Brighton and Hove City Council leader Daniel Yates pitched a £750 million budget to fellow councillors at Hove Town Hall this afternoon (Thursday 28 February).
Councillor Yates spoke about Labour’s record over the past four years, with local elections just two months away – on Thursday 2 May.
The Labour leader said: “This has been a four-year cycle of ongoing Tory austerity and recovery from previous poor decision making.
“The ‘revenue support grant’ from national government, previously a major funding source for the council, has been reduced by a further £7.6 million in 2019-20, bringing the total reduction over four years to £39.6 million.
“We have had to find almost £56 million over the four-year period to re-invest in meeting growth in demand and costs of services, particularly across social care services for children and adults.
“The council has also had to re-invest funds to cover normal pay and price inflation of more than £16 million.
“In total the council will have found around £69 million of savings across all of its services and spending areas in the four years.
“And we have been able to tackle the backlog of modernisation so badly managed by previous administrations – bringing the councils set up and infrastructure up to 21st century standards but with a Tory government that looks more like a 19th century scrooge.
“(This was) all delivered after walking into a council where due to years of undelivered and undeliverable savings plans there were massive overspends right from the start of our administration – something that this council now has a strong understanding of and better grip on thankfully.
“So other than the destructive impact of ongoing Tory austerity what has happened to our city over this same four years?
“The i360 which was backed by Tory and Green councillors to the tune of over £30 million of public money was built and opened but failed to deliver visitor numbers and returns expected.
“This Labour council could have delivered around 120 extra homes with that level of funding. Instead we are faced with delayed financing repayments and ongoing uncertainty over future prospects of ever seeing a return.
“Circus Street has broken ground and is well on the way to developing one of our key city centre development sites.
“Valley Gardens phase 1 and 2 are well under way and phase 3 has received strong backing from external funding bodies.
“Preston Barracks site is well under way with over 1,000 student bedrooms, new university facilities, businesses and nearly 400 homes – on a site that has been near derelict for 25 years.
“We’ve started addressing the collapse of the A259 at the bottom of West Street and renewed the Shelter Hall. The complex rebuilding and enlargement is on time (and) delivering key infrastructure for one of the city’s main arteries and tourist facilities.
“And the city has seen good progress on Royal Sussex County site to deliver a £485 million rebuilding programme of our city’s main hospital.
“But the biggest thing to happen to this city over that four years is Brexit. There can be no doubt that there is a massive risk to our economy and residents of crashing out of the EU without a deal – thousands of jobs are directly at risk especially in tourism finance and business services.
“We know over 10,000 jobs could be at risk across our cities three constituencies and that should be enough evidence of a clear threat to our futures to see the majority of the city’s residents supporting our three MPs in opposing us crashing out of the EU.
“With over 34,000 jobs reliant on the tourism and retail sectors in our city alone we can be sure that no deal is a bad deal and at last this week it seems that Theresa May is getting that message too.
“We have also seen ongoing changes in shopping habits. On online retailers – who are often linked with the most insecure forms of employment – are continuing to strengthen across the country. But despite this we know that our city’s own retail economy is strong.
“The most recent Centre for Cities assessment on city centres and high streets highlighted Brighton and Hove as a strong city centre with high levels of exporting businesses, high levels of high skilled exporting jobs and the fifth lowest rate of high street vacant properties in the country.
“We can proudly boast that our city high street economy is strong and we as a Labour council are committed to keeping it that way for generations to come.
“A key component of this continued success will be the ‘Waterfront project’ which we have delivered ready for sign off as part of a £500 million scheme to deliver a new regional shopping centre that builds on and enhances our local independent retail sector and makes Brighton and Hove a great place to shop.
“Additionally the Waterfront project will deliver more jobs, new homes, enhanced leisure facilities, an international standard conference facility and 10,000 seat arena.
“To ensure our city’s heritage doesn’t lose out and make sure that we continue to protect our most valuable icons, we have made certain that the future of the Royal Pavilion is clearly mapped out and secured for many generations to come.
“All of this has been achieved without a single compulsory redundancy – a proud record that the Tories’ amendment on slashing admin and highly skilled communications staff threatens.
“This is not something that we can accept and will not support. Our staff are our most productive and valuable resource. We will not throw them on the scrap heap at significant expense and with significant loss of expertise that we will need in future years.
