The recent decision to introduce NNDR for a specific organisation that I blogged on yesterday also raises questions about the coherence of Brent Council's whole approach to its finances.
From 2010 to 2013, the Council under unprecedented pressure from central government cuts pursued a general policy of minimising liabilities, raising income as much as possible and cutting costs. At the same time it was able to pursue a number of policies to improve services, but the general emphasis was on tightening financial control. As lead member for finacne and then Leader during this period, this policy presumably commanded Cllr Butt's acquisance.
From 2012/13, things all seem to have got more wobbly and strange. The Council Tax freeze was rigidly maintained for most households until this year, despite the majority of the Labour Group apparently voting for the opposite. At the same time a Council Tax Support regime was introduced that did raise Council Tax for many thousands of residents, who by definition were among the poorest in Brent.
The picture gets even odder when one thinks about parking charges. In the earlier period, there was a fairly strong environmentalist theme to the Council's parking policies. This included the introduction of emissions based parking charges, which is the only time I ever knew Cllr Butt argue against a policy to my face, and a major piece of work to simplify the numerous parking instruments of the Council. At the same time, there were a number of progressive measures to encourage sustainable transport. In about 2013/14, this changed as a period of free parking was introduced including a pre-Christmas period of free parking for those areas fortunate enough to have Council owned car parks. Quite how this squares with the general thrust of Council policy to discourage car use isn't terribly clear. More recently still, there has been a decision for a massive hike in charges for people who live in controlled parking zones.
The whole impression I get is of a series of independent decisions taken without any underpinning philosophy, as indeed a recent Scrutiny report suggested.
The anonymous commenter below is mistaken in a number of ways. I haven't published any comments on this post because I haven't been sent any. Secondly, the organisation mentioned does not have automatic tax exemption. If it did, it not have to apply for tax exemption and Brent Council would not have to make a decision about whether to give it. My concern is that all groups should be treated equally. If one group gets an exemption because it meets various criteria, those criteria should be made public for other eligible groups to get the same thing.
I note that the Preston group refers to itself as a charity, but it does not give a registered number, which I would expect a normal charity to do.