Labour finance chief Daniel Yates has spelt out his party’s key aims as his party prepares to seek approval for Brighton and Hove City Council’s annual budget.
Councillor Yates said that an extra £7 million would be spent on social care for adults and children, millions would be spent on building 800 new council homes over four years and £800,000 extra would be spent supporting Cityclean, the council’s rubbish and recycling service.
He said that cash would be set aside for a homeless shelter, operating 365 nights a year, £700,000 would go towards tackling climate change and £40,000 would be spent on helping disadvantaged children to do better at school.
Two viability studies will be funded in the 2020-21 financial year – one would look at park and ride and the other would explore options for the restoration of the Madeira Terraces.
He added that the council had already set aside £2.4 million towards the cost of the work on the historic seafront arches.
Councillor Yates, formerly the council leader, said: “We find ourselves in a very different position as a council and as an administration to last year’s budget process.
“Although the fundamentals of over £100 million of lost spending due to government-imposed austerity still apply – and the expectations of residents and businesses are clear – across the city we have over the last 12 months seen some significant events which will affect the budget process this year and hopefully for future years.
“First, we have moved into an era of future funding uncertainty.
- Future-year central grants remain uncertain, not allowing us to plan in the medium term for delivering savings and enhancing key services.
- The ‘fair funding review’, which should be in place to determine the future of local government central funding, has failed to materialise.
- And the future of social care funding is further than ever from being put on a sustainable long-term footing.
- But, as a local authority, we have to live with these uncertainties from central government for now and have worked hard over the last year to adopt a more forward-thinking and collegiate approach to protect our city’s services and our residents’ future.
“Secondly, we have last year’s local election results which saw Labour become the first party in 20 years to win a second consecutive term in administration.
“But of course, that election win was by the very tightest of margins and in light of the broad common threads running through Labour and Green manifestos, which between them won the overwhelming majority of votes across the city, both parties have worked to develop new ways of working to ensure that those common themes are delivered.
“The old ‘yah-boo’ politics of the town hall have to some extent been replaced with genuine collaboration and shared purpose over some of the key policy areas of the moment.
- Achieving net zero carbon for the city by 2030
- Tackling the biodiversity threat
- Addressing the financial sustainability of the council
- Protecting those hardest hit by austerity
- Tackling the housing crisis and homelessness
- Supporting our city’s proud history of equality, tolerance and respect
“Those shared areas have allowed us to publish our corporate plan up to 2023 to lock those shared policy priorities into the council’s plans for the city.
“And we have broadly tested the budget savings developed by officers against those principles to genuinely try to open the thinking and budget-refining process to broader political influence.”
As a result, he said, some savings that had been planned could now be shelved. This would mean a proposed £35,000 cut could be reinstated to the budget to protect women and girls from violence.
Similarly, £61,000 had been reinstated in the proposed budget for equalities and cuts totalling £500,000 to the budget for services for adults with learning disabilities could now be deferred.
Councillor Yates said: “Next year we hope to take this approach further and with greater detail be able to evaluate all council services and budget proposals against their contribution to the corporate plan.
“So what does all this mean for the city’s residents and businesses?
“The council will again be taking full advantage of the government’s approach to council tax. There will be a 1.99 per cent council tax rise plus a 2 per cent social care precept. Overall people’s council tax bills will rise by just under 4 per cent.”
The rise equates to about £75 a year for council services for the average Band D property in Brighton and Hove.
Councillor Yates added: “That will fund some of the £7 million additional spending on both adult and children’s social care to meet the spiralling cost and increasing demands while the Tory government flip-flops over a future funding new scheme.
“We will continue to expand our range of homeless services including additional funding for a 365-night shelter, enhanced shelter openings and expanded housing delivery to tackle homelessness and the housing crisis – and by building 800 new council homes in the next four years.
“We have established funding of over £700,000 – both capital and revenue funding – to start to address our climate change responsibilities.
“Our ‘Climate Assembly’ will inform our thinking, planning and delivery across the next 10 years but we as a council have to put our money where our mouth is and seriously tackle our carbon footprint before the climate crisis spirals out of control.
“There’s over £800,000 investment being made into Cityclean – a service which faces ongoing pressure to deliver waste management services and needs ongoing support to ensure that its equipment, environment and working conditions continue to improve and become more reliable.
“But we have also put in place proposals to help us answer some of the more nagging questions that have delayed and distracted the city over many years.
“There’s £10,000 for a viability report into future options for the full restoration of the Madeira Terraces – as well as the £2.4 million money earmarked for the scheme.
“We need to identify and engage with plans that are robust, that are fully funded and that will deliver a renaissance for east of the Palace Pier.
“There is also £5,000 for a viability study into park and ride. For nearly 20 years this city has failed to fully embrace or fully reject park and ride.
“The carbon-neutral journey requires us to face up to difficult issues with the backing of detailed information to make sound decisions on.
“We can’t wait any longer and councillors of all parties will need to decide.
“There’s £40,000 to retain and expand some of our more crucial work on reducing the attainment gap for children living in some of most disadvantaged households.
“We want every child to thrive in the city and with that money be able to enjoy the same choices and life chances that kids from our richest families can expect.”
The budget proposals – totalling almost £800 million – will be debated by the full council on Thursday 27 February at the annual budget council meeting.
The meeting is due to start at 4.30pm at Hove Town Hall and should be open to the public.