Brighton Council Budget Crisis

Today Brighton & Hove Council meets to decide a budget for next year. The option to provide the range and quality of services needed by residents of the City is not available as the Government has slashed its grant to Councils by a staggering 40% in recent years – leading to many councils round the country (Tory & Labour alike) cutting vital services and many public sector jobs.

Brighton & Hove Council has managed, through innovation and good management, to avoid these horrendous cuts until now. But today the only options on the table are for different levels of gruesome cuts to vital services.

Having interviewed the Childrens Centre campaigners in recent weeks and been on their march to last week’s Council, I can only agree with their analysis that “Enough is Enough”: it is time for councillors to say they will make a stand and vote against all the cuts budgets on the table.

I reprint below the moving and eloquent speech by Cllr Phelim McCafferty at the Budget meeting last week:

Leila from Childrens Centre campaign

“In the financial sector bonuses will top £100BN by the end of the financial year but I am told that I have to vote for cuts to my community.

It is 2 weeks since the Tory Party gala dinner for their funders attracted a host of companies which haven’t paid a penny of UK corporation tax since 2007.

It tells us all we need to know about what David Cameron calls the strivers and the skivers in our country.

But we must ask who paved the way for such extravagance. Remember Tony Blair and how he was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”?

I was interested to see Government minister Kris Hopkins appeal to Councillors today to cut even more out of our budget by accepting the government’s con trick. Interesting that the same man voted against increasing tax for incomes over £150,000 and against a banker’s bonus tax yet he thinks I should vote for cuts to my community.

He was joined only two weeks ago when Mr Cameron turned up in an empty school at half term to have a bash at the Green Party. If I felt as if I have added one ounce to Mr Cameron’s misery I could die a happy man tomorrow.

Shamefully Labour are committed to the same level of cuts as the Tories and they’ve committed to cut over £3bn to local government. Labour in their amendments to the budget today propose to cut the entire sustainability team. Something we should remind Ed Miliband about as he seeks to re-brand his party as somehow caring for the environment.

The massive attack that our council is under has never had a mandate- the austerity mantra was in no one’s election manifesto in 2010. So as well as being unfair and economically illiterate it is entirely undemocratic.

Of any unitary council in the UK, we have had the 2nd biggest reduction in spending power and hit with the worst cuts per head in the region.

The Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion has highlighted how in Brighton and Hove the “perfect storm” of housing and council tax benefit changes has meant that Government cuts have left the disabled, lone parents, those in the private rented sector with high housing costs and vulnerable young people with no way forward and little hope.

These are people who have managed to miss David Cameron’s so-called ‘long term economic plan’ which has always been about one thing: punishing the poorest to pay for the richest. As the economist and Nobel prize winner, Paul Krugman puts it: “The Tories are using this deficit as an excuse to downsize the welfare state.”

The Conservatives amendment to cut town planners shows us a glimpse of the illiteracy of cuts. It is rather rich that town planning as one of the foundation stones of local government is under colossal attack from the Tories nationally and now locally too. The City Plan is far from implemented and thanks to the continuous damaging changes brought in by- yes, you’ve guessed it- the Tory government, we need to hold onto planners to secure a better city in the future, not sack them.

I may be under a legal obligation to set a budget but I am under a moral obligation to stand up against cuts that will harm our city

For the children in my ward and in our city who have no voice and won’t have the support of society into the future that they deserve

and for the poorest in my ward who rely on local government to stop them falling through the gaps.

I am obliged by the constitution of this council to stand up for the community and to: “not seek to improperly confer a disadvantage on any person.” But all that I can see from the spiteful Tory government cuts is disadvantage to my residents and to the poorest in the city.

I am standing up too for our council officers who daily and under great pressure continue to deliver services to our residents. Whether it’s dealing with noisy neighbours, ensuring our city continues to be the great place it is either through planning its development or ensuring that we are on the cutting edge of the arts, help arrange meetings, staff our receptions, make our streets safe, sweep out streets, look after our children and adults, ensure our restaurants serve food in a safe environment, these people are heroes. But not a single one of them caused the crisis so why should they be punished?

They have been though hell and back to cover the gaps imposed by the Government, fight on and stand by residents. There is a logical limit to how much you can stretch an elastic band before it snaps and the Tories and Labour nationally want the end of local government but I won’t be supporting them.

The day light robbery of our public services must end: enough is enough. My community and this council have already taken too much of the blame from the Bullingdon Club bullies in Whitehall.
So I won’t be voting for a penny more of cuts. The time has come to say no more cuts.”

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