Cuts have been ‘shrouded in secrecy’ with public left in dark over future of services
Decisions that will affect the services and jobs that hundreds of people in the city rely on are being made behind closed doors, Greens say, condemning Labour for jettisoning a council consultation process that would have given community groups more time to suggest alternatives to cuts.
The council’s budget, expected to detail significant cuts to jobs and services in the city, including to voluntary, community groups and charities, is set to be published for the first time on Wednesday 31st January.
Greens have criticised the Labour Council for failing to properly consult on the impact of up to £33m of cuts planned in the council’s budget, with changes to council timetables meaning there are just two weeks for community groups and opposition councillors to suggest alternatives to job losses and service cuts.
Previously, a long-standing council agreement meant that draft budget papers would be published no later than December, to allow trade unions, staff, charity or community groups and opposition councillors time to evaluate the impact of proposals and suggest alternatives to cuts where possible.
Opposition groups could also use this time to develop amendments to budget plans, with political groups often working together to improve the council’s financial position.
In the past, vibrant campaigns calling on specific services to be saved – such as Bright Start nursery or Youth Services – had often led to service cuts being scrapped from budget proposals well before councillors met to cast their vote on council finances for the year.
With full information on where the axe will fall not due to be put into the public domain until Wednesday, Greens say community groups have been left in the dark over the future of their services.
Opposition councillors will have less than two weeks to canvass community groups on alternative proposals, with fears for the impact late announcements of cuts will have on the wellbeing of staff and users of public services across the city.
Councillor Sue Shanks, Green finance spokesperson, commented: “With over £33m of cuts expected to be made in this year’s council budget, it is a disgrace that the city is yet to see where the axe will fall on their public services. Labour Councillors have likely been sitting on this information since early December.
“Instead of the usual two to three months, the public now have just a few weeks to make sense of the impact cuts will have on adults, children’s social care, our public health and youth services, our voluntary and charity organisations, including those providing housing advice and support for people with disabilities.
“When decisions are this grave, it beggars belief that Labour would seek to shut down early involvement from community groups, opposition councillors and campaigners, all of whom have helped to improve the council’s financial position in the past.
“Previously, the council has also held in-person, cross-party consultation groups and met with charity leaders well in advance.
“We are under no illusion that local government finances are worse than ever, thanks to neglect by a callous Conservative government. Even more reason why Labour should be reaching out, being open and transparent, to ensure we can do everything in our power as a city to resist Tory cuts.
“Instead, they have chosen to make huge decisions behind closed doors – leaving just 13 days for issues to be raised and any alternatives proposed.
“Make no mistake – these cuts will be devastating, and Labour has failed residents by shrouding in secrecy decisions that stand to affect us all in Brighton & Hove.”