Live webchat: The Conservative's Geoffrey Theobald answers your questions on Brighton and Hove's controversial council budget (From The Argus)
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Live webchat: The Conservative's Geoffrey Theobald answers your questions on Brighton and Hove's controversial council budget
This live event has finished
- Geoffrey Theobald, leader of the Brighton and Hove Conservative group, answers your questions ahead of the crunch council budget debate this afternoon
And that concludes the webchat for today.
But we will have a second liveblog today from 4.30pm from the council chambers as the parties debate the council tax at the policy and resources committee. Join us then.
Geoffrey says: "I eat cereal or porridge in the morning. Probably porridge."
If you could only ever eat one cereal for breakfast for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
Geoffrey says: "A substantial majority are in favour."
1:45pm Thu 27 Feb 14
How many of the Conservative councillors support the i360 and how many do not? I know that not all of the conservative councillors support the iSore.
Geoffrey says: "I agree there is a need for an ice rink. But ice rinks cost considerable sums of money to build and run. It would have to be subsidised. The i360 will be run at a surplus giving the council in excess of a million pounds a year."
Another from rolvian:
There is a dire need for an ice rink in the City why are the Council prepared to fund the i360 and not something that will enrich the lives of residents and also those throughout the county and beyond?
Geoffrey adds: "I don't think many of these should reach the court. There should be more use of section 62a notices for the immediate removal of travellers from our parks. There would then not be expensive court actions."
Geoffrey says, to the point: "Yes"
The next question is from Fredflinstone1:
Do you not think that the traveller budget - where there is massive overspend - could be reduced if the Council and police enforced the law properly?
They should be served with a S61 notice - all the criteria are met. Also, why do the council not seek to recover the costs of court action, to reduce this expenditure?
Geoffrey says: "They do not have to do it but we they did not even test it."
Geoffrey adds: They struck out option B which is tender or outsource services and provide through the private or voluntary sector. We asked for that to be tested and they said no they would not do it."
The report Geoffrey has added: "In house services do not provide value for money when compared with other providers."
Geoffrey says: That is not the same thing. You are not asking other people to come in. The auditor says our services are expensive comparable to other local authorities. You would ask someone to say tender for the HR department.
Geoffrey point to a report from the council's auditors that says: "The council remains high spending compared to its statistical nearest neighbours."
Our politics reporter Mike Davies asks Geoffrey whether Jason Kitcat's response yesterday saying "very single service the council provides had a value for money analysis done as part of the budget process" was correct
Geoffrey says: Nationally and councils now are paying the price for the previous Labour government spending well above its means and landing all of us including our children with very considerable debts. Gordon Brown used to keep telling us that the days of boom and bust had gone and now local Government are having to bear the costs of that profligate time.
Geoffrey says: The Conservative group formed a minorty administration after 14 years of the Labour Party running Brighton and Hove City Council and even longer running Brighton Borough Council. During that period there were very high council tax increases. We immediately embarked on valuee for money and studies on all departments and started on rationalising buildings and departments. We were able to save very substantial sums and substantially reduce the council tax. We only had four years. The current administration has continued our value for money programme but in our view what they have not done is market test all our services. We believe that their can be savings with the independent voluntary sector operating some of them.
From Quiterie now from our comments:
Hi Geoffrey, The Council claims to have saved almost £30 million in efficiency programmes in the last few years and has millions more efficiency savings planned. Given that the last Council administration was run by the Conservatives, isn't it a bit embarrassing that the Council was apparently so inefficient in the first place? Why weren't these efficiency savings implemented when the Conservatives were in charge?
Geoffrey says: It is the highways authority which is the city council's responsiblity to look after the road signs and roads. The council receives substantial grant from Government through its local transport plan for these transport matters. In my view there is insuifficient proportion of this sum put towards road and pavement maintenance and I will be saying this this afternoon at our budget council meeting.
