An external audit report has confirmed that there were “significant weaknesses” in the financial sustainability of budgets set by the previous Green administration.
This report validates exactly what we said when we took office – namely that the last Green administration did not manage our finances well and left the council in a financially unsustainable position.
The findings were revealed in a report produced by Brighton and Hove City Council’s external auditors, Grant Thornton.
The report has been published ahead of the council’s Audit and Standards Committee meeting which is due to be held this afternoon (Tuesday 26 September).
The audit report states: “The council finished 2022-23 with an overspend on the General Fund revenue budget of £3 million. This was the first time in over a decade that it had produced an overspend.”
The report goes on to say that “the council’s financial position has significantly worsened since our 2021-22 report” – that is, during the period when the Green Party was in office.
When we highlighted the fact that the previous Green administration had overspent, a number of current and former Green councillors tried to claim that this wasn’t significant or unique.
The audit report makes it crystal clear that the opposite is true. It makes a formal “Red” finding, shows “significant weaknesses” in relation to financial sustainability and makes two formal recommendations for improvement.
I said when we took office that we’d inherited a “budget built on sand” – and this audit report demonstrates how it happened.
Shockingly, a similar finding was made last year and the auditors make clear that this was not addressed by the Green administration.
The Green Party claims to be progressive but that’s no good to anybody if they can’t manage the council properly when they get into power.
I saw in a recent statement from Green councillor Chloe Goldsmith that she doesn’t think the council needs a chief executive. This probably tells you all you need to know about their approach to running the council.
Perhaps they think the chief executive position could be replaced with tarot card readings to make decisions? While we’re at it, maybe we could do away with the chief financial officer and have an interpretive dance troupe run our budgets?
The Greens must take some responsibility at some point. Do they disagree with the audit report findings? Do they dispute the fact that they were the first administration to overspend in more than a decade? Anyone standing for the Greens in the city should be asked about this.
The report is also clear about the significant reductions in central government funding over the past 10 years and the pressures that these continue to place on local authorities.
It leaves no grounds for any crowing from local Tories. Their catastrophic Tory government has continually underfunded local councils and still lacks any grip on the deep cost of living crisis across the country.
Councillor Jacob Taylor is the deputy leader Brighton and Hove City Council and the finance lead.