Labour/Green coalition block Tory plans to freeze council tax

Besi Besemar February 27, 2013

Brighton & Hove CouncilThe council’s budget for 2013-14 will be debated tomorrow, Thursday 28 at full council.

The Conservative group have attacked the Labour Party for not supporting their proposals to freeze the councils budget at current levels.

While the Green Administration are proposing to increase council tax next year by 2% the Conservatives want it frozen. The Labour Group has announced that they will be backing the Green’s proposals meaning that the increase will be voted through.

Other amendments being proposed by the Conservatives include:

• supporting local business by proposing a reduction in the cost of Trader and Business Parking Permits

• reversing the Green Administration’s proposed cut to the Council’s children’s Music Service

• increasing the amount of grant funding available to charities and voluntary groups

• reopening the award-winning Norton Road public toilets for 7 days a week, and

• establishing a new annual prize for schools which show the best performance in improving the results of all their pupils.
Their proposals would be funded from a number of sources including:

• savings in back office functions such as Human Resources, Communications, the European Office and Scrutiny

• reducing the amount of taxpayer funded Trade Union activity in the Council, and

• extending the existing voluntary redundancy scheme

Cllr Geoffrey Theobald
Cllr Geoffrey Theobald

Conservative Group Leader, Cllr. Geoffrey Theobald, said:

“The Labour Party are natural bedfellows with the Greens when it comes to high tax and high spend so their decision to support the rise is no surprise. We have seen it nationally with the last Labour Government which borrowed one pound in every four it spent and we saw it with the last Labour Council Administration in Brighton & Hove which more than doubled council tax. But for the Government ruling that any rise over 2% must be approved by the public in a referendum, I’m quite sure that they would have put it up even more. It is now clear that they only supported our freeze proposals last year in the hope of gaining votes in the Westbourne by-election.”

Cllr Anne Norman
Cllr Anne Norman

Conservative Group Finance Spokesperson, Cllr. Ann Norman, added:

“I would have liked to have done a lot more and had we still been in Administration we would have continued with our value for money programme and properly tested the market for more of the Council’s services. However, in addition to proposing a council tax freeze we have still tried to help as many groups as we can and I would urge the Labour Party to support us on these.”

The Labour and Cooperative Group will move amendments at this Thursday’s budget which they say will protect frontline services, give support to those affected by the government’s welfare changes and help struggling parents with childcare costs.

Labour’s amendments will concentrate on four key areas:

• Sure Start Children’s centres

• Homelessness

• Welfare support and advice and

• Library Services

Labour claim their amendments are fully costed and will mean that:

• Sure Start services keep on running whilst keeping fees down for parents,

• that money proposed to be cut by The Greens is put back into the preventing homelessness and temporary accommodation budget,

• that those affected by the governments welfare changes receive advice and support and

• that the much loved Mobile Library service is saved from the Green Party axe.

The amendments will be financed by taking money from existing budgets, including:

• additional funding for proposed Traveller services

• The Biosphere project, where the Councils contribution will be cut by 50% and funding sought from other Local Authorities within the Biosphere area and

• from the Councils Communications unit.

Cllr Gill Mitchell
Cllr Gill Mitchell

Leader of Labour & Cooperative, Cllr Gill Mitchell, said:

“The Green Party wanted to raise council tax by 3.5% which is something we could never have supported, whilst the Tories in government are raising council tax by up to 25% for some of the most vulnerable and hard pressed families across the city to pay for their economic failure.

“Last year we managed to freeze council tax by bringing forward savings already identified and we would have liked to be in a position to support a freeze, but the Tory led government have placed such great financial pressure on local councils that we simply cannot justify it and at the same time prevent the misery of debt and homelessness affecting more and more local families”

She continued:

“This is about priorities.

“Would elderly people on outlying estates who look forward to choosing books with their neighbours from the Mobile Library rather have that service preserved than pay more into an already substantial Traveller Services budget? – We think they would.

“Do residents expect the council to focus on giving prompt Welfare advice to needy people by cutting down on beaurocracy and getting partner organisations to pay their fair share of the Biosphere costs?   We think they do.

“Do people want to know that every penny that can be is going towards saving families from the misery of homelessness?  They do.

“And that at a time of such squeezed household budgets, money spent on keeping nursery school fees down for children under three is money well spent”