Friday December 4, 2015
Here in Brent Council we are having to cope with a halving of central government funding. With my colleagues, we are working hard to keep the negative impact on the services you value the most to a minimum by squeezing the most out of every last penny of taxpayers’ money. However these tough times are forcing us to face some difficult choices.
The recent spending review handed local authorities the most severe cuts of any government department. This comes on top of five years of progressively harder funding settlements since 2010. During this time our main core government funding has already been reduced by over £80m and there will be further significant reductions in the years to come.
After taking account of these revenues falling by more than a half over the next four years, and the money we generate ourselves, overall funding is expected to fall by another quarter in the next four years. As a result, we are working harder and harder every year to balance our budget without cutting into the services and facilities that Brent residents value the most. All the while we have tried to recognise that local people have been facing hard times too, which is why we’ve frozen Council Tax levels for the last six years.
The proposals we’re publishing today try to squeeze the very last penny out of the money we have to spend on services, by being more efficient and modern in our approach, driving down costs, and maximising income from our commercial assets. We are doing our best to keep the negative impacts on front line services to an absolute minimum but there will be significant changes given the budget position.
It’s time to face the fact – the easier savings can each only be achieved once, and when the following year brings the need to cut more money, our options become narrower. We can only sell our buildings and consolidate onto one site once to save money. We can only create digital channels to save money over more expensive face to face ways of working once. We can only cut out any element of waste once to save cash. After cutting the fat year after year, sooner or later you get down to the muscle or even the bone.
I agree with Lord Porter, Conservative Chair of the Local Government Association, who said just recently:
"It is wrong that the services our local communities rely on will face deeper cuts than the rest of the public sector yet again, and for local taxpayers to be left to pick up the bill for new government policies without any additional funding.
"Even if councils stopped filling in potholes, maintaining parks, closed all children’s centres, libraries, museums, leisure centres and turned off every street light, they will not have saved enough money to plug the financial black hole they face by 2020."
I’m confident that we’re not in the position in Brent of having to make cuts like that – not yet at least. But it really is getting harder and harder every year, and there are years of this to come. It is just as well that the people of Brent are so strong, united and resilient, as we are really being tested.
We have arranged five public consultation meetings to discuss the budget with local people, and will be arranging two additional budget specific public meetings in January. These five Brent Connects meetings are:
- Brent Connects Wembley: Tuesday, 12 January 2016
- Brent Connects Kilburn and Kensal: Tuesday, 19 January 2016
- Brent Connects Willesden: Monday, 1 February 2016
- Brent Connects Harlesden: Tuesday, 2 February 2016
- Brent Connects Kingsbury and Kenton: Wednesday, 3 February 2016
All meetings above start at 7pm. Read the detailed budget report (.pdf)
Cllr Muhammed Butt
Brent Council Leader