What Labour said in the Brighton and Hove City Council budget debate

Posted On 27 Feb 2020 at 4:56 pm

Council leader Nancy Platts today formally proposed her first Brighton and Hove City Council budget since taking charge.

Councillor Platts spoke at the annual budget meeting at Hove Town Hall as councillors prepared to set the council tax and spending levels for the coming financial year.

She said: “I’m really proud to present this budget to you today because I think it will improve the lives of the people who call this city home.

“I love our city and chose to make this city my home because of its reputation and its values. A city of fun and freedom. A city of radicalism and rebelliousness. A city of culture and history. A city that is inclusive and welcoming to all.

The Spearhead

“It’s an honour to lead the council here and to present a budget that will help deliver our plan to build a fairer city and a sustainable future.

“I want to thank all of the officers, councillors and our partner organisations across the city for their input, creative ideas and hard work that contributed to the budget proposals we’re bringing forward today.

“We were pleased to work in co-operation with the Green Party and hope that, by the end of this meeting, the budget will also reflect the essence of the more progressive elements of some of the Conservative Party amendments.

“In particular, thank you to Councillor Daniel Yates for his excellent leadership, care and attention to detail throughout the budget process.

“We have almost 300,000 residents that we represent and serve in Brighton and Hove.

“Our council staff deliver over 700 services for residents and visitors to the city – from public health to parks and open spaces, housing, refuse and recycling, social care, libraries, museums and tourism, community safety, planning and economic development, highways and traffic management to schools and education. Our daily spend helps people in their everyday lives.

“Today I am presenting a budget that aims to protect those vital services and invest in our key priority areas such as tackling rough sleeping and building more affordable housing including

  • 800 additional council homes
  • making our city carbon-neutral by 2030
  • sharing more equally the wealth we create and
  • strengthening our status as a City of Sanctuary

“Now, what none of us can afford to do is kid ourselves about the financial situation we are in.

“Under the Conservative government, our city has faced over a decade of budget cuts. Local authorities across the country are ‘on life-support’ according to the State of Local Government Finance survey.

“Austerity has cut deep into our communities. It has placed a greater burden on local authorities by pushing up demand for vital services while simultaneously slashing our funding.

“This prolonged pursuit of austerity has showcased an ideological and, I think, quite cruel targeting of the most vulnerable in our society.

“Before hearing from the Conservative opposition members, I would strongly urge them to have a word with their Westminster colleagues and lobby for an end to the great national shame of austerity, that has seen people living on our streets and queuing at food banks.

“In this national picture, our city acutely feels the pinch, with wages lagging behind house prices and rent increases.

“We, as a local authority, find ourselves combating crises as global as the climate emergency, as national as the homelessness scandal, and as local as housing prices, with one hand tied behind our backs.

“Over the past 10 years, local authorities have faced a reduction to core funding from the Conservative government of nearly £16 billion. That means 60p out of every pound has been cut.

“These eye-watering cuts have happened at the same time as the demand for adult social care has grown.

And still we see no plan from the government to fund a service that would allow people to live in dignity in their later years.

“I want to illustrate what this Tory government has done to this country and to local authority budgets because, while I have painted a bleak picture, it is sadly the reality – and it is the reality we find ourselves in when trying to establish a budget that delivers for our residents.

“And because it is difficult to protect all the services, because every service cut is a cut to someone in need, we have also brought forward an amendment that provides additional transitional funding for commissioning services addressing violence against women and girls.

“We know that some of these services have missed out on funding elsewhere so our amendment seeks to ease the pressure.

“Taking the budget as a whole, we will deliver for our residents. We are building on the work of the previous Labour administration by once again presenting a competent, balanced budget.

“We are the last line of defence from Tory austerity – and even under these extreme financial constraints, we have the determination, the creativity and the political will to propose a budget that protects key services, invests in our communities and helps us carry out our ambitious plans to improve the city.

“That is what our Council Plan is all about. It is derived from the Labour manifesto we were elected on and incorporates Green Party manifesto pledges in line with the overwhelming progressive politics that residents voted for in the local elections.

“I trust all members in this room are familiar with it by now but it outlines our aims to make Brighton and Hove a sustainable city for growing and learning, for health and wellbeing, a city that works for all and a place to call home.

“This budget delivers a range of measures to make those aims a reality.

“A key priority for this administration is to truly make Brighton and Hove a city to call home.

“I have written before about a ‘lost generation’ of working-age people in the Greater Brighton area.  Many have been driven out of the area by rising house prices and rent levels.

“To address this in the long-term, we need more devolved powers from central government, so we can ensure more developments build a higher percentage of truly affordable housing.

“Meanwhile, we will continue to find every way possible to ensure everyone has a place to call home.

“We will deliver a minimum of 800 additional council homes and 700 genuinely affordable homes.

“We are investing £150,000 to enforce private rented housing standards. We pledged to tackle rough sleeping and homelessness – a national disgrace that is perhaps the most stinging indictment on this Conservative government.

“Last year this council prevented 717 households from becoming homeless and we are building on this through our Council Plan and this budget.

