DOZENS of protesters gathered outside Brent Town Hall last night as the council agreed its latest budget.
Placardsand banners were displayed by people who say the authority should notcut funds from those who need it most in the borough, includingchildren and those with disabilities.
Aftermore than two hours of speeches and heated debate at the meeting onMonday, Brent Council rubber stamped the 2012/13 financial plan, whichincludes a freeze on council tax for the third consecutive year and araft of deep cuts to public services.
Thebudget has taken into account the loss of grants from CentralGovernment, which is equivalent to a 26 per cent loss in vital fundingbetween April 2011 and March 2015.
s41.7m worth of savings had to be made in 2011/12 alone, and a further s20 m (approx) of savings need to be made in 2012/13.
PeterFirmin, of the Brent Fightback campaign, spoke to The Harrow Observerbefore the meeting. He said: "The council budget contains lots of cuts.We are protesting and arguing that the council should not pass on whatcentral Government wants. They should campaign with the borough andfight against the Government.
"People are demoralised."
Policewere called to the council offices to make sure the protest waspeaceful. Members of the Brent SOS libraries campaign were alsopresent, to provide a visible message that they "have not given up".
The crowd was then let into the meeting through a ticketing system.
SarahCox, a retired teacher and also a member of the fightback group, said:"We are protesting against the cuts being made, they will be verydamaging, particularly to children and young people."
TheBrent Labour group has described it's latest figures as "a budget forsocial mobility and local democracy". In the plan passed last night,the Labour run council promised to establish a 'Commission on SocialMobility', to be chaired by an academic to make sure policy is "gearedtowards enabling people to achieve their full potential".
Inher speech at the meeting, council leader Ann John said: "We have to domore with less and that means we cannot afford to fund services whichdo not provide value for money. For example, we simply cannot keep openthose libraries which few people use at a time when we need a libraryservice fit for the age of the Kindle and the internet. Our librarytransformation project is a perfect example of using money effectivelyto modernise services."
Thebudget will see s500,000 cut from the Connexions careers advice servicefor young people, s150,000 cut from a project to promote awareness ofmental health issues in local schools, a s200,000 cut from transport toschool for disabled children, s117,000 cut from support from childrenwith special educational needs and disabilities as well as s600,000taken away from supporting adults with special needs and disabilitiesto live independently.
Thebudget now includes s350,000 as a starter fund to develop a newemployment service to help people back into work. Every ward will alsoreceive s40,000 to spend on initiatives that matter to them, a figuredoubled since last year.
TheHarrow Observer wants to know what you think about this year's budget.Let us know by emailing email@example.com calling07795 666587 or by following @annjessicat on Twitter
Brent in numbers:
Most Brent residents have incomes lower than the s26,000 benefit cap.
12,000 Brent residents (9.3 per cent) of them are unemployed, youth unemployment is a particular problem.
Onethird of Brent children are living in poverty. This means they areliving in households where the household income is below s15,000 a year.
Thecouncil's net expenditure for 2012/13 is expected to be about s260 m.Its gross expenditure is predicted to be just over s1 billion.
Itis expected that housing benefit changes could impact negatively on upto 8,200 Brent residents, roughly one in five of all claimants.
Thereare more than 2,000 young people in Brent who are classified as'NEETS'. Not in education, employment or training. This is the highestnumber in West London.
Brent people: What the protesters think
TeacherAnna Chapple said: "The cuts we are talking about are across the board.I work with children at a special needs school and at ground level theyare going to be badly affected by the cuts. I am also very concernedabout the library rebuild in Willesden, particularly with WillesdenBookhop. I do not think they should be put through this when they areproviding a great service to the community."
HerbertBukari, an equal opportunities officer at Brent National Union ofTeachers, said: "I am against the cuts in general, particularly when itcomes to schools. I am against closing libraries, a lot of people donot have anywhere to go now to sit and study. To me, that's criminal."
Martin Redston, joint chairmanof the Keep Willesden Green campaign, said: "I have concerns abouteverything that is going on with the cuts. I do not feel they aretalking to the community enough about these matters."