BRIGHTON and Hove is facing “extremely challenging” times with the need to cut £100 million from its budget over the next five years.

As central government grants are reduced by £18 million next year, Brighton and Hove City Council is facing a £26 million shortfall.

When looking ahead to 2019/20 the funding gap accumulates to an eye-watering £102.4 million – on top of £70 million already saved over the last four years.

With the Green administration’s bid to raise council tax to 4.75% rejected by opposition parties before it could reach referendum, the council is facing challenging times.

The Green party is now looking to raise council tax by 5.9 % but with this idea facing a backlash too, leaders are asking residents which services they should cut.

Where should the axe fall to save the £102 million over the next five years? Libraries, museums, parks?

Or maybe you believe savings can be made in public health, Adult social care, childrens’ services or - despite the recent problems - bin collections.

As the council starts work on setting its financial plan for the next five years, it is asking residents how they would balance the budget.

The council wants to know what you think they should stop doing or do less of, start doing or do more of, and what you would change or do differently.

Residents can share their views of how to balance the budget.

An interactive tool was due to published this morning on The Argus and city council website but has been delayed for technical reasons. 

Residents can also join the debate on Twitter using the hashtage #BHbudget.

With grant funding cuts already in place, residents face having a significantly smaller council with many services no longer delivered directly by the authority.

The council has pledged to work with trade unions and support staff through any jobs cuts.

It also promised to continue to protect the vulnerable, improve education, support jobs, infrastructure and housing, protect heritage and use technology to improve services and reduce costs.

The Conservatives blamed the Green administration and Labour for failing to make “tough decisions” and said more services should have been tested for outsourcing.

Geoffrey Theobald, Tory leader in Brighton and Hove, said: “The council is in this position because the tough decisions have been put off for the last three or four years by the Green Administration with the backing of the Labour Party.

“We have been arguing from day one that all the council’s services should be properly market-tested to see if they could be delivered more efficiently and effectively by the independent or voluntary sector or in partnership with other councils and organisations.

“Of course this is also not helped by the fact that the trade union bosses have a default reaction of opposing any proposals to modernise services and they need to recognise that we are no longer in the 1970s.

“But there are reasons to be optimistic. Thanks to the economic recovery, new developments are starting to happen in the city which the council now directly benefits from through increased business rates and the New Homes Bonus.”

Labour promised not to raise taxes or parking fees while raising money through business rates and capital investment, if elected.

Warren Morgan, Labour leader at the city council, said: “We won’t pass the costs of Tory cuts to council funding on to residents, who themselves are £1,600 a year worse off under this Conservative-led Government.

“If we are elected to replace the Greens in eight months’ time, we will conduct a thorough review of council services in an open and honest way.

“With over £120 million a year taken out of the council’s budget, there will be very difficult choices to make, but we will work with residents and partner organisations across the city to find the best possible way through.

“A Labour council under my leadership will not increase council tax or parking fees by any more than the rate of inflation, and we will work hard to get more income from business rates via new developments in the city and through capital investment as other councils have done.”

A union leader welcomed the council’s attempts to engage the public in the budget-making – but criticised the terms of the debate.

Alex Knutsen, branch secretary of Brighton and Hove UNISON, said: “The consultation invites comments but makes no attempt to explain how everyone is a user of services - schools, care services and so forth.

“Basically, it is a dry exercise that will attract only those motivated usually negatively towards public services.

“We don’t see the debate in terms of ‘stop, start or change’. There should be a clear recognition of what the cause of the problem is - government policy. In simple terms, the public-private sector economy is unbalanced by massive, speedy and ill-thought out cuts.

“The cuts should be slowed up dramatically to provide time for adaptation. Councils and other sectors and organisations should develop a long term plan as opposed to the prevalent ‘knee-jerk’ approach.”

UNISON called for a tourist tax which would generate “millions a year” but would not put off visitors.

Tony Mernagh, executive director of the Brighton and Hove Economic Partnership, said the council would have to save the equivalent of £70,000 a day, every day for the next four years.

He said: “I doubt there will be a single council activity that isn’t affected to a greater or lesser extent. The local authority will have to do less of many things and some activities and services will probably cease altogether.

He added: “It isn’t all bad news because the log jam in city developments seems to be clearing and new developments bring in additional business rates, half of which the city can keep, but this source of income will not match the required savings.

