This week we passed the Council’s budget for 2016/17. Take a look at my speech and let me know what you think.
“Thank you Madam Mayor.
Last month myself and Cllr Butt met with the Minister for Local Government.
I asked the Minister if he could offer the people of Brent any hope for the future after years of cuts.
He burst out laughing.
He literally laughed in our faces.
And now we know why.
Because the Tory Government had secretly set aside a huge pile of cash to bribe Tory Councils.
Millions more for disadvantaged, deprived areas like Surrey, Hampshire and Richmond.
But not a penny extra for Brent.
In fact £45m more cuts for Brent.
It is a scandal.
A Tory Government brutally cutting services for Brent residents in order to bribe Tory activists in the run-up to the EU Referendum.
Cynical politics of the lowest form.
Our budget is different.
It is open and it is honest.
It prioritises our most priceless services.
And it asks the Brent community to help share the load.
Madam Mayor, I’d like to thank everyone who took part in the consultation on this budget.
Our community has taken an absolute hammering from the Government since 2010. But it has shown incredible resilience.
It’s now time for Council and community to stand together.
To build a grassroots campaign to tell the Government that enough is enough.
To show that cuts to Councils are cuts to communities.
And to say that Brent’s community has had enough.
I’d like to thank Cllr Kelcher and the whole Scrutiny Committee for an excellent, challenging report.
I look forward to their involvement at an early stage in developing our next budget.
Madam Mayor, this budget is the product of months of work from the entire Labour Group.
So many Members have shaped it.
From Cllr Bradley championing income generation.
To Cllr Aslam Choudhry’s leading role on the Audit Committee.
To Cllr Tatler’s excellent work on young people’s mental health issues.
And I’d like to say a special thanks to my good friend Cllr Shafique Choudhary for his endless supply of constructive suggestions.
If only I could say the same of the parties opposite.
Cllr Kansagra provided a long commentary on national statistics, but his own budget is financially illiterate.
He wants to abolish the garden waste charge.
He wants to introduce half an hour of free parking.
Ok. And how will be pay for this?
He will, and I quote, “authorise the Chief Executive and the Chief Finance Officer and Chief Legal Officer to amend any other recommendations necessarily following from the above changes.”
So basically, he is asking Officers to find ways to pay for his budget.
We always say to our friends on the hard left that setting illegal budgets would just lead to Officers taking charge.
Well apparently voting Conservative also leads to Officers taking charge.
And Cllr Warren.
In his speech he made a truly awful joke at my expense. So I’ll do the same.
At the last Full Council meeting he started quoting Star Wars.
I have to say that his speech tonight would have made more sense if it was delivered by Chewbacca.
And while we’re on the subject of Star Wars.
Tall, gangling, incredibly annoying.
Surely the Jar-Jar Binks of Brent Council.
But let’s look at his proposals.
He said he had produced a detailed budget.
This is our budget. 170 pages.
This is his.
Hardly detailed is it?
I’m reminded of Victorian times when Gladstone’s Budget Speeches used to last over 4 hours.
You could deliver his budget in about 40 seconds.
We held seven public meetings on our budget over the course of six weeks.
He circulated his budget 53 minutes ago.
If he’s so confident in his detailed budget, why has he only shared it at the last minute?
Probably because, just like last year,
His budget is nothing more than a politically-motivated plundering of the reserves.
I’m really sorry to undermine his political posturing, but we are already undertaking a line-by-line review of the reserves as part of our new Investment Strategy.
And we have already scheduled a session to get Members’ views on this.
So let me be absolutely clear: where we can, we WILL invest the reserves.
But we will do so based on clear financial evidence.
Not based on his political posturing.
So let’s get serious.
Madam Mayor, this budget proposes the first increase in Council Tax since we were elected in 2010.
This is not a decision we took lightly.
But after years of holding down costs, we finally face a critical decision:
freeze Council Tax or cut essential services.
This budget unashamedly chooses to protect essential services.
So we are being open and honest with the public:
Please pay a little extra to help us protect your most precious services.
And Madam Mayor, I believe the public is with us.
Throughout the consultation residents supported this increase.
And I have had only one email opposing it.
One single email – plus Cllr Warren.
Cllr Warren opposes it, despite it being a flagship policy of his own Government.
His Government are so proud of this policy that they’ve actually written a Council Tax increase into our budget settlement.
So if Cllr Warren wants to cut Council Tax, he will have to make twice as many cuts to services to pay for it.
Still, it is refreshing to hear that he disagrees with his Government on something.
Perhaps he will now join us in disagreeing with some of his Government’s other policies?
Will he join us in condemning his Government for dismantling our NHS
and exploiting our junior doctors?
Or for creating a crisis in our teaching profession?
Will he condemn his Government’s vicious and vindictive Trade Union Bill?
Or its cruel and heartless Bedroom Tax?
Madam Mayor, the people of Brent aren’t stupid. They will see through his disingenuous posturing.
He call his Party the rays of sunshine?
They are the party of freezing fog –
cold, dark and dangerous.
Madam Mayor, in contrast to the cheap gimmickry of the parties opposite,
This budget lays down strong foundations for the future.
A Procurement Strategy to save millions by renegotiating contracts with suppliers.
A Social Value policy to ensure that companies generate returns for Brent residents and workers – not just private shareholders.
A Civic Enterprise agenda, marketing Brent’s expertise across London.
And an Investment Strategy, investing today to save tomorrow.
Madam Mayor, these long term initiatives enable us to protect our most priceless public services.
Councils across the country are closing Children’s Centres.
But this budget guarantees that every Children’s Centre in Brent will remain open.
Three-quarters of Councils are introducing home care visits lasting just fifteen minutes.
But not in Brent – thanks to this budget.
This budget proudly protects the invisible services which most of us never see,
but which are absolutely priceless.
So this budget makes absolutely no cuts to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.
No cuts to support for children with Special Educational Needs.
No cuts to meals on wheels.
And no cuts to the support we provide our carers.
Not just that Madam Mayor:
This budget invests extra money to hire children’s social workers.
It invests extra money to support our fantastic apprentices.
And it invests extra money to guarantee the future of our employment and skills team.
Madam Mayor, we have a Government which laughed in the face of the people of Brent.
A Government which cynically bribed Tory Councils with extra money.
A typical Tory Government.
Tonight we are introducing a proudly Labour budget.
A budget built upon our most priceless services.
A budget which honestly asks residents to pay a little more to protect these services.
Home care visits.
High quality social workers.
The services we all depend upon at the most vulnerable moments of our lives.
These causes do not have lobbyists.
They do not have Opposition Cllrs shouting about them.
But these priceless services do have a Labour Council which is absolutely determined to protect them.
This budget proudly does that and I ask all Members to support it.”