The Greens’ proposed 4.75 per cent rise in council tax has been rejected at the annual budget and council tax debate at Hove Town Hall.
Members of Brighton and Hove City Council are debating the Green Party’s proposal to put up council tax 4.75 per cent and ask for the support if voters in a referendum.
They are also considering Labour’s proposal of a council tax rise of just below the 2 per cent that would trigger a referendum – the level originally put forward by the Greens in December.
And the Conservatives want to freeze council tax, with the government promising just over £1 million if the council does so.
The Greens’ finance spokesman Councillor Leo Littman said: “It’s the best possible budget in the circumstances.”
Council leader Jason Kitcat said: “Council finances are in crisis. This is not a party political point.”
Councillor Kitcat, the Green leader, quoted senior Labour and Conservatives making the same point.
He said: “The pressure is incredible. Council tax is imperfect and the referendum process is imperfect. We have to work with what we’ve got today.”
He said that the council was incredibly efficient, having already taken almost £60 million out of the budget.
The Greens say that their proposed council tax rise would mean most households in Brighton and Hove paying £5.30 a month extra or less.
Councillor Kitcat added: “The difference between our position and Labour’s is 61p a week.”
Councillor Ann Norman, the Conservative finance spokesman, said that the Green budget proposals were predicated on a misunderstanding that “the only way to support services is to raise council tax”.
Councillor Norman said: “Services can be delivered better by doing things differently.” She cited councils that were collaborating, working with the voluntary and private sector and in other innovative ways.
She urged the Greens to follow the example of other Conservative and some Labour councils In freezing council tax.
Councillor Norman said that the Conservatives wanted to restore a proposed £25,000 cut to Pride. The Tories also intended to reverse proposed £165,000 cut to respite care for disabled children and their families. She said: “Cuts to their budget are a false economy.”
She also said that her party would cut the price of traders’ parking permits, saying: “This is nothing less than an extra tax on local businesses and we want to reduce it.
“We would also provide transitional funding to help the council’s excellent Able and Willing (supported employment) service to find a more sustainable model.”
Conservative group leader Councillor Geoffrey Theobald said that his party’s budget was “the budget that the majority in our city would like to see”.
He urged the Greens to market-test services to see whether others could provide them more efficiently than the council. And he called for the transport budget to focus more on repairing roads and pavements.
Criticising the proposed 4.75 per cent rise, Councillor Warren Morgan, the Labour group leader, said: “When the Greens say it’s just a few pounds a week, they show they’re out if touch with the people of this city.”
Councillor Morgan said that he opposed spending £900,000 on a referendum that would better be spent on services that residents want and need.
Councillor Les Hamilton, Labour’s finance spokesman, said: “I find it incredible that (Local Government Secretary) Eric Pickles can cut millions from our revenue support grant and then give us back peanuts.”
Councillor Hamilton said that revenue support grant had fallen from £100 million when the coalition government and would drop to £2 million by 2020.
He said: “The Green administration is the only one in the country proposing a referendum.
“There are 101 Labour councils and none of them is proposing a referendum, not because they don’t want more money but because they know people won’t support it.”
A Conservative amendment to restore £25,000 to Pride was carried as was a Labour amendment to put £165,000 back into grants for community organisations.
Able and Willing also had £125,000 restored to its budget.