“Achieving savings of this magnitude will be difficult and painful but there is no alternative no matter which government is in power nationally or which party locally. It's the new normal.”

Views from the residents

Pensioner Harry Steer, 83, Mile Oak “All the services listed are vital and decisions as to where cuts could lie are invidious.

Nevertheless I would least like to see any further reduction in adult social care, particularly in the light of improvements detailed in the forthcoming care act.

“I am particularly concerned with vulnerable adults and children after attending adult safeguarding meetings.

“Similarly as a retired teacher and chairman of governors of a local primary school I would ring-fence schools’ budgets and children’s services.

“The Older People’s Council are due to meet council finance officers to discuss budget proposals at some time soon.

“The council is very good at asking the public what they think and where the cuts should lie.

“There are 48,000 pensioners in Brighton and Hove so I wouldn’t want to experience any more cuts.

“As to what I would cut I am completely nonplussed, and am thankful that I am no longer a city councillor.

“Really the blame lies with government. It seems we should move to a more regional government “I think to be fair the Green council has tried. It comes down to the whole system of local government, which is stuck in the 19th century “Whoever is in power it’s always a horrid decision to make.”

Student Aubrey Allegretti, 21, Brighton.

“The Green council are in a tricky place. They have to be seen to be pro spending, and appearing not to cut, but it doesn’t give them much leeway.

“Students may not pay council tax but they put in a huge amount into the city, such as the housing sector. It would be nice if they got a little bit more in return in terms of transport capacity.

“In an ideal world the bus lane would run all the way into town, not just to the Lewes Road bus garage.

“Housing is a big issue. A lot of young people get pushed around by landlords.

“Personally I’ve never noticed crime in the city to be too much of a problem. It’s an area that springs to mind that money could be diverted from.

“Highways and traffic also seem to be one of the least vital public services.

“I can completely understand how difficult it is and how there are disagreements over how the money should be spent.

“I don’t envy the Greens one bit.”

Kerry Boettcher, 44, a managing editor of a publishing company in Hove.

“They could invest a bit more in rubbish and recycling collections, because at the moment the service is really poor.

“I don’t think they have enough staff or resources and it leaves the city looking filthy. It’s bad for visitors and it’s bad for people that live here, yet we’re paying a fortune in council tax. It’s one area they need to sort out.

“When there are cuts it’s always the vulnerable that suffer first. But from what I understand in Brighton and Hove they are doing a pretty good job at protecting adult social care.

“I wouldn’t be against a tourism tax. A lot of places abroad charge it at hotels. It could be a good way to raise money.

“Another thing that could be improved is heritage projects. We’ve got the Royal Pavilion but not a lot else. I think they should be investing in better art galleries that will attract visitors rather than things like the i360.

“At the moment there seems to be so much superfluous roadworks that don’t seem to improve anything. All these traffic islands and pedestrianised areas just slow everything down.

“In large organisations like councils people tend to get very highly paid. Maybe they should cap salaries for high-level people - it makes sense to cut at the top.”

Council leader Jason Kitcat gives his view

“IN BRIGHTON and Hove we’ve already saved around £65 million by running things differently - such as cutting our energy bills, management costs and the number of buildings we own - but we need to find at least another £100 million.

“We’ve proposed a 5.9% council tax increase that will help soften the blow of government cuts. We are looking at innovative new ways to raise revenue and boost our business rates income such as through supporting regeneration projects like the i360 and Circus Street.

“We will review fees and charges to see if we can boost our income from those. We are having to reconsider all that we do to so that we can to continue provide the services residents need and want.

“We’ve always been committed to running the most open and inclusive budget processes in the city’s history.

“The problem has been made worse by the fact that not only do we have less and less money, but more and more people are using our services – particularly social care.

“Unlike previous administrations, we’re taking decisions with the long-term future of the city’s services in mind.”

Get involved

THE COUNCIL plans to launch a web tool which will enable residents to try to balance the council budget.

The internet gadget, due to go live tomorrow, will allow users to minus and subtract funding from various sectors including libraries and museums, highways and traffic, and public health.

Residents are also encouraged to go on Twitter under the hashtag #BHbudget.

The preferences will be fed back into the consultation with council leader Jason Kitcat promising views will be listened to.

To use the tool go to or

The feedback will be analysed in November before a draft corporate plan and budget for 2015/2016 is published and scrutinised in December.

The budget reaches full council in February and a final corporate plan reaches full council in March ahead of the local elections in May.