At Brent Council’s Call-in Committee meeting last week (3 August) Labour backbench councillors voted to endorse the Executive’s decision to remove funding from Navratri, Eid, St Patrick’s Day, Diwali, Christmas festive lights and other festivals in Brent.
Leading Labour councillors gave conflicting reasons for their decisions, with some saying it was all about money, some claiming that the council would be breaking the law if it continued to support the event, and some simply being hostile to the idea of events linked to particular faiths.
Liberal Democrat Leader Paul Lorber, who led the challenge to Labour’s decision said:
Labour’s arguments don’t stack up. The council could find money to support these popular community-organised festivals if it switches some funds from the extravagant council-run events it is planning and the expensive staff unit which will organise them.
If Labour’s argument about the new equalities laws is correct other council-funded services with links to faith- and culture-based organisations are at risk. I am seeking clarification about the impact on other council grants.
Once again Labour is making decisions without thinking through the consequences.
Paul told the the Wembley Observer:
We had a lengthy debate but the Labour members were clearly whipped. There could still be an opportunity to instigate debate on this decision again in the future, when the council comes to announce its budget. It’s very disappointing but we have not given up all hope as yet.