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Thursday, 3 September 2020

Brent Council General Reserves

Brent Council Audit Committee will shortly meet and find that Brent has a General reserve of about £15 million. Grant Thorton believes that makes it safer than most Councils from catastrophic failure. This is the culmination of many years, arguably starting with Paul Daisley who was leader from 1996 to 2001. Inheriting organised financial chaos the Tories under Bob Blackman, he set the pace for Brent's professionalisation as a Council. This continued once his former Deputy Ann John succeeded him as Leader. There was a short hiatus under the Tory/Lib Dem leadership of Paul Lorber, who cut reserves ahead of the 2010 election. The very tough financial situation then facing the incoming Labour administration, where at one point we faced a projected overspend of £7.1 million but a reserve of only £7.5 million, caused it to follow the auditors' advice and increase reserves again. It also caused the administration to seek increases in revenue wherever possible (with the exception of Council Tax). At the same time there were a number of money saving transformations, improved procurement and in cases quite courageous decisions no longer to fund certain activities. All this work helped Brent Council to maintain relative freedom of action in the ensuing years. Now that Brent is once again facing even more central government cuts it is important that councillors show similar courage and discipline. The alternative is to lose a grip on the finances and therefore the political agenda.

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