Last week was just another week at Brighton and Hove City Council with more taxpayers’ money thrown out the window to deal with the (un) expected consequences of Labour and the Greens’ ideological policy decisions.
This time it was revealed that the council would be required to spend an additional £1.32 million to pay for the ongoing costs of the housing repairs service insourcing policy.
The council budget papers refer to this additional £1.32 million of expense as an “investment”, but the taxpayers who will have to foot the bill for this – council tenants and leaseholders who contribute to the Housing Revenue Account – would likely consider this to be anything but an investment of their money.
Before the last council election Labour and the Greens combined to push through an ideological policy to “insource” the council’s housing repairs service. Labour even listed this as an achievement in its manifesto.
There was nothing fundamentally wrong with contract for housing repairs (the issue that became very clear and what was documented was that the council did not manage the contract as required).
But Labour and the Greens didn’t like the idea of a service being provided by a private entity and thought the council should create a department to do the work itself.
The cost of this policy change was estimated by council officers in 2018 at £8 million – enough in itself to persuade the Conservatives that this was not a good idea.
Predictably, the policy has cost even more – a recent audit has shown it has already cost £9.3 million plus other spends yet to be identified even before this additional £1.32 million is taken into account.
It has also proved impossible to implement and landed the council in a protracted industrial dispute with the unions, unresolved for nearly a year, generating hours and hours of legal expenses.
Last week the Housing Committee released papers showing those additional costs totalling £1.32 million that would have to be incurred in next year’s budget.
This includes consultancy costs and legal expenses, higher staff costs given that the transition period has had to be extended and salary increases to meet local government pension requirements.
All of these administrative costs will be paid for through the Housing Revenue Account – a fund made up of council tenants’ rents and leaseholders’ contributions.
It is just another example of the most vulnerable in Brighton and Hove paying the price for Labour and the Greens’ poor and completely avoidable ideological decisions.
It adds to almost £16 million of waste by the council that has already been identified by the press in the past 12 months.
This £16 million far outstrips the council’s projected deficit for next year of £10 million, which it will have to find savings for next month.
And at next month’s budget the Greens and Labour coalition will propose an increase in council tax and car parking charges across the city.
This 5 per cent council tax increase will add to the 4 per cent council tax increased implemented by Labour last year.
As usual Labour and the Greens will try to blame to government for this. But the facts speak for themselves: Labour can’t manage money – neither can the Greens.
And the cost will be borne by all taxpayers across the city, including council house tenants over the coming year.
In fact, council tax tenants will be hit twice, as they pay rent into the HRA and council tax into the general fund.
This no way to treat the most vulnerable residents in this city but is a consequence of avoidable and ideologically driven policy decisions.
Councillor Steve Bell is the leader of the Conservatives on Brighton and Hove City Council.
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