The Green budget is politically astute; what alternatives are there from Labour and the Tories?

I have really lost the plot. You shouldn’t read this blog. There are so many reasons not to. The latest reason is my praise for the Green budget. I seem to have lost any sense of balance. Well, that is how some people, including Valerie Paynter, Linda F, and some others see it.

If you were to look at my post about the Green budget, I hardly mentioned anything about the content, what is being protected, what is being cut. I rather looked at the politics, and I stand by what I said. The Greens, and Jason Kitcat in particular, have produced something exceptional and done so in an exceptional way.

Let’s face it, under the Tory-led Coalition, ably assisted by their lapdogs in the Lib Dems, no budget set at this time would be anything but incredibly difficult to set, and cuts are inevitable.

Over the last ten years, the budgets set by previous Labour and Tory administrations would have looked not too dissimilar had they been set by the other party, with marginal changes in emphasis, and the addition or removal of a cycle lane or two.

So, too, it is with this budget. I doubt whether either Labour or the Tories will come up with anything really substantive by way of an alternative. I hope they do, but many of the cost cutting measures, perhaps with the addition or removal of a Super Director or two, would be the same.

The Greens have said that they want to protect the young, the elderly, and the very vulnerable. It appears that, largely, they have achieved this. But the content of the Budget is not my area of expertise and I have left it to Jason Kitcat and Steve Bassam to joust through Twitter on the merits or otherwise of the budget itself. How Labour in Brighton and Hove need someone like Lord Bassam to lead their recovery.

But back to the politics. The approach taken by the Greens, the inclusive approach adopted by councillor Kitcat, the assertive way in which the budget-setting process has been led, is an example of a genuine wish to involve those from other parties and from none. And an unintentional consequence (probably a very intentional consequence, come to think about it) has been to neuter the opposition.

The approach has, genuinely, been an open one. Opposition councillors have been invited and welcomed into the ‘star chamber’. There is an ‘open book’ approach. This approach, politically, puts opposition groups on the back foot. They cannot make complain about the process, and it forces them to focus on the issues.

The challenge for the opposition is to come up with an alternate budget. For the Tories it won’t be enough to harp on about a Council Tax freeze. They are the party of cuts and austerity. Let’s hear something positive from them now.

34 Responses

  1. Actually the Green’s budget is an interesting polling experiment as to whether a Tory-leaning ward will accept an increase in their council tax, when a freeze was possible. Judgement day is 22 Dec.

  2. Time Lord Bassam considered a change of focus….the Older People’s Council has no profile or clout and perhaps he could consider standing for a place on it at the next electoral opportunity – if it is allowed, now he is a Lord.

  3. I’ve been busy campaigning, but will be highlighting the fundamentally broken thinking that underpins the whole Green Party philosophy.

    A government should be accountable to the people it represents and work in the interests of those it represents.

    That is why the UK government should not be accountable to the EU, and why local government has no place ‘saving the world’ at the expenses of their residents, nor use financial measures to manipulate/control their less well off residents.

    Toilets and Libraries:

  4. Cuts are not inevitable. Tax the rich more… tax the banks more and scrap trident. Boom.

    I guess it is out of the control of local council… damn

    • Oh yes Harris, that will do our economy a world of good, and it makes perfect sense for us to be defenceless in a dangerous world. There’s a reason Michael Foot never won an election…

      • Ever been in the army Rob?
        What do you think soldiers need more than anything? Equipment.

        Spend what 70£bil on some missiles OR take a slamming chunk out of our deficit and equip our armed forces. So many soldiers told me that they don’t care about missiles… because when one goes off they all go off! Now that’s not the message we should be sending out to the kids is it.

        It’s not the cold war son. We are not a world power – no one would attack us. We need to be ushering in a new age of peace and cooperation without the threat of world annihilation…

        Down with needless killing.

        (experience – was in the TA – woefully under equipped + can back up my international relations knowledge… i did study it).

      • “No one would attack us” seems to smack of hubris to me. Imagine we got rid of our nukes and Iran acquired it’s own, does that sound secure to you? And yes, I think our armed forces should be well equipped, and I also believe that should be in the context of a balanced budget. “Tax the rich” may make a good political headline if you’re a socialist but it is completely counter productive if you want a meritocratic society that encourages wealth creation.

