British Asia News Network
London, April 3: When we look at what makes a good Councillor, What qualities are important in a local representative and – perhaps most importantly – who works for the community with heart and soul…we came across Muhammed Butt, the leader of one of the Labour’s biggest London councils.
We saw snippets of Councillor (Cllr) Butt, Chief of Brent Council all throughout 2018 at various local events and gatherings regardless of how big or small they were. He was there to support this community regardless of whether it was an event at a Temple, Church, Mosque, banqueting hall, on the streets or a local business premises. Cllr Butt, has established relationships with the community, was welcomed and he recognised that it’s the communities voice that needs to be heard and it is them who take control of their lives, communities and borough.
Brent is a wonderfully diverse borough and Cllr Butt celebrates this diversity as one of their greatest strengths and makes sure that the vast and varied contributions different groups in Brent make are in the spotlight.
Cllr Butt originally became a Cllr in 2006; he was in opposition at the time for 4 years and took the opportunity to learn about the council the services and how the council provide those services, in 2010 Labour took control of the council again. He was appointed Deputy Leader of the group and the council, and this gave him the remit to look at the finance, IT, HR and the political engagement within the council and the community and residents.
In 2012 Cllr Butt was appointed the leader of Brent council, he tells British Asia News “that meant I had to change my thinking and how we interact as it becomes more strategic and more overlooking the whole of the council. It’s been an interesting journey from then to where we are today, it is about the relationship we have with our partners, the stakeholders, how we give a political steer and direction of the council, what morals, policy and stance we give are more strategic”.
Brent Councils Aim
The main focus has been about “making sure we have resilient communities”
There are 3 priorities:
1. Fairness: it doesn’t matter who you are, what your qualifications are, or what your back ground or your belief. It is about making sure every single person has access to the same support and services that everyone should be entitled to.
2. Jobs and Growth: If you take the fairness priority, making sure education, jobs, skills are provided, this is making sure the borough grows, business continue to flourish and making sure opportunities around housing and employment are available, we want every single person to progress and nobody should be left behind so that they are standing with you side by side not behind you.
3. Resilient communities: Once you have the fairness the jobs and growth how we temper that into something the community can benefit from. Each community is given the helping hand and then can reach out to their communities.
Creating a better community and society
Cllr Butt creates a means by which that element of power could be returned to people.
“I give a simple step for people to take in Brent make friends and reach out to the 5 people next to you on either side, if they also reach out imagine the community very quickly everyone will know everyone it’s a simple 5 people step. In Brent we encourage people to use the local shops. Aim is to make residents of Brent have a sense of caring and taking that responsibility to look after it, if they visit their local areas and local shops and see something wrong on route they can use the cleaner Brent app and let me know what’s wrong, we may not be able to fix it straight away but we will respond”.
Brent celebrates every festival. Brent Civic centre has the flag hosting ceremony for virtually every country and the Council recognise the contribution people make, “we don’t want people to lose their heritage and their culture we want them to be proud of it. It’s about every child in Brent recognising where their friends are from”.
Cllr Butt grew up in Brent, went to school in Brent, works and lives in Brent, “my neighbours were an Indian family and we grew up with them. Growing up in Brent meant we celebrated everything, from Holi to Diwali, Eid, Vaisakhi, Navaratri, Christmas, Easter and many more cultural celebrations. Immigration and cultures in Brent has bought with them the colours, music, culture the smells of curries and different foods etc. to the community”.
Diversity in Brent
In Brent there is Ealing Road which has made a huge contribution with its South Asian community, Harlesden and Kensal Green has a mixture of the Somalian community, Caribbean, Brazilian and Portuguese community, Cricklewood have the Irish community, and all these communities are adding to the beauty and diversity and adding so much value. Ethnic shops are opening everywhere and according to Cllr Butt “When you give people the opportunity or reason and show them you are a valued person of our community they will bring their best and infuse it”.
Brent works with all the businesses giving them the opportunity offering expert help and support to up their businesses and up their games.
The opportunity arising in Brent will be amazing with 20-30,000 homes coming, 60-70,000 jobs, the cross rail connection, “I don’t want any of the businesses in Harlesden to be lost, the uniqueness of Harlesden High Street I want to protect, like the Blue Mountain vegetable shop, the Roti shop, Lord shoes, Housewives cash and carry, because all these shops have been there for 20-40 years. I don’t want any of these shops to be impacted and it’s about making sure these shops are protected and enhance the ability of these shops to progress and succeed. Local business matter they are the pulse of the community, it brings the community together there’s more of a personal service, there is a caring responsibility, the whole community becomes your family and when you build society like that it can only be better for everyone”.
Brent certainly is unique, the borough speak 180 different languages, school have 50-60 different languages spoken, yet despite all those language barriers, cultures and identities Brent schools are some of the best schools in England, Wembley High Technology College in Brent is the top school in England according to the Real Schools Guide.
Cllr Butt’s aim is to “make sure opportunities are there for our young people to progress through society, to become the next captains of industry and next leaders of our councils”.
Brent was recognised by Mayor of London as Borough of culture for 2020 in February 2017. This recognition for the Borough means it’s about a legacy after that the years 2020 our communities should feel that they can continue to celebrate their cultures and their heritage. He believes that the mind-set of the local government needs to be changed to understand that “we are not here for ourselves we are here for the people who live within in. My aim is make sure all staff in the councils has that attitude we are here to serve, hence the term public servant”.
He recognises that the ethnic communities within the UK have made sacrifices and contributions which are recognised in history for example the Grunwick dispute strikes between 1976-78. The mostly female, immigrant, East African Asian strikers – dubbed "strikers in saris" by the news media – were led by Jayaben Desai who’s mural now stands in Dollis Hill who was the first Indian woman who stood up for her rights and immigrant rights the whole movement came behind her.
As the Borough of culture Brent will have a mile long party on the A5 and are thinking about getting people together with food and music. www.LBOC2020.uk more info can be found on the mile long street party.
This man is someone who spoke about keeping a legacy for every ones cultural involved in Brent. “Brent is open and Brent is welcoming and we celebrate everyone”. He has the passion for Brent because “it’s my home” he says.
I was interested to see what are his views on the India Pakistan’s current Kashmir news was and he said “we have ended up with two countries that have some of the poorest individuals living hand to mouth on a day to day basis and then you have the disparities of some of the politicians who sit in their offices in those countries that cannot see beyond their own noses that the war is only going to hurt those poor people, it really hurts me. And I’m sitting here and talking to you about how I want to make sure that nobody is left behind I want to give that helping hand, yet both India and Pakistan will find the money to go to war so that somebody else’s son or daughter dies on that battle field! It doesn’t matter whether you are Pakistani, Indian, Kashmiri, Palestine, my friend if you cut me, my blood is going to be the same colour as yours, my pain is going to be the same as yours, the mothers pain of losing that son or daughter is the same, and all because we can’t sit around a table and come to a decision on what’s good for our community”.
So when we asked this super busy community man Cllr Butt what do you do in your spare time?... He said I need to be active as soon as I’m sitting there doing nothing I’m at a loss” he says laughing!! “I have this energy and love using it to speak to residents, be out in the community doing my work, reading the paperwork, this is what I love”
As a result our conclusion; we sure do believe that Brent could not have a better leader! This man is totally for the community and will leave a legacy to celebrate all cultures within London’s most diverse Borough for many more years to come.
I know this guy, Cllr Butt, you have actually captured him perfectly in your article! He certainly is the community man and we need more people like him in our goverment! The goverment is not impressive at the moment! More people like Butt means a better goverment for the country
Good to know there are councillors working for the community!