The Prime Minister today described plans to put up council tax in Brighton and Hove as a huge mistake.
David Cameron was responding to fellow Conservative Simon Kirby, the MP for Brighton Kemptown.
At Prime Minister’s Questions today (Wednesday 23 November) Mr Kirby asked: “Given the government’s intention to freeze council tax, is the Prime Minister as astounded as I am that Green-run Brighton and Hove council is planning to decline £3 million of council tax grant and is planning instead to raise council tax by 3.5 per cent, so costing local tax payers £4 million?”
Mr Cameron said: “That is a very important point.
“At a time of difficult household budgets, it is this government who have cut the petrol tax, and we are freezing the council tax and have made that money available to councils up and down the country.
“It is a decision for individual councils.
“If they want the money to go ahead with the council tax freeze, the money is there.
“But if they reject it, as they plan to in Brighton, that is a huge mistake because the council will be asking families in Brighton to pay more at a time when it should be on their side.”
Green councillor Jason Kitcat, the Brighton and Hove City Council cabinet member for finance, dismissed the coalition government’s proposed council tax freeze as a gimmick.
He said that the council would receive £3 million but that it would cost £4 million over two years, making it a bad deal for council tax payers.
He said: “The harsh reality is this scheme doesn’t make financial sense for councils, and is yet another way the government are slashing budgets for local services.
“And in the long run it would likely lead to even greater council tax increases.
“It’s absolutely clear to me that Greens were voted the largest party on Brighton and Hove City Council because of our commitment to public services and resisting the Tory agenda of ‘small government’.
“Residents expect us to use our Green values to fight for the fairest possible settlement in the face of unprecedented cuts from central government.
“The tax freeze grant is another attack, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, which we oppose.
“Why is it bad for the council? Because it would over two years cost us £4 million, and more over the longer term.
“With inflation running at over 5 per cent and councils not allowed to increase council tax beyond 3.5 per cent, council income is falling further and further behind the increasing costs our service providers are experiencing, even if we do increase tax by as much as we’re allowed.
“The difference for the average council tax payer will be less than 50p a week.
“But the council can collectively put all those extra pennies to great use in protecting services and jobs the Tories would rather we axed.
“I’ve challenged the local Tories to list the extra £4 million of service cuts they would propose if we adopt the grant as they are advocating.
“A £3 million grant that loses us £4 million is not a good deal how could it be?
“Accepting it would be agreeing to more Tory cuts and acquiescing to the cynical politics of the coalition government. As a green, I resist.”