The great Brighton and Hove council tax debate: The background

The great council tax debate: The background

The great council tax debate: The background

First published in News
Last updated
by , Local government reporter

"It's a mess, a complete mess."

As the branch secretary of Brighton and Hove’s GMB union, Mark Turner has been involved in a fair few scraps over the years.

But in all his time debating with politicians and highly-paid executives, he has rarely come across a situation as sensitive and sensational as the one currently facing Brighton and Hove City Council.

In the Green corner is the ruling minority administration which believes frontline public services, such as refuse collection and libraries, can be maintained only by increasing council tax by 4.75%.

With a budget black hole of £2 million as the council looks to save £24 million for 2014/15, the Greens claim without the extra money – about £5 a month for an average Band D property – they will have to cut back on what the authority currently does.

 


MORE:


 

In the blue corner are the Conservatives, who believe the rates should be frozen.

This would mean the council receives a Government grant – branded by some as a “gimmick” – equivalent to a 1% increase.

Then there is Labour which, as the council’s third largest group, has found itself the kingmaker in recent years.

It feels the public should pay an extra 2%, the most allowed by a Government cap.

Any more than that and a referendum costing £230,000 must be held.

If no onemoves, then the whole budget will be set by the Government.

But Mr Turner believes there is an even more important issue at the centre of the stalemate debate – the future of local government.

With town halls across Sussex already stripping back services in recent years, there are few areas where big savings can be made.

And with officials warning Brighton and Hove will have to find up to £100 million over the next four years, the council’s two largest unions believe the planned above-inflation rise is the only option.

Speaking to The Argus yesterday, Mr Turner said: “I do not believe the public is aware of the dire situation that local authorities are in.

“If the Tories form a Government with a majority in 2015 then local government will just be an administrative body not operating any local services.

Hardship “I also do not think the people of Brighton know what £25 million out of a total council budget of £750 million is worth.”

He added: “This new budget would protect frontline services in adult social care and a disabled workshop where we have members.

“Cuts would have absolutely terrible consequences on people’s lives. It is only right that the public have a chance to vote on this proposal.”

Alex Knutson, the city’s Unison branch secretary, said: “Local government is groaning under the strain of trying to deliver services with ever-reducing funds.

“The coalition’s austerity measures are creating extreme social hardship and are fundamentally fragmenting our society.”

The issue of council tax is historic, with each of the local authority’s last three budgets being dominated by the issue.

In 2012 Labour joined with the Tories to vote downthe Greens’ planned 3.5% rise – the maximum allowed by a Government cap – to ensure a freeze in the rates.

A year later the minority administration was supported by Labour in its proposal for a 2% rise.

Now the Greens want to ask the public what they want to do, a move supported by the council’s two largest unions, GMB and Unison.

Mr Turner said: “I do not believe the council would be in this situation if Labour had supported the Greens when they tried to increase council tax by 3.5% in 2011.

“That’s £11.5 million the council has lost.”

Yesterday The Argus revealed that opposition councillors plan to unite and pass a vote of no confidence in the Green minority administration.

Labour is then calling for a caretaker administration to then take over until the elections in May 2015.

But council leader Jason Kitcat said he will not resign and vowed to continue doing what he thought was best for the city.

Mr Turner believes him – but fears the stalemate might only be resolved with a local election 12 months ahead of schedule.

He added: “No one is going to step up in the next 12 months.”

With the budget not being set until a council meeting on February 27, The Argus launched its own poll referendum on the council tax issue.

Coun Kitcat is calling for a public debate on the social care and funding pressures facing the city.

He said: “I appreciate times are tough for our citizens as most wages are not keeping up with costs.

“So this is the right time to ask the people what they think is the right approach – do we cut back services or pay an extra £4.53 a month or less for the majority of households to show we really are a caring society?”

It’s over to you.

Comments (9)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

1:25pm Thu 23 Jan 14

Sir Prised says...

The proposed increase would mean Council Tax had risen 75% in just 10 years. There's no way solely householders should be exploited with these inflation-busting increases.
The proposed increase would mean Council Tax had risen 75% in just 10 years. There's no way solely householders should be exploited with these inflation-busting increases. Sir Prised
  • Score: 9

2:20pm Thu 23 Jan 14

Sir Prised says...

