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Monday, 15 December 2014

How Plausible are Brent Council Savings?

I have been looking again at some of the proposed savings in Brent Council's budget proposals, and once again wondering how plausible they are.  In some case, such Adult Social Care thyere is a lack of detail.  I mentioned before "contain demographic pressure within existing budgets" sounds fine, but how do you do it?  Lets look at some other examples:

Close a Leisure Centre.  Which one I wonder?  Willesden is part of a PFI agreement.  Vale Farm is part of the wider Ealing/Harrow contract that Brent got an award for.  Difficult to see how you can backtrack out of those.  Moberly is Westminster operated despite its Brent location so it is under Westminster's control.  That leaves Bridge Park in Stonebridge, which is subject to a clawback arrangement thanks to the grant that established it in the 1980s.  Thus, all of these appear to be subject either to long term contracts, or to a clawback that effectively operates as a poison pill to closure in a similar way to the Brent Museum.

Cease all Youth Services.  Again, this sounds difficult for legal reasons.  Closing Roundwood Youth Centre would likely mean repaying the government grant that established it. I imagine other aspects of this proposal, such as closing the Youth Parliament, would attract controversy. 

A "Partnership Model" for Childrens Centres.  This sounds reminiscent of some of the library debates.  Greater reliance on volunteers, hollowing out of the offer and (as an alternative) closing some of the centres and concentrating resources (I assume) on a smaller number of buildings.  Relying more on volunteers, is different in this sector as there are a number of established groups that follow this model, although whether there would be similar quality is questionable.  The experience of libraries is also relevant in that, in Brent, the reduction of buildings did not lead to the fall in usage which had been anticipated by some opponents.  However, I really wonder whether Brent would now have the resilience to actually push through the political controversy that would inevitably arise from this option.  There may also be another set of "poison pill" arrangements that make actual closure problematic.

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