Labour and Greens reaction to the Tory budget in Brighton and Hove

Today more headline grabbing measures have been announced by the Conservative administration in Brighton and Hove. In addition to the 1% cut in council tax, there is to be a reduction in parking permit prices, more money for youth services and free swimming for under 11’s.

The reduction in council tax is the first in the city’s history.  To fund this, the Tories have released £11.5 million from reserves.

Opposition councillors have said that the Tories are “passing the buck” in this election year in the hope that they might retain control after May.  Who said that you underestimate Mary Mears at your peril? That would have been me!

Mary Mears said: “This budget is part of a long term strategy which we have ben working on since we came to power in 2007.  It is not an election budget and we are not passing the buck.”

Gill Mitchell, the leader of the Labour Group, said that “people will see through this.  It is a populist budget, with a few sweeteners to cover the sour taste of cuts.”

Bill Randall, who may find himself as leader of the Council after May, or perhaps having to work in partnership with Mary Mears, said that the Greens would have done the whole thing differently, accusing the Tories of “passing the buck”.

Lib Dem councillor Paul Elgood said something, but his views are, frankly, irrelevant.

The politics of this budget are fascinating. Mary Mears has taken the initiative and the challenge for Labour and the Greens is how to respond.  Yes, it is true that deeper cuts have been deferred to future years, and an increase in inflation will result in much deeper cuts in years 2 to 4. But, in electoral terms, it is the March budget meeting that will have a great influence on May’s election.

If Labour and the Greens are seen to be voting against a council tax cut (which will be the main plank to the Tory election campaign) they could lose some crucial votes.  If they propose doing what they accuse the Tories of avoiding (spreading the cuts across years 1 to 4 rather that the Tory approach of cutting in years 2 to 4) they could see the Tories gain an overall majority.

I look forward to seeing the Greens alternative budget since the real battle in May’s elections will be between the party of Mary Mears and that of Bill Randall.

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