02 December 2011

The Green Budget

The Greens have produced a draft budget for Brighton and Hove. They consulted all the political parties, trade unions and voluntary organisations and over 2000 members of the public. They have done the best they can making very tough choices when faced with an unprecedented 33% grant cut from the Tory/Lib Dem government. The largest cut that any local authority has had to face. The greens have published this budget early and in detail and plan to consult even more before finalising in February. This is unprecedented transparency, see their budget calculator here and see if you could have done better than the Greens.

Because a lot of council expenditure is either ring-fenced, locked into long term contracts with the private sector and because council tax is capped to a maximum 3.5% increase. A lot of in-house front line services had to be cut, there was no getting away from that. As Jason Kitkat of the Greens put it, to refuse to comply with government cuts would have meant Whitehall writing the budget. This is what the Tories and Lib Dems call local democracy! Some Localism. Some freedom.

So the local Tories backed by the Tory Argus have attacked the Greens for cutting services and increasing council tax. Obviously the Tories could have frozen tax and maintained services. Will people really swallow that sort of lie? We will find out on 22 December in Westbourne. As for the Argus - lets have an Argus type survey - "The Argus is a lying Tory rag that has completely misrepresented the Green budget. Bearing this in mind do you a: Think they are lying Tory bastards. or b: Think they are paragons of virtue and I will happily give them my wage packet this week to spend as they wish." Not surprisingly the Argus gets the survey results it wants with this type of questioning. The Greens have produced a myth buster to combat Argus lies.

A lot has been made of the Greens refusing the 1 year grant to freeze council tax, supposedly worth 2.5%. But as the Greens rightly recognised, this 1 year grant coupled with the cap on council tax increases would mean depriving the council of even more revenue next year, as any 3.5% increase next year would be from the lower 2010 base losing the council 8% overall and meaning a massacre of services. Precisely what the Tories want.

The Greens have hit parking (hooray!) but as they point out, it is still cheaper here than Lewes or Eastbourne (boo).

The 3.5% rise is below inflation and is one of the lowest increases in council tax since the formation of the city. So not a big increase at all.

The gall of Labour and Tories claiming they could do better is so depressing it is beyond parody. It is appalling that lying is now the chief political tactic to combat the Greens. I hope this tactic is punished heavily by the people of Brighton and Hove. First up, Westbourne where another Tory can be thrown out and replaced with a Green - vote Green on December 22nd.

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