Unison boss Alex Knutsen needs to look again at the Conservative Party’s council tax plans before criticising me so strongly (Letters, March 3).

The national Conservative Party’s pledge to freeze council tax for any local authority that delivers a council tax increase of 2.5% or less has been public for about 18 months now. I mentioned this in my budget speech last year, if Mr Knutsen had taken the trouble to listen.

Should the Conservatives win the General Election in the next couple of months, we must put ourselves in a position to take advantage of that pledge. Indeed, it would be entirely irresponsible of us not to plan for this eventuality and we believe that the residents of the city of Brighton and Hove would expect nothing less.

In the current economic downturn the last thing that families need is yet another increase in their council tax bills.

For Mr Knutsen to talk about the “destruction of local government services” is cynical politics. I challenge him to name one service that has been “destroyed” by our last budget, which was made possible by £12 million of efficiency savings – not cuts to frontline services.

The Conservatives’ freeze proposals would be funded by cutting central government advertising and consultancy budgets, so would not involve councils having to make any additional savings.

It is quite right to say we are facing the challenging prospect of having to make savings of £15m a year over the next few years but this Conservative administration is up to the challenge.

And why are we being forced to make these savings? It is because the Labour Government which Mr Knutsen’s organisation funds has racked up a national budget deficit which is as bad as Greece’s.

If they weren’t having to spend the equivalent of the entire national defence budget just paying interest on the Government’s debt, then there might be a bit more money to go around for local authorities such as ours.

Councillor Mary Mears
Leader of Brighton and Hove City Council