Tories and Labour try to amend budget for Brighton and Hove ahead of authority vote (From The Argus)
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Tories and Labour try to amend budget for Brighton and Hove ahead of authority vote
Households across Brighton and Hove will have a council tax increase of just under 2% this year.
Brighton and Hove City Council’s minority Green administration will get its way over its plans for a 1.96% increase in the rates – the maximum amount possible – after Labour admitted it would support it.
Town hall bosses claim the below-inflation rise is necessary to make £17 million of savings whilst protecting vital services and the most vulnerable in the city.
Conservative councillors said they would find an extra £780,000 from the £750 million budget to secure a tax freeze that would mean the city would get a one-off government grant of £1.2 million.
But after three months of debate and consultation on the proposals the Labour group, which is the smallest on the council, has now publicly admitted it will support the Green increase, meaning the tax rise will be approved.
It comes as opposition groups publish their suggested amendments to the budget which will be decided at a meeting at Brighton Town Hall on Thursday, February 28.
Labour group leader Gill Mitchell said: “This is about priorities.”
The average Band D household in the city currently pays £1,482.48 in council tax. The 2% increase, which will be the first rise in three years, amounts to about 43p per week.
It is just below the cap set by Government and avoids a city-wide referendum on the issue.
Council leader Jason Kitcat welcomed Labour’s support, adding the rise represented a “contribution towards offsetting the worst of the government cuts”.
He added: “This recognises the hard-pressed situation that local government currently faces. I’m glad Labour has reversed its position since last year.”
Conservative group leader Geoffrey Theobald said: “Labour 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.
“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.”
Coun Mitchell said: “We would have liked to be in a position to support a freeze but the Tory-led government has placed such great financial pressure on local councils that we simply cannot justify it.”
Under the cost-cutting plans for the 2013/14 financial year, about 100 full- time posts at the council are to go.
Libraries and children
Bosses have pledged to maintain the number of children’s centres, to keep branch libraries open and not to make changes to eligibility for social care.
However, children’s and adult services will be forced to bear the brunt of cuts.
The Conservative amendments focus on finding extra funding for the city’s music service, community and voluntary groups and extending the opening hours of Norton Road car park toilets.
- Freeze council tax, which means finding an extra £780,000 of savings.
- Divert travellers’ cash to supporting the city music service.
- Cut the cost of business and trader parking permits from £600 and £300 a year respectively to £520 and £260.
- Reverse the freezing of grants to the community and voluntary sector and reinstate a 2% increase.
- Extend the opening hours for Norton Road car park toilets to seven days a week instead of weekends and bank holidays only.
- Create a £20,000 prize for one or more secondary schools delivering the best value added performance from pupils.
- Increase funding for children’s centre nurseries so there are no additional increase in charges for children under three.
- Increase spending on children's centres for midwifery services, reception posts and filling vacancies
- Preserve the mobile library service three days a week. A new vehicle costing £120,000 would also be bought.
- Reverse reductions to temporary accommodation and homelessness budgets
- Spend £35,000 on appointing a welfare rights officer and £5,000 to produce a booklet on the Government welfare changes to be delivered to all council tenants.
See all The Argus's stories about this year's budget on the dedicated web page: www.theargus.co.uk/news/indepth/brightonhovecounciltax
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