Sunday, 30 September 2012

Join campaigners from across London to show that we support ALL our Health Services. We will not allow one hospital to be played off against another.

NO TO AUSTERITY - Brent TUC October 11th

Thursday 11th October 7.00 - 9.00 pm
Learie Constantine Centre 
43 - 47 Dudden Hill Lane NW10 2ET
George Binette Chair, Camden Trades Council
Phil O'Reilly Secretary, Brent UNISON (Local Governement)
Matt Wrack General Secretary, Fire Brigades Union 

Defend NW London NHS on October 6th

Butt on the cuts and next year's budget

This report on the meeting with Cllr Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council is from Wembley Matters

Speaking at an open meeting of Brent Trades Union Council Wednesday September 26th, Brent Council leader Muhammed Butt admitted that some of the decisions the  council had made could have been made more wisely and that things could have been done differently. He said that he wants to take residents' views into account more in the future and that desire had caused some 'push back', which had culminated in the argument with Gareth Daniel.

He said that he wanted to take a detailed look at the council's budget, "How we provide services and why, reviewing every service."  He said that all directly employed council workers would receive the London Living Wage from October 1st  and that the council would be writing to schools to urge them to pay the LLW. He would be meeting with the London Living Wage Foundation to find ways of ensuring all the council's suppliers were London Living Wage compliant. He said that given the current difficult times the council had to do something positive to put money in people's pockets.

Other initiatives were to look at tenancies and how the council could improve standards without increasing rents, extend collective  energy procurement to include residents as well as council buildings and schools, and find ways of strengthening voluntary organisations such as the Credit Union, Private Tenants Group and the Law Centre.

He said, "We want to go back to what Labour stands for and why we are here."

In the discussion Butt was urged to recognise that the Labour Party was much more than just a council, it was part of the labour movement, and thus should be a campaigning  organisation against the capitalist system. He was asked how he was planning to organise a fightback alongside trades unions and the community.

Butt responded, "Me being here is just a start. I am willing to go anywhere, whether to a warm reception or a hostile one, to have a dialogue."

 He said that the Labour Group had appointed a new local organiser who would help get their message across and have a dialogue to move things forward, "We are starting campaigning and need to raise awareness. We want to make that change and if we don't our residents will suffer."

Asked about the budget process and council tax increases and urged to construct a needs budget as a campaigning tool,  he said that with the changes in the consultation system (The Area Consultation Forums have been replaced by Brent Connects) with a member/officer Any Questions type panel there would be more of a dialogue. Council Tax rises of 2.5% and 3.5% had been factored into budget planning but the council were waiting to see what other London councils were doing. The government's announcement of the settlement had been delayed until December but the council wanted an  indication before then. The council were also lobbying the government over the additional 60,000-70,000 extra residents indicated by the latest census which could be worth an additional £4m . This could negate the need for a rise in council tax because the council would only get 65% of the money raised by an increase He indicated that because of the delays the statutory consultation may run out of time.  He invited people to feed specific suggestions and questions into the budget making process.

When others present pursued the issue of making a needs based budget (ie deficit budget)  Cllr Butt said they were looking at campaigning  against the cuts. However, "We can oppose the cuts but budgets have to be set. We wouldn't be doing anyone any favours if the commissioners came in. They would keep only statutory services such as schools and adult social care. We would lose Sports Centres for example. We would land ourselves in more problems by taking that route. Instead we will have a dialogue which may mean working with other London boroughs. If you are asking us to take a lead, we will take a lead."

Outlining the sums the council needed to run services he said that government funding to Brent  was now £152m, was £192m, and by 2016 would be £110m.  Schools and Adult Social Care took £140m of this. The council needed £250m to run services so this total had to be made up from Council Tax and fees and charges.

Another speaker told Butt that a needs budget could not be set in the Town Hall, the council need to go out to voluntary organisations, trades unions and community groups - that was real democracy. He claimed that Labour had "forgotten what democracy looks like". In the absence of a fightback all sorts of rightwing nastiness and racism could arise.

Another speaker returned to the issue asking, "Are you considering a needs budget. It is a good propaganda tool showing what is needed and where the gaps are. Are you considering this or just administering cuts? We can't wait for the next Labour government. We need concrete exmaples of how you are going to fight."

Butt said that he was not ruling out a needs budget which would "show how much we have lost and how much we need". . Muhammed's new political advisor  he would be lobbying the Labour Party over how much cash needs to be put back into local government after the disproportionate cuts it had suffered.

On the issue of Willesden Green Library, raised by three members of the audience, Cllr Butt  said that he had met with Keep Willesden Green campaigners and had passed on their concerns to Galliford Try, planners and the Regeneration Team, and their points will be taken into consideration for the new plans being presented in December.. He said that the old Willesen Library was now being retained and this meant internal redesigns. The council were still looking at 92 private units at the back of the site and this was the only way to fund it.

He was challenged with  the alternative of a small amount of building and refurbishment and the loss of the cinema,  bookshop and car park in the current plans.   The questioner said, "It's like saying I need a new boiler so I will knock my house down! I've heard it called asset stripping."  Butt responded that a lot of the 'stuff' in the 80s building had come to the end of its natural life and the building was unfinished. The cafe and cinema  had closed as a result of not being used. "We need a mini Civic Centre in Willesden so people from this area don't have to travel all the way to Wembley and we need it an no cost to us."

On the plight of the disabled he said that he took the point about how they were being hit and that he was looking at helping them through the Council Tax Support Scheme: "If we have to lobby the government we will do so."

