Monday, 16 February 2015

Turmoil as Butt and Pavey refuse to accept Labour Group vote for Council Tax rise

The Brent Council Labour Group is in turmoil after Deputy Leader Cllr Michael Pavey refused to accept a vote by his Labour councillor colleagues at Labour Group in favour of a 1.99% rise in Council Tax.  The Group saw that as one way of saving some services from the proposed deep cuts.

Pavey argued that they could not go to the March 2nd Full Council with a list of cuts based on a frozen Council Tax and then raise the Tax.

There were some suggestions that a review of the proposed cuts could be held after the budget was approved on March 2nd.

There is anger amongst backbench councillors about what is seen as a denial of basic internal democracy and a letter of complaint has been sent to the Constitutional Officer of the Labour Party by a backbench councillor. I understand from my source that the author of the complaint is Cllr John Duffy (Kilburn).
I am writing to you as an elected Labour Party Councillor in Brent, we have over the past few weeks been discussing setting the budget. It has become clear that the budget making process is not a democratic process but a decision made by the leader (Cllr Butt) and the Deputy Leader(Cllr Pavey) without the endorsement of the Labour Group.



My complaint is not  about the different versions or opinions around the budget setting, that is a matter for democratic debate. What I wish you to investigate and give a constitutional decision is the rights or wrong of being forced to support a decision that did not follow the internal processes of the Labour party.



The leader and deputy leader have refused point blank to allow the group to vote on their Budget.However during a Labour group meeting another member forced a discussion and vote (in which the leadership took part and voted) which was overwhelmingly agreed by the full Labour Group to put up the council tax by 2% to safeguard services.The leadership refused to accept this vote and the Chair of the meeting refused to count the votes, following that meeting the Leader and Deputy Leader chose to completely ignore the vote and said they would only consider it a straw poll.



The issue I wish to investigate and give a constitutional decision on, is what I believe is an affront to democracy which is taking place in the  Brent Labour Group. The Labour group chief whip has indicated even though Labour group members have been deprived of a vote. I must vote for this budget which i believe is merely a dictate impose from the Leader and Deputy Leader without any democratic mandate.I have made it clear at all points of the budget process that I am more than willing to vote for and accept the whip if we follow the democratic process and have a vote.However unfortunately the Leader and Deputy Leader have denied me and others that right. 



I wonder will you confirm whether the chief whip is right when she says that I have to vote  for the budget that has not been agreed and voted on by the Labour Group and I would face disciplinary action from the Labour party (which I would of course appeal to NEC) if I did not support the Leader's and Deputy Leaders additional and unnecessary cuts package. 



I have a number of years experience as a councillor and have been part of the leadership on many occasions,I have also contacted sitting Labour party colleagues in  Islington,Harrow,Camden and Barnet to discuss the lack of democratic accountability and we are all in disbelief at the actions of the Leader and his Deputy. I believe unless you intervene with a ruling the Leadership of Brent's Labour group will bring the council in disrepute.Where the public and party will ridiculed  the Labour party for acting like the characters from Animals Farm": every vote is equal but some are more equal than others"  and all votes you don't like can be dismissed as a straw polls.
One Labour councillor pointed out angrily that Muhammed Butt had been boasting about freezing Council Tax and remarked, 'He is out-Pickling Pickles!'

42 comments:

  1. When thieves fall out -obvious answer ,Make No Cuts

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  2. Dear anon Labour Councillor,
    Who do you represent? Are you there to follow orders and be 'whipped' or did you go into this to do your best, as you see it for your local community? This sort of thing, people not being able to vote with their moral compass is what causes disillusionment with politics and politicians.

    Im not saying I agree or disagree with this particular issue but this is really about integrity, your own and that of the political system that you represent.

    The Green Party doesn't believe in the whipping system as it is anti-democratic. Diversity and freedom of thought leads to creativity and enables people to do better for their communities. In a system where you are all the majority, critical voices should be seen as positive learning experiences.

    Will you stand up for what you believe in?

    Bw,
    Scott Bartle
    @mapesburygreen

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  3. Admirable. Well done.

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  4. "a decision that did not follow the internal processes of the Labour party" .... sound of £54 million worth of pennies dropping....

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  5. Lutfur Rehman style democracy in action.

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  6. Martin Hats off to you. Kilburn Times will not publish this story.

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    1. If this story had not been offered to the Brent & Kilburn Times before, it has been now, with a link to this blog and its comments.

      Independent local newspapers are an important part of local democracy, by helping their readers to know what is going on in the borough (and not just publishing what they are fed through partisan Brent Council press releases). So, please, Geoff, Lorraine and Nathalie, let local people know that there is an alternative to the Muhammed Butt and George Osborne ideology that you must not raise Council Tax.

