Brighton and Hove Greens urge Labour to be open about budget choices

Posted On 04 Aug 2015 at 8:16 am

The Green Party is urging the new Labour administration running Brighton and Hove City Council to publish its budget proposals early enough for those affected by cuts to have their say.

The party’s finance spokesman, Councillor Ollie Sykes, also called on the Labour leader Councillor Warren Morgan and his colleagues to oppose further cuts imposed by the Conservative government.

Councillor Sykes said: “With the recent announcement by George Osborne of 25 to 40 per cent cuts to all unprotected departments, councils around the country face a horrendous situation over the next few years.

“In Brighton and Hove the challenges facing the local Labour administration reflect those the Greens had to deal with between 2011 and 2015, when savings of £77 million were made to the council budget.

“It has been suggested that the Greens left the city ill-prepared for further cuts but this is not the case.

“Throughout our term we rose to the challenge of the relentless and continuing government attack on public services.

“We worked hard to campaign against cuts and to minimise the impact on the city.

“We were one of the few councils around the country which, in spite of being cut more than most, managed to maintain children’s centres, libraries, supported bus routes, public parks and highway improvements.

“Much of the work to address our financial crisis now being called for by the Labour administration – including rationalising the council estate, using cross-council benchmarking to compare costs, addressing management costs and ‘spans of control’, cutting down on public sector transport costs – was being implemented under the Greens.

“It is true that continuing these efficiencies now won’t be enough and that the need for further savings will mean our public services are spread more thinly or cut completely.

“Councillor Morgan says the current situation takes us ‘beyond party politics’.

“However, it is crystal clear that these cuts are as much about the Conservative-led ideology of a shrunken state as they are about the need to cut the national deficit.

“Nationally, the Greens oppose the ideology of austerity and seek to work with others who share our perspective. We would pursue less destructive ways of reducing the country’s deficit.

“Locally we think the council needs to hear from residents and families that might be affected well before key decisions are made.

“While we support the setting up of Fairness Commission, we think it needs to be accompanied by political work by Labour, advocating against further cuts to local government and the relentless squeeze of public services, as we did when in administration.

“It’s unfortunate that Labour appears to reject this idea, with senior members of the administration saying ‘now is not the time to protest’.

“Equally the apparent abandonment of the Green innovation to publish draft budget material as early as possible, to give more time for public analysis and comment, is a mistake.

“Before decisions are taken to cut services, Greens think that the residents of our city should be fully informed and consulted about what’s happening.

“At a recent committee meeting, Greens made a reasonable and low-cost proposal to use a maximum of £50,000 in one-off funding to undertake a citywide communication and consultation exercise about local public services: how (and indeed whether) they may be funded in future.

“This would then inform decision-making, including on the level of council tax.

“This proposal, at less than a fifth of the cost of the unceremonious booting out of a good chief exec, was rejected by the Labour and Conservative groups.

“In Brighton and Hove we’re in danger of seeing a ‘bleeding stump’ approach by Labour to dealing with Conservative ideological austerity, whereby local public services are diminished or cut without political or technical effort to save them.

“This is a genuine crossroads for many of our cherished local services. Residents of the city deserve a real chance to be informed and contribute to key decisions before they’re taken.”

  1. rolivan Reply

    I don’t suppose that £50,000 was going to the Democratic Society where Jason Kitcat is now working?

  2. Ollie Sykes Reply

    Errr no. Its the potential cost of a council comms campaign about pending cuts and where they’re coming from, and a budget questionnaire along previous lines, posted to more residents of the city than last year to improve statistical robustness. Likely cost of these two pieces of work is probably significantly less than the sum indicated and would provide a clearer public steer to budget setting

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