In last month's newsletter I wrote about Brent Council's budget. Shortly after I sent the email the Government announced £300 million of new funding in recognition of the immense pressure Councils are under. Excellent news! Perhaps even a sign that the Minister had listened when we met with him?
It soon became clear that there wouldn't be a penny extra for Brent. The Government awarded the new money to Tory Surrey, Tory Hampshire and Tory Oxfordshire. In London it was Tory Barnet and Tory Richmond who benefited.
But not a penny extra for Brent. This truly was a nakedly political bribe to Tory Councils.
In the face of such cynicism we passed an open and honest budget.
The Council will do everything it possibly can to control costs and to operate efficiently. A new procurement strategy to squeeze every drop of value out of contracts. A new civic enterprise strategy to generate income from creative sources. And a long term investment strategy to lay lasting foundations for the future.
And we will use these strong foundations to protect our most priceless services. The services most of us never see, but which we all depend upon at the most vulnerable moments of our lives. Our fantastic Children's Centres. The social workers who keep our young people safe. Home care visits which treat our elders with dignity and respect.
The Government has brutally cut our budget in half, so we can no longer do all this alone. So we openly and honestly asked residents to help share the load by paying on average an extra £2 per month in Council Tax.
You can read my speech on the budget here. I hope you agree with me that £2 extra per month is a price worth paying. But even if not, I hope you respect the honesty with which we have presented our position.
The single biggest cost saving in the new Council budget is on procurement.
The Council pays companies to deliver a vast range of services - from enforcing parking rules to rebuilding our schools. We believe we can save £8m by renegotiating some of these contracts, bargaining far harder when we re-tender others and by overhauling internal cost controls within the Council.
These savings will be delivered through our brand new procurement strategy. This strategy marks a completely new departure for Brent Council. For the first time procurement will no longer just be about companies delivering services in exchange for money. Companies will now also have to show how they will contribute to our community.
From supporting local SMEs in their supply chain to protecting our environment. And from offering employment and skills opportunities to giving users a say in how services are delivered.
This new procurement strategy aims to secure not just financial value from each contract - but also social value. It also contains specific provision to encourage more services to be delivered in-house by accountable Council employees, rather than by private companies.
This is a brand new approach from Brent and a rare opportunity for us both to do good and to save a very large amount of money.