The Greens propose a remarkable budget that exceeds all expectations

I don’t think I have ever seen anything quite like this. The biggest challenge to date for the administration, and what some said would be the end of the City’s love affair with the Green Party, is the UK’s first-ever Green budget.

The budget, difficult though the measures are, is a work of genius, with Jason Kitcat deserving most of the praise. The Greens claim, quite rightly, that their budget is the first to:
• Cover two years, encouraging longer term thinking
Involve all parties in the ‘star chamber’ process of evaluating proposals
Be published early and in so much detail.

The budget, the Greens say, is based on principles aimed:
• To prioritise services for the young, elderly and vulnerable
• To promote efficient use of public money
• To support partnership working with public, private and third sector organisations

The Tories, inevitably, attacked the Greens for the 3.5% rise in Council tax. Tory Leader, Geoffrey Theobald said: “This budget is an out and out attack on the core frontline services that the hard-working residents of this city rely upon. When we were in Administration we were always at pains to prioritise services that made this a city we could all be proud of and the Greens are now putting all that at risk.”

This is a bit churlish coming from the spokesperson of the party that is imposing the most severe cuts in living memory, and the party that is eroding living standards at the fastest rate in history.

The approach to setting the budget is extraordinary, a genuinely open approach, with Labour and Tory councillors being invited to participate at all stages in a process that one senior Council officer said is unlike anything he has ever witnessed in Brighton and Hove or elsewhere, for that matter.

An area where the Tories have attacked the Greens is commercial parking charges, but the Greens have demonstrated that the charges in Brighton, which are going up from £175 to £400 compares favourably to Eastbourne at £420 and Lewes at £1,000.

The use of tables is effective, not least in defending the 3.5% council tax rise. The table shows that this increase is only the second time since 1998/99 that the increase has been below CPI, the third lowest since 1998/99, and lower than anything that Labour implemented. The Tories implemented two lower rises in the past 3 years, including one increase freeze.

The Green budget will be attacked from the left, even from within the Green, where some are asking whether there should be any cuts at all. Jason Kitcat responds: “Some may ask why we need to accept these Government cuts. We don’t accept them, but by law if councillors don’t set the budget, then civil servants will set it for us. We believe that it is better for democratically elected representatives to set the budget in line with their manifesto than let appointed commissioners take control.”

He continues: “We stated in our local manifesto that we would “resist, to the greatest extent possible, the service cuts and privatisation imposed [on us]” and that is what this budget does. By finding a fair balance between efficiencies, reducing services in the most sensitive ways possible and increasing income we are seeking to set a fair, values-led budget.”

You can read the Green’s budget announcement here

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60 Responses

  1. Wow. Just reminded me why I should not read this blog……….BYE

    • Same here. Too biased now to be a sensible objective forum for debate. It’s a shame, because to date it was a very articulate and ‘relatively’ impartial for a left of centre blog.

      • Oh dear, Linda, I would be sorry to lose you. You bring the authentic voice of the unreconstructed right. Don’t leave me this way ….!

    • Ouch BPB you are getting heavy on the right! Wait I like it. Oh no apart from you are so pro Green you are almost Professor Green.

      Damn no one is young enough to get it. Ouch

      • What do you mean, Harris? Cluedo is surely a game for all ages.

      • I get it!!

        I have to say that i’ve read various local news publications who are so desperate that they rely on headliners like once a month rubbish deliver. Having read this I believe you are simply balancing out the argument.

        All I can say is that yes this is a first for any council to be planning ahead and including other parties, what is so bad about this? communication is key to most things.

        Those of you leaving this blog, may find the Argus quite appealing, try them for a balanced opinion lol.

