Annual Report from the Leader
To receive an annual report from the Leader in accordance with Standing Order 42.
The Mayor invited Councillor Butt, Leader of the Council, to present (in accordance with Standing Order 42) his first annual report on the work of the Council.
By way of introduction Councillor Butt referred to the difficult year faced by London, as a city, during 2017 and way in which the capital always managed to not only recover but thrive.
As an example of the energy and renewal locally, he outlined the continued success of GCSE and A-Level students across the borough, with students and teachers congratulated for their performance. In addition, Councillor Butt advised that he took great pride in knowing that 96% of the boroughs schools were currently rated as good or outstanding.
Having focussed on the present, he also highlighted a need to take a longer term, with particular concern expressed around what he regarded as a broken housing market given the limited opportunities for home ownership and cost/insecurity associated with renting, the current Government’s attitude towards public services and lack of detailed funding plan beyond 2020. As well as the huge challenges these represented he also highlighted the opportunities available, which the Council was keen to take advantage of. Specific examples highlighted included:
· The steps being taken by the Council to address the housing issue through regulation of the private rented sector and tackling rogue landlords; setting up a company to provide good quality affordable rented homes; tackling and preventing homelessness; bringing the Council’s social housing back under the control and management of the Council and also a significant programme for building new homes;
· The creation, as part of the house building programme, of new jobs; investment in the local economy and growth of the Council Tax base. He felt the massive contribution that new homes and residents could provide was often forgotten with regeneration also having significant benefits in terms of increasing funding available through the collection of Council Tax and in turn assisting the Council in addressing its funding deficit and protection of essential services;
· A willingness and track record of being able to build strong partnerships;
Another major area of concern highlighted was Adult Social Care, which Councillor Butt advised the Council were again looking to challenge. This would be through the provision of alternative provision designed to not only provide a better standard of care but also ensure personal independence and cost less money, again helping to tackle the budget deficit.
In terms of education, whilst having already highlighted and celebrated the excellent level of attainment by students he felt there was also a need to recognise that some were still leaving school having underachieved, with the risk of exclusion having a major impact on life chances particularly amongst certain communities. The challenge for the Council to address was therefore to break that cycle and ensure that the progress and success already being enjoyed by so many children and young people across the borough was available to all.
In terms of the greatest and most difficult challenge facing the Council, however, the Leader highlighted the safeguarding of children and need to ensure that the necessary level of resource, given the current pressure imposed from central government, was available to ensure a positive impact on those young people at risk or in care.
In concluding his annual report, Councillor Butt recognised that whilst none of the issues highlighted would be easily addressed the Council had the commitment to take them on, building on the confidence that came from a long track record of innovation and success. He was keen to ensure that the focus remained on protecting those who needed it most through long term, sustainable solutions that would make a genuine difference with the Council already having instigated real and lasting change.
Moving forward the focus would remain on continuing the transformation of Brent into a 21st century London Borough ensuring that all residents were part of the process and were able to share in the benefit of that progress and prosperity.
The Mayor thanked Councillor Butt for the report and then invited Councillor Warren to respond on behalf of the Brent Conservative Group who advised he could present an alternative annual report highlighting a need to do better given the recent increases in Council Tax and concerns relating to the challenge on the Council’s accounts; progress on the South Kilburn development programme; impact of the introduction of charges for bulky waste collection and performance in relation to fly-tipping and recycling; increase in parking charges; Community Infrastructure Levy and planning system.
The Mayor then invited Councillor Colwill to respond on behalf of the Conservative Group. As he advised he had no additional comments to add and no other members had indicated they wished to speak, Councillor Butt was then invited to sum up and respond on the issues raised.
Councillor Butt, in summary, took the opportunity to highlight the investment currently being delivered across the Council in relation to the school expansion programme; roads, pavements, parks and libraries; social housing and social care and in support of the Invest for Brent (I4B) company established by the Council. In terms of awards he also highlighted the Council’s accreditation as a London Living wage employer and also the significant further investment in development of the Willesden Green Library; regeneration of South Kilburn and Wembley and voluntary sector alongside the development of a flexible childminding service, all of which had been designed to reflect the priorities of the Administration and Council.
Following on from the Leaders final remarks, the Mayor advised the debate on the Annual Report had been concluded.