LiveLive webchat: Labour's Warren Morgan answers your questions on Brighton and Hove's controversial council budget

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Summary

  • Warren Morgan, leader of the Brighton and Hove Labour group, answers your questions ahead of the crunch council budget debate on Thursday.

1:49pm

And with that, this live webchat is closing. Thanks to everyone who took part, and remember to come back tomorrow lunchtime at 12.30pm when we'll be putting your questions to council leader and Green party leader Jason Kitcat. 

1:48pm

Mr Morgan says: 

Does porridge count? I'm more of a toast person myself. 

1:47pm

Right, that's it from email and from comments. Let's end with a lighthearted question from Twitter, just for laughs. 

@oneoneoneone asks: 

If you could only ever eat one cereal for breakfast for the rest of your life, which one would it be?

1:46pm

Mr Morgan says: 

That's an interesting proposal. A more progressive form of local taxation might offer a solution, but again this is something that is decided nationally. We, as a council, can only apply one rate across all bands, which is why we think that the £6 a month increase and the £900,000 referendum is something that residents and the city can't afford. 

1:44pm

1:42pm Tue 25 Feb 14

rolivan says

why not freeze A B and C bands as they are the most likely to be the ones suffering.If people are not able to cope with a rise in the rest of the Bands they should perhaps be looking at downsizing or buying a cheaper property/

1:44pm

And that's it for the questions from email. We've had one comment on the blog so far, so here it is: 

1:43pm

Mr Morgan says: 

At the 2011 local elections, the Greens got 32% of the vote citywide. Labour got 31%. Labour finished second in all but three of the city's 21 electoral wards.

As the recent ComRes poll showed, Labour are now on 38% and the Greens on 21%, so we go into the May 2015 elections confident of a good result and being able to deliver on the policies that we will set out over the coming 12 months. 

The Greens have said all along that their aim was to replace Labour in the city. They have failed. 

We will co-operate with them when we think it is in the best interests of residents, but as with their latest budget stunt, they have shown time and time again that they put political point scoring over co-operation. 

1:40pm

Okay, back on track now with a final question from email:

Chris Barnard

Why are you outlining what you are going to do with the council budget when at the last election you didn’t have enough public support to get into power?

Aren’t you just wasting your breath and your time would be spent better off negotiating with the green party for an amicable solution instead?

1:39pm

And more: 

The Conservatives are proposing a "freeze" which of course taking into account inflation is actually another cut in the council's income on top of the £23 million the Government is imposing this year. 

They will have to cut another £830,000 to afford the freeze at a time when social care costs are going up rapidly. 

Many Conservative councils are also rejecting the freeze grant from Eric Pickles and going for the 2% rise unless they are smaller district councils like Adur who don't provide those services .

The previous Conservative administration in the city put council tax up by more than 2% every year when they were in power, except 2011, just before the local elections. 

1:36pm

Mr Morgan says: 

The Greens proposed a 2% increase in their budget papers before Christmas but it's clear that Jason Kitcat was not going to get his councillors to vote that through. 

He saw an opportunity to get either the opposition parties - or even the public in a referendum - to vote through measures that the Green councillors would not. 

He knows - and has known all along - that we would end up with a 2% inflation level increase as we did last year, but has used the threat of cuts to some of the most vulnerable in our city to score political points against Labour and the Government. 

1:33pm

We're actually going to be a bit cheeky here and insert a question from our local government reporter Michael Davies, who is sitting right by us. 

He asks: "People are saying 2% seems the most likely outcome. If that does come to pass, what do you think that will mean for the three parties?"

 

 

1:29pm

Mr Morgan says: 

I think we are making more political capital. Last year's local opinion poll put us well ahead of both the Conservatives and the Greens who have dropped back to third place. This has been borne out by the feedback we are getting on the doorstep every day. 

Almost everyone we speak to says: "Get the Greens out," and our no confidence motion was the only means we had to express that in the council. 

Jason Kitcat and his administration refuse to resign, but it appears that the rebel Green councillors are again trying to remove him.

We are currently selecting some very high quality candidates to be elected as councillors next May.

We will focus on delivering good quality affordable basic services, jobs, homes and schools as well as helping those who are finding times hard financially.

1:25pm

Another question from email, this time from Barry Robson

Why is it that despite your budget plans set to be the ones that will come into force and generally holding the sway as powerbrokers, why is Labour not winning more political capital from this? You seemed to have lost the debate for a motion of no confidence for example.

1:22pm

Mr Morgan says: 

We believe that an inflation-level 2% increase is unavoidable and indeed, many councils who provide social care and transport services, both Labour and Conservative, have gone for this increase. 

I know for some people the difference between a £2 a month increase and a £6 a month increase does not seem like a lot, but there are many people struggling to make ends meet and, as The Argus reported recently, one in three residents are in debt. 

Even a small amount risks tipping some of those people over the edge, despite the support available for some people on low incomes. 

We have said, from the moment that the Greens proposed this big increase, that we would not make people who are struggling with decisions about whether to heat or eat pay for the Conservative government cuts. 