Sir Prised wrote:
The proposed increase would mean Council Tax had risen 75% in just 10 years. There's no way solely householders should be exploited with these inflation-busting increases.
I have to apologise for this post because in my annoyance, my maths went out of the window ! :-(( There has only been a 25% rise since 2004. The big rises were in the few years preceding 2004. I shall however, still be voting NO should the referendum go ahead because I don't think it's fair that only householders carry any additional burden.
[quote][p][bold]Sir Prised[/bold] wrote: The proposed increase would mean Council Tax had risen 75% in just 10 years. There's no way solely householders should be exploited with these inflation-busting increases.[/p][/quote]I have to apologise for this post because in my annoyance, my maths went out of the window ! :-(( There has only been a 25% rise since 2004. The big rises were in the few years preceding 2004. I shall however, still be voting NO should the referendum go ahead because I don't think it's fair that only householders carry any additional burden. Sir Prised
  • Score: 8

3:04pm Thu 23 Jan 14

RottingdeanRant says...

A definite No for me. If the referendum does go ahead then only those who actually pay the council tax should vote - that is only those on the council tax demand and those that do not have a 0 rate. No pay - no vote.
A definite No for me. If the referendum does go ahead then only those who actually pay the council tax should vote - that is only those on the council tax demand and those that do not have a 0 rate. No pay - no vote. RottingdeanRant
  • Score: 10

6:45pm Thu 23 Jan 14

Richada says...

So, now we have the GMB wading into this too!

This council has made a total and utter lash up of running this city - before any cut in funding from the government.

Hey presto! They win a referendum and get the OK for a 4.75% increase!

It's all going to be fixed next year is it?

Not a chance - and has my bin been emptied this week (again!)? No,

They are woefully incapable of running basic council services - putting this all on "social care and funding" is just an obvious, cheap, political trick.
So, now we have the GMB wading into this too! This council has made a total and utter lash up of running this city - before any cut in funding from the government. Hey presto! They win a referendum and get the OK for a 4.75% increase! It's all going to be fixed next year is it? Not a chance - and has my bin been emptied this week (again!)? No, They are woefully incapable of running basic council services - putting this all on "social care and funding" is just an obvious, cheap, political trick. Richada
  • Score: 2

9:17pm Fri 24 Jan 14

Idontbelieveit1948 says...

At least the union and the Greens can agree on something then - the ripping off of the council taxpayer because neither of them is capable of running an efficient operation.

No to any council tax rise.
At least the union and the Greens can agree on something then - the ripping off of the council taxpayer because neither of them is capable of running an efficient operation. No to any council tax rise. Idontbelieveit1948
  • Score: 1

9:37am Sat 25 Jan 14

Richada says...

Idontbelieveit1948 wrote:
At least the union and the Greens can agree on something then - the ripping off of the council taxpayer because neither of them is capable of running an efficient operation.

No to any council tax rise.
The current evidence supports the above statement 100%

Unfortunately, anyone thinking that giving the current administration any increase in the hope of an improvement to the current, chaotic, situation is sadly deluded.
[quote][p][bold]Idontbelieveit1948[/bold] wrote: At least the union and the Greens can agree on something then - the ripping off of the council taxpayer because neither of them is capable of running an efficient operation. No to any council tax rise.[/p][/quote]The current evidence supports the above statement 100% Unfortunately, anyone thinking that giving the current administration any increase in the hope of an improvement to the current, chaotic, situation is sadly deluded. Richada
  • Score: 0

5:00am Sun 2 Feb 14

Fi Brighton & Happy says...

