Brighton and Hove councillors are gearing up for crunch budget talks almost a week after discussions came to a grinding halt.
Debate was suspended after a six-hour meeting on Thursday (27 February) when the three parties on Brighton and Hove City Council were unable to reach an agreement.
The full council will return to Hove Town Hall tomorrow (Wednesday 5 March) to try to strike a deal.
The minority Green administration – made up of 21 councillors – wants a 4.75 per cent council tax rise which would trigger a referendum, potentially costing up to £900,000.
The Conservative opposition group – made up of 18 councillors – wants a freeze in tbe rares while the 14 opposition Labour councillors are calling for a rise of just under 2 per cent.
The Latest website reports that no formal talks have taken place between parties since Thursday although a meeting of the group leaders is being scheduled for tomorrow morning.
If a budget is not set by Tuesday 11 March then the government could intervene and decide the council’s spending and council tax for 2014-15.
When asked before the meeting if this would be the case, council leader Jason Kitcat said that he “would not allow (Local Government Secretary) Eric Pickles to come down here and set the budget”.
In a statement released yesterday, Councillor Kitcat said: “It’s clear that the Tories want to see Eric Pickles come to Brighton and Hove and further slash funding for council services.
“They are committed to reducing public services and jobs in the city indefinitely.
“However, Labour’s position has been very disappointing. They claim to be concerned about the unprecedented cuts Brighton and Hove faces and the impact on local services – but have blocked our proposals to protect them.
“We urge them to prove it by allowing us, as the largest party, to set a budget that gives local services a more certain future.”
Speaking after Thursday’s meeting, Conservative group leader Geoffrey Theobald said: “Frankly it was a shambles. This really is no way to run a council.
“We have been clear and consistent in arguing for a freeze all the way through. Everyone knew our stance.”
Speaking earlier today, Labour leader Warren Morgan claimed refusing to make to a deal would “drop the council into a financial black hole”.
He said: “If a budget isn’t set and council tax bills don’t go out, income the council relies on for services will dry up, and the government may step in to take over, with dire repercussions for local services and jobs.
“We will vote for the base budget (of a 2 per cent rise) as we did last Thursday.
“The Greens and Tories have made their points about calling a referendum and freezing tax, now we all need to get serious, stop playing politics and make sure the council continues to function.
“All they need to do is abstain in the vote and let us pass a budget.”
The budget meeting will be reconvened at 6pm in Hove Town Hall tomorrow (Wednesday).
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