“From trebling Housing First provision for accommodating rough sleepers, to bringing at least 650 empty housing properties back into use – we will use all powers at our disposal to tackle our local reflection of the national housing crisis.

“This budget provides funding for permanent housing welfare officers to support vulnerable residents in temporary and emergency accommodation.

“It puts £300,000 into meeting the increased cost and demand for temporary accommodation provision, another £300,000 into reprocuring around 100 properties for enhanced short-term and emergency accommodation services, and £150,000 for the increased cost and number of vulnerable tenants in supported accommodation where housing benefit is not fully funded by the government. “We are also introducing a £250,000 permanent investment to a year-round night shelter to complement our existing provision, as well investment in a weekend winter shelter.

“By January of last year, official government figures showed rough sleeping to have increased by 165 per cent under the Tory government, with homeless charities suggesting the actual figure was much higher.

“In the fifth-richest economy in the world, this is truly shameful. This budget seeks to address the homeless and rough sleeping crisis with increased investment, provision and housing.

“We also want Brighton and Hove to be a sustainable city. It is no secret that one of the key platforms we stood on in the local elections was to make our city carbon neutral by 2030 – and already we are implementing positive changes to combat the climate crisis.

“We have formed a cross-party working group that will help to deliver our Climate Assembly in the coming months.

“We have commissioned IPSOS Mori to bring together residents and an independent panel to help shape how we address the climate crisis over the next decade.

“We have a limited time if we are to meet our carbon neutral target but I am confident that the creativity, concern and enthusiasm of our city will win through with practical actions that we can all take now, and into the future.

“That is why this budget allocates £200,000 to a range of investments to reduce carbon emissions.

“It increases investment in our waste management to improve bin collections and recycling.

“It invests in trees and parks to contribute to carbon reduction, allows for a viability study into a park and ride scheme and includes £100,000 for the rewilding of Waterhall Golf Course.

“Our investment into our carbon neutral programme will allow for more electric vehicle charging points, a robust cycling and walking local plan, a sustainable local transport plan and resources to enact Climate Assembly-led initiatives.

We take our ambitious target of carbon reduction very seriously, and this budget will help lay the groundwork for a sustainable future.

“It’s crucial we make Brighton and Hove a city working for all. It is our aim to become the lead UK city for community wealth building and ethical employment practices.

“To do this, we will use the city’s spending power to procure local services for the benefit of our communities.

“We want to ensure that local people and organisations benefit from the prosperity in the city, rather than money being siphoned out of Brighton and Hove to offshore tax havens and multinational shareholders.

“By fostering a circular local economy and working with anchor organisations across the city to procure locally, we will reduce our carbon footprint and give local businesses, social enterprises and co-operatives a welcome boost.

“Shelter Hall, to be run by ethically-driven Sessions will favour local businesses who source their produce locally and is a prime example of this council’s commitment to listening to our community campaigns, regenerating our heritage and building community wealth.

“This budget allocates £20,000 of funding to support development of policy, practice and engagement with businesses and partners across the city to enhance the local economy, improve social value in procurement and establish the circular economy framework we want to see.

“We also want to develop our visitor economy and I’m proud that we are less than 500 days away from hosting some of the Women’s European Football Championships in 2021.

“This will boost our reputation as a health and wellbeing city, generate more visitors and economic activity to the city, and for which this budget invests £57,000.

“We are also investing £100,000 in the Royal Pavilion Estate and continuing to support our tourism industries and heritage sites.

“Our dynamic, ethical and unique economy is the envy of many cities, and this budget will bolster that reputation further and mean real benefits for local businesses and residents.

“‘A growing and learning city’ represents our ambitions for education, skills and training to enrich the lives of our young people, upskill adults across the city and contribute to our local economy and productivity.

“In addition to existing spending to support our schools, educational institutions and children’s services, we are investing to ensure the council can continue to provide extensive services for children in care and provide for their safeguarding and wellbeing.

“We are also extending funding to protect and improve children’s services and tackle the attainment gap.

“‘A healthy and caring city represents our aspiration for Brighton and Hove to be a well-being hub, a healthy city that cares for mental health and fitness and helps our residents live longer, happier lives.

“We are investing significantly in adult learning disability services, mental health services, adult social care and children’s social care in order to meet rising demand and ensure a sustainable supply of key care services going forward.

“We know how popular our night-time economy is, for residents and visitors, and this helps our local economy to thrive – but I want us to grow our reputation as a health and wellbeing city too.

“From Yellow Wave to Sea Lanes, the many parkruns across the city, the London to Brighton bike ride, the Brighton Marathon, Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club, our Bikeshare scheme, the Sussex Cricket Ground and our leading universities, this is a city that values its sport and outdoor activities.

“This budget will help us develop our vision of a healthy, active city, to provide vital adult social care and mental health services and make Brighton and Hove a focal point for wellbeing for the future.

“On carbon neutrality, as well as our Climate Assembly, we are installing 200 electric vehicle charging points, as well as high-speed chargers for taxis.

