Council Tax - Ten Myths and Facts
MYTH 1: The Greens are introducing a record-breaking tax rise in Brighton & Hove
FACT: We're proposing 3.5%, which is well below inflation and amounts to just 57p/week or £29.64/year for an average home. The last Labour administration set increases between 6% and 14.5% at a time of low inflation, while the outgoing Tory administration's financial plans set a council tax increase of 2.5% a year for each of the next four years.
MYTH 2: The Greens have deprived the city of £3m government money
FACT: The £3m grant is only offered for one year, not thereafter. It's a one-off. If we accept it, we also have to accept the freeze on council tax. Over two years, accepting the grant would cost Brighton & Hove £5.4m and would lead to higher tax increases in the future.
MYTH 3: Refusing £3m just doesn't make sense
FACT: Financially it makes a lot of sense. By increasing the council tax just 57p a week for the average household, we can put an extra £5.4m towards safeguarding services and protecting the vulnerable.
MYTH 4: We could take the grant and therefore raise council tax by less than 3.5%
FACT: Not an option. The £3m is only available if we freeze council tax completely, which leaves council income further behind inflation, risking bigger tax increases for future years.
MYTH 5: The tax rise will be £72/year (government claim) or £51/year (The Argus claim)
FACT: The government figure is a wild exaggeration based on a rise closer to 5%, which no council in the country has suggested this year. The Argus figure is only for certain properties and is not an average. The actual figure for an average home in Brighton and Hove is of just 57p a week or £29.64 per year, as calculated by the council's own finance officers. The wealthier households will pay more. The most vulnerable households do not pay council tax.
MYTH 6: hard-pressed low-middle income households will be hardest hit
FACT: No they won't. Everybody who pays council tax will have a 3.5% rise. Taxation depends on the value of a council tax payers' home so a high value house means a higher-than-average amount, a lower value home means a lower-than-average amount. And for everyone, the rise is below the rate of inflation.
MYTH 7: Everyone else is freezing their council tax and taking the £3m
FACT: Actually, a full one in five councils has so far expressed doubts about freezing budgets and 6 councils have declared they will definitely increase council tax, just like Brighton & Hove. This includes 2 Conservative Councils. We believe many more councils will follow suit.
MYTH 8: If we made better efficiency savings and worked with other councils, we could avoid the rise
FACT: Central government has been reducing council grants for years. Under previous administrations, Brighton & Hove Council has been making efficiency savings for years and the last Conservative administration cut services with gusto. There is now very little excess, if any, left to lose. We actually have a programme to save £35m over the next two financial years, through efficiencies, new income and reducing some services. And we are talking to other councils about joint working. However with the government imposing a 33% cut in our main grant, as well as other cuts, and with increases in the number of children and adults needing care, our efficiency programme won't be enough to balance the budget.
MYTH 9: The Greens pegged the rise at 3.5% because anything higher would have required a city referendum, which scares the Greens
FACTS: (1) We're far from scared! The reason we declared our hand before any other council is because we're being more transparent about our budget, and consulting more widely, than others. This will be the most shared and consulted budget in Brighton & Hove history. We don't need to finalise our budget plans until February 2012 and until then we're listening.
(2) The new rules relating to council tax referenda won't come into force until next year, so at the moment we wouldn't have the choice to go for a referendum on a higher tax increase, even if we wanted to.
(3) There are doubts about the new council tax referendum rules the Government is introducing. Many believe the cost of staging a referendum would actually wipe out the benefits of raising the tax beyond 3.5% unless we made it very much higher.
MYTH 10: We can get through these government cut-backs without a council tax rise
FACT: We don't think so and a growing number of councils agree. If we don't raise council tax we have to lose £5.4m from our budget. The question to those who oppose the rise is: how would you save £5.4m, on top of the government cuts of more than £35m in the next two years? What would you cut? Which jobs and services would you axe?
10 May 2013
A meeting of the Brighton and Hove Green Party earlier this week overwhelmingly agreed that it could not support any Brighton & Hove City Council pay offer now being made that would leave staff worse off.
02 May 2013
Caroline Lucas condemns 'socially devastating' Spending Review