  2. Aside from the wonders of consultation and a minute council ta rise where, exactly is the promise to oppose cuts? Kitkat has launched a consultation online which will undoubtable be responded to by those middle classes that know what influence they have to protect their pet projects while the poorests and most needy will once again be excluded by default. From a man like Kitkat who was after all hauled before standards before to be arguing that they should cut instead of government stouges because otherwise they wil be hauled in front of England standards is a wee bit strong. Does he really think if th Green administration were to set an unbalanced budget Pickles men would come and slash and burn, in an area with two marginal MPs he is kidding himself. The Greens have no mandate to cut and the people of Brighton are bright enough to see yet abother party implimenting cuts is worth as much as the others!

    • Kitcat was totally exonerated by the Standards Board after Geoffrey Theobald had a sense of humour failure over excerpts from a council meeting webcast going onto YouTube. And by the way, GT stopped flailing his arms about in the wake of sight of himself on YouTube and controlled the upward rising voicetone when he was in flail mode. Did him a power of good.

      • For the record, Geoffrey didn’t have a “sense of humour failure”. It wasn’t him who made the referral to the Standards Committee and was, I understand, unhappy that one of his colleagues had made the referral.

    • Read the post again, Central Government i.e the torries implemented a 30% cut in the budget for Brighton and Hove.

      Cuts are inevitable, not sure 30% is fair for Brighton and Hove, This is already an expensive city to live in, and with London only a few miles away, I think now the time to to get us a Brighton Waiting Salary top up.

  3. I disagree with the senior council officer who suggests that this is a novel approach. I have seen this appraoch too often used by parties (of all colours) when they are either devoid of ideas, a political philosophy to underpin their budget or a political mandate to deliver it.
    In other words this is a typical approach to being an open minority adminstration.
    However where this one differs is that actually at this point in the budget setting process even the most minor of minority adminstrations can usually come up a clearer approach than this.
    I’m sure that the Labour Co-operative group will work hard to ensure the best budget solution is delivered for the people of Brighton and Hove – supporting the sensible and opposing the ludicrous. I’m just not at all convinced at this point that the Green administration have genuinely put in place the scoffolding to build a comprehnsive budget around or the principles to judge its success against.
    But for all our sakes I do hope we can get there somehow before the Tory opposition and ConDem coallition destroy our city and many other communities around the country to pay for their friends mistakes.
    Content C-; Effort B+; (my spelling E-)

    • It’s the clearest and most detailed council budget I can remember seeing. I’m not convinced the Labour group have much to offer anyone, you guys are lazy and would never put this much effort into solving the budget problems.

  4. 68% of Argus readers don’t want a council tax rise, so what did the Greens do? Completely ignore them. Hardly the party of the people.

    • That’s just silly Rachael and you know it. Since when (and by whom) has The Argus been considered a professional, trustworthy polling resource? The council online Budget Simulator (http://www.budgetsimulator.com/brightonandhove) has been available (and very widely announced) a-g-e-s before our local rag ever conceived the idea of a so-called referendum. Looking forward to a rather more robust argument than your first attempt – have a think – plenty of time.

      • More people voted in the Argus poll than generally vote in local elections, Christina. Are they to be completely ignored? Why aren’t their opinions valid?

      • More people voted twice, three times, four times in the Argus poll than at local elections, because there was nothing to stop you. Hence the big turnout – another mystery solved.

      • Christina – the answer to your question about who has ever thought that the Argus is a trustworthy polling organisation is ‘the Green Party’, particularly when they were falling over themselves to elect Caroline. I don’t remember such criticism of them then.

    • Come on, Grizzly, for someone as bright as you, you must recognise that the Argus ‘poll’ cannot be taken seriously as it doesn’t provide options and consequences of a Council Tax freeze. When will we see a Tory Alternative Budget that details what cuts you would implement, including what cuts you would make to offset the cuts that Geoffrey Theobald has come out against. (Incidently, I am not totally in agreement with the budget package – don’t agree with the closure of public toilets. I have merely commented on the politics of the announcement and the process).

