Get involved: Send your news, views, pictures and video by texting SUPIC to 80360 or email us.
Labour and Tories in pact to defeat Green tax hike bid
A council tax freeze in Brighton and Hove is “inevitable” as opposition councillors vowed to unite to overturn the cornerstone of the country’s first ever Green town hall budget.
In a crunch meeting set to last hours, 54 councillors on Brighton and Hove City Council will decide tomorrow (February 23)how to save £17 million from its £700 million budget in the next financial year. Central to the minority Green administration’s budget is a 3.5% council tax rise.
As opposition groups tabled their own amendments to the proposals, Conservative group leader Geoffrey Theobald told The Argus that even if Tory plans were knocked back, it would back those from Labour.
Coun Theobald said: “It’s inevitable that there will be a council tax freeze.”
But the Greens claim if either of the opposition plans are passed it will leave the city with more than £3 million extra to find in 2013/14.
The Greens first published their proposals in December and have been consulting for more than two months on the plans.
However, Conservative and Labour groups waited until 48 hours before the meeting to reveal their separate proposals.
Thousands of people have protested against more controversial parts of the Greens’ plans such as hikes to allotment fees, increases to trader and business parking permits and the ending of the council subsidy to the music service.
Both opposition groups have proposed separate amendments but both propose taking money out of human resources and management budgets while scrapping the council’s quarterly magazine City News to help fund the council tax freeze for 2012/13.
Both groups plan to use part of the planned £3 million underspend for the current financial year to help balance the books.
Council leader Bill Randall said: “It’s quite clear that the Tories and Labour have colluded to bring forward savings from 2013/14 to bridge the gap left by accepting the council tax freeze grant.
“At their own admission, their actions will increase cuts by £3.6m in 2013/14 and a further loss of services and jobs.
“It’s little wonder that Unison, the GMB and the NUT are all opposed to the centre-right line the Tory and Labour coalition is taking.”
The Conservative amendments will be discussed and voted on first at the meeting in Brighton Town Hall.
Even if these are defeated by the Green (23 councillors) and Labour (13) groups, the Conservatives (18) are prepared to back the Labour plans.
Argued But Coun Theobald said: “It’s not been planned, there’s just no room for manoeuvre.
“We have argued for a freeze from the outset and, since the Greens announced their intention to raise council tax by 3.5% for the next three years, we have consistently told them that we would oppose this.”
Labour and Co-op group leader Gill Mitchell said: “We have demonstrated that we are the real listening party and, while the Greens shouted from the sidelines while in opposition, the reality of leadership has sadly been lost on them whilst in power.
“We have not hacked into the Greens’ budget, but we have done enough to block the council tax rise by using funding identified as non essential.”
See more on the council tax budget in the two-page special report inside today's Argus.