Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Councillors agree Brent Council budget for 2015/16

  • Children's centres, connexions service, CCTV service, and the Millennium day care centre all saved
  • Sixth Brent Council tax freeze in budget plans recommended by Cabinet to full council
  • Cuts in funding to Brent Play Association and school crossing patrols also agreed

Council services for Brent's young and vulnerable people have been saved after Brent councillors approved a budget for the coming year.
Brent Council needs to find savings of £54million over two years due to significant cuts in central Government funding and Councillors pored over the details of where savings will be found and new income streams created at the annual budget meeting yesterday (March 2).
Despite the challenging financial position, local Children's Centres, Youth Services and the New Millennium Day Centre have all been saved as are rough sleeping services, CCTV services and the Brent Connexions careers advice service for young people.
Brent councillors also backed proposals for a sixth successive council tax freeze and outlined the council's commitment to creating new streams of revenue for the authority.
The freeze will mean that the average council tax bill in Brent will now be fifteen per cent lower in real terms compared to 2010.
The voting-through of the budget also means that a proposed 20 per cent reduction in social care staff will now be halved to only a ten per cent cut, home care visits will not be cut to fifteen minutes, and there will be no cuts in funding for respite care services, day care, or in the free swimming programme for young children and pensioners.
However, with cuts of £54m needed over the next two years, on top of cuts of £89m since 2010, not every service could be saved.
Among the more high profile cuts approved last night was the decision to end the funding to the Brent Play Association for the running of the Stonebridge Adventure Playground. Councillors also agreed to cease its funding of school crossing patrols, with schools now being asked to find the money from their considerable reserves.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Michael Pavey, Deputy Leader of Brent Council and Cabinet Member for Finance, said: 
"In December, we started a conversation. We needed to, because our funding from the Government  is being significantly reduced.
"We sincerely wanted to listen, so we put real choices on the table. We put forward £60m worth of proposals, when only £54m need to be implemented.
"We made genuine changes to our draft plans as a result of the views we heard.
"We have done everything possible to protect the frontline. We have cut senior management by £1.4m and we have squeezed bureaucracy ferociously. But the pace and scale of the cuts to our funding means, unfortunately, we cannot protect every valued service.
"We do not want to cut School Crossing Patrols and it was clear from the consultation that they are a popular community service. However, when we have to cut £54m and at the same time our schools have a total surplus in their protected budgets of £17m, it should be schools not the council, which funds crossing patrols."
Cllr Pavey also outlined how the 2015/16 budget is creating new streams of revenue for the authority. For example, new homes and jobs mean many more people are paying council tax and business rates which brings in millions in extra income.
He said: "Months of work have gone into this budget and months more will go into taking these proposals forward in partnership with the community.
"Disagree with our proposals by all means. But have the creativity to come up with something better than 'no cuts', because 'no cuts' today means 'barbaric cuts' tomorrow.
"This budget protects vital services. It contains a huge squeeze on bureaucracy and a series of charges - though not an increase in Council Tax, because the burden for this would have fallen on those least able to pay.
"This budget does cut some services we would have much preferred to preserve. And we acknowledge that this will cause pain. In response, we started a conversation with the community. We listened. And where possible we changed our minds.
"As a result we have a budget which fulfils all our statutory obligations and safeguards the services the most vulnerable members of our community depend upon - including all our Children's Centres, respite for carers and 30 minute care visits. And we have saved the Millennium Day Centre."

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