We are building up to the Annual Budget Council meeting in February when your councillors will have to make some difficult decisions around increasing fees and charges – as well as making cuts to services.
This is because of 11 years of underfunding from the Conservative government and the financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Labour group has already won support for some alternative proposals on fees and charges, amending the proposals brought to recent committee meetings.
At the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee this week, our amendments were focused on protecting disadvantaged residents from big increases in charge, incentivising people out of their cars and encouraging healthy active lifestyles.
While our proposals to protect concessionary rates at sports facilities and bulky waste removal discounts for disadvantaged residents were blocked by the Greens and Conservatives, we did win support for an increase fee in fees and charges for highways obstruction and flyering.
And we won backing to explore differential parking charges for vehicles emitting higher levels of pollution to try to encourage people to switch to greener forms of transport.
Increasing charges on highways obstructions will incentivise the faster completion of building works and help reduce obstructions on our highways and footways for pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and disabled people.
We know that flyering has a detrimental impact on our environment. It represents a waste of paper and often leads to street litter.
The administration also backed our proposal to generate an income stream in order to roll out more secure cycle hangars and invest in cycling infrastructure – and to look into charging for motorcycle parking to encourage greener forms of transport.
At the Adult Social Care and Public Health Sub-Committee last week, we won support for restricting charge increases to 3.1 per cent (equivalent to the state pension increase) rather than the 5.1 per cent proposed by the administration.
Sadly, some of our other proposals which would have protected residents against the worst excesses of new charges (such as increases in library fines for children) were not agreed at recent committees.
But Labour councillors will be bringing these back to the table as part of the wider budget-setting process.
I’ll be writing again about the budget process nearer the time, so watch this space.
Councillor Carmen Appich is the joint Labour opposition leader on Brighton and Hove City Council.
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