Council tax and rents are set to rise next year, alongside cuts of £8 million. The North London council talked of the ‘difficult financial choices’ that had to be made as next year’s budget is approved by the Cabinet. Brent Council’s deputy leader said she ‘didn’t come into politics to make these sorts of decisions’.
The Cabinet gave the green light for next year’s budget during the latest meeting this week (Monday, February 5), which will shape how the council spends taxpayers’ money. The administration warned residents that the seriousness of the financial position it is facing ‘can’t be understated’, having already made cuts of around £210 million since 2010.
The approval means council tax will rise by the maximum amount allowed without a referendum – 4.99 per cent – as well as a rise in council rents, business rates and below inflation increases to fees, such as pest control, garden waste collection, hosting events, and parking.
From April, the average ‘Band D’ property in Brent will be paying £2,036.05 per year. A 7.7 per cent rise in council rents means the price of an average three-bedroom family property will rise to £159.60 a week. Deputy leader of the council, Cllr Shama Tatler, said: “We all came into politics to change our communities’ lives […] we didn’t come into politics to make these kinds of decisions around cuts.”
Brent Council leader, Cllr Muhammed Butt, claimed the administration has been ‘open and transparent’ with residents about the challenges of balancing the finances, calling it an ‘honest budget’. He added: “It does talk about making difficult choices, difficult decisions. When you are in a position of power or authority, you have to be honest.”
Leader of Brent Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr Anton Georgiou, informed the Cabinet that the party will bring forward a ten-point alternative budget. He said: “They cover key areas that residents feel the council is not doing a good enough job to address; whether it’s the general state of our area, the increasing rubbish on our streets, to the limited youth provision [and] lacklustre effort to address the climate emergency.”
Delivering local services has been hugely impacted by inflation, decreased government funding, and a growing demand – particularly in housing services where it overspent by £13 million last year, as well as children’s services and adult social care. Cllr Butt some of the decisions the council has to take to balance next year’s budget are going to be difficult.
According to the council, the most visible cuts are likely to come from the Adult Day Care services – specifically the Millennium Day Centre, which provides facilities for adults with physical and learning difficulties. Staff and buildings are the biggest expenses for councils, meaning this could also mean the sale of assets and staff redundancies.
Instead, the Community Shop and Café at Bridge Park will be relocated to the former day centre later this year, the council has revealed. It claims it is working on a ‘new, more flexible social care offer’ in response to the closing of the New Millennium. The site will also provide arts space, a garden, and support services for residents, enabling the local authority to ‘continue helping people during the ongoing cost of living crisis’.
Cllr Butt said: “We have listened to residents through our budget consultation and will be keeping a much-loved community landmark open so it can continue to serve the needs of the community, just in a different way.”
The budget will now go to a vote at Full Council later this month (February 29).