I believe it was Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson who introduced the idea of the dead cat as a legitimate strategy to the mainstream when discussing Lynton Crosby’s political playbook in The Telegraph back in 2013, writes Steve Davis. The idea, simply put, is a party can make a shocking announcement or accusation to detract attention away from failures or unpopular decisions.

Well, it may have a taken them a decade, but it seems Labour can now add this tactic to the growing list of things they have stolen from the Tories. File it between crumbling environmental-credentials and exposing the NHS to creeping privatisation.

Last week, with Labour waiting to finally reveal their long-awaited budget proposals – devastating cuts and all – they somehow found time to issue a press release attacking the Greens on our environmental policy and plans for a carbon neutral city by 2030. The release – embargoed until the exact moment the budget papers were published – criticised the previous minority administration for not having a proper plan to reach the city’s scheduled date for carbon neutrality.

Even if you ignore the fact the same press release talked about the Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Action Plan, which came to the council’s transport and sustainability committee this week and will inform plans going forward, but conveniently left out the fact it was commissioned by the Greens, it isn’t hard to see how ridiculous it is for Labour – a party which has repeatedly blocked an expanded smoke control area for the city and opposed low traffic neighbourhoods while promising a car free city centre – to lecture Greens on the environment.

But this wasn’t about the environment. Labour has made its position on that loud and clear. All Green policies and investment must be sacrificed at the altar of Sir Keir’s quest for Number ten. There are Tory voting focus groups which need wooing. That’s why budget cuts repackaged as a redesign of the carbon neutral programme attracted concerns from officers who say they risk undermining attempts to improve local biodiversity. It’s also why Labour keeps shying away from potentially unpopular decisions like tackling log burners because their priority is attracting votes rather than improving the air children are breathing. No, this was about nothing more than deflecting attention from the cuts announced at the same time.

It won’t work. Green Party supporters – and dare I say it, opponents – know exactly where we stand on environmental issues. Our credentials are not in doubt. We don’t abandon our beliefs at the first sign of a few floating voters. And when the reality of the cuts begins to bite all the dead cat press releases in the world won’t deflect from the devastating impact felt by residents.

The end of the Community Fund. Decommissioning services at First Base Rough Sleepers Day Centre. No more specialist housing support by the Youth Advice Centre. An £80,000 cut to help offered to young people at risk of exploitation. The closure of St Patrick’s High Support Rough Sleepers Hostel. Beds slashed at Ireland Lodge, which provides specialist support to people with dementia.

These cuts are the tip of the iceberg. There are so many more, and to so many valued and vital services. And – at a time when dozens of council staff have been put at risk of redundancy – the Labour administration is also proposing cuts to the very trade unions who are helping those staff navigate such a stressful and devastating process. That’s right. Labour – a party shaped by the trade union movement and formed to promote and protect the interests of working people, is cutting the support available.

This can’t have been an easy process. I am certain no Labour councillor started out in politics looking to make these decisions. The fault rests firmly with the Tory government and its decade-long controlled demolition of public services. We know the money isn’t there to save everything.

But it is the responsibility of the council to shield the most vulnerable from the impact of the appalling real terms funding cuts coming from this government. So far, they have not done that. As an opposition party we’ll suggest amendments to this budget. As a minority administration we accepted Labour suggestions in the past. We also hope a late government grant which has freed up £510,000 in unallocated funding can help the council reverse some of these planned cuts and protect those services.

If Labour can steal the Tories’ tendency for a U-turn, that would be something we could all celebrate.

Cllr Steve Davis is leader of the Greens on Brighton and Hove City Council