1:19pm

A question from email now, this one from Janet Bray:


You say a 4.75% increase (£5.97/month for band D) is unaffordable, but that a 2% increase is (£2.50/month for band D). How have you ascertained that a further increase (beyond the 2%) of £2.47 for band D is not affordable? It is less than the price of a pint of beer…..

1:18pm

Mr Morgan says: 

One of my big concerns about the Greens budget proposals is that they did not ask all departments to make savings, for example the communications department which costs £900,000 a year is not being asked to make any savings and the traveller budget has a proposed increase of £100,000 on top of the £200,000 added by the Greens in 2012. 

It is the Greens who have chosen to put services for the most vulnerable at the heart of their budget cuts, which is why we are seeking to reverse some of those in our amendments. 

Green priorities for the past three years have been one planet living, transport schemes, and the environment. It is only now that they are using social care to justify their above inflation council tax increase. 

1:15pm

Moving on, here's a question from another commenter. 

Tallywhacker

Why not freeze the budget of departments that have nothing to do with the suddenly desperate "vulnerable"? That way any increase could be kept at a minimum.

1:14pm

Mr Morgan says: 

The city's two universities contribute a huge amount to the local economy in terms of jobs and trade, but obviously the rapid expansion in student numbers has put pressure on the city's housing stock and sometimes brings with it problems. We have to get the balance right in terms of providing new purpose built student accommodation and new homes for local people. 

As the universities expand, we need to ensure that we get the maximum income via business rates and other means. 

That students can vote in local elections and referendums is not something we control. That is decided nationally. Obviously in May 2015, we have the local and national elections on the same day and I'd encourage everyone to use their vote. 

1:10pm

Now here's a question which is coming up time and time again at the moment - the level of local democratic participation students should be involved with. 

We've had two questions on this theme for Mr Morgan today. Here they are: 

From commenter rolivan

With The Student Population rising how does the Labour Group intend to balance the books if they are not contibuting towards Council Tax. Somewhere along the line there has to come a time when Council Taxpayers will not be be able to provide enough revenue to subsidise those do not.

Also do the Council receive Council Tax from Halls of Residence.

From commenter Martha Gunn:

Seems odd that something called localism gives the vote in this referendum to people who are not local and only temporarily resident.

The enfranchisement of non-tax payers is giving rise to huge resentment.

Especially so when these non-tax paying temporary residents form the slim majority by which Lucas and Kitcat get elected.

1:07pm

Mr Morgan says: 

The Labour group are opposed to the £38 million loan to the i360 project and will be voting against the Green administration proposals when it comes to a vote next Thursday. 

Sadly, the West Pier, which I remember going on as a child, is long beyond repair or restoration, so it will be a question of making sure that any further collapse does not cause a hazard. 

1:05pm

wexler also asks a non-council budget related question, but one which is very topical at the moment, given the damage to the West Pier in the recent storms. 

"And please confirm the i360 will be fully cancelled, and sensible steps taken to get the west pier situation sorted, even if that means managing its total collapse over time."

1:04pm

Mr Morgan says:

We will get all services independently assessed once we take office next year, unlike the Greens, who are currently refusing to allow some areas to be audited. 

1:02pm

Okay, first question was left on yesterday's story, and is from a commenter called wexler53. He asks: 

What steps are you going to take to value check all our services, and ensure the taxpayer gets value for money when providing services to all. And, these services need to be delivered efficiently and cost effectively - what are you going to do to ensure accountability of our public servants.

1:02pm

Good afternoon, and welcome to the first of our live webchats with the party leaders ahead of Brighton and Hove City Council's budget debate on Thursday.

I'm joined today by the Labour group leader Warren Morgan, who will be answering your questions on the budget - and any other questions we have time for. 

To give you some background on Labour's position, here's an article from yesterday in which the party set out their reasons for blocking the Green Party's 4.75% rise. 

If you have a question you'd like to put to Mr Morgan, please comment below or email jo.wadsworth@theargus.co.uk.

Comments (8)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

1:42pm Tue 25 Feb 14

rolivan says...

why not freeze A B and C bands as they are the most likely to be the ones suffering.If people are not able to cope with a rise in the rest of the Bands they should perhaps be looking at downsizing or buying a cheaper property/
why not freeze A B and C bands as they are the most likely to be the ones suffering.If people are not able to cope with a rise in the rest of the Bands they should perhaps be looking at downsizing or buying a cheaper property/ rolivan
  • Score: 0

1:50pm Tue 25 Feb 14

rolivan says...

Is the Council not allowed to give discounts or is that a National decision also.
Is the Council not allowed to give discounts or is that a National decision also. rolivan
  • Score: 0

1:51pm Tue 25 Feb 14

Dealing with idiots says...

If Labour form the next administration, will it remove the bus lane nonsense in the Lewes Rd. Also will it have a more sensible aproach to applying the 20 mph?
If Labour form the next administration, will it remove the bus lane nonsense in the Lewes Rd. Also will it have a more sensible aproach to applying the 20 mph? Dealing with idiots
  • Score: 2

2:23pm Tue 25 Feb 14

s_james says...