Geoffrey says: Our view is that all bands should have a freeze. There is no need to increase the council tax. After all even the Labour Party proposals of increasing council tax by 1.9% is only producing an extra £855,000 per annum. You cannot tell me that this sum cannot be found to enable the council tax to be frozen in a budget of nearly £800m. We have done so and found some additional monies for additional services.
More from Rolvian:
I asked Cllrs Morgan and Kitkat about the possibility of freezing those on lower band rates.Cllr Morgan said it was an interesting proposal.They both said it isn't allowed however there are Rebates and discounts available what is your knowledge on this as Cllr Kitkat said he would have to look into the details.
Lastly is it the Council or the Highways responsibility to pay when introducing new road signs and maintaining the City Streets and Roads?
Geoffrey adds: The council have the first call on the loan despite the fact of putting their money in last but I don't envisage that situation arising. Councils are being encouraged to invest in their own economies. Up and down the country they are using the same means for bigger schemes than this. They are in the exact same situation and borrowing more for example Bristol. What this country needs is growth. Brighton has always evolved from the Brighton Centre to the Marina.
Geoffrey says: The Conservative group as a whole and members individually have spent more time on briefings and looking into this sort of issue that has been raised. The figure of 800,000 could well be achieved but that is well above the figures needed for it to break even. People thought that the London Eye was not going to last very long and were doubtful when that was built and now it is one of our biggest visitor attractions. You must also remember that Brighton and Hove is within two hours of 30% of the country. In addition to that we have an enormous amount of foreign visitors. I think it will be a great success and will encourage more visitors and consequently more employment and the council will have addiitonal money from the project to spend on much needed council services.
Next up is another comment from user Rolvian:
You have agreed with the Greens to go ahead with the the funding of the i360.Do you really think that 800, 000 people are going to flock to the city to use it?
If those figures are not met does the company that carried out the survey get penalised?
Also what happens if the developers cannot meet their commitments in paying back the loan do the repayments get put onto the council taxpayers?
Geoffrey adds: Our allowances are lower than in many comparable authorities and the number of councillors per the electorate is relatively low. Every councillor does an enormous amount. My wife sits on planning committee, the licensing committee, the fire authority, the culture, tourism and economic development committee etc. And as I do spends an enormous amount of time on council business attending councillor's surgeries. We have one in Hollingbury tonight.
Geoffrey says: All members of the council receive a basic allowance and in addition to that an additional sum for leadership roles or being chairman of a committee. Councillors' allowances quite rightly have not increased for some years. Being a councillor these days is virtually a full-time job and being involved 365 days a year starting early in the morning and finishing late at night. Even when one takes some leave, one's Blackberry goes with you to answer one's residents concerns. One is never off duty.
The next question is from commenter ThinkBrighton:
With the City being strapped for cash, how can you justify the expenses that you draw which is over £500.00 per week and adding this to your wife's expenses brings it up to nearly £750.00 per week, which is considerably more than some households have as a gross income?
Geoffrey: Up until recently the Green party had a majority vote on the two most important committees: Policy and Resources and Environment and Transport and consequently no matter what we felt or voted for the Green party got their way. Now, the Conservative group along with the Labour group are in a position rather late in the day to outvote the Green party on all committees and in the council itself. That is why this afternoon I am confident that their call for a referendum will be defeated.
Geoffrey: You cannot make Jason Kitcat resign. Warren Morgan's attempts, he knew and we knew, would result in failure. It is exasperating for the public as it is for many members of his own group who would like him to resign. Next year I'm very confident that there will be a change because residents keep telling us on the doorstep how they dislike so many Green policies.
The first question is from Roystony:
What are your views on Jason Kitcat refusing to resign. Also how can the greens implement so many costly projects when the general public do not want them?
Geoffrey is in the building and we are about to start the live webchat.
Good afternoon, and welcome to the last of our live webchats with the party leaders ahead of Brighton and Hove City Council's budget debate this afternoon.
I'm joined today by the Conservative leader Geoffrey Theobald, who will be answering your questions on the budget - and any other questions we have time for.
To give you some background on the Conservative's position, here's an article 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 email@example.com