The Green leader of Brighton and Hove City Council has spoken about plans for recovery from the coronavirus crisis at the annual budget council meeting this afternoon (Friday 25 February).
Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty said: “We set the budget this year with the covid crisis affecting everything we do. I want to thank everyone for the sacrifices they continue to make.
“The enormous efforts made by local communities mean that infection rates in our city are dramatically reduced but we have far from beaten the pandemic: 415 people have died, dozens are still in high dependency units while the impact on the local economy has been profound.
“Years of Conservative government cuts have left many key services without the capacity to withstand the pandemic and £110 million has been lost from our council funding. Despite promises to ‘fix adult social care’, there is still no long-term funding plan to support our growing elderly population. It will cost £16 million this year alone to meet the cost of essential care for vulnerable adults.
“Yet the Conservative government’s plan – to raise this funding through a ringfenced 3 per cent of council tax – covers just one third of the cost of these services in Brighton and Hove.
“In these, the most extraordinary of times, this budget provides hope. This budget is about survival and recovery. We know that many in our city are still facing intense hardship and we extend the hand of support to those who need the help of our council.
What the Green council has done during the pandemic
“We know to weather this storm it’s vital our city is put on a secure footing. The city council has mobilised to provide everything from personal protective equipment (PPE) to assistance to our city’s care homes.
“We have worked tirelessly to bring those rough sleeping off the streets and into long-term secure accommodation. The council’s community hub is on hand to help with bills and support while we have ensured food parcels have reached hundreds of homes.
Summary of key budget elements
“In the absence of long-term funding from government, we know that investing in tackling poverty, inequality, the housing crisis and climate change will help our city build back better from the pandemic.
“It is essential that recovery delivers a healthier, more equal city, so our budget supports our BAME communities, those facing domestic abuse and people with disabilities.
“We are focused on protecting critical services that will help us navigate the pandemic such as youth employment support, nursery provision, libraries, services for vulnerable adults and grant funding for our voluntary sector.
“We know the poorest bear the brunt of rising bills, climate chaos and budget cuts so, while the government fails to fund local councils sufficiently, we’ve improved the council tax reduction scheme which will provide an 82 per cent discount on council tax for the poorest households in our city – lowering bills.
“This budget is also about helping us get back to doing what we do best and playing our part on the global stage.
“In the seven months since we took over running the council, we have worked tirelessly to help our city survive and thrive.
“Through the pandemic the increase in unemployment has been high. Young workers have been disproportionately hit, with an 180 per cent increase in unemployment for 18 to 24-year-olds at the peak.
“So next week we will be presenting an employment and skills recovery plan to help create jobs, apprenticeships and skills in the city, and deliver projects that help our city recover well.
“I have been busy since the summer meeting business leaders to bring investment to the city and working with partners across the region to secure and grow jobs.
“We’re putting £124,000 into supporting the recovery of the city’s important arts, events and cultural sector, to turbo-charge a plan drawn up by local arts organisations and investing in council teams working on economic recovery. We are promoting the use of local goods and services to build the wealth of our community.
“We’re also keeping a close eye on the look and feel of the city to ensure that when we reopen we can do so with civic pride, funding more work on graffiti removal, community clean ups and additional investment for the regeneration of Madeira Terraces.
“There will be no cuts this year to tourism budgets while the council works with tourism leaders on a two-year recovery plan and focusing on the promotion of Brighton and Hove to the staycation market.
“We have seen the stark consequences when nothing was put aside to pay for the covid crisis. We’ve created a climate action fund that means we can prepare the city for the future. And so that when the COP26 climate talks open in Glasgow in November we can say: we are playing our full part.
“So our plans include up to £27 million in climate action investment, with £5.2 million investment for warmer homes to lower fuel bills for residents, tackle carbon emissions from draughty homes and create jobs – with the Local Government Association saying 800 jobs could be created in our city alone.
“We will further invest in our parks and open spaces, to reduce traffic and combat deadly air pollution.
“I want to thank my Green colleagues for doing nothing less than expressing in this budget our ambition for a fairer, healthier city, against the odds, protecting the most vulnerable, creating jobs and helping to build a cleaner, healthier and Greener future for Brighton and Hove – a planned, balanced budget with big, bold ideas for a period of time without precedent.”
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