      • To be honest, regardless of the legitimacy of Argus polls, that breakdown (70% against, 30% for) pretty much matches the results of the last Council election in terms of party splits. I would assume (in the absence of any other data, put forwards by the Council or parties) that this is roughly accurate. I, too, do not want to see cuts happening and dread to think where they might fall BUT my family are already living on the edge of what we can afford. No nights out, no luxuries, no new clothes for my wife and myself, only for the kids, the cheapest supermarket deals, all of these are now the norm. My income is under attack from multiple quarters with everybody their dog wanting their 5%+ increase – rail companies, supermarkets, buses, energy companies – and most we just cannot do without. I loathe the Tories and what they are doing to the country but it’s not helpful for the Council to impose this additional burden at this time. It seems like hubris, although in all likelihood, the real pain will be most felt by families like mine rather than the middle class couples and students that appear to form the core of the Green Party demographic. The council tax is deeply regressive and will hit the struggling hardest. I sincerely hope that the increases will help to avoid laying off council workers but am not convinced that it really is an either/or choice.

      • Just because you don’t like the outcome of the poll, Baps, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to it. As per my comment to Christina above, more people voted in the Argus poll than generally vote in local elections. Most councillors in B&H are elected on far less than that.

    • Poll shows 68% of Argus readers are selfish and/or ill-informed. Like the paper itself, not exactly news.

    • 68% of Argus readers WOULD say that, wouldn’t they? Just to be ornery? Just cause its a fun thing to do?

  5. Here’s a lesson in Green consistency from the previous council budget. Labour worked with the Greens and together we put forward £2.5m of joint amendments into the Conservative’s budget that gave better protection to front-line services and that tackled inequality. We thought we had a deal but a few days before the budget setting meeting, Jason Kitcat produced the Green Group’s ‘new’ budget that allocated this money differently contrary to what we had agreed. In the final budget vote, the Greens voted against ALL of the budget amendments they had agreed with Labour. And the Greens expect us to trust them!

    • That’s what happens when you sup with the devil!

    • Or to put it another way Craig.
      Labour and Greens worked together on parts of the budget where we could reach agreement sure in the knowledge that we could get those changes through. Running parellel to that process we were both aware that areas we did not agree on would be part of individual party amendments. We came up with stacks of really progressive stuff. Labour came up with … er, repainting the seafront railings in your ward. Hmm.

      So on the day of the vote, the understanding that we had been working with – that we would vote down the Tory budget which even with our joint amendments passed was still fundamentally an appalling Tory budget – that understanding went out of the window, and you meekly rolled over to the Tories, for what reasons I have still to fathom, possibly to exploit a political angle about Greens voting against etc…

      It should be noted that you voting down the tory budget was a position that the local trade unions had expected of you from discussions that you had with them, and it was quite simply a last minute volte face, after a huddled conflab between Mary Mears and Gill Mitchell. I remember well the looks of fury on the faces of many of your group (yours amongst them) when they realised what was happening at the behest of your leader. Rightly you were livid. Wrongly you acquiesced. Your shame.

      As a consequence the opportunity was lost to take the Budget back for further discussion, further amendments, get some better stuff in there before bringing it back to Council for ratification. We could have done so much better for this City but you let us all down. I know many Trade unionists and Labour supporters who are still angry about that night.

    • Craig — I’m sorry you’re still repeating that line. Sven has it right, and I’ve put what happened down on my blog some time ago. It was agreed that either group could put forward amendments they couldn’t jointly agree on, which we did. It was also agreed that we’d jointly vote down the Tory budget to push more improvements. Something changed when Gill and Mary had a quick chat during the adjournment and… the rest is history.

      Different parties, different histories — we’ll always have our differences. But I know we Greens acted honourably in the budget process this February. I still hope we can find common ground for this coming budget-setting meeting.

  6. ….before the Conservatives wade in with their thoughts, I would like to ask “What exactly would you do?”

