Monday December 3, 2012
Over the past two months I have written here about the kind of future I want to see for our area, and about some of the problems we face in making it happen.
Over the next few months I would like to talk in a little more detail about my three priorities:
- making Brent a fairer place
- fighting for jobs and growth
- and strengthening our community.
Today I want to talk about fairness. Politicians often shy away from using words like fairness, equality and justice. They consider them to be problematic as they can often mean slightly different things to different people.
However, I believe that there are a set of basic values which are broadly shared by everyone in our Borough. These form our sense of community and shape our society.
As a council we have a responsibility to fight for these values on behalf of our residents. It is unfair that so many people in Brent go to work for 60 or 70 hours a week, often working two jobs, but still have to choose between paying the gas bill or buying food at the end of the month.
A fair day's work deserves a fair day's pay. That is why in January, we are aiming to become one of the first 'Living Wage' Boroughs. We already pay all our employees the London Living Wage, and will begin extending this to contractors from January.
We are also appointing a councillor as our Living Wage Champion who will work unapologetically to persuade businesses in Brent to do the same. It is unfair that energy companies with a monopoly on the market are increasing your heating bills year on year at a time when they are making record profits.
Too many people in our community live in fuel poverty - unable to afford to turn the heating on over Christmas. That is why we will launch a Brent Collective Switching scheme.
This will use bulk buying to force the energy companies to give our residents a discount on their bills. Anyone in Brent can sign up, and you could save hundreds of pounds off your annual bill. This should help to make heating more affordable in time for the worst bits of winter.
It is unfair that even though we live in a borough with some of the highest rental prices in the UK, too many homes in the private rented sector are so badly maintained that they are dangerous to the health of the people who live there.
We do not live in the Victorian era, it is not fair that we still have slum housing in 21st century London. That is why early next year we will bring forward plans to make dramatic improvements to the standards of privately rented homes in Brent.
Finally, it is unfair that while times are hard for everyone in Brent, and we are having to manage huge cuts to our budget, a very small minority of people still think it's OK to make fraudulent claims for benefits and services.
This is simply unacceptable. It's unfair to those people who need help and can't get it, and it's unfair on the majority of people who work hard and don't break the rules. That is why we will not tolerate false claims for benefits and services and will crack down on fraud.
There is much more that we can and will do to make Brent a fairer place in the future, but these measures will make a big difference. If you have any ideas about what you'd like us to do to make Brent fairer please do let us know.
Next time I will be writing about what we are doing to bring more jobs and growth to the borough.