Feb 28 2013 by Hannah Bewley, Harrow Observer
THIS year’s council budget was passed as protesters lobbied councillors not to make cuts.
People gathered outside the town hall, in Forty Lane, Wembley, on Monday to campaign against cuts by central and local government and hung a banner in the council chamber that read ‘Community and councillors together can defeat welfare cuts’.
Muhammed Butt (pictured), Labour leader of Brent Council, said during a speech at the meeting: “The impact on boroughs who serve the poorest people in the UK, like Brent, has been truly devastating.
“In 2010, the government announced that it would cut our budget by 28 per cent by 2014. That’s £160 less for every single resident in Brent compared with £39 less per person for leafy Richmond.”
The council will freeze council tax for two years in the budget for 2013/14.
A flat rate of 20p for the first 15 minutes of parking will be introduced across the borough, and the council’s reserves will be increased.
Councillor Butt said: “The last administration pushed our reserves so low that the body that regulates council finances officially warned us that we needed to increase them. They are now at the minimum possible level to mitigate against the risks we face, the level at which we would not go bankrupt if a few risky programmes didn’t turn out as expected.”
Paul Lorber, leader of the Lib Dem opposition, set out an alternative budget, which included £400,000 to reopen the libraries closed by the Labour administration, reversing the funding cut for community festivals, such as Navratri and the St Patrick’s Day parade, and £500,000 to invest in road and pavement repairs.
He welcomed the decision to keep parking charges low.
“This small but welcome gesture shows that our campaigning is paying off,” Mr Lorber said.
“However, there is still much more to do, especially for residents’ permit holders, who are experiencing two price rises in four months. That’s why we need a full review of the council’s approach to parking tariffs and penalty charges.”
Three petitions were received by the council: to save the Queensbury pub in Willesden Green, which is under threat of demolition; to set a 20mph speed limit in Chamberlayne Road, Kensal Rise; and to allow Friends of Barham Park to re-establish a library and community centre at the former library premises in the park in Sudbury.