  7. Here are my impressions:

    – The Greens have missed an opportunity to get rid of at least one (better two) of the Strategic Directors. In a council of this size, making these kind of cuts, 5 directors (4 Strategic, 1 of Finance) is a luxury even if they are delivering. The new batch have delivered absolutely nothing and only served to sow confusion, bad feeling and disfunction. There’s a £350k saving straight away.

    – Confirming no Park and Ride: Just silly. Would make money AND reduce congestion. I know that in an ideal world no one drive to Brighton, but they do. Deal with it.

    – 50% cut to the Major Projects and Regeneration Budget. Madness. This is the team charged with creating jobs and houses, and who in the last few years have given us the Jubilee library, the Amex Stadium, the New Amex House, a new Open Market, The Records Office (‘The Keep’) etc etc. There is a myth that nothing gets deliviered in Brighton, this is just wrong. The market is bad at the moment but that is just the time the council should be investing more in lining the job creating projects up. Everyone’s worst fears about the Greens would appear to be realised with a ‘Closed for Business’ sign going up. It says we don’t want any development here. Shame, as the one time I spoke to Amy Kennedy she appeared to be really keen on pushing the big developments on.

    • A good fund raiser and early Xmas do for Preston Park Labour Party this evening with over 75 attending. Steve Bassam and Nigel Jenner both gave great presentations, it’s up for grabs in Westbourne. 3.5 percent increases to Council Tax, surely that hits many of the people who can least afford it? Protect the vulnerable by all means, but don’t patronise them.

      • 3.5% is modest, below inflation and affordable even for the less well-off but it does a lot to protect front-line services. Previous Labour administration hiked council tax by a whopping 14.5 % one year although these days you seem to have gone to the other extreme, it’s getting harder to tell Labour and Conservatives apart.

      • For people struggling to cope even at the current rate 3.5% is as unaffordable as 35%. Labour may have raised CT considerably in the past, but those were different times and much needed to be done to transform Brighton from the squalid dump it had become to the thriving city it now is. Were we in control in the midst of this crisis that’s destroying the incomes of all but the rich we’d be working night and day to protect Brighton and Hove council tax payers from any rise at all

    • Dropping one of the four strategic directors is in the draft budget – CEO to make the choice of which one. Catherine Vaughn’s Finance job is a compulsory statutory position.

    • HP, I hope you realise that it is the developers who deliver major projects and not the council. Apart from perhaps a few new council housing units, BHCC cannot just put in an order for new developments and hey presto, the world’s developrs and financiers come running.

      There isn’t going to be any money around for all the stuff which already has planning consent to ever get built for the forseeable future. The Council can do nothing about that. In spite of the King Alfred planning consent being achieved both Frank Gehry (architect) and ING (mega banker) pulled out because by the end of 2007, the global financial system had gone belly up. There has been some jamming on of brakes since then, but it was only a deferral.

      Governments and banks are finally telling the truth of how deep the problem runs.

      We have a REALLY CRITICAL GLOBAL FINANCIAL crisis on our hands. Political jumping about since the budget announcement just looks so JACKASS because virtually every bit of opposition hysteria is same old, same old sloganising and you need to rewrite the spin scripts – you know? Whole countries are bust…..anybody noticed?

      Maybe you find you can’t quite believe it.

      • Disagree with you Valerie. Yes, developers deliver the projects, and yes there is difficulty in the present environment, but that’s just why a council intervention is needed as those sites wont deliver themselves. The fact countries are going bust actually means there is money about as institutions and people with money to invest can no longer trust government bonds and so they are looking for other investment chances. A city that is not planning projects to build jobs and homes now is going to find itself poorer and left behind when things start to improve.

  8. Well I found about 5 major issues per page. Just need to get the platform to ensure people hear about them.

    Cons and Labour may be misguided, but Greens seem to be simply nasty…

  9. Watching the Eco-Marxist experiment and the Greens battle against “greed-based economy” that’s “eating away at the fabric of our society”…Which Cllr will be Robespierre.
    And at what point will they come unstuck like Robespierre.

