historian and Labour MP Tristram Hunt pointed out, the cuts put at grave risk the "heroic, civilising function of local government". Birmingham's new library isn't even complete, but the contrast could not be clearer between what it stands for – this "heroic, civilising function" – and the hammer blows of cuts now raining down on local services.
Birmingham leader, Sir Albert Bore, called it the "end of local government as we know it". Barnsley councillor Tim Cheetham agrees. He believes councils are planning their own demise. By 2019, says Cheetham, adult social care costs going inexorably up will meet reducing council budgets coming inexorably down. "From that point on councils will be doing nothing else. There will no longer be a local authority," he predicts.
This may sound over-dramatic, but local authorities really do have very little room for manoeuvre. Simply cutting existing services will no longer do. A guide to commissioning services published by the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (Solace) acknowledges this in the guide's title: "When the salami's gone".
What else will work? Privatisation and outsourcing, the mantra of rightwing governments, no longer hold much appeal. Joint ventures, once seen as combining the best of public and private approaches, are running into trouble, with Cornwall county council's controversial £300m strategic partnership model, which proposed the creation of a huge joint venture involving the council, local NHS organisations and a major private sector outsourcing firm, rolling into the long grass. It is not possible to outsource services that no longer exist. Stephen Hughes, the chief executive of Birmingham, has said that traditional outsourcing "won't cut the mustard".
Councils are desperate to manage and reduce demand for services. Advocates of early intervention claim good early-years support will reduce later, more costly spending on, say, prisons. But early intervention alone won't help councils reduce demand for their social services. Louise Morpeth, a senior researcher at the Dartington Social Research Unit, says that if a council has 100 foster care places and puts in lots of early intervention services, that could prevent 100 children from taking up those places. But because there is always more demand than supply, those places will still be filled. The only way to change that is to cut the number of places.
Giving this year's Sandy Bruce-Lockhart memorial lecture, former Tory leader Lord Howard said "local government has entered a new and exciting phase," and he exhorted local leaders to become "community champions".
In Barnsley, people are noticing the longer grass – the bins emptied less often, says Cheetham. They will be noticing a lot more than that soon. Next year, perhaps the Conservatives should avoid Birmingham and go back to the seaside. But wherever they go, they will not be able to avoid the impact of cuts on local government.
with courtesy of the Guardian

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Birmingham City Council to pay £575m and Brent Dilemma?

Birmingham City Council has revealed it will have to pay at least £757m to settle equal pay claims brought by mainly women who missed out on bonuses.
Last month 174 people who worked in traditionally-female roles won a ruling at the Supreme Court over the pay.
The £757m includes claims by that group and hundreds of other city council workers.
The remaining money the council still has to pay out is budgeted into the £600m it says it has to save by 2017.
Council leader Sir Albert Bore said the equal pay ruling had left the Labour-run council in a "horrendous position financially".
He reiterated warnings that entire services run by the authority, which has an annual budget of about £1bn, would have to be "decommissioned" to meet the budget shortfall.
He said he also expected the figures of claims to rise "but by how much, we don't know".

source BBC

Friday, 9 November 2012

The Communities Secretary Eric Pickles

The Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has vowed to introduce legislation which will make it easier for councils to dismiss their chief executives. He will allegedly scrap laws requiring councils to employ lawyers to review dismissal and disciplinary cases involving officers. Mr Pickles claims the costs of the cases are often so big that councils often prefer to give chief executives pay-offs rather than go through an expensive legal process. He will also urge more councils to consider abolishing the role of chief executive or try to merge the post across councils. Mr Pickles also takes aim at levels of pay in local government, which he believes remain too high. He draws comparisons to the pay of the PM when comparing management’s pay levels. 
 The Daily Telegraph

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Labour backs living wage

The Observer reports that Labour plans to deliver a “living wage” of well over £7.20 an hour – rising to £8.30 in London – for workers in both the public and private sectors. The former Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, says the party is considering introducing the initiative to lift people out of poverty. He adds that financial incentives could be offered to local authorities and other employers that require their private contractors to pay the living wage. Elsewhere, the BBC reports that Newcastle City Council has agreed to pay its employees the living wage. The authority says paying the living wage to staff will cost it around £1m extra every year, but this cost will be met through “internal efficiencies”. It is noted in the Independent that there are now 19 local authorities which have been accredited as “living wage employers”.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Answers from the Mayor to Navin Shah’s questions– October 2012

