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2% council tax rise will save services, say Brighton Greens
A council tax rise of 2% is set to form the cornerstone of a town hall budget with more than £20 million of cuts.
Brighton and Hove City Council’s Green administration claimed the increase, the maximum allowed without it having to hold a city-wide referendum, would help it protect essential services for residents.
As part of the plans for the 2013/14 financial year, about 160 posts will go as it looks to combat the Government’s austerity drive.
Three months of consultation will follow before the plans are decided on at a meeting of all 54 councillors in February.
Council leader Jason Kitcat said: “These budget proposals represent our commitment to protecting the city’s essential services for residents.
“Our focus now is to ensure all services are run as efficiently as possible.”
Finance chiefs added that the local authority still had to find at least another £1.9 million – with more possibly to come when the Chancellor reveals his Autumn Statement on December 5.
Among those services remaining open in current plans are children’s centres and branch libraries.
There would be no changes to eligibility for social care, funding to community groups and homelessness would be preserved, and carbon emissions would be reduced.
Money is also allocated to maintain council tax benefits for the poorest and to administer the retention of business rates.
However annual funding will be cut to Pride, cricket clubs and the award-winning music service, despite similar plans last year sparking a mass campaign. Children’s and adult services will be forced to bear the brunt of the cuts.
Union leaders said they feared the total number of job losses would be nearer 250.
Alex Knutsen, of Unison, said: “Staff are already being extremely efficient. Our worry is these departments will be asked to find more savings which will damage how services are delivered to the public.”
But Conservative councillor Geoffrey Theobald said it was “hardly austerity” when the council’s current gross budget was about the same level as three years ago.
He said: “The Greens should be looking at root and branch restructure of the organisation – in particular stripping out layers of middle management where we still have far too many.”
Labour councillor Les Hamilton said: “While the Tory-led Government continues to impose cuts to council budgets, the Green administration running the council shows little regard for limited public finances and continues to recklessly spend money on its pet projects.”
For an in-depth look at the proposed cuts read The Argus tomorrow (November 29)
What it means
Central to the administration’s plans is a 2% council tax increase – about 43p per week for a Band D household.
The Greens had been planning a 3.5% rise.
However, the Government’s announcement of a 2% cap meant an increase above this would require a city-wide referendum costing up to £500,000.
Coun Kitcat told The Argus a vote was “not a viable option”, adding: “With the challenging economic climate we do recognise any tax increases are difficult.”
The Conservative group said it would be looking to freeze council tax for 2013/14 in return for a Government grant equivalent to a 1% increase.
However, this would mean it needs to find an extra £1 million of savings.
The Labour group said it would make a decision on council tax after it had the full financial picture next month.
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