Local residents told Brent Council’s Labour Leader to think again about Labour’s decision to cut funding to community festivals when they met him at a cultural event last Friday (6 July) organised by the Hindu Council.
The event in Wembley attracted representatives from dozens of community groups. Speeches at the event were dominated by the future of Brent’s Navratri celebrations which the Labour Council stopped supporting last year.
A year ago (18 July 2011), under the leadership of former Labour Leader Councillor Ann John, the Council decided to scrap support for community festivals including Christmas, St Patrick’s Day, Eid and Navratri. Instead Labour Councillors decided to revamp the Council’s own Festival Unit and spend money only on their own festivals.
Labour’s unpopular decision has been challenged by various groups. Campaigns to reinstate support for St Patrick’s Day, Navratri and other community festivals continue. Last year the local Hindu community presented the Council with a 6,000 strong petition in support of Navratri.
Subsequently Brent’s Labour councillors voted to ditch Cllr Ann John and elect Muhammed Butt as their new leader. Despite the fact that he voted in favour of cutting support for festivals when the decision was made, many residents affected hope the change of leadership will lead to a new approach.
Liberal Democrat Group Leader Paul Lorber who attended Friday’s event and spoke in favour of the Festivals said:
Brent’s Labour leadership made a big mistake in stopping support for festivals supported by the community while deciding to spend taxpayers’ money on the Council’s own events.
It is arrogance on the part of Labour Councillors to think that they know better than local people which festivals are important. Grants for popular community festivals should be reinstated and the Council should spend less on its own events.
Cllr Muhammed Butt also refused to provide any assurances about support for community festivals when questioned on the issue by Cllr Paul Lorber at Monday’s (9 July) Brent Council meeting.