Annual Report from the Leader
To receive an annual report on the work of the Council from the Leader of the Council, in accordance with Standing Order 38.
Members are asked to note that the Leader of the Council will have up to 5 minutes to present his annual report with a period of 20 minutes then provided for debate.
Noted the annual report provided by the Leader of the Council on the work of the Council.
The Mayor invited Councillor Muhammed Butt, Leader of the Council, to present (in accordance with Standing Order 38) his Annual Report on the work of the Council and State of the Borough.
Councillor Muhammed Butt began by reflecting on last year’s report in terms of the challenges and also untapped opportunities therein. He lamented that the challenges remained and focussed on the financial hardship that the Council continued to face, highlighting the current crises in Adult Social Care, Housing and the NHS brought about by a decade of central government cuts to public services.
The Leader expressed his views on the forthcoming Government Budget and stressed how he felt local authorities continued to be bypassed, while the current Government continued to waste money, particularly on Brexit. The Leader was happy to confirm that Brent had the highest number of European residents in London and the largest number to gain pre-settled status in England and, as the local population continued to grow, he expressed his pride in so many people wanting to make Brent their home.
The Leader highlighted the many accolades the Borough had received throughout the year, including Friendliest Borough in London, the nomination for the Best High Street in England and the many celebrations of its culture.
In summing up, the Leader felt that the Council was taking radical steps towards delivering on its ambitious manifesto, with empathy, a shared vision of prosperity and with culture at its heart. He reaffirmed the declaration of a Climate Emergency, agreed at the last Full Council meeting, along with the pledge not to penalise tenants in debt as a result of delays in Universal Credit payments; to fight NHS cuts; to bring more Council services in-house; to build more affordable housing; invest in the boroughs highways and support the ongoing development of the transport infrastructure; create more Community Hubs and to foster community wealth building in Brent.
Concluding his annual report and commenting on the state of the borough, Councillor Muhammed Butt felt it was possible to highlight a huge amount as being achieved but also much more to do based on an ambitious, but at the same time pragmatic set of priorities and commitments with an enormous financial challenge to continue to manage and overcome.
The Mayor thanked Councillor Muhammed Butt for his annual report and then advised that he would open up the debate for contributions from other members, starting with a response from the Conservative Group. Councillor Colwill (as Leader of the Conservative Group) advised that he did not intend to response, so the Mayor moved on to invite contributions from other members, with the following comments raised:
· Councillor Ethapemi sought clarification as to whether the additional spending review announced by the Government was based on national reserves or whether the Council was expected to make contingency plans.
· Councillor Kelcher commented that this was the second year that the Leader of the Opposition had not responded to the Leader’s Annual Report and suggested there should be an obligation on him to do so.
· Councillor Shahzad congratulated the Leader on his speech and thanked Dawn Butler MP for lending her support to the campaign to oppose NHS cuts. He went on to highlight the concerns of residents in respect of the closure of the Cricklewood Walk-in Centre and urged the Leader and Cabinet to continue providing support on this matter.
· Councillor Naheerathan asked about the reduced access for local residents to local bank branches and whether the Council had any strategy in respect of helping to maintain a banking presence on the high street.
· Councillor Aslam Choudry congratulated the Leader on his report and also expressed surprise that the Opposition had not acknowledged the good work of the Council or offered any effective alternative outlook.
· Councillor Nerva acknowledged the reassurance that had been given to the Borough’s 67,000 EU nationals but queried the impact planning for a “No Deal” Brexit had placed on the Council’s resources. He was also keen to explore what more could be done to reaffirm the previously agreed policy to support a People’s Vote to include an option to remain in the EU.
With no further issues raised, the Mayor invited Councillor Muhammed Butt to respond to the comments made on the Annual Report.
Councillor Muhammed Butt thanked Members for their contributions and began his response by highlighting the prudent approach taken by the Council in managing its finances over the last ten years, which had left it in a good position to help those in need, highlighting the example of the Council Tax Support Scheme. The Leader agreed that there was an opportunity to work with banks to ensure they could meet their social duties and, in respect of Brexit, he reiterated the pledge of support toward the EU nationals forming part of the Brent community and said the Council would continue to strive for a “right to remain” option.
The Mayor thanked Councillor Muhammed Butt for his response and advised that this concluded the debate. The Council RESOLVED to note the Annual Report.