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Fighting poverty in Brent

I was born and brought up in Brent and have lived in Brent all my life. I am the son of immigrants. I understand poverty very well as I lived it.

I know what it means to be poor and feel like you have little to lose, the one thing about poverty is that its impact can stay with you forever.

Brent has come a long way since those days. However, the struggle for those who are living below the poverty line is real. That is why it is so important to tackle poverty and lack of opportunities.

We need to understand what poverty is and how it affects people, to think about its root causes and the different factors and systems that can enable and exacerbate it.

I am committed to this fight. It is the very reason why we commissioned an Independent Poverty Commission, chaired by Lord Richard Best, former Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The findings were launched in August.

Brent is an amazing place to live and there is so much to make us proud. But sadly, the negative effects of Government policy has hit us hard.

Being so close to central London has driven housing costs up without raising pay locally, according to the Commission. We do not have enough affordable homes as the introduction of Right to Buy in the 80s, forced us to sell off council homes and prevented us from building any more. As a result, people have been forced into the private rented sector where the rents are two to three times higher.

On top of this, we have faced years of austerity and cuts to essential services for the most vulnerable. The Commission found that a third of all households and, shockingly, more than forty percent of children live below the poverty line. Too many people are struggling.

The Poverty Commission’s work is hugely impressive  and the council has adopted all 43 recommendations. Some of the work has started, but there is much more to do especially as we head to a potential second wave of COVID. The heartening part of all this, is that the Commission commended Brent Council for our work throughout the pandemic, and years of austerity. The council will do it’s bit but we also need the Government to ‘level up’ in boroughs like ours  so that councils might once again receive the support and funding they deserve.

Written by Cllr Muhammed Butt