Dealing with idiots wrote:
If Labour form the next administration, will it remove the bus lane nonsense in the Lewes Rd. Also will it have a more sensible aproach to applying the 20 mph?
That’ll be the bus lane “nonsense” that Labour voted for then?
[quote][p][bold]Dealing with idiots[/bold] wrote: If Labour form the next administration, will it remove the bus lane nonsense in the Lewes Rd. Also will it have a more sensible aproach to applying the 20 mph?[/p][/quote]That’ll be the bus lane “nonsense” that Labour voted for then? s_james
  • Score: 2

3:46pm Tue 25 Feb 14

darcyp says...

Mr Morgan says:

The city's two universities contribute a huge amount to the local economy in terms of jobs and trade, but obviously the rapid expansion in student numbers has put pressure on the city's housing stock and sometimes brings with it problems. We have to get the balance right in terms of providing new purpose built student accommodation and new homes for local people.

As the universities expand, we need to ensure that we get the maximum income via business rates and other means.

That students can vote in local elections and referendums is not something we control. That is decided nationally. Obviously in May 2015, we have the local and national elections on the same day and I'd encourage everyone to use their vote.

If this is the case and its something decided nationally why can't the issue be taken up with the Government?.
And they are catering more for students than what they are for the locals with housing to me this is very cockeyed,how much more have we got to put up with? i'm tired of it all.
Mr Morgan says: The city's two universities contribute a huge amount to the local economy in terms of jobs and trade, but obviously the rapid expansion in student numbers has put pressure on the city's housing stock and sometimes brings with it problems. We have to get the balance right in terms of providing new purpose built student accommodation and new homes for local people. As the universities expand, we need to ensure that we get the maximum income via business rates and other means. That students can vote in local elections and referendums is not something we control. That is decided nationally. Obviously in May 2015, we have the local and national elections on the same day and I'd encourage everyone to use their vote. If this is the case and its something decided nationally why can't the issue be taken up with the Government?. And they are catering more for students than what they are for the locals with housing to me this is very cockeyed,how much more have we got to put up with? i'm tired of it all. darcyp
  • Score: 2

4:23pm Tue 25 Feb 14

Dealing with idiots says...

s_james wrote:
Dealing with idiots wrote: If Labour form the next administration, will it remove the bus lane nonsense in the Lewes Rd. Also will it have a more sensible aproach to applying the 20 mph?
That’ll be the bus lane “nonsense” that Labour voted for then?
Warren could always say sorry for being so stupid to vote for the bus lanes. Lol
[quote][p][bold]s_james[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Dealing with idiots[/bold] wrote: If Labour form the next administration, will it remove the bus lane nonsense in the Lewes Rd. Also will it have a more sensible aproach to applying the 20 mph?[/p][/quote]That’ll be the bus lane “nonsense” that Labour voted for then?[/p][/quote]Warren could always say sorry for being so stupid to vote for the bus lanes. Lol Dealing with idiots
  • Score: 0

5:24pm Tue 25 Feb 14

Eugenius says...

rolivan wrote:
Is the Council not allowed to give discounts or is that a National decision also.
There is a means tested Council Tax Reduction Scheme for households on very low incomes/pensions plus a discretionary hardship fund.

As far as I know the only other discounts which can be determined locally are for second homes and properties left empty. The Greens abolished the second home discount last year and reduced the empty property discount from six months to six weeks.
[quote][p][bold]rolivan[/bold] wrote: Is the Council not allowed to give discounts or is that a National decision also.[/p][/quote]There is a means tested Council Tax Reduction Scheme for households on very low incomes/pensions plus a discretionary hardship fund. As far as I know the only other discounts which can be determined locally are for second homes and properties left empty. The Greens abolished the second home discount last year and reduced the empty property discount from six months to six weeks. Eugenius
  • Score: 0

6:03pm Tue 25 Feb 14

rolivan says...

Eugenius wrote:
rolivan wrote:
Is the Council not allowed to give discounts or is that a National decision also.
There is a means tested Council Tax Reduction Scheme for households on very low incomes/pensions plus a discretionary hardship fund.

As far as I know the only other discounts which can be determined locally are for second homes and properties left empty. The Greens abolished the second home discount last year and reduced the empty property discount from six months to six weeks.
If this is the case why wasn't it brought up in discussion by Any of the Political Groups.Is it something that is kept quiet so that only those in the know claim it?
I think I will now ask Mr Kitkat the same question or will I be repeating myself?
[quote][p][bold]Eugenius[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]rolivan[/bold] wrote: Is the Council not allowed to give discounts or is that a National decision also.[/p][/quote]There is a means tested Council Tax Reduction Scheme for households on very low incomes/pensions plus a discretionary hardship fund. As far as I know the only other discounts which can be determined locally are for second homes and properties left empty. The Greens abolished the second home discount last year and reduced the empty property discount from six months to six weeks.[/p][/quote]If this is the case why wasn't it brought up in discussion by Any of the Political Groups.Is it something that is kept quiet so that only those in the know claim it? I think I will now ask Mr Kitkat the same question or will I be repeating myself? rolivan
  • Score: 2

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