This week saw the Labour Council in Brighton and Hove set out their proposals for budget cuts over the next four years, which will see 540 job losses and significant reductions in services for its most vulnerable citizens. Viewed in full, the Labour council’s budget proposals show a devastating cut to vital services.
The budget comes after the Comprehensive Spending Review this week by the Conservative central government, which the Local Government Association revealed yesterday amounts to a £4.1 billion funding cut over the next five years. Lord Porter, Conservative chair of the LGA, said local services would have to be “drastically scaled back or lost altogether” in order to “plug a financial black hole”.
Councillor Ollie Sykes, Green spokesperson on finance and resources, said:
“This budget reflects an increasingly difficult financial situation for the council, caused by ideological cuts by the Conservative central government. Austerity is far from over, and the deepest cuts are just beginning.
“While the blame for cuts clearly lies with the Tories, it’s deeply disappointing that this Labour administration is going so far and so fast in implementing these Tory cuts. Labour in opposition severely hampered the Council’s ability to raise additional revenue, and on coming to power made some unnecessary and costly changes such as delaying infrastructure projects and dismissing the Chief Executive. It shows massive hypocrisy that they are now asking the poorest and most vulnerable residents to shoulder a disproportionate burden of the cuts.
“Labour was not elected on a mandate to make such massive cuts. Our position has always been that the Council needs to have a far broader, more genuine conversation with city residents about how the financial challenge should be met. We have offered to work with Labour time and time again to support a truly meaningful engagement process. Sadly, we have been constantly rebuffed, and public consultation has in fact been curtailed relative to previous years.
“As a result we now see some profoundly unfair proposals within the draft budget. While we could possibly support key elements such as the sharing of back-office functions or the digitisation of services, we absolutely cannot support cuts to services such as children’s centres, youth services and adult social care. These services save the Council money in the long-run by preventing the need for costly crisis intervention.
“We note the new powers announced this week for local authorities to raise council tax for social care. This means there could be additional funding available to allow some of the very worst cuts to be mitigated. However, the potential for an additional council tax rise, which we would otherwise support, is extremely worrying in the light of Labour’s decision to reduce support available to the poorest residents struggling to pay council tax bills.
“This week was the first time the Greens had sight of the complete draft budget, so we are still analysing the impacts of Labour’s proposals. However, as it currently stands, the Green Group feel it is unlikely that we will be able to support this Labour cuts budget.
“As a group, we want to see a budget that better focuses on vital services while protecting the most vulnerable residents. Above all, any additional tax burden must fall only on those able to pay, by providing necessary council tax relief for the poorest households”.