Sunday, 7 December 2014

Brent Council's latest savage cuts are intolerable - time to make a stand

Brent Council has now published its draft proposals for cuts in services that will be considered by the Cabinet on Monday December 15th.  The document is available HERE 

Readers are advised to read the whole document as it is impossible to prove the full detail here. Please post comments drawing attention to anything I have over-looked or to outline its impact on staff or service users.

The cuts are divided up into four categories:
  • Stopping Services Completely
  • Leverage in Resources and Income
  • Building Independence and Community Resilience
  • Driving Organisational Efficiency
The document needs careful study and I will update this posting throughout the day as I go through it but the headlines are:
  • Cessation of all Youth Services in the borough
  • Close 10 of the 17 Children's Centres
  • Close Welsh Harp Education Centre
  • Cease all School Crossing Patrols
  • Close Energy Solutions
  • Cease funding for Stonebridge Adventure Playground
  • Cease grant to Energy Solutions
  • Close one Leisure Centre
  • Gradually reduce grant to Tricycle Theatre to zero
  • Reduce respite care by £450,000
  • Reduce Day Care by up to 40%
  • Reduce Connexions to the minimum
  • End rough sleepers service
  • No litter clearing in residential roads, no pavement mechanical sweepers, no weekend litter service in parks
  • Reduce face to face customers service at Civic Centre to 2 days a week by appointment
One of the problems in reading this report is the avoidance of the word cuts and the selling of them in some cases as advantageous for service users. It would be much better to admit that they are severe cuts and are going to seriously affect service users. The pretence feeds into the Coalition's justification for cuts and claims of local government profligacy.

How many different ways can you avoid saying cuts?

Under the 'Organisational Efficiency' heading there are are a number strategies that could worsen services or undermine the working conditions of employees.

These include in Adult and Social Care The report's terminology):
  • Negotiate with Residential and Nursing Care providers to ensure value for money
  • Reduce service user and carer engagement to a minimum
  • Close New Millennium and Kingsbury Resource Day Centres
  • Change Tudor Garden Residential Home to Supported Living accommodation
  • Increasing the number of Direct Payment personal care assistants
  • 'Transforming' the Mental Health Social Care model to save £750k
  • Reduce social work staff in Adult Social Care by 20% over two years
  • Reduce Learning and Development to statutory minimum
In Children and Young People
  • Early Years - review future resource requirements in general workforce budgets
  • Reduce support and delivery costs of the Youth Offending Team
  • Reduce cost of Special Educational Needs assessments by restructuring staff
  • Integrate Children's Information Service with other customer services - reduction of 50%
  • Children's placements - includes some Looked After children currently in residential placement moved to independent foster agencies
  • Children with disabilities -end summer playscheme, more direct payments, reduce overall level of support
  • Reduce managerial posts in Children's Social Care
Environment and Neighbourhood Services
  • Transfer management of libraries to an established library trust resulting in business rates savings
  • Reduce library book stock to CIPFA bench-marked average
  • Delete Environment Projects and Policy Team
  • Stop nearly all Sports Development work including school holiday programmes
  • Brent Transport Services - end the employment of in-house drivers and attendants
  • Reduce the Emergency Planning Team by one post - will require arrangement with another borough to maintain 24/7 coverage 
  • Review regulatory services  and consider shared services with another borough
Regeneration and Growth
  •  Reduce the number of Housing Options Officer posts by 4, over a two year period from 2016/17
  •  Proposals will be developed for increased income from the Civic Centre. The additional income assumed from 16/17 onwards assumes that an additional floor being made available and a tenant found to occupy the space on a commercial basis from 2016.
Human Resources
  • It is proposed  to carry out a major reconfiguration of the HR service in 2015/16 saving £1.4m by 2016/17. This will result in the merging of some areas in order to reduce the number of managers required in the new structure.  It is the intention to devolve responsibility for some existing activities undertaken by the Learning and Development team to HR Managers.  Other activities will be accommodated by a new performance team with a broader remit which will include resourcing, workforce development, policy and projects.
  •  In addition it is proposed to cap the existing trade union facilities time allocation awarded to GMB and Unison to a maximum of 1 x PO1 post per trade union, to move the occupational health service inhouse saving £60k and reduce the learning and development budget by £67k. In year 2016/17 further reductions in staffing can be potentially achieved through shared service arrangements within payroll, pensions, HR management information and recruitment.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

New Borough Plan will decide our services to be cut over the next 4 years

Christine Gilbert, Interim Chief Executive of Brent Council, has been kept on to work on the new Borough Plan, according to Muhammed Butt, Labour leader of Brent Council,

Although the Borough Plan sounds innocuous and not a little boring, it would be wise to look a little more closely. It is really the Council's attempt at embedding future cuts into a long-term plan. Cuts that many see as meaning the end of local government as we know it.

The Borough Plan will earmark services to be cut as well as to be preserved. As such is is more important that the annual budget making as the budget making will be informed by its priorities.

It basically signals that the Council will acquiece in the cuts rather than challenging them and leading the community in campaigning against them.

We are being asked to tell the Council which of our limbs we want to cut off first.

The Council makes no secret of this but local residents may have missed the introduction on its website.

Here it is:

The Brent Borough Plan 2015/19 Consultation

Brent residents are being asked for their views on how local public services should evolve and what they can do to improve the borough given the continuing squeeze on budgets.

The borough plan consultation opens today (September 16) and invites residents to help shape the future of the borough in the context of significantly reduced budgets for local public services.

Over the next four years services in Brent face the most challenging financial cuts ever. The council’s budget alone is expected to be halved by 2018.

Brent also has increasing demands on public services with a growing population, more babies being born, more people moving into the borough and more people living longer. To meet these challenges some services will need to be delivered in different ways and some stopped altogether. Residents are being asked what their priorities are through a series of surveys and public meetings throughout September and October.

Residents are being asked how they could play a vital role in their local community as well as how services should be designed in the future. In some cases, prioritising one area will mean that something else has to be cut back, or stopped altogether.

Leader of the Council, Councillor Muhammed Butt, says: “Brent has been through tough financial times – which are sadly not yet over.

“Local public services face the same challenges, those of reducing income and increasing costs, which many of our residents are facing.

“For example, by 2018 Brent Council's funding from central government will have been cut in half. To put this in context, we would need to more than double council tax next year to start plugging the gap in the council’s budget and this would still not address the shortfalls in other local service budgets such as the Police and Fire Brigade.

“This harsh reality means we will inevitably face tough choices in the coming months and years and this is why the borough plan consultation is so important in informing the future of Brent.

“All of the organisations involved in the consultation want to work with local people to make sure that our plans are the right way forward given the limits we are all working with.

“This is your Brent, your community and your services so please get involved as we are listening.”
You can get involved by responding to the call for evidence before 28 November 2014.