The Green’s alternative budget for 2011/12 has been published. I can recall various alternative budgets over the years but this must be amongst the best presented I can recall. It starts with a condemnation from the Convenor of the Green Group of Councillors, Bill Randall. (By the way, I wish the Greens would just agree to have a Leader rather than a Convenor. It has done away with ‘Speakers’ nationally in favour of a Leader, currently Caroline Lucas, and it has done them the power of good!). In his opening comments, Bill Randall, a man characterised by sober thought and expression, says: “The massive and damaging spening cuts imposed on Brighton and Hove City Council by the Conservative and Lib Dem Coalition Government will perpetuate inequality in the city, victimise the vulnerable and penalise the poor. We believe the cuts go beyond necessity and are fuelled by dogma …”
In what sounds a bit like New Labour-speak (sorry Bill) he says “Fairness is at the heart of this budget. We have restored the 1 per cent cut in council tax proposed by the Conservatives, for instance, because we think the £1.1 million it yields will be used more effectively and fairly to protect services and jobs for the general good of the city as opposed to giving every household a very small reduction in what they pay.”
Green Finance supremo, councillor Jason Kitcat, “Cutting local government budgets is an ill-considered policy which will harm the most vulnerable. It runs contrary to the views of the Green Party, many leading economists, fairness and common sense. Cutting spending while the economy is fragile risks a further downturn and reduces services for those most likely to need them.”
So what are the Greens proposing? You can read the whole Green Alternative Budget here. Amongst the highlights are:
- £924,000 of recurring funding being put back into services for Children, Young People and Families including Educational Psychologists and the Connexions careers and advice service.
- £500,000 to kick-start investment in solar panels for council homes and offices, which would create free electricity for tenants and new revenue through the ‘Feed in Tariff’ for renewable energy generation.
- £450,000 for a new reserve to deal with the risks of the major changes proposed to services for Adult Social Care and Children, Young People and Families.
- £40,000 to pilot a residential food waste collection scheme.
- £25,000 to fund extra noise patrol shifts in the city.
- £15,000 more in grants to voluntary organisations in the city.
- £26,000 saved from removing catering for meetings councillors attend and £18,000 saved by reforming the system of councillor allowances.
These proposals put clear green water between the Greens and the Tories. One or two items are populist (extra noise patrols which people in town centre wards, i.e. Green wards, will welcome this) or tokenistic (£15,000 more in grants to voluntary organisations – it won’t even pay for a fill time worker).
The Green Alternative Budget shows that the Greens are a credible alternative. We now wait to see what the Labour alternative budget will look like.
A final word to Dani, who says “I haven’t studied this, or the Tory budget, in detail, but I think I prefer the Green priorities to the Tory ones.”. You don’t say, Dani! With someone with your political background it is like me saying that I think I prefer strawberries and cream to root canal treatment. But I applaud her sentiment when she says: “I would rather see a defiant budget that doesn’t pass on any government cuts to local people, and this isn’t that, but it’s an improvement.” But I sympathise with all councillors when trying to juggle Council finances with both hands tied behind their backs.