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
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.
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."
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.
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."
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."
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been replaced by Brent Connects) with a member/officer Any Questions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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 continues. Please support these
24 September 6 - 8 pm Stonebridge Centre, Hillside NW10 8BN.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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
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
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.