      • Why would Iran nuke us?
        I dont think you understand… if anyone gets a nuke and uses it ITS GAME OVER. No press start and try again, no extra lives.

        Go and watch Yes minister, there is a specific episode that takes the micky out of the nuclear debate. Because in the end you can either have nukes or a decent conventional armed forces. We wont use nukes so why bother, lets just arm the troops we do use.

        Tax the rich – a 60-65% tax on the most rich, and on landed estates and property that is out of use.

      • If you would be complacent about Iran that that’s up to you, at least we know that our government does take the threat seriously. Ahmadinajad has already threatened to wipe one country he doesn’t like off the map… somehow I don’t think he’s too keen on our country either. It seems sensible to me that we have our own deterant against this and any any other existential threats. Yes, of course it’s “game over” if nukes are ever used but I believe us having them actually makes this less likely.

        Your ideas on punitive taxation on “the rich” (not quite sure how you would define this) would be horrendously damaging to our economy, not to mention how much this would cost the Treasury in lost revenue due to the economic activity it would kill and the business it would drive from our shores. It is already clear that the 50% tax rate is harming this country, without going even further as you suggest. The best way to stimulate the economy would be to bring down taxes, not increase them as you suggest. The evidence for this is what happened when income taxes were significantly reduced in the 1980s, leading to an increase in tax revenue.

      • Increase tax, spend tax on making jobs in green industries+ poor social housing + bigger schools = jobs for the essential trades and graduate jobs + more workers = get more tax from workers and through VAT.

      • Rob: how is it ‘already clear’ that the 50% tax rate is already harming ‘this country’? It affects something like 4% of taxpayers (those earning above £150,000 pa) and if it didn’t increase the overall tax take, then you can be sure that Osborne would have abolished it, and produced the figures to prove that point.

        If there’s a brain drain as a result of this tax rate then show me the evidence. Why haven’t you skedaddled, for example?

        Harris: agree completely with the general point that in tough times like this those most able to pay ought to contribute more. The problem is that sticking up income tax isn’t necessarily going to help much. Income can be very effectively disguised as shares, which are liable to capital gains tax, the highest rate of which is currently 28%. That’s closer to the nub of the problem, at the moment – along with the fact that many people in your party have been quite happy to go along with this state of affairs. I hope you can change a few minds on this.

      • Clive, I believe the government is still waiting for its review to come back on the costs/benefits of the current 50% tax rate. However, as I understand it most economists predict it will show it earns little to no money when balanced against its effects on economic output and competitiveness. Osborne will be reserving his judgement on this until the report comes back, but of course politics will play into the decision along with the economics. Generally, my own view is that taxes should be as low as possible for all sections of society.

      • So capital gains tax AND income tax need a hike! OK thanks.

        Thats our job right? Changing minds?

      • Rob: right, so it’s not ‘already clear’ that the 50p tax rate has had a negative effect then. Granted, it’s also not clear precisely what it has raised, though the treasury estimate (presumably framed by economists) was £1.3 billion in its first year (the one that ended last April) which is hardly chicken feed. How would you suggest that the exchequer ought otherwise to raise this kind of revenue?

        You mention that taxation rates were reduced in the 80s, but NB that the blessed Margaret (or rather Nigel Lawson) didn’t bring the top rate down from 60% to 40% until 1988 – nine years into her government. From 1974-9 the top rate was 83%, which only goes to show that the various multi-millionaires and their acolytes whingeing about 50% ought really to shut up and be grateful!

      • When the rate was brought down to 40% it was one of the lowest top rates in the industrial world. Now, 50% tax rate is one of the highest top rates, therefore having an adverse effect on our international competitiveness.

      • Sorry Rob, but you simply cannot say what effect the 50% top rate is having on competitiveness. You are just making an assertion that can’t be backed up.

        As to the international picture, it is very difficult to draw direct comparisons between tax regimes, especially for the last financial year when the numbers aren’t yet in. The 45% top rate in Germany, for example, kicks in at a lower income level than the 50% rate does here.

        You don’t answer my question about who or what you would rather tax instead of high earners paying a more, in percentage terms, on declared income over £150,000.

      • Abolition of the 50p rate would not require revenue to be raised elsewhere, as it would follow evidence confirming that it is not currently earning money for the treasury. Indeed, the evidence from what happened in the 1980s points to this. A resultant increase in economic activity would obviously be better for tax revenues.

