Monthly Archives: February 2019

Where do they stand? Budget speech to Full Council February 2019

This is now my third budget as a Councillor in Brent, and the toughest I’ve seen. This time the weight of government cuts forces us to cut down to the bone. In community safety we have seen the impact of Tory austerity at a national level, with the withdrawal of the current offer for Met Patrol plus as a result of cuts to the Mayor’s policing grant. We are working on long term alternatives to fill the gap and will be coming forward in the spring. My colleagues have similar experiences themselves.

Whilst we can tell positive stories about the opportunities in reshaping things, or what we can defend, the truth is that there are very few things contained in this budget that myself, colleagues and residents would have preferred not to cut. We will prevent damage to service users as best we can, but let’s be clear – the real responsibility for stopping cuts to the local services people need so desperately lies with central government, with Mrs May in Westminster. It’s a responsibility that her political party locally have completely failed to even acknowledge. Where do they stand?

As I’ve said it’s my third budget. I now know exactly what to expect from the opposition benches. Though the alternative budgets of the other Tory faction from the last term have gone, with their innumeracy and over-reliance of punctuation, the same themes remain.

Our Tory opponents will now recommend a series of small savings to money that was spent on a one off basis, as if this offers some sort of solution to costs in services which run day to day, year to year, and depend on continued revenue.

They will try to coax us into spending the reserves, so that if, god forbid, this council is stuck by an emergency, there will be nothing left in the chest to help our residents.

They will attempt to blame Gordon Brown for the global financial crash, or to convince us that despite all of the evidence of the last nine years, that austerity offers some sort of answer to the problems we face as a county or to the system failures themselves.

They will have nothing to say about the fact that their party has shifted so much of the weight of cuts onto Councils in a cynical attempt to turn Labour and trade union activists against their own representatives and allow the Tories to escape the blame. They will ignore what they’ve done to Councils who dare to stand for the poor and the working class, even though their own ministers are currently scheming a further 15% cut to London and its deprived boroughs in order to fund financially incompetent Councils in the Tory shires. As if this can simply be ignored. As if it isn’t real.

But councils face by far the biggest cuts…

…and it’s people like us taking the brunt of it.

Our absent friends in the Lib Dems will have nothing to say. Where do they stand?

The former colleagues of both parties here today who are now in the independent group will be there to make excuses for the coalition’s record on these issues to, under the pretence that in this age of division and inequality it will all get better if we all just come together and pretend that austerity has not deepened at of the country’s divides in class, attainment, health, education, or wages. The independent group think that George Osborne, and I quote here from Anna Soubry, ‘did a wonderful job’. These people live on a different planet to the people of Brent.

The Labour Party has its own problems at the moment. But it is the only party which seems to admit that austerity even has any effect at either a local or a natural level. From the Tories to the Lib Dems to TIG, there is an unspoken conspiracy to mislead, and when that doesn’t work, a conspiracy of silence. Where do they stand?

Silent is something that we in the Labour Party will never be, and if you are one of the many residents who agrees with this, you should join us and get involved. We need to re-route the British economy. We are not just the only party who proposes this, but the only one who will even admit that for years when we have needed to re-route, the driver has been taking us down completely the wrong track.


Stronger together – building cohesion in Brent

In my role as Cabinet Lead for Community Safety, people often concentrate on the ‘hard edged’ aspects of what I am up to. Police. Enforcement officers. Violence. Victims.

I’ve never been a big supporter of Tony Blair, at least when it comes to doing it inside the Labour Party. But one thing I feel that he was absolutely right on was The framing of crime – ‘tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime’ is a wonderful piece of political rhetoric. It perfectly sums up the protection aspect that the state plays for people as they go about their lives, and sums up how the public feel about that role – grateful but expectant. But it also gets to the bottom of something profound, a socialist insight, that crime and disorder are not just caused by the morality of individuals, but by their circumstances and experiences – community, society, and the economy.

For that reason, it would be no good for me to be a ‘hard edged’ community safety type politician without understanding that we can only prevent crime by giving people support, chances in life, and the ability to interact with each other. By using the natural urge people have as active citizens, in charities, faith and community groups. By looking to the things we already have, our assets. Strength. Mutuality. Cohesion.

Jo Cox MP – she had a talent for clearly describing the values that matter.

There are many other reasons why people coming together across barriers and understanding each other can make a difference. Consider how easy it can be to be blind to culture-specific problems like FGM, or how norms can differ between people from different backgrounds over mental health, for example. For a moment, let’s think about whether we also consider people equally when some people’s need is greater – can we really say we don’t have a problem with educational attainment for black British-Caribbean boys? Are we honestly able to say that two people are as likely to develop well at work when on grows up on a modest income in a council estate, but another on a house in a private road? How are we treating our recent arrivals, particularly whilst Brexit is going on?

So today we have launched our Stronger Communities Strategy, aimed at getting to the bottom of the toughest issues in our communities, bringing people together around the values we all hold in common, and making sure that all of us come first. You can find out more about it here.

We are far more united and have more in common than that which divides us.