The Mears Master Plan: More reaction

Jason Kitcat is not a happy bunny.  He is unhappy about the BBC coverage of the announcement of the Tory budget: He writes on Twitter “Couldn’t BBC News even get a single opposition quote? Weak reporting”.  He is, of course, right on that. 

But of more importance is his reaction to the draft budget itself: “Cynical, irresponsible, gimmicky – take your pick!”. He describes the budget as “breathtaking. It slices HUGE chunks of budgets for children’s services and social care. Almost £5.5m from Children’s & Families services, about £6.1m from Adult Social Care as well as smaller but harmful cuts from planning, licensing and central services including, for example, health & safety support work. Additionally the Tories propose to spend £1.1m capital funds removing cycle lanes from Grand Avenue & The Drove. Yes, that’s right, removing cycle lanes. They also wish to borrow just over £4.5m to refurbish car parks.”

Interestingly, Jason says that “My colleague Bill Randall and I have asked to meet Labour councillors to discuss any joint amendments we might be able to agree on.”  This could be the first real test of whyether Labour and the Greens can work together.  Some how, it is something I doubt.  The anamosity between Labour and Green hacks runs deep, particularly amongst Labour activists and several councillors.  Some long standing Labour councillors still believe that it is their right to control the Council and have the City’s MPs, and they cannot stand these Green upstarts!  Come the first Friday of May, there will remain just a small rump of Labour councillors.  The Greens, I believe, are willing to work with Labour.  They, of course have everything to gain, nothing to lose.

How do others see Mary Mears’ ‘Master Plan’?  Dr Faust doesn’t think its will wash with the public: “I would have thought it likely that any proposed cut from the Council could be more than wiped out by a rise in the police precept – so people might see an overall rise anyway. However the move does present a challange to other parties – how much will they propose to raise Council Tax in order to save jobs and services? The reduction from the Tories just makes the gap larger, and a harder sell. Arguing for a 1% difference is far easier than a 10% one.”

‘Clive’  thinks that the council tax cut is the equivalent of an irresponsible giveaway budget – “it is the kind of behaviour that the coalitionistas are trying to pin on the last government, with very little basis in fact.  It only has to be hoped that enough people see through it – fortunately B&H voters are pretty clued up, in my experience. One percent is not much, either, and it won’t be enough if the opposition parties remember that the Tories are in power here (barely) and it is their seats (the winnable ones) that ought to be targeted.”

Momma Grizzly (Rachael Bates) as you would expect, thinks the Tory plan is just grand: “I am indeed extremely pleased with the plans to reduce council tax. I join Rob Buckwell in saying that I hope that those in opposition don’t block this sensible plan which will help hard-working people to retain more of their own money.”

But ‘Steampunk’ disagrees with Grizzly and is united with Dan Wilson’s comment reported in my last post: “Dan exposes the cynicism of the 1% tax cut succinctly with the concrete example that for most ‘hard-working people’ this amounts to around £10 cash back per year (admittedly more for the better-off). To pretend that this is going to help families – or in more abstract terms help the local economy – when the reality is that you would be shutting services and making hundreds of people redundant is totally dishonest.”

More to follow …..

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2 Responses

  1. There’s one point in all this that I’ve only just spotted – and I’ve seen no other comments about this at all.

    Look at the text of the letter sent by 88 Liberal Democrat council group leaders to the Times last week – http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/Politics/Local-Liberal-Democrat-Leaders-Send-A-Letter-To-The-Times-Text-In-Full-About-Government-Cuts/Article/201102215927204 . It’s arguing that local government cuts should not be front-loaded but spread more evenly over the next four years. In effect, that’s exactly what Mary Mears and co appear to have done, drawing on reserves to cover funding for next year while keeping the big cuts in reserve. (The Lib Dem letter looks rather Micawberish to me, founded on a pious hope that future cuts will be softened because something will turn up).

    Strange – we all know that the Liberal Democrats are irrelevant in Brighton and Hove, but here are Brighton Tories implementing Liberal Democrat policies in apparent defiance of Eric Pickles.

    If Mary Mears brings this one off it may be testimony as much to her bare-faced cheek as to her strategic sense!

  2. My final comment on the budget, it seems to me that a lot is being spent on securing Goldsmid for the Tories, but Goldsmid alone wont keep them in power. On the face of it, the most politically astute part of the budget appears to be the cut in residents parking permit prices – this is the one I read about and thought it was a clever move. But stop a a minute and think about where those residents schemes are. Most are in Brighton wards the tories could never hope to win, a few are in Hove wards they couldn’t possibly contrive to lose. Only in Goldsmid might it really impact on the way people vote and the outcome in that ward. Likewise, the criminal madness that is the plan to dig up the Hove cycle lanes. Though in Central Hove, I imagine the Tories think they will capture some votes from nearby Goldsmid (though God knows why anyone would think voting to remove cycle lanes that were put in 2 years ago – under their administration! – will win any votes).

    It seems a lot of effort is going into Goldsmid, and while Goldsmid is a useful barometer, it ceases to be useful if the voting there is skewed. likewise, its seats are useful, but I suspect the tories will be losing more seats elsewhere than the 2 they might make up (at best) in Goldsmid.

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