Job cuts and protests are likely as Brighton and Hove City Council wrestles with a £70 million funding shortfall, the Greens said yesterday (Thursday 27 November).
The ruling party also confirmed that it would be seeking a 5.9 per cent council tax rise to help maintain crucial services.
It said that people were more likely to feel the effects of the funding gap this year, adding: This time, sadly, the government cuts will hurt.”
The council’s draft budget for 2015-16 is due to be published at lunchtime today (Friday 28 November).
Councillor Ollie Sykes, the Greens’ lead member for finance, said: “The bulk of the council’s general fund money each year comes from central government.
“And over the past four years the coalition government has cut its funding to us by a frightening 32 per cent in cash terms.
“After taking into account inflation and increasing demand, this means we have £70 million less this year, for services, than when we came into office.
“And with council tax held down below inflation, which means it has fallen by 12 per cent in real terms, the rest of the council’s income cannot even begin to make up the shortfall.
“Other councils have also been cut, though historically Brighton and Hove has been cut hardest in the south east.
“And other councils are not coping. Many have closed essential services, from libraries to welfare services, and the National Audit Office last week reported that more than half of councils in England are at of risk financial failure within the next five years.
“This week, Newcastle has warned of ‘impossible cuts leading to social unrest’.”
Councillor Sykes said: “Until now, Brighton and Hove has escaped what other cities are suffering. This Green administration has ensured that only a very small fraction of those cuts have so far been passed on to the front line of council services.
“We’ve done it by getting the basics right, managing resources, rooting out inefficiency, greening the council’s building stock, and with great support and hard work from council staff.
“We’ve kept all libraries and children’s centres open, imposed no compulsory redundancies on council employees, continued a fair proportion of financial support for the third sector and even increased spending for the city’s most vulnerable.
“We’ve also brought in unprecedented external funding for city improvements, such as The Level and the Seven Dials.
“This year is different. The government cuts are so huge and there’s nothing left to squeeze.
“It means that business will no longer be as usual. Unlike the past, some council services will have to shrink or go.
“There will be redundancies and there will be protests against those redundancies.
“This is what coalition government cuts are now about to do to our city.”
He added: “This is not a budget we’re proud to see before us. But we can’t print money or ask officers to spend what we don’t have.
“Despite everything, though, we are doing what we can as a minority administration.
“Over the coming weeks, we will be calling on the government to reinstate our full grant and examining all possible ways to put the pressure on.
“We hope our Labour and Conservative colleagues will join us, for the sake of the city.
“What the coalition is doing to our most vulnerable residents and our communities is frankly immoral.
“We are asking the city to approve our proposals for a general 5.9 per cent rise in council tax.
“This will not solve the problem but it will raise more than £4 million to help maintain crucial services and to avoid raising taxes by a much higher amount for the most hard-up people in the city.
“And we are making a series of pledges to keep open such core council services as libraries, children’s centres and public toilets, to protect the city’s most vulnerable from the worst of the cuts and not to introduce anything that will contribute to the further transfer of wealth from the least well off to the wealthiest in this country.”
Last year the Greens proposed a council tax rise of 4.75 per cent but this was rejected by the Conservatives and Labour.
The Conservatives wanted a council tax freeze and Labour proposed a 1.99 per cent rise – just below the threshold that would trigger a local referendum. Council tax went up 1.99 per cent.
The Green proposal for a bigger rise this year stands little chance of being accepted.
The council is due to set its budget and council tax on Thursday 26 February for the financial year starting in April.