Plans to spend more money on services – paid for by a 4% council tax increase – have passed the first hurdle tonight with a raft of Green amendments.
The Greens proposed a range of tweaks to Labour’s budget, including spend more on buying properties to use for supported housing, on getting rough sleepers straight into permanent housing and on secure cycle storage.
Nearly all the amendments put forward by Green Party finance lead councillor David Gibson were approved by both Labour and Green members – with the Conservatives abstaining on all but one.
On that, they voted together with Labour to quash Councillor Gibson’s proposal to scrap councillors’ parking allowance for town hall meetings.
Councillor Gibson’s first amendment was to borrow £3 million, subject to a business case, to buy supported housing, similar to the way the council is in the process of buying properties for emergency housing.
He argued it will reduce pressure in the long term as the authority will reducing the amount of money it spends on leasing from other landlords.
There was also support for his call to use a £296,000 underspend in the Winter Maintenance Reserve to provide 12 Housing First placements for homeless people for the next two years, costing £276,000.
The final £20,000 would see £10,000 for secure covered cycle storage and £10,000 allocated to a warmer homes feasibility study to explore options to tackle fuel poverty.
Speaking about tackling homelessness he said: “We have got to get on with this.
“It is unacceptable that in the sixth richest country in the world has the number of people on the streets we do.”
He also suggested increasing parking charges at The Lanes and Regency Square city centre car parks and using this money to reduce the increase to the cost of annual trader permits from £100 to £80.
The permits now cost £700, and instead of rising to £800, they will rise to £780.
An hour parking at The Lanes will increase from £2 to £3.50 and Regency Square from £2 to £3. All other tariffs will remain the same.
Parking charges fund concessionary bus fares for older people and the disabled, subsidise bus roads and pay for road safety projects.
With support from Labour councillors, proposals to keep on two specialist contract management posts which Councillor Gibson described as “self funding” were approved.
The two posts cost £90,000 but he explained contract management saves money as for every £1 spent the council gains another £4.50.
Councillor Gibson urged members to support removing a subsidy of £33,000 for councillors parking at Norton Road in Hove, and The Lanes Car Park and use the money on short-term breaks for independent carers and children.
Labour finance lead councillor Daniel Yates asked the Green group to remove this suggestion as this subsidy is recommended by the Independent Remuneration Panel, which sets councillor allowances, and is voted on by full council.
Labour and Conservative councillors voted against removing the subsidy. The two Conservatives councillors, Steve Bell and Dee Simson abstained from all other votes.
In presenting the budget Councillor Yates confirmed an extra £1 million for city environmental management.
He said: “We will get some of our most basic services up to a level residents are entitled to expect.”
Since an initial draft budget was presented to the Policy and Resources Committee in November, the administration has made a number of changes.
Councillor Yates told the committee the authority had received £404,000 less in adult social care funding than was assumed.
However, following a review of the East Sussex County Council pension fund, Brighton and Hove ended up £825,000 better off, which meant changes to planned savings could change.
The committee heard proposed savings from the violence against women and girls programme are no longer in the budget.
An extra £500,000 also went into the budget for services for adults with learning disabilities.
Next financial year, the council’s general fund budget is £215,606 million.
To reach this Labour and Green voted to recommend a 1.99 per cent increase to the general council tax and two per cent on the adult social care precept in the city council’s share of the council tax bill.
The budget goes before the full city council when it meets on Thursday, 27 February.
Sussex Police and East Sussex Fire and Rescue will add their own separate charges to the council tax bill.
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