      Philip Grant.

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    2. its gone to Private eye too

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  7. Martin they published Cllr Butt's full speech on 10 Dec 2014. Do you recall they ever published Brent Council Leader full speech.

    http://www.kilburntimes.co.uk/news/brent_council_to_make_54m_worth_of_cuts_1_3880871

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  8. Another fine mess Butt and Pavey (Puttey?) have got us into.
    Well done to the letter-writer and to those Labour councillors finally displaying some integrity and courage.
    Unlikely to change the 'Leadership's' behaviour though. Puttey's instinct when in a hole is usually to keep digging.

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  9. Come on Kilburn Time - Now this really is NEWS!

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  10. It would indeed be terrible if this episode "brought the council into disrepute".

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  11. Strangely enough, and before reading Martin's article above, I have been in correspondence with a local Brent Labour councillor. I forwarded an email I had sent to Cllr. Butt two weeks ago (still unanswered!) and asked whether backbench councillors would speak out, or whether they would 'say nothing and remain part of Cllr. Butt's "silent majority"?'

    The reply I received from the councillor said:
    'With regards, to being part of 'a silent majority', I can assure we as a Labour group robustly discuss policies and all backbenchers have an opportunity to speak and I certainly have raised my voice. Please be assured that we as backbenchers do participate.'

    It appears from this blog that my answer "hit the nail on the head":
    'I am glad to hear that backbench Labour councillors do speak up (I have also heard this from some of your colleagues). Part of the problem for you, however, is that this is done behind closed doors, and that as far as the public can see, the Leader of the Council takes no notice.'

    Philip Grant.

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    Replies
    1. Phillip, that reply has all the hallmarks of a standard cut and paste job from a SPAD.

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  12. The only recent Brent Council scandal to lack the (Bow) Wow Factor!

    Mike Hine

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    Replies
    1. Surely it is the revolt of the poodles!

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  13. About time one of them showed some backbone.

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    Replies
    1. We all know they are too weak to do anything.

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  14. Well done Martin for picking up and publishing. It remains a mystery why the Kilburn Times are not pursuing this story - any thoughts Martin and Philip? The vote in Labour Group was clear and decisive. A 1.99‰increase would enable key services to be safeguarded. In addition an increase would reduce risk from a sudden end to the Pickles "bribe" . It should be possible to exempt the very poorest from having to pay any increase.
    Now a Labour Cllr has blown the whistle to the national party - wonder what the next act will bring? .

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    Replies
    1. If history is anything to go by, a few of them will be expelled for bringing the party into disrepute, the rest will be cowed, and Butt and Pavey will move up the next rung of the ladder.

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    2. If history is anything to go by, the increase would be spent on the next vanity project.

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    3. Dear Anonymous at 20:48,

      I believe that the Kilburn Times are pursuing the story, but they are very thinly staffed, and we will probably have to wait until their paper edition comes out on Thursday to see how they actually report it. I hope that this does not count as 'disguised advertising'!

      Philip.

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    4. They are biased. They did not reported banning of Cllr Zafar Vankalwala from Civic centre by Cllr Butt. They only publish Press releases from Leader's office.

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    5. I hear Peter Oborne is going to the Brent and Kilburn Times.

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    6. Right wing twat. Possible though. Working conditions at the BKT have got to be better than those at the Torygraph currently.

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  15. It is interesting to note the following comments (shown in quotation marks) from the report to Cabinet on the Budget and 2015/16 Council Tax by Brent's Chief Finance Officer, in the section on why his report is based on there being no increase in Council Tax.

    At para. 5.5 he states:
    'The council could choose to increase council tax instead. This is a decision for elected Members.'
    He is quite right that this should be a decision for the elected members of the Full Council. It is one of the most important powers that voters gave them when they were elected, as representatives of all 21 Wards across the borough.

    However, at para. 5.6 he states:
    '... leading Members have instructed officers to prepare a budget based on a council tax freeze for 2015/16.'
    It is clear from the letter quoted in Martin's blog above who these 'leading Members' are.

    The result of those 'leading Members' usurping the rights of their fellow elected members is set out at the start of para. 5.7 of the report:
    'Increasing council tax would increase the level of resources available to the council, and hence enable more of the proposed savings to be rejected.'

    Para. 5.9 of the report states:
    'There is clear evidence from the consultation undertaken for the borough plan that protecting the most vulnerable should be a key priority for the council ....'

