Politicians have rightfully, in my opinion, earnt a reputation for sometimes failing to give straight answers to direct questions.
You will hardly ever hear a downright lie but a question asked on a particular subject will be side-stepped without a moment’s thought in an attempt to swerve around any potential minefield.
I have a reputation for straight talking – and I wish others would do likewise.
At a full council meeting a few weeks ago, and now only a few months away from the local budget for 2019-20, I asked the Labour leader of the council the following straight question: “Can the leader of the council confirm that it is not his nor any future Labour administration’s policy to attempt to set a budget that requires a referendum of city residents?”
A referendum budget would be required for a budget that seeks to increase council tax above a 3 per cent limit.
A responsible administration should be planning the next budget and informing residents of their intentions over the next four years in their manifesto.
But I was shocked at the answer I received: “I don’t believe that is a matter that has been decided yet by council, so I can’t describe if that is a policy.”
The Labour leader is clearly out of his depth as the budget needs to be proposed by the Labour administration before being presented to us in council.
I responded with: “Social media output for Labour candidates at the next election suggests that they will ‘stand up’ to the Conservative government on budgets. Are they lying?”
His reply was: “I will wait until next time for Councillor Janio to come up with a proper question about proper policy.”
At this point, he had not only lost the plot, but would struggle to find it again!
This is just not good enough. Residents need to know if they will be asked to approve an inflation-busting budget in 2019 – or in the years to come – before the next election.
The Labour leader’s refusal to answer means that I must conclude that we are heading towards a “tax and spend” with Labour.
Let’s hope the residents reject it in May 2019 by voting Conservative.
Councillor Tony Janio is the Conservative opposition leader on Brighton and Hove City Council.