Brighton and Hove Tories hit back over 'budget myths'

Posted On 02 Mar 2011 at 9:08 pm

The battle over the budget for Brighton and Hove heated up today as council leader Mary Mears “condemned the misinformation being put out by the opposition”.

She criticised the Greens and Labour for claiming that the budget was reckless and would result in savage cuts and large-scale redundancies.

The two parties are jointly planning to overturn key Conservative measures at the Brighton and Hove City Council budget-setting meeting tomorrow (Thursday 3 March).

The opposition parties want to scrap the 1 per cent cut in council tax and the £1m plan to scrap the cycle lane in The Drive and Grand Avenue in Hove.

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Councillor Mears said that she was “busting the budget myths” put about by her political rivals.

She said: “For the Labour Party to describe our budget plans as reckless just beggars belief.

“They are the party locally that increased your council tax by £743 – or 124 per cent – during their ten years in power and nationally left the country with the worst budget deficit in the developed world.

“In addition, the council’s reserves are still at a higher level than they were when we took over from them in 2007.

“By comparison to a lot of other councils we have managed to protect many of the services we offer to the most vulnerable in society including Supporting People, Homelessness, Aids Support, respite for carers and funding for voluntary organisations.

“We will not be closing any libraries, children’s Sure Start centres or subsidised bus routes.

“Nor will there be large-scale job losses as the opposition claim.

“There will be a maximum of 80 redundancies and we hope that most of these will be on a voluntary basis.

“Labour and the Greens are arrogant enough to think that they are better able to spend residents’ money than the residents themselves.

“By contrast, we don’t want to take one single penny more from them than is absolutely necessary and that is why we are proposing a 1 per cent reduction in the council tax and a 5 per cent reduction in resident parking charges, which will put £1.5 million back into the local economy.

“It will also leave residents in a ‘Band D’ home over £60 better off than if council tax had gone up by inflation.

“If they do go ahead and block these measures, they need to explain to the residents just why they are denying them this opportunity to benefit at a time when everyone is suffering from high food and fuel costs.”

The Conservatives have also criticised the Greens for publicly proposing to sack the council’s four new strategic directors.

Councillor Mears said: “How irresponsible of the Green Party to put this forward without even having the common courtesy to consult them or the chief executive first.

“The first I learned about it was when the press release appeared on their website.

“What they fail to grasp is that these four people were brought in specifically to deliver a new approach to providing services and to save residents’ money.”

The Conservatives said that the two joint opposition amendments would change the way £2 million to £3 million of council funds were raised or spent out of a budget of almost £760 million.

“In other words,” Councillor Mears said, “they are in agreement with over 99.5 per cent of what the Conservative administration is proposing.”

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