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Council tax rise on the cards as Greens set for Government showdown
A council tax rise of 2% is planned for Brighton and Hove as the Greens look to take on Government ministers once again.
In what is a case of déjà vu, bosses at Brighton and Hove City Council have revealed they want to snub a Whitehall “gimmick” grant to freeze the rates for 2014/15.
Instead, it proposes to increase council tax by 2% - the maximum amount possible without holding a costly referendum.
Council leaders claim the plan is necessary to help combat cuts in funding and help it make £23.6 million of savings.
But Conservative opponents have slammed the minority administration for ignoring the incentive.
Once again, it will be down the Labour group, which following Thursday's historic by-election victory have 14 councillors, which will hold the power.
Council leader Jason Kitcat said: “We are facing a massive reduction in funding but we have to meet growth and demand.
“People are living longer and we are living in the middle of a baby boom.
“To help that, we are proposing a modest, below-inflation rise which is a small contribution to running our services.”
The plans were unveiled as part of a report discussed by the council's policy and resources committee.
About £30 million of savings have already been made the last two years.
The papers warned that, due to the Government reducing its budget by 60% over and eight-year period, the council had to “take a different approach” to managing its funding.
Town hall sources have warned this will mean the city will start to feel the cuts hardest in the coming years.
Greens (21 councillors) voted for the plans, Conservatives (18) against and Labour (14) abstained.
Conservative councillor Ann Norman said the Green's decision was “no great surprise”.
She said: “It will now be down the Labour group to decide whether they will support us in trying to deliver that freeze.
“But I don't hold out a great deal of hope, as they joined with the Greens last year to push through the biggest rise permissible without holding a referendum.”
Labour councillor Warren Morgan said: “As in previous years, we will make our decision in February when the financial position is clear.
“No one wants to add to the financial pressures many families are facing because of the government's austerity cuts, but inflation is running at over 2.5% while the Conservative government is cutting tens of millions of pounds from the money they give Brighton and Hove council to fund essential local services.
“Residents rely on us to keep the streets clean, schools open and care homes running properly.”
Under government plans, if local authorities freeze council tax in 2014/15, it will receive a grant the equivalent of a 1% increase for the next two financial years.
The council claims announcing its plans now will allow residents to get involved in the budget setting process.
A decision will only be made at a meeting of all 54 councillors in February.
Neither West Sussex nor East Sussex County Councils have made a decision yet on its plans for 2014/15.
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