Minister urges Tories and Labour to block council tax rise in Brighton and Hove

Posted On 22 Feb 2012 at 7:39 pm

A government minister today urged councillors on all sides to freeze council tax for Brighton and Hove at the annual budget meeting tomorrow (Thursday 23 February).

Bob Neill, the Local Government Minister, called on Labour councillors to join his Conservative colleagues in voting down the Greens’ proposed 3.5 per cent rise.

All the indications are that the two parties will vote the same way and, as they outnumber the Greens, they are likely to force the administration to freeze council tax.

Brighton and Hove City Council leader Bill Randall can exercise a veto over the decision for seven days when councillors would have to vote again.

But both Councillor Geoffrey Theobald, the opposition Conservative group leader, and Councillor Gill Mitchell, the opposition Labour group leader, have repeatedly said that bills should not go up.

Mr Neill said: “It’s a serious mistake that the Green administration in Brighton and Hove is proposing.

“There’s a real obligation on councils to keep down the cost to council tax payers.

“Household budgets are being squeezed. The council tax is an important element.

“The Conservatives will be voting to freeze the council tax and I hope that Labour will put party considerations aside to protect the ratepayers.”

He criticised the Greens for turning down a £3 million government grant in exchange for freezing the level of council tax.

He said that Brighton and Hove would receive £104 million in formula grant alone, adding: “We adjusted the formula to make sure the needs element was increased in the weighting that it was given.

“When you look at the reduction of spending power for Brighton and Hove, what you’re looking at is a reduction of about 4 per cent.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable. I don’t think it’s unmanageable.

“This money (the £3 million grant) gives them a bit of a breathing space although it can’t be granted for future years.”

He said that it allowed time for a redesign of services as the government tried to address the deficit and rein in public spending across the board.

He added: “I think Brighton and Hove are out on a bit of a limb on this.

He acknowledged that Surrey was one of about a dozen Conservative councils putting up council tax rather than taking the one-off grant to fund a freeze.

Mr Neill said: “We’ve been as critical of a Conservative authority like Surrey as we have been of Labour authorities or Brighton as a Green minority-run authority.

“It ought to be easier for a council like Brighton and Hove. Surrey has been cutting spending for years.

“This is a political decision by the Greens. They are a left-wing party and they’re a high tax and high spending party.

“High tax and high spending doesn’t always equate with better services.”

He said that there were lower spending councils in Sussex that were providing a good level of services.

But Band D council tax payers in Brighton and Hove, he said, could expect to pay about £74 more a year.

Mr Neill said: “I hate to see the residents of a great place like Brighton and Hove being penalised in this way.

“”If you’re someone on a fixed income, or struggling, that does make a difference.

“I think the Greens are being ideological and dogmatic about this.

“The majority of councils across the country are freezing council tax.

“Obviously it’s a local decision but the first duty of councillors is to protect the council tax payer.”

  1. michael jenkins Reply

    THE CONSERVATIVE MINISTER IS ONLY DOING IT FOR THE CAUSE OF POLITICAL PARTY COMPETITION SCORES, NOT THE NATIONAL INTEREST, CONSERVATIVES ARE ASKING LABOURS TO UNITE, TWO AGAINST ONE, AGAINST THE GREENS, BECAUSE CONSERVATIVES CAN’T LET GREENS WIN. BECAUSE CONSERVATIVES CAN’T LET GREENS BE PROVED RIGHT. WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT A 3.5% COUNCIL TAX RISE FOR BRIGHTON AND HOVE, THAT COULD SECURE MANY TENS OF BRIGHTON AND HOVE CITY COUNCIL SERVICES STAFF SALARIES, LIKE HOUSING OFFCIERS AND COUNTRYSIDE RANGERS AND CITYLCEAN HELPLINE OPERATORS AND SCHOOL TEACHERS. THOSE COUNCIL STAFF MIGHT BE HUSANDS AND WIVES AND PARENTS OF CHILDREN IN BRIGHTON AND HOVE SCHOOLS. WHY SHOULD THE CONSERVATIVE MINSTER FROM HER MAJESTY’S GOVERNMENT’S CONSERVATIVE CABINET ON HIGH EMPLOY ANY OF HIS EXPENSIVE TIME TO SQUASH BRIGHTON AND HOVE CITY COUNCIL’S GREEN CABINET ? NOT BECAUSE HE CARES ABOUT BRIGHTON AND HOVE CITY COUNCIL STAFF AND SERVICES. PROBABLY BECASUE BEHIND THE SCENES THE BRIGHTON AND HOVE CITY COUNCIL CONSERVATIVE COUNCILLORS HAVE GONE CRYING FOR HELP FROM HER MAJESTY’S GOVERNMENT’S CABINET MINISTERS ? RIGHT OR WRONG ?

  2. Clive Reply

    A bit worrying when a local government minister can talk about ‘ratepayers’ when domestic rates were abolished more than twenty years ago.

    Mr Neill isn’t short of brass neck though, in claiming that the Greens are guilty of taking a ‘political decision’. So his decisions are all non-political, are they?

    We are now in the strange position where the Greens can fairly claim to be the party of fiscal responsibility, while the Tories are in favour of – effectively – extending the mortgage.

    Labour’s silence is baffling. If it is supposed to be statesmanlike – well, it isn’t.

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