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Monday, 23 February 2015

Brent Budget Consultation

Brent Council Cabinet will pass its budget recommendations tonight, including the controversial freeze in Council Tax. 

I have commented before that I think the whole process has been flawed this year.  It began much later in the year than has historically been the norm.  Many of the proposals seem to lack any overarching strategy, even going against the Council's general position in parking for example.  Most seem to be negative, cost driven proposals.  Indeed the only positive measure I can see is the proposals to reduce electricity use in street lighting.  Many of the proposals strike me as implausible in how far they might actually save money.  Some seem to be of dubious legality.  All these flaws seem to me to undermine the whole legitimacy of the budget consultation

The results of the consultation have a specific section (8) in the Cabinet Budget report.  The results strike me as distinctly limited for what was billed as a major exercise. The most substantial results are a Residents Attitude Survey   The RAS is an exercise that the Council undertakes periodically anyway.  There are 237 written responses specific to this budget.  There are also vague comments about "workshops" and Brent Connects.  It is not entirely clear how the feedback from these "workshops" are being fed back to members.  Most striking of all is a lack of data on the equality impacts, which has often been central to judicial reviews in recent years.

Compare that to the Libraries Transformation Project consultation of 2011, which covered only a small proportion of the total Council budget, and the current Budget consultation seems much smaller in scale.  The Libraries consultation had 1,517 questionnaire responses, as well as numerous other written responses.  The present budget consultation appears to have had only 237 submissions in total.  The full details are also in section eight of the original report.  It is surprising that a consultation on one part of the Budget should attract more attention than a consultation on the whole gamut of the Counjcil's activities. 

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