RottingdeanRant wrote:
A definite No for me. If the referendum does go ahead then only those who actually pay the council tax should vote - that is only those on the council tax demand and those that do not have a 0 rate. No pay - no vote.
I totally agree. I am disabled and am in receipt of both rent and council tax benefits, but I don't see why that gives me the 'right' to say how much everyone else pays. That, to me, is completely unfair. I don't contribute to the budget, so why should I help make the decision of what others have to pay towards MY home? I don't want anything I haven't paid for. That's just begging. I HAVE paid into the economy via the taxes on my income when I could work, so I don't feel that guilty now, but I know what I'd rather be able to do - WORK!! CONTRIBUTE!! PAY MY WAY!! NOT BE A BURDEN ON OTHERS!! We are extremely lucky to live in the UK AND in these times; not THAT long ago, there was NO help. So, people, stop whining about what you haven't got and thank God, goodness, the universe, Mother Nature, or whoever you want to that you weren't born before now! By the way, if I were to be in the position to pay the rent and council tax, I'd be voting NOOOOOOO!!!!
[quote][p][bold]RottingdeanRant[/bold] wrote: A definite No for me. If the referendum does go ahead then only those who actually pay the council tax should vote - that is only those on the council tax demand and those that do not have a 0 rate. No pay - no vote.[/p][/quote]I totally agree. I am disabled and am in receipt of both rent and council tax benefits, but I don't see why that gives me the 'right' to say how much everyone else pays. That, to me, is completely unfair. I don't contribute to the budget, so why should I help make the decision of what others have to pay towards MY home? I don't want anything I haven't paid for. That's just begging. I HAVE paid into the economy via the taxes on my income when I could work, so I don't feel that guilty now, but I know what I'd rather be able to do - WORK!! CONTRIBUTE!! PAY MY WAY!! NOT BE A BURDEN ON OTHERS!! We are extremely lucky to live in the UK AND in these times; not THAT long ago, there was NO help. So, people, stop whining about what you haven't got and thank God, goodness, the universe, Mother Nature, or whoever you want to that you weren't born before now! By the way, if I were to be in the position to pay the rent and council tax, I'd be voting NOOOOOOO!!!! Fi Brighton & Happy
  • Score: 1

5:12am Sun 2 Feb 14

Fi Brighton & Happy says...

Sir Prised wrote:
Sir Prised wrote:
The proposed increase would mean Council Tax had risen 75% in just 10 years. There's no way solely householders should be exploited with these inflation-busting increases.
I have to apologise for this post because in my annoyance, my maths went out of the window ! :-(( There has only been a 25% rise since 2004. The big rises were in the few years preceding 2004. I shall however, still be voting NO should the referendum go ahead because I don't think it's fair that only householders carry any additional burden.
Chuckles! I spotted the deliberate mistake just after I gave you the thumbs up! I feel as if it HAS been 75% in increases! Even so, councils STILL think that they have some sort of 'right' to, in the words of Viv Nicholson (the first£1 million pools winner from the 60's), spend, spend, spend! Er, where do they think the money comes from? Oh yes, the magic money tree in everyone's back garden! Silly me! Or maybe Thickat etc all knows where the end of the rainbow is!
[quote][p][bold]Sir Prised[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Sir Prised[/bold] wrote: The proposed increase would mean Council Tax had risen 75% in just 10 years. There's no way solely householders should be exploited with these inflation-busting increases.[/p][/quote]I have to apologise for this post because in my annoyance, my maths went out of the window ! :-(( There has only been a 25% rise since 2004. The big rises were in the few years preceding 2004. I shall however, still be voting NO should the referendum go ahead because I don't think it's fair that only householders carry any additional burden.[/p][/quote]Chuckles! I spotted the deliberate mistake just after I gave you the thumbs up! I feel as if it HAS been 75% in increases! Even so, councils STILL think that they have some sort of 'right' to, in the words of Viv Nicholson (the first£1 million pools winner from the 60's), spend, spend, spend! Er, where do they think the money comes from? Oh yes, the magic money tree in everyone's back garden! Silly me! Or maybe Thickat etc all knows where the end of the rainbow is! Fi Brighton & Happy
  • Score: 1

5:38am Sun 2 Feb 14

Fi Brighton & Happy says...

Richada wrote:
So, now we have the GMB wading into this too!

This council has made a total and utter lash up of running this city - before any cut in funding from the government.

Hey presto! They win a referendum and get the OK for a 4.75% increase!

It's all going to be fixed next year is it?

Not a chance - and has my bin been emptied this week (again!)? No,

They are woefully incapable of running basic council services - putting this all on "social care and funding" is just an obvious, cheap, political trick.
VERY cheap! Yet another. I wonder how many more there'll be before the election...
[quote][p][bold]Richada[/bold] wrote: So, now we have the GMB wading into this too! This council has made a total and utter lash up of running this city - before any cut in funding from the government. Hey presto! They win a referendum and get the OK for a 4.75% increase! It's all going to be fixed next year is it? Not a chance - and has my bin been emptied this week (again!)? No, They are woefully incapable of running basic council services - putting this all on "social care and funding" is just an obvious, cheap, political trick.[/p][/quote]VERY cheap! Yet another. I wonder how many more there'll be before the election... Fi Brighton & Happy
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree