Facing hard budget cuts together – Brighton and Hove council leader issues a call for help

Posted On 27 Nov 2016 at 3:14 pm

There is no sugaring the pill, no sweetening the message, no avoiding the truth. Your council budget in the spring will contain cuts to services and jobs unlike any seen so far.

We are likely to have to make savings of tens of millions in the coming years, on top of the £100 million savings that have been delivered over the past five years. At the same time it is likely that your council tax will increase by at least 4 per cent. And the cuts will continue until 2020.

I know there will be campaigns and protests over many of the cuts we are being forced to make, strong cases put forward as to why services should be spared the axe, why they bring value above and beyond their cost.

Those campaigns will be right, their anger justified and understandable. There are no services the council provides that do not bring benefit to you, your community or our city. Any cut we make will have an impact.

So why are these cuts happening? Three reasons. Firstly the government is removing the third of our service funding it has until now provided. £27 million is being cut from the money the Treasury gives Brighton and Hove each year by 2020.

Secondly, more and more people need the social care services the council has to provide. Care for the growing number of older people, people with disabilities or long-term health conditions and vulnerable children in care. It is the biggest part of our budget and we have to find £10 million more next year and by 2020 care costs could eat our entire budget.

Councillor Warren Morgan

Councillor Warren Morgan

Last year the government added 2 per cent to permitted council tax increases to help fund this but the £2 million that brings in isn’t enough to keep pace. Most Conservative-led councils agree. The government may yet add a further 2 per cent for next year although there was no indication of it in the autumn statement.

Thirdly, we are in the middle of a housing crisis with rising demand for temporary accommodation as many people struggle with rents due to benefit reductions.

We are building new council homes and new affordable homes as fast as we can. Our joint venture with Hyde Housing, due for approval in December, could deliver over a thousand at just 60 per cent of market rates.

Why aren’t we making other savings, finding new income or investing to save? We are. My team of Labour councillors is working tirelessly with support from officers to find new ways of meeting the financial challenges.

We are joining an innovative scheme with East Sussex and Surrey to share “back office” support services like human resources, finance and legal.

We are investing money from selling buildings like King’s House in better online services and in the process saving £2 million a year in running costs.

We are innovating, changing, bringing co-operative ideas to how we work with you to keep services going. There will be many ways you can pitch in and play your part.

In an uncertain global economy we will fight for investment in good jobs and affordable homes in Brighton and Hove. Any new development brings in additional business rates and council tax to fund your services.

King's House

King’s House

We are earning money from new enforcement fines, clothing recycling and vehicle workshop services to help fund frontline refuse and street cleaning services.

Over the past 18 months we have been dashing to catch up with other councils who have been changing the way they fund and provide services for years.

Transforming and innovating in what we do needs time and investment.

Why isn’t parking revenue used to offset the cuts? Most of the money we get from tickets, permits and charges goes to fund free bus travel for older people.

Why not charge students council tax or just borrow more? The simple answer is that we can’t by law.

Will being able to keep all our business rates help? That won’t happen until 2020, by which time revaluations, appeals and discounts by government may reduce what we get from local businesses significantly.

Why aren’t we fighting the cuts? The Green administration waved placards and beat drums outside an empty Treasury and handed petitions to No 10 that were simply ignored. That’s gesture politics.

Friends groups are being set up as funding cuts affect the council's ability to maintain parks and playgrounds

Friends groups are being set up as funding cuts affect the council’s ability to maintain parks and playgrounds

We are making the case to ministers, both directly and with our council colleagues across the country and across the political divide, for fairer funding, for the tools we need to do the job you expect us to do. Just as you have had to find new ways of making ends meet, so should we. Ultimately, by law we have to balance the books.

Despite the flood tide of cuts, we won’t just stand there King Canute-like as the water rises over us. We will lead the way to firmer ground.

We won’t fall for offers of cheaper delivery from big private companies that could tie you into second-rate services.

We will work hard to get the basics right, to protect the vulnerable and to grow an economy that benefits everyone.

We need your help and support. Let’s fight for your city and your services together.

Councillor Warren Morgan is the leader of Brighton and Hove City Council.

  1. Rolivan Reply

    You told me several months ago that The Council aren’t developers and yet not long after you decide to go into partnership with Hyde to build much needed Homes.Why didn’t you put forward a joint venture to develop Kings House and bring in some of the much needed income that way,why allow a developer to make all of the profits.The Council were able to borrow £36.2m from The Government Loans Board surely developing property would be a stronger business plan?

  2. Patrick Reply

    15% of Brighton and Hove population is students (double the national average). The council are seemingly keen to attract even more students here, so this is not a problem which is likely to subside any time soon.

    Seemingly, the higher the student population, the more the rest of us will have to pay, as expecting students to pay is obviously not on the table.

  3. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    What I recall at a Budget is cllr Morgan sneering, most unpleasantly, “make no mistake, these are Green cuts” – but, now, in his turn, he attempts to pass the buck…

    I have a way to be more efficient. More on that anon.

  4. Michael Inkpin-Leissner Reply

    May I state how proud I am of the leader of the council. He has always been honest in his role. The sudents are attracted by good universities. We in Brighton should be proud of our universities. However I have clearly to say that our Universities fail to provide proper service for the students. Students are your customers, they keep universities alive. I personally think – and I know a lot will disagree – but if you want more students you need to provide apropriate accommodation for them. As proper universities you should take the responsibility istead of dropping it on areas where a lot of families live. Universities have a social responsibility, they are not and should not try to be economical enterprises. Universities are there to deliver knowledge. They should not be a burden for a city

  5. Windsor101 Reply

    The amount BHCC spends on temporary accommodation is outrageous. 3-5 times the going rate (and LHA rate) for bedsits o private slum landlords who provide revolting, substandard accommodation. Why spend £280/week when the rate is £82/week? The only customers of these slum bedsits are councils in the south east yet you do nothing to negotiate reasonable rates and higher standards. ETHRAG (Emergency and Temporary Housing Residents Action Group) is trying to make a difference but you ignore them. Start dealing with budget shortfall by tackling the waste. “Temporary, emergency, accommodation” is a good place to start.

    • Daniel Harris Reply

      Thanks whoever you are 🙂 Cllr Clare Moonan does have a dialogue with ETHRAG and residents, sadly we should be asking Cllr Morgan to listen more to Cllrs and start listening to residents and not the officers in the council who many have there own agendas and seem to keep blocking all attempts for a democratic residents assocation in the city.

      The fact is we need to revitalise residents associations and also get a union for tenants, we need to win this by getting people to organise in a way we have never done before, we need people to speak out, take ownership in there areas and become champions in building a new effective community.

      More petitions, more people going to the council committee meetings to see whats going on, the city is literally on her knees, we cant blame students, we help the local economy and face high debts, its the local system, the networks of just a few white men mostly who control much of the wealth and funding in the city, much of this is wastage and reliant on privatisation which has failed our city.

      We need to stick to our roots and get these bad corporates who are bleeding the city out, save kings house and all the other assets we have and look into self building again and longer term investment plans like council housing, the more properties you have in the city the more tax you pay, kick out HMO.

      Bring the Emergency and Temporary Accommodation sector back in house and give the money to the NHS to manage these services, have council houses for people to be able to move on, they currently get stuck in these places for 2 years in emergency accomodation and up to 10 in temporary accommodation in a sector with is 100% privatised!

      • Vera Zakharov Reply

        Just a quick add – don’t kick out HMO’s, just make them work better for the thousands of low-paid workers who rely on shared housing AND pay council tax. Let’s be real, we can’t gut the city of workers who keep our hospitality, care and other low-paid services afloat.

  6. Lynn Stenning Reply

    To address the homelessness situation in this city yet save money on building of new homes, we should make more container housing available like that in the New England Hill area I feel. The housing crisis is massive in this city, and yet there plenty of empty buildings around still. These should be used! We need more people to come up with usable ideas to solve the cities problems, get thinking people!

    • Daniel Harris Reply

      Lynn at some of the ETHRAG meetings, people have reported these sometimes being empty, they are run by Brighton Housing Trust, Labour are talking about starting a pilot for Y-Qube Housing and bringing some emergency and temporary accommodation services back in-house, but the pace needs to quicken and fast.

  7. Hjarrs Reply

    Warren complains about the Greens and “gesture politics”, well they managed to keep services going in the face of huge cuts in funding, so they were clearly doing something right.

    In Sheffield the Labour council has handed a 25 year PFI contract to Amey for street maintenance. The result is that 4000 mature trees have been rapidly chopped down in a polluted city to save on maintenance, with thousands more to go soon. This is the reality of Labour in power, it is a world away from the party that once fought the corner of the little man.

    In Brighton and Hove Labour, controlled by a Progress (think right wing militant tendency) supporting clique has shown itself unable to rise to the challenge of running the council and should be made history in May 2019. For the thousands of decent Labour members in the city, I would like them to be honest with themselves and come and join a Green Party strong and growing in the city. Lucas is an excellent MP, it is party run by the members and far closer to the views of most labour members than their own leadership.

  8. Pingback: My media week | Cllr Warren Morgan's blog

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