    • This ‘Eco-Marxist’ tag is about as tired and immature as calling Tories ‘fascists’.

      What this budget underlines is how little room there is for any kind of experiment. It’s crisis management, and not a crisis of the council’s making.

      Pity they haven’t done anything about the strategic directors though. A fine example of Tory waste, they are.

  10. Presumably, with the figures available to them, and with the star chamber process available to them, both the Labour and Conservative parties have been formulating their alternative budgets. So why are such people as Rachel Bates not discussing them here instead of going on about an Argus poll? Come on, give us some details, please.

  11. wow. talk about OTT compliments. Greens promised no cuts but now are slashing services. Worst of all the fanfare over extra money they will raise totally ignores fact that if they sacked £600k directors (LIKE THEY PROMISED) there wouldn’t be need to put up regressive Council Tax and burden people already struggling with inflation, pay freeze, redundancy etc

  12. BPB – I reworked that graph you liked – thought you’d like preview…

    http://desmond.yfrog.com/Himg532/scaled.php?tn=0&server=532&filename=tyo.gif&xsize=640&ysize=640

    And its worth remembering that Greens got the votes of about 33% on a 45% turn out – so they have the endorsement of about 15% of the cities voters…

  13. Christopher Hawtree – what’s your take on closing the libraries? Just asking.

  14. But what makes you say that libraries are being closed? True, the Budget proposes that the mobile library – after being a stand in while Woodingdean is made into something other than a fifty-year temporary library – will stop. But, in an urban area, it is not so very much used as in, say, the middle of Wales, and it needs replacing; and a truck could be more readily replaced in better times than a lost building.

    This discussion will continue. I thought that today, in a King’s House lavatory, when, mindful of the sign to rid oneself of germs, I was washing my hands when Geoffrey Theobald loomed up to mutter about libraries. I tried to be as polite as I can with the Tories. Later that same day, Brian Fitch was far more amiable.

    Meanwhile, who is Harry Spillman? I assume he is some departed local govt figure? The thing about local govt is that its denizens are carried away on the waves, bones on the seabed, eventual seaweed floating inward again and claiming to be a LibDem revival.

    • Ask Shula Rich about Harry Spillman……!

    • You and Harry should get together and share a pint of the new Beachey Head Breweries ‘Christmas Jumper’ and discuss Libraries..as i recall Harry was a Labour County Cllr for Stanmer Ward and he stood for St Peters in 2005 and may have stood for Parliament at some point but don’t hold me to that..boy he loves Libararies

  15. One area of the budget demonsrates the difficulties of undeliverable gesture politics. In their manifesto, the Green Party promised to return the children’s fostering service ‘in-house’. Given the fact that the in-house fostering service accounts for less than half of all placements, it was always an empty promise. It would be a good aspiration to expand the internal service, but ending, or even significantly reducing, independent placements is only possible in the very long term, and with significant financial investment.

    So what do we see in the proposed budget? An ‘assumed’ budget pressure of £2.25m within Children’s Services, in part to account for the rising number of children placed with independent fostering providers!

    A ‘failure’ of a policy that could never be delivered. An easy promise made demonstrating an almost total lack of understanding of the ways in which services actually operate, and based on lazy prejudices about of private care provision.

  16. There is no evidence that the Greens are incapable of fighting the cuts at the council level – http://brightonhovesocialistparty.blogspot.com/2011/12/green-cuts-budget-proposals.html

  17. […] days ago, Brighton and Hove, Britain’s first Green-run Council, proposed a radical but pragmatic local budget. The headline that made the Today programme was the Greens’ rejection of the […]

  18. […] Brighton & Hove, the minority Green Party administration has launched rather a novel “open budget” process, where they published it long ago and invited councillors from all parties to participate. […]

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