In answer to another questioner about the council's ambivalent attitude to free schools and academies and a possible forced academy in the borough, Butt said that they were a last resort to address the shortage of school places. He said that for free schools the council had set out criteria for partners that would keep the essential principles in terms of admissions, ethos and teachers conditions of service. He was urged to consider federation of schools and extending schools as an alternative.

Asked about the Counihan family, Muhammed Butt said that it was a difficult case. Brent had 18,000 families on the waiting list and only 900 properties available. The council hoped to provide 1,700 affordable properties by 2014. He said the only way  to tackle the problem was through regeneration and Section 106 funds  and the council needed to find developer partners. The situation would be exacerbated by the new Right to Buy scheme which would take out larger properties.

Clr Butt concluded by saying that the council had been rubbished by the press and had to admit it had got its messages wrong: "We need to get better, even if it means starting from scratch."

Pete Firm, chair of Brent TUC said that he felt the council were rolling over in front of developers. Labour seemed to be assuming it was going to win the next election, However, it should not be a matter of voting Labour because the alternatives were worse but Labour putting forward policies that people would be enthusiastic about.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Muhammed Butt, the Labour Leader of Brent Council is coming to the meeting of Brent Trades Union Council this Wednesday evening, 26th September.
This part of the meeting will be a question and answer session with Councillor Butt, in which people may wish to ask him about the Council’s budget strategy and cuts, its relationship (or not) with chief officers, its involvement in the campaign to defend the NHS among other issues.
The meeting is open to all interested people, though preference in discussion will be given to Trades Council delegates, and is at the discretion of the chair. You are also welcome to stay for the rest of the meeting after Muhammed Butt has left.
Please try and arrive on time to avoid disrupting the meeting.
The meeting is at 7.30 p.m. at the Trades Hall, 375 High Road, NW10 2JR, near Willesden bus garage.
Pete Firmin, chair, Brent TUC

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Christine Gilbert, former OFSTED Chief, appointed interim Brent Council Chief Executive

The announcement that former OFSTED chief, Christine Gilbert, has been appointed interim Chief Executive of Brent Council to replace Gareth Daniel, makes this evening's meeting on The Future of Education in Brent at Copland High School in Wembley High Rd even more relevant. The meeting starts at 7.00 pm and Melissa Benn is the main speaker.

The Campaign to Defend our Health Services continues

The campaign continues. Please support these events:
Monday 24 September 6 - 8 pm Stonebridge Centre, Hillside NW10 8BN.
Brent LINk public consultation event with Dr Mark Spencer, Medical Director of NHS NW London – an important chance to make your views known.To confirm your attendance email or ring 020 8965 0309

Wednesday 26 Sept 10 am: Brent Town Hall, NHS NW London Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Brent) Open to the public and press.

Saturday 29 Sept 10 am - 4 pm: Harlesden Methodist Church NHS NW London Roadshow with Q & A from 11 am - 12 noon. Another chance to have your say about why we need health services where the health needs are greatest. 

Wednesday 26 Sept 7 pm: Victoria Hall, Ealing Town Hall Debate between Dr Mark Spencer of NHS NW London and Dr John Lister of London Health Emergency, author of the report NW London NHS Under the Knife.

Friday 28 Sept 7 pm Hammersmith & Charing X Campaign debate Phoenix High School, the Curve, Shepherds Bush

Saturday 6 Oct Demonstration for Hammersmith and Charing X Hospitals and all NW London Health Services: assemble 12 noon Sulgrave Rd nr Shepherds Bush Green. March to Frank Banfield Park nr Charing X Hospital

Ealing Campaign =-0yt
Hammersmith & Charing X Campaign

Sunday, 16 September 2012

What future for education in Brent?

Changes in education are coming thick and fast and it is hard to keep up, let alone work out what they mean for children, parents, teachers, headteachers and governors in our schools.

There is an urgent need for a discussion about the changes that are taking place. Brent teacher unions, supported by Brent Fightback, have organised a debate open to everyone in Brent who is concerned about the future of our education system, both nationally and locally.

Academies and free schools, changes in the curriculum, the crisis in the exam system, increases in the size of primary schools, the shortage of primary school places which will soon extend to secondary schools, the role of school governors, changes in the way schools are supported by the local authoirty and privatisation are all issues which cry out for debate.

The  debate that will take place on Thursday 20th September at Copland Community School, Wembley  from 7-9pm.

Speakers will include

Melissa Benn, a local parent, writer and journalist who recently published 'School Wars - the battle for Britain's Education'
 Jon O'Connor, regional manager of the Cooperative College which supports schools setting up as cooperatives, cooperative federations or cooperative academies
Mary Arnold, Brent Council's lead member for Children and Families
Martin Francis, Brent Green Party spokesperson on Children and Families
Hank Roberts, ATL President and a Brent teacher
The meeting will be chaired by Gill Wood, local parent and school governor

Fight for Central Middlesex A&E takes off in Harlesden

More than 200 people marched from Harlesden's Jubilee Clock to Central Middlesex Hospital to oppose the closure of Central Middlesex A& E and defend the NHS yesterday. The march was supported by local residents, community activists, anti-cuts campaigners and local politicians. Brent Fightback meets again tomorrow at 7.30pm at the Trades Hall, Willesden High Road, to put the final touches to Thursday's public meeting on the Future of Brent Education - 7.30pm Copland High School, Wembley

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Correction: the time for the lobby of the AGM of the PCTs for the eight boroughs that make up NHS NW London has now been confirmed as 2.30 pm as the meeting starts at 3.00 pm. The meeting is open to the public so be prepared to go in and ask awkward questions. Let's make sure they hear our views loud and clear.

This lobby is being supported by all the campaigns - for Central Middlesex, Ealing, Hammersmith and Charing X hospitals.