Budget council (23rd Feb) still means Tory cuts and tough days ahead
The annual budget proposed by the Green-led council was yesterday passed through the Policy and Resources Committee. It came with a firm warning from councillors of the impacts of compounding crises – the cost-of-living crisis, increasing demand on services, inflation, war, Brexit, and austerity.
Greens say that thirteen years of a Conservative-led government has meant that public services have been “slashed, trashed and privatised” Across the country, the erosion in household disposable income is the most significant witnessed in a generation. In Brighton & Hove, hardship funds are oversubscribed, foodbanks have seen donations drop by over two-thirds and they tell us those previously donating are now looking for help.
In this context, Brighton & Hove City Council initially faced finding £20 million in savings. Working to find innovative savings and updated projections, Greens have found a viable budget that mitigates the worst effects of savings on vulnerable communities, including a reduction of necessary savings down to £14 million. Greens say this is still £14 million too much, for a council that provides hundreds of services every day with over 9000 staff, costing £2.3 million per day.
Greens state that their priority is to protect the most marginalised communities from the worst effects of this situation, and they are confident that it is the best possible budget in the worst of circumstances.
Putting forward a financially viable budget to the Policy and Resources Committee yesterday, councillors voted to allow it through to the Budget Council session later this month where it will be debated, amended, and voted on by all 54 councillors
Councillor Tom Druitt said:
“Whilst we are proud of our work and pleased that the budget is progressing forward, we also share the immense frustration of so many across the council and city. We want to strengthen services, but instead we are being forced to hinder them.
““Whilst there is much reason to be concerned, I would like to reassure residents that the most vital public services will continue to be funded. From nurseries to adult care facilities, to grants to help maintain people in their homes, services for the most vulnerable have been protected wherever we can. We have become the biggest provider of affordable rented housing in the city. There will be investment in public toilets with a business plan to safeguard their future. Tree planting will be maintained, and parks are staying open, with improvements being made to children’s play areas.
“This budget is about making the best of a bad situation. It’s a long way from perfect, but by putting forward a balanced and sustainable budget, we have found a way forward that avoids the worst of what could have been, while maintaining the financial resilience we need to keep vital public services functioning.”
Councillor Phelim Mac Cafferty added:
“There’s a reason we’ve described this budget as rigged; the government have implanted such significant cuts, we are blocked from delivering the social, economic, and environmental improvements our city needs. Our priority is to shield the most marginalised communities from the worst effects of the hand we’ve been dealt.
“Green councillors have consulted a vast range of people, getting feedback and ideas on how to navigate this no-win scenario. Through working fiercely to produce the best budget in shocking circumstances and to reflect what residents need, we are confident that we are on the best possible path forward.
“Despite our efforts, there will be inevitable reductions in service, both now and in the future, and I call on the city to prepare for tough days ahead. Green Party councillors remain committed to doing everything we can to protect vital public services and we’ll work over these final weeks to budget council on Thursday 23rd February to find additional ways to save services, even in these most trying times.”