A council is reporting a £4.6million underspend – after making £17 million of savings.

Brighton and Hove City Council has revealed the underspend in its £700 million 2012/13 budget.

Opposition Conservative councillors have called the 2% council tax rise for the current financial year “unnecessary” after the announcement but Green councillors said they were delivering value for money that their rivals could “only dream of”.

Labour councillors criticised a near £2 million underspend in the authority’s housing department while residents in East Brighton high-rises were without working lifts.

Among the savings, the council’s value-for-money programme “over- achieved” in the words of council officers, saving £3 million more than the £7 million agreed in the original budget.

Programmes reporting an underspend include £500,000 saved by fewer pupils using school transport, a £1.6million underspend in the learning disabilities section following successful re-negotiations of contracts and a £1.2million underspend because of a drop in foster children.

"Completely unnecessary"

Conservative group leader Geoffrey Theobald said: “These figures demonstrate once and for all that the council tax rise inflicted upon residents this year was completely unnecessary.

“Even back in February it was clear that there was going to be a big underspend on the budget so there is simply no excuse for asking residents to fork out more of their hard-earned money.”

Councillor Chaun Wilson, Labour’s housing spokeswoman, said: “Due to the costly impact on council budgets from the Tory Government’s welfare changes, it is right that the council retains some flexibility to deal with issues such as rising homelessness.

“However, we are particularly concerned about the large underspend in the budget when so many council homes need repairs and lifts in tower blocks are out of action.”

Green councillor Leo Littman said: “In the face of year after year of savage Government cuts to public services, Green councillors and council officers across the council have been working hard to find genuine efficiencies to help protect jobs and services. “

As a result we’re providing residents with the sort of value for money our Tory predecessors could only dream of.”

He added the extra savings meant more public services had been pro- tected from the “Tory axe which threatens to take more than £23m from our spending power in the coming year”.

The targeted budget report was discussed at the council’s policy and resources committee last night.