      • Historical comparisons are even more problematic than international ones. In the 80s, as I’ve said above, you are talking about reductions from very high marginal rates. You are also talking (re Lawson’s cut in 1988) about an economic boom time, so, hardly an appropriate comparison with today.

        And, as you recognise, there is a big political dimension to this. Can the government really be seen to be featherbedding the well-off while asking others to stomach pay freezes, service cuts and higher pension contributions, all against a background of rising inflation and job insecurity? Not an easy one to sell, whichever way you look at it.

  5. Still haven’t heard the Tory and Labour alternatives…. just lots of sniping.Once we get their budgets in we can have sensible debate. It is rather tiresome to read all the tweets about services being cut as if there should be money to burn.

    • I was about to say the same as Pepperpot. So, instead, I shall point out that UKP put a small leaflet through the foor in Westbourne yesterday. I read one side, turned it over – and the other side was blank.UKIP has made ink its first budget cut. Ruth and i found a good and interesting reaction on six hours of George Street stall yesterday, and these comments were echoed at stalls on Fiveways, St Peters, Portland Rd, Brunswick Place and elsewhere. One man declared it is easy to set a budget, so I showed him the full, 200page, closely-printed draft and pointed to an item at random, and asked what his take on that 5000k wd be. He gracefully granted me the pointed that it is a complex matter. More simply, the 57pence average rise is less than the price of a packet of crisps in Greggs opposite the stall. People grasp the point that the Cameron bribe is a hostage to fortune.

      • UKIP isnt very big so I cant imagine they have much money here. Brighton is far too socialist for them

      • Which shows how good at budgeting I am… Printing only one side of a small flyer means I can deliver to twice as many households for the same ink cost.

        Councillors would do well to be at least as careful with taxpayers money as the are their own.

        In the Argus the Greens Mr Kitcat had a letter published in which he stated that turning down £3million from central government, and instead taking £5.4million from council taxpayers actually leaves those taxpayers *BETTER OFF*.

        Funny, because it seems to me that Brighton and Hove are £3million down, and the taxpayers are a further £5.4million down.

        Green economics… go figure…

    • As regards the council budget, I am starting at rather a handicap. It only being a few years ago that having paid ever rising tax demands for years and found basic services still very poor, I finally got around to thinking ‘so what the heck do they need ever more money for’ – looked in, found a can of worms, and am still digging through the layers of them.

      As Labour, Conservatives and Greens are all complicit in where we now are, I too am eager to see what they have to say for themselves.

      My starting point is this

      After inflation, council tax has almost doubled – what precisely am I getting for the extra? And how did people get by without it in 1998?

  6. The Greens were voted in on an “anti-cuts” ticket.

    They signed pledges to resist the cuts.

    What they did in reality was implement the cuts.

    Let’s run through that again.

    PRE ELECTION: said they would resist cuts
    POST ELECTION: implemented cuts

    Spot the difference?

    It’s not as if they don’t have any alternative. They do.

    Wednesday’s march shows the possibility to effectively mobilise huge swathes of the local population in support of an anti-cuts budget. That’s what I call resisting the cuts.

    They can stick to their word and resist the cuts. Or they can continue implementing them. I think they’ll opt for their usual hypocrisy.

    I am patiently waiting to be proved wrong.

  7. I agree totally with Peter. As a Green Party member, although not in Brighton, I expect the Greens to practice a different sort of politics not to be just part of the “same old, same old.”

    Caroline Lucas spoke on the steps of St Paul’s about doing politics differently and supporting the anti-cuts movement. Surely empty words unless the Green council practices what it used to preach. Many of us in the party are looking to Brighton not to betray our hopes and trust.

    • Well don’t just listen to Peter, Verde (great name for a Green member), have a proper look for yourself and then judge:

      BTW PLEASE can you all make sure you read our manifesto properly before making careless off-the-cuff assumptions about cut promises? This is what we have said for our no.1 priority:

      “1. Resist, to the greatest extent possible, the service cuts
      and privatisation imposed on local councils by the
      Conservative and Lib Dem Government.”

      We said we would resist TO THE GREATEST EXTENT POSSIBLE and that’s what we’ve done. PLEASE read the draft budget information properly, then make your comments. Do bear in mind though that we have put this draft