Focus of Green budget is to protect services for the elderly, adults in care, children and those living below the poverty line.
The Green administration on Brighton & Hove City Council today published for the first time its full proposals for the 2015/16 city council budget, including details of the essential services that can be much better sheltered from the national government’s damaging cuts by a 5.9% council tax increase.
The city faces £25.8m in cuts. To put that in perspective, this is more than the council spends each year on its entire refuse and recycling service and equivalent to nearly a quarter of the entire budget for adult care and adult social services.
Green finance lead Ollie Sykes said: “The city council is suffering an £18m loss of funding this year due to the Coalition Government’s austerity agenda – austerity which is wholly unnecessary and has now completely failed. Here in this city, thanks to this austerity, those in the most need are suffering hardship, debt, hunger, ill health and, in some cases, death, while the national debt continues to rise, big business escapes taxation and the gap between rich and poor is wider than ever.”
Council tax has been held down below inflation since 2011 with a maximum increase of 1.96% however in order to limit the devastating effects of this year’s squeeze on the budget, Green councillors are proposing a 5.9% council tax rise in April. For a typical Band C property this works out at £1.32 a week or £69 a year per household. For a single adult or single parent with children in a Band A property, it works out at £39 a year or 74p a week.
Ollie Sykes explains: “Our proposed council tax rise cannot reverse central government cuts: to do that would be too much for any normal household to bear. But it can protect, partly or wholly, vital services for those who need them the most: the elderly, adults in care, children and those living below the poverty line.1 5.9% will save some services completely and give others a lifeline. It will also save more than 140 jobs from threatened redundancy.
“Over the last four years, we have quietly transformed how the council works, reducing staff costs to the bone, particularly in higher paid posts, and we’ve closed many buildings. The council is much more efficient than it was when the Greens came in, but it’s not enough. With the measly level of funding now coming from central government, it is impossible to create a budget that doesn’t have painful, often intolerable cuts, causing redundancies and affecting people whose lives are already difficult. We have so much less to spend but more people who completely depend on our services.
“And it will get worse in years to come: both the Conservative and Labour parties are committed to continuing the destruction of local government services.”
Major services that would be helped by the Greens’ 5.9% tax proposals include:
- Care for adults – residential and home care
- Services for children, including full protection of the budgets for Children’s Centres
- Community grants and the voluntary sector fully protected
- Community safety for women and girls
- Youth services 2
- Early years childcare 3
- Public toilets
Disability Champion Stephanie Powell voiced her anger at the violence of the austerity agenda:
“The shocking and savage cuts administered by central government unfairly target those most in need. The Greens have placed real emphasis on ensuring our restricted finances are prioritised to key areas such as adult social care, children’s services and community grants for the third sector.
Having worked for years in the third sector and as a councillor championing the rights of those with disabilities, I am appalled by the government’s two tier approach. First class services for the wealthy and food banks for the working poor.”
Ollie Sykes observed:
“As our country enters a level of reduced public spending not seen since the 1930s 4 , with cuts so heavily skewed towards local authorities and the care services we provide, we have reached that point where government no longer allows us to provide the very basics that underpin health, wellbeing, the last defences against extreme poverty and even lives. A tax rise of 5.9% is the one way of allowing us to do a little better than government demands.
“This is a caring budget in very tough times.”
The budget papers released today contain three separate sets of budgets: the Green budget that includes the 5.9% tax rise plus ‘fall back’ budgets that show the effect of a 1.99% tax rise and a tax freeze.
The ‘fall back’ budgets, showing the likely effects of a 1.99% tax rise and a tax freeze, have been compiled by Council officers because it is possible for Labour and Conservatives to unite and vote the Green budget down. Greens do not recommend or approve of these fall back budgets.
- In keeping with the Greens first manifesto commitment to “protect services for children, vulnerable adults and those on low incomes”: http://s.coop/wi4
- Including Youth Collective
- Including the Moulsecoomb summer play scheme
For more information please contact the Brighton and Hove Green Party office on 01273 766 670.