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Sunday, 1 May 2016

Wembley Youth Centre

Saddened to see the Kilburn Times story on Wembley Youth Centre.  It is another case of Brent Council mismanaging cuts in services through a failure in democratic accountability.

I am sure that there is a reasonable case for the Council's decisions, as there was in the case of the Stonebridge Adventure Playground, but the current leadership is simply failing to make it.  The case in favour of the Council's decision relates to both revenue and capital spend.  In terms of revenue spend, the Council has chosen to deal with the enormous cuts to its budgets by withdrawing from youth service provision aside from the Roundwood Youth Centre, where there are special circumstances.  That is a tough and unwelcome call, but so a lot of the other cuts being made.  The case is one of dire necessity.  I will come back to how I think it could have been handled better below.

The redevelopment of the site for housing is easier to defend.  I don't know the details of the scheme but everyone knows London has a housing crisis.  Temporary accommodation will be allocated to those in dire need by definition, so that may all make sense as a way of using the site. 

Better Handling
What angers me about this all is that the group concerned seems not to have been given proper explanations of what is going on.  This has become a hallmark of the way things are done under Cllr Muhammed Butt's leadership.  Rather than saying to people, this is why things are being done, and changing the way things are done if necessary.  People are just left with silence and a denial of responsibility by elected members.  That feeds cynicism about local democracy.

This is a contrast with what happened to the same youth centre back in 2011.  Back then, it was once again proposed for cutting.  I recall attending the Wembley Area Forum in January 2011.  A large number of young people turned up to press the then Council Leader for the Centre to be kept.  That meeting and a subsequent meeting specifically on the issue led to a change in the policy and the life of the Centre was prolonged. 

Still further cuts after that time have now led to the demise of the Centre's Council grant.  A more imaginative approach would have been to proactively help the centre apply for money outside the Council.  Similarly, the Council has the resources to at least try to help the Centre relocate.  That is what an imaginative leadership would do.  I don't pretend that it would necessarily succeed, but it does not appear to have been attempted. 

Cllr Muhammed Butt has borrowed his immediate predecessor's rhetoric of a "dented shield" to protect local people (which originally came from Neil Kinnock), but he has signally failed to show the same activism in actually doing anything.

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