    Unfortunately, the 'leading Members' fixation with 'protecting those on the lowest incomes from further financial pressures' of a Council Tax increase of much less than £1 a week (when there are provisions in place to help those most in need) means that funds will be cut unnecessarily from services to the most vulnerable older, disabled and children's services, if there is no increase in Council Tax.

    Surely all elected members of the Council should be allowed to vote as their conscience dictates on such an important issue.

    Philip Grant.

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    Replies
    1. What is the combined value of the 2 'leading members' votes (ok, chuck in those of their loyalists too)?
      What is the value of the combined votes of those councillors in favour of raising council tax by a small amount to defend services?
      When is 'a decision for elected Members' not 'a decision for elected Members'?
      When is a vote not a vote?

      We know that Puttey has forbidden council officers to approach councillors with their concerns. Has he now forbidden councillors to approach councillors with their concerns?

      Who's advising Puttey? Joey Essex?
      Mike Hine

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    2. Philip, although I agree with you on many things I feel it's a bit dismissive to call protecting those on low incomes from a CT rise a "fixation". It might not sound like a lot of money to you but there are people in this borough using food banks and literally choosing between heating and eating. The current support for these people is totally inadequate.

      That's not to say I wouldn't support a rise, but part of the rise should be used to fund further
      Council Tax Support for those that need it.

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    3. Dear Anonymous at 12:11

      Apologies for the word "fixation"; perhaps a bit over the top. I note what you say, and would have no objection if some of the money raised by a 1.99% Council Tax increase were allocated to further Council Tax Support for those that genuinely need it.

      I live in a Band E semi-detached house in Kingsbury, and a 1.99% increase would mean that I would have to pay just under 50 pence a week extra Council Tax in 2015/16. For many less fortunate than me in the borough, the increase would well under 50 pence a week. If over the borough as a whole, even after the Government takes away its "freeze grant" of around £1 million, those 50p's mean an extra £700,000 going to services for the most vulnerable, that is surely something we would agree to pay, and I believe strongly that the Full Council should not be blocked from asking us to pay it.

      Philip Grant.

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  16. What happened to Davani(mis-spelt)/Pavey beef post? Was it misinformation from the top (or just wishful thinking)?

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  17. I've just noticed that the Brent Council press release (of 13 February) about the budget cuts going before the Cabinet is headed:
    'Sixth Brent council tax freeze set to be discussed'.

    This headline is also one of those currently appearing across the top of the home page on the Council's website. When the report it is referring to shows that 'Leading Members' of the Council have already instructed the Council's Finance Officers to draw up the budget on the basis of a Council Tax freeze, saying that this freeze is 'set to be discussed' does seem misleading. But then, how long is it since anyone could rely on Brent's press releases giving an accurate and balanced view?

    Philip Grant.

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    Replies
    1. You and your old-fashioned notions, Philip!
      'Discussions', like 'consultations', require the relaxed atmosphere and stability which is only really available in that tranquil period which follows the taking of the actual decision itself.
      Please keep up.

      Mike Hine

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  18. I try to have more than one source to be sure of claims made and didn't have one in this case.

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  19. Who would have thought that this blog would have given us such a wonderful double act as Philip and Mike?

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    1. Dear Anonymous at 01:24,

      Thank you for the compliment (?).

      I'm not sure whether you are seeing us as a comedy duo, but, believe it or not, as far as I know Mike and I have never met. What we have in common is a willingness to write what we think in comments on this blog site, and to do so in our own names (I am assuming that Mike Hine is your real name, Mike?).

      Mike is right that I have some old-fashioned notions, like integrity, fair play, and "doing the right thing". That is the way I was brought up, and I make no apology for not adopting some of the modern notions such as self-interest, "everybody does it" or "its all right if you can get away with it". I sometimes try to persuade those in power with reasoned argument, but I am also prepared to speak out in support of what I believe to be right where I think this will help a particular cause.

      Please feel free to laugh with me, or at me, over the current goings on at Brent Council, but please also do whatever you can to help good sense and good governance return to our borough. Thank you.

      Philip.

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    2. I assumed that Anonymous at 01.24 was the blessed Cara. Hope you haven't been taken in, Philip.

      Mike Hine (real name)

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    3. Oh Philip, it was very definitely a compliment, please be assured that I was laughing with you, not at you. And do please keep speaking up for what is right.

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    4. Slightly disappointed, Anon. After my lengthy (if unconventional) wooing of Ms D, I thought I might finally be getting somewhere. Ah well, I'll have to try another tack.
      Thanks anyway.
      Mike Hine

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  20. Story is in the Kilburn Times.

    http://www.kilburntimes.co.uk/news/politics/labour_councillors_forced_to_back_cuts_in_brent_1_3962674

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