Wednesday, 4 March 2015

My thoughts on the recent budget of Brighton and Hove Council

Readers, earlier this week, the Green administration Brighton and Hove Council, the only council to have a Green Party administration (albeit a minority administration, a serious issue when the Labour and Conservative groups collude to obstruct our best efforts to represent Brighton and Hove residents), agreed with some Labour councillors to a budget which would involve cuts, in spite of Brighton and Hove Green Party members voting to ask their councillors not to vote for any type of cuts budget.

I would like to say I am very pleased for the six Green councillors who were right to vote against a cuts budget first time around-why did only four of them rebel against the budget second time around when it is important to maintain an anti-austerity stance both locally and nationally?

One issue is that the Local Government Act 1988 makes it difficult for local councils to resist central government control-this should be repealed so that local government is less reliant on Whitehall and can set its own rates again. There should be real localism and grassroots local devolution, not Eric Pickles' brand of 'localism' which has seen budget cuts for mainly Labour-dominated councils and budget increases for mainly Conservative-dominated councils.

The second issue is that any rise in council tax will hurt both poor people and rich people, since many exemptions from council tax are no longer available as a result of the Con-Dems' austerity measures. The current system of council tax is also regressive, as richer people end up paying a lower proportion of their income towards it than most people in reality-therefore, a rise of 6%, which the Green councillors wanted, whilst indeed useful for saving vital council services in the midst of austerity, would have caused much pain for some people already struggling to meet basic needs. However, a council tax freeze which was proposed by the Conservative group would have seen important services closed or cut drastically enough to be largely ineffective. At least this tax rise of 1.99%, which was the rise finally agreed to, should save children's centres within Brighton, an area that has large numbers of young families.

The third issue is that crucially we Greens only have a minority administration in Brighton and Hove, and not a majority, which is why our useful proposal to axe paid political advisers (which are not essential to the running of councils or provision of council services anyway) was sadly vetoed by Labour-Conservative collusion, which shows we are trying our best at representing local residents in difficult times, when so much local government spending is at the mercy of central government and when there has never been a Green Party administration on a local council before anywhere in the UK.

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