A lean Christmas this year as Brent Council cuts costs

The leaders of Brent Council will tonight propose cutting children’s social workers as part of a bid to save an additional £18.8m over the next three years.

Brent Civic Centre, where local councillors will tonight propose nearly £19m in cuts
Brent Civic Centre, where local councillors will tonight propose nearly £19m in cuts. Source: David Gregg

The cuts will be part of a wide range of measures launched at a 14th December meeting at Brent Civic Centre.

These will include: cutting one in five jobs in the ‘Community Services’ department, charging residents more for waste removal and setting up pay-as-you-go WiFi hotspots on lamp-posts and rooftops.

These £18.8m savings are in addition to a previously agreed package of £28.3m savings. This means over the next three years, the council will make cost-saving measures worth £47.1m.

Cllr. Mohammed Butt, the Labour leader of Brent Council, said: “The proposals we’re publishing today try to squeeze the very last penny out of the money we have to spend on services, by being more efficient and modern in our approach, driving down costs, and maximising income from our commercial assets.

“We are doing our best to keep the negative impacts on front line services to an absolute minimum but there will be significant changes given the budget position.”


Brent Council has seen a 16per cent fall in its budget since 2010/11. After George Osborne announced that central funding for local government would decrease by over 50%, local councillors have been forced to make even more drastic measures than originally planned.

Previously agreed cuts included £420,000 saved by encouraging elderly residents to move from home care to living in sheltered or supported accommodation. This will allow the council to spend less on residential nursing.

£900,000 will be saved in children and youth services mainly by altering structures and delivery of social services, but the threat of job losses remains. A further £500,000 will be saved by reducing the number of agency children social workers from 70 to 40.

The removal of a grant to the popular Tricycle Theatre, along with cuts to Willesden Green Cultural Centre, will save £280,000. The loss of this grant will mean the theatre can no longer perform its local outreach work in schools.

This will mean the end of the theatre’s sometimes controversial relationship with Brent Council. Tricycle Theatre refused to host the UK Jewish Film Festival in 2014 due to its links to the Israeli Embassy. This decision was reversed after an investigation was launched by John Warren, leader of the council’s Conservative group. 


In addition to cutting costs, the council is looking at a variety of measures to raise revenues. There is a possibility of a 4 per cent increase in council tax, half of which will be ring-fenced for social care. Increased ‘charges and fees’ will raise 1.99m from local residents.

When asked for comment, Brent Council said: “On fees and charges, we’re obviously being selective about increases – and we’re required to assess the likely impact on various groups. We take a targeted approach to mitigate negative impacts.  We’re more interested in maximising income from commercial income – such as advertising, sponsorship, and  room hire rentals.”

The council are being tight-lipped about exactly where this money will come from but possibilities include charging for previously free waste removal services and increased rates for sports facilities.

The council also hopes to raise an extra £300,000 in revenue from additional advertising and sponsorship of Brent Civic Centre, as well as lampposts across the borough.

Lampposts in Brent look to be the council’s big moneymakers with plans to raise £50,000 a year from selling access to lamppost based wireless hotspots.

Alexandra Kulikova, a global stakeholder manager for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the group which helps maintain security and stability of the Internet, said: “While it may make economic sense, WiFi hotspots are often unsecured meaning they can be hacked into. Unless appropriate security measures are taken, users may be at risk.”

The Cabinet meeting to consider these proposals takes place tonight, and the full budget will be set on 22nd February 2016.


Glasgow bin man hid his medical history before last year’s tragic accident

Mourners for the victims of last year’s bin lorry tragedy in Glasgow.   Credit: Michel (Flickr)


A Glasgow bin lorry driver could have avoided the deaths of six people if he had: “told the whole truth” about his medical history.

Harry Clarke, 58, lost consciousness at the wheel of his vehicle on 22 December 2014. It then careened out of control into 23 people, leaving six dead.

At a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) at Glasgow Sherriff Court, Sherriff John Beckett pointed out eight ways the tragic accident could have been avoided, all of which related to his hidden medical past.

Clarke was found to have suffered: “an episode of neurocardiogenic syncope”, one of the commonest causes of fainting.

Syncope is just one of a long list of conditions that drivers may need to inform authorities about including diabetes, epilepsy and anorexia.

Drivers are supposed to notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) if they have a medical condition which could cause them to: “become incapacitated at the wheel.”

Matthew, a 21 year old with Type 1 diabetes described dealing with the DVLA: “It’s pretty easy, it’s just a case of sending a form off and getting a new license a few weeks later. Though it’s frustrating to need someone else’s permission to drive.”

Sherriff Beckett suggested that doctors could be given greater freedom to tell the DVLA about patients who may be driving unsafely. He even suggested that Parliament could give doctors a legal obligation to tell the DVLA.

The General Medical Council (GMC) said that their guidance already allowed doctors to breach patient confidentiality if they felt their patient posed a risk to the public, without fear of disciplinary action.

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive, said: “Doctors carrying out their duty will not face any sanction.”

The Crown Office responded to the report by saying: “There are no findings in the determination that undermine the decisions not to prosecute the driver.” The DVLA said they are: “carefully considering the recommendations in the report.”

This piece originally appeared on Westminster World

Patients still want unnecessary antibiotics, even with superbugs on the rise

E.coli bacteria. Credit: NIAID
E.coli bacteria. Credit: NIAID

Patient satisfaction drops when GPs don’t give them the antibiotics they want, according to a new study.

Despite antibiotics being ineffective for most coughs and colds, GPs are still under huge pressure from patients to prescribe them.

The General Practice Patient Survey asked nearly three million adults and found that a 25% reduction in antibiotic prescription would cause a GP practise to drop by six percent in national rankings.

Patient satisfaction is taken into account when determining a GPs performance-related pay. A GP practice’s rankings also affect the amount of funding they get, meaning a drop in patient satisfaction could result in a substantial budget reduction.

The researchers from King’s College London were keen to point out that any drop in patient satisfaction from antibiotics could be made up for in other ways.

Listening to and carefully examining a patient was enough for GPs to offset the upset caused by not giving out antibiotics.

This study comes at a time when GPs are under a variety of pressures to reduce the amount of antibiotics they give out.

In August 2015, Prof. Mark Barker of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) said regulators needed to deal with overprescribing doctors who failed to change their ways. The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGPs) described Barker’s comments as: “counter productive and unhelpful.”

More recently, samples of E. coli, a bacteria that commonly causes food poisoning, have been found in Denmark and China that are resistant to an antibiotic called colistin.

Colistin is one of the last lines of defence against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Credit: FedEx

Dr Christopher Thomas, Professor of Molecular Genetics said of the discovery: “It is just a matter of time before worse combinations of resistance genes are likely to appear. Since colistin is one of the last resort antibiotics this is therefore very worrying.”

Colistin is a member of group of antibiotics called polymyxins and is unpopular due to its toxic effects on nerves and kidneys. However it remains in use as a last-line of defence against the so-called ‘superbugs’, bacteria that are resistant to all other antibiotics.

This piece originally appeared on Westminster World