The leader of the country’s only Green council has vowed not to resign as opposition parties pledge to unite to oust the group.
Political rivals have been queueing up to criticise Brighton and Hove City Council’s Green administration after it revealed plans for a 4.75% council tax rise – a move that would trigger a referendum costing £230,000.
Within hours, Labour councillors – who form the smallest group on the council – called for a vote of no confidence in the Greens and for a caretaker administration to take over until next May.
The Argus can now reveal that Conservative members will support the call at a key town hall meeting next week. But last night council leader Jason Kitcat slammed the motion, vowing: “I will not resign.”
It comes as The Argus continued to poll residents about their views on the planned council tax rise – with more than 80% of people on the street voting against despite the promise it would help protect vital services.
The motion, which will be discussed by all councillors at a meeting of full council on January 30, calls for the Green leadership to resign.
It then suggests the council’s chief executive work with the leaders of the three parties to establish a caretaker administration to run the local authority on a “sensible and consensual basis”.
In a statement, Labour group leader Warren Morgan said: “It will require compromises from Green and Conser- vative councillors, and the involvement of councillors from all parties who command respect across the council chamber and the city.
“The residents of Brighton and Hove want their council run properly, and basic services like refuse collection delivered reliably, until May next year when they can make the choice between electing a Labour, Tory or Green-led council.”
Speaking to The Argus last night, Coun Kitcat said: “I will not be resigning.
“It’s important to remember that motion does not have actual power and Labour has knowingly done that.
“It’s just cynical political game play to detract from the funding debate.
“Previous Labour [council] leaders such as Ken Bodfish had two or three against them but they carried on.
“It’s just one of those things and I’m focusing on doing the best for the city above party-politics.”
The Conservative position was confirmed after a meeting of its councillors on Monday night.
“The Greens received the most votes at the last election and we agreed for them to run a four-year administration.
“Labour should have come in with us two years ago when I presented a similar motion asking them to.
“By doing this now is an immoral abuse of power.”
The Green administration (21 councillors) revealed its proposal for a 4.75% council tax rise for 2014/15 last week.
It claimed the move, which works out as an increase of £5 a month for a Band D household, would help it fill a £2 million black hole as it looks to make £24 million of savings in the face of government cuts.
The Conservatives (18) back a freeze while Labour (14) appear committed to a 2% rise – the most allowed without holding a city-wide referendum.
With the budget not being set until a council meeting on February 27, The Argus launched its own poll. More than 300 people have already had their say.
Yesterday, roving reporters Francesca Greetham, Tony O'Hara, John Lucas and Ruari Barratt asked the public how they would vote. In total, 250 people said they would vote against the council tax rise and 50 said they would vote in favour.
Retired Sheila Anscombe, 69, of Wilson Avenue, Brighton, said: “I think it's disgusting, because people are finding it hard as it is. “They're just taking and giving nothing back.”
Helen Folkes, 63, of Southall Avenue, also retired, added: “£230,000 pounds could go on hospitals, it could go on schools, instead of wasting it... no matter how we vote, they get their way.”
James Vasconcelles, 43, of Sefton Road, slammed the proposed rise as “just more money from the general public”.
We will speak to more residents in Hollingbury and George Street, Hove, today with the results in The Argus on Thursday.
Our final poll of on-street surveys, postal votes and online responses will then be printed in the paper on February 13.
You can also comment on our Facebook page, or use the Twitter hashtag #bhref.
Postal forms should be returned to Neil Vowles at Argus House, Crowhurst Road, Brighton, BN1 8AR. To download one, right click on the image below and select Save As.