Last week, our Labour administration published its budget proposals, five working days after we received our final financial settlement from government. The budget will be voted on at our strategy, finance and city regeneration committee this week. This is the first stage of the democratic process before the budget for next year is set at the annual budget council meeting on February 22.

The headline news is that despite being dealt the worst possible hand, your Labour council has avoided bankruptcy. We’ve spent months poring over the figures, canvassing ideas from staff at all levels of the organisation, speaking to our recognised unions, going through every line of council spend to try to find a way to set a balanced budget in the least damaging way to our city.

It has been a gut-wrenching process. Seeing in unvarnished detail the end result of 14 years of Tory-economics which, having already delivered a £100 million real terms cut in funding to our city, now requires us to find an additional £30 million savings just to stand still – the largest cut in the 26 year history of Brighton and Hove City Council.

We’re not alone in our position. In the 14 months I’ve been a councillor, four councils in England have issued a Section 114 notice, effectively declaring themselves bankrupt. Councils led by all political parties are in dire financial straits. In December, research by the Local Government Association revealed that almost one in five council leaders think it is very or fairly likely that they will need to issue a Section 114 notice this year, or next year due to funding gaps.

Thanks to excellent work by our team, led by our deputy leader and finance lead, Cllr Jacob Taylor, we are not yet in that position. And this is despite being left in dire financial straits by the last Green administration, overspending last year’s budget by over £3 million, bequeathing us a budget for the current year which at one point was projected to overspend by £15 million and of course backing the i360 with council money creating a further £15 million (and counting) black hole in our finances.

This time last year, there was rightly an outcry when the Green-led administration proposed closing/charging for public toilets, cutting our lifeguard service, shutting Bright Start nursery and other vital services. Labour knows how important these frontline services are for everyone and so we have protected them in our budget – keeping all our council run nurseries open, safeguarding our libraries and our public loos and going one step further and proposing the reopening of Royal Pavilion Gardens toilet this spring. We’ve also protected street cleaning services, and our new approach to weeds management will add extra resource to get a handle on the graffiti tagging plaguing the city.

There are additional things to be proud of in our budget. We have found funding for a pilot schools counselling project: a Labour manifesto commitment in the local elections last year. We know from teachers and students that there is a spike in mental health challenges among our young people, leading to a school attendance crisis. So working with our family of schools, we are going to develop a pilot to commence this September.

We are also accelerating infrastructure projects that will improve the health and wellbeing of residents and we remain committed to investment in new house building and pulling all the levers we can for more affordable housing in our city.

The worst bits of our budget? First, a council tax rise of 4.99 per cent, forced on us by a flat-lining economy administered by a zombie Tory government during a cost of living crisis. We are mitigating the worst effects of this by ringfencing our council tax reduction scheme, benefiting over 19,000 low-income households.

Second, potential job losses at the council in posts currently held by hard-working and talented staff. We hope to mitigate this as far as possible through consultation and redeployment.

Third, cuts to services including those delivered by our valued community and voluntary sector. We have sought to limit the pain as best we can, but the financial position is so serious we’re proposing a ten per cent cut to third sector contracts next year.

Make no mistake these are Tory cuts not Labour cuts. And we are doing our best to mitigate their impact wherever we can. These budget proposals are now for residents and businesses to now scrutinise and tell us your thoughts. We are here to serve you and while we cannot please everyone all of the time, we will listen to all and act with your interests at heart.

Bella Sankey is the leader of Brighton and Hove City Council