“So what are the key items of note in the budget this year? It is a budget where the most vulnerable, those most affected by ongoing Tory austerity and those hardest hit by funding and welfare changes are at the top of our priorities when it comes to protecting and enhancing the services they require.
“It is also a budget where facing the future challenges of the climate change emergency starts to take shape.
“And while we plan for the future, it is a budget where our heritage remain a crucial component of our present-day and our future plans.
“So we are proud to be delivering among many other key items
- A total of £54 million in children’s social care including an additional £1.5 million to support increasing demand and costs of the city’s children in care.
- A total of £92.6 million in adult social care including learning disability services. This includes an additional £11.1 million to fund changes in demand for physical disability, learning disability, memory and cognition – and mental health services.
- £200,000 to provide continued support for the Community Banking Partnership and support the council’s financial inclusion strategy.
- £260,000 funding to provide continued transitional support for those severely affected by welfare reforms including a Local Discretionary Social Fund. This is in addition to £140,000 to continue the Council Tax Reduction Scheme discretionary fund.
- There’s £75,000 to ensure that this city has a Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan – crucial for ensuring that we can get the funding for future sustainable transport projects.
- There’s a total of £312,000 for our new field officer service, providing help across the city which has already proved so successful.
- I’m extremely proud homelessness and rough sleeping services have received grants to maintain resources of more than £7 million in the last year. For the year ahead £10.6 million is proposed for these services. This includes £250,000 for an all-year-round night shelter for rough sleepers and £250,000 to expand options to support people in emergency and temporary accommodation – that’s Labour making sure that we don’t just move people on but we help people off of the streets and work to find them a place to call home and provide the services around them to keep them there. Revolving door homelessness is not an option – not any more. Not in this city.
- Because of the depth and seriousness of our housing crisis there’s over £100 million of capital currently allocated for housing schemes both on site and in the pipeline over the next five years. This is for building much-needed new homes on council-owned land through the New Homes for Neighborhoods council house-building programme and Labour’s affordable housing joint venture.
- Plus there are additional capital schemes of more than £30 million, for example, an upgraded two-storey Shelter Hall on the seafront, ongoing improvements to the Royal Pavilion estate, Stanmer Park and £2.44 million towards the Madeira Terraces restoration works which start this year.
“So let’s not forget that on May 2nd, its power to the people. Power in the hands of the many, not the few. And all of our futures in the hands of those whose lives are most affected by the decisions we take tonight.
“Over the next nine weeks we will be speaking to many thousands of Brighton and Hove city residents. We have a proud record to defend.
“Compare this to the Tories who have a record of saddling us with the i360 debts and delaying the introduction of the joint venture with Hyde Housing.
“Debt and deferral seem to be the Tories’ two most important approaches to sorting out the future of our city – certainly protecting something if only their own seats and certainly not caring about the hundreds of families whose only hope of a home is through our ground-breaking living wage affordable housing joint venture with Hyde.
“So when one of the lead Tories appears to be disappointed that our vital rough sleeping services are working so well and keeping people off the streets, I say to them get used to it.
“We will continue to invest across the whole housing pathway to make sure that one person sleeping rough for one night is one person too many in our great city.
“So when their finance lead suggests our policy platform is unambitious, I say to them that I can see what Tory ambitions do for local government by looking east, west and north of us.
“We aren’t ambitious to deliver library closures and debts piling up like Tory-controlled East Sussex.
“We aren’t ambitious to deliver drastic cuts to supported housing services like Tory-controlled West Sussex.
“That’s the very real threat of ‘Tony’s Tepid Tory’ ambitions for our city – the most vulnerable paying the highest price, mass sell-offs of public land, mass losses and privatisations of public services, running our city into the ground and all with massive profits for their chums in the private sector.
“So when we hear to current Tory leader describing this budget as an overripe banana I suggest that he gets used to eating banana bread for many years to come.
“His tiny tinkering with less than 1 per cent of our revenue budget is an indication of the lack of ideas and thought that has characterised his oppositions approach overall.
“We are the Labour administration that has kept this city open for business. We are the Labour administration that has made it ready for whatever the future holds.
“We are proud of our record, we are proud of this budget – and we are grateful to the people of Brighton and Hove for the chance to serve them for the last four years.
“And we look forward to earning the chance to continue serving them for many more years to come when we are the Labour majority administration.”
LIKE WHAT WE DO? HELP US TO DO MORE OF IT BY DONATING HERE.