A & E Service at the Northwick Park Hospital
Question No: 3281 / 2012
Navin Shah
Do you agree that the Accidents and Emergency Department at Northwick Park Hospital is bursting at the seams already and will not be able to cope with the extra pressure on it from the closure of A& E at the Central Middlesex Hospital?
Written response from the Mayor*
As you know, I do not have a delivery role for NHS services in the capital or for reconfiguration decisions.
 I understand from NHS London that in this particular case additional funding has been made available from the Department of Health to enable the Trust to build a new A&E department and urgent care centre at Northwick Park Hospital to respond to growing patient numbers.

Accessibility issues for Brent Residents
Question No: 3282 / 2012
Navin Shah
Do you agree that Northwick Park A & E is not a viable option for those residents in Brent in the areas like Harlesden and Park Royal due to poor public transport links?
Written response from the Mayor*
NHS North West London is running an extensive consultation on proposals to change healthcare services in their area, including not only hospitals but also more local services such as community and primary care. I understand that accessibility for patients was one of the criteria in developing the options that were proposed in the consultation. An equality impact assessment was completed in June 2012 which looked specifically at travel times to see if it would have any detrimental effects on access to services. As is standard practice, NHS North West London will be discussing the transport issues arising from their proposals with Transport for London and local authorities.

London Suburban Rail Service
Question No: 3292 / 2012
Navin Shah
We’ve been pressing to improve train frequencies at Sudbury & Harrow and other Stations (Chiltern Railways) in Brent. Now that the new Secretary of State for Transport has agreed to set up a new mechanism to give the Mayor of London a say in service levels for London suburban rail services would you be prepared to make our longstanding concerns about the poor frequency of trains one of your priorities for discussion with Ministers under this new system?
Written response from the Mayor*
I expect the joint TfL-DfT working group’s main focus to be TfL’s proposals for devolution of parts of the South Eastern and Greater Anglia networks.

As you know, I remain committed to seeking improvements to Chiltern services in London, and have been actively pressing for such improvements through existing rail industry processes and a recent exchange of letters with the Managing Director of Chiltern Railways.

London’s Libraries
Question No: 3294 / 2012
Navin Shah
Please give an update any progress you’ve made in safeguarding closure of Libraries in London or ways of supporting local groups fighting to save local libraries and seeking alternative means of maintaining Library provision.
Written response from the Mayor*
I continue to champion the importance of public libraries and the role they play in local communities. I recently opened a new library in Hillingdon and I am pleased that a number of new libraries have opened in London over the last year.

I do understand the concerns of local groups where closures are being proposed and my officers continue to liaise with London Councils and Arts Council England, the strategic body for libraries to ensure that we maintain a high quality library service. However, responsibility for provision and funding of library services remains with local authorities.

In addition, my Team London Love Libraries project continues to support London's Libraries with over 2000 volunteers helping with a variety of new activities including reading and IT support across 13 London boroughs.
Willesden Green Library Centre
Question No: 3295 / 2012
Navin Shah
Are you, in principle, supportive of maintaining the old locally listed Library building on the site?
Written response from the Mayor*
I continue to champion the importance of public libraries and the role they play in local communities. I am pleased that a number of new libraries have opened in London over the last year and I will continue to work with local boroughs and Arts Council England to maintain a high quality library service. But responsibility for provision and funding of library services remains with local authorities.

The question of retaining the old library building on the Willesden Green site is one for the local authority, but I understand Brent Council has undergone an extensive consultation process and is now planning to retain the Old Library building within the new Willesden Green Library Centre development, which is being planned to improve the library service in the Borough.

Change to bus route 224
Question No: 3296 / 2012
Navin Shah
The residents of St Raphael’s Estate in Brent have been deeply concerned about bus service to their estate. Can you please brief me about the planned change to route 224? How soon will the change be implemented?
Written response from the Mayor*
Following a review and discussions with Brent Council and local residents, TfL is proposing to divert route 224 in order to give a higher level of service between Brent Park and the estate.  TfL aims to introduce the diversion before the end of 2012 but an exact date has yet to be agreed.