“We are developing our Local Walking and Cycling Infrastructure Plan, our sustainable Local Transport Plan and our extensive Tree Strategy.

“We are conducting a feasibility study into the impacts of a car-free city centre.

“We have already ended the residual use of glyphosate for weed control on our streets.

“We are continuing to work on improving air quality across the city by introducing our ultra-low emissions zone and working with partners to attract more investment in zero emissions bus travel.

“On combating rough sleeping and the housing crisis, we have identified a range of sites and are on course to meet our target of 800 additional council homes.

“Our SWEP (Severe Weather Emergency Protocol) threshold is one of the lowest in the country and is now open at the weekends throughout this winter.

“We have already opened a 365-night-a-year shelter at St Patrick’s and secured the procurement of a ‘No Second Night Out’ service grant.

“On our City of Sanctuary status, we will take part in the Inclusive Cities Programme, which provides us with a framework to deliver a more strategic approach to welcoming new people to the city.

“We are participating in the National Transfer Scheme for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

“We continue to participate in the government’s refugee resettlement programme.

“We will be working with the local City of Sanctuary group to refresh our status redefining what this means for the city.

“Our Council Plan is a bold vision for a fairer city and a sustainable future – and already we are making strides in delivering on our promises to residents.

“Passing this budget today gives us the opportunity to build on that progress and improve the lives of residents across Brighton and Hove.”

Deputy council leader John Allcock seconded the budget. Councillor Allcock said: “Councillor Platts has just outlined a balanced budget that will allow us to protect key services, invest in our communities and deliver our ambitious Council Plan for a fairer city and a sustainable future.

“This is a budget that allows us to deliver what residents voted for.

“We have worked together to develop this Council Plan and make sure that Labour manifesto pledges and many Green commitments become council priorities.

“These will guide everything that we do over the next three years and, in some cases, well beyond that.

“Whether it’s addressing the housing crisis, tackling the climate crisis, building community wealth or strengthening our City of Sanctuary status – our plan is achievable and represents our values as a city and the sort of priorities that underpin why I wanted to become a councillor – to make a real difference to our community and our city.

“And our budget is creative, fully costed (and) balanced – allowing us to deliver for our residents, even in the most challenging of financial times.

If agreed, it will

  • ensure investment in our carbon neutral programme
  • fund a 365-day-a-year night shelter to help combat rough sleeping and support delivery of more council homes and affordable housing
  • enable a joined-up approach to community wealth building with anchor organisations across the city

“But there are real pressures, particularly the adult social care funding crisis that Tory governments have failed to address, despite promising again and again to deliver a plan.

“The residents of our city desperately need well-resourced adult social care services and the Conservative government should urgently abandon its ideological obsession with cuts to public sector budgets.

“But in the face of – and despite – these needless financial constraints, we are presenting today a budget that is creative and ambitious for our city.

“While I am deputy leader of the council, I am also chair of (the Children, Young People and Skills Committee), so before I talk about the incredible services that we provide and that this budget will support, I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the challenges we have had with the home to school transport service.

“We apologised unreservedly for the upset and disruption caused, we recognised the mistakes and took swift action to make improvements.

“We continue to work with parents and carers – and have set up an independent review to enable us to learn from this.

“In the meantime, I am very pleased to report the service has been much improved. On every school day, we transport 469 pupils with special needs and disabilities and now very few complaints are being raised.

“I cannot rule out budget pressures in the coming year but I am confident that the plans outlined today equip us to meet the challenges ahead.

“I would now like to highlight some of the ways this budget will help Brighton and Hove flourish as ‘a growing and learning city’ because what we are presenting today allows us to continue the fantastic services we provide to children and families across the city.

“And here are some hard facts

  • Over 90 per cent of our primary schools, all secondary schools and colleges and 97 per cent of our childcare providers are judged good or outstanding by Ofsted.
  • The city was in the top quarter of local authorities for reading progress and attainment at KS2 (key stage 2) last year.
  • All attainment measures in both English and maths GCSEs are above national averages.
  • We are a corporate parent to almost 400 children in care and over 300 care leavers – and our services for vulnerable children and families are rated good by Ofsted and continue to improve.
  • Our residential provisions and complex SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) hubs are also rated outstanding by Ofsted

“I could go on but I think it’s important to instead use this time to thank the brilliant and committed people that make this happen – teachers, governors, social workers, nursery staff, admin staff and, of course, our officers.

“No other service is subject to the level of scrutiny that children’s services experience and this budget reflects the weight of responsibility on us all to continue to safeguard, nurture and support the children and families in our care across the city.

“Not only are we are investing over £1 million in Children’s Safeguarding and Care but also striking at the heart of educational disadvantage.

“Whether a child is brought up in Whitehawk or Rottingdean, no child should be left behind and we must do everything in our power to close the attainment gap that currently exists in our city.

“We know that the best way to do that is to intervene in early years.

“That’s why I’ve been writing to government ministers personally to lobby for more early years’ funding – and why I’m proud of this budget.

“This budget will help us achieve our Council Plan and fulfil the expressed will of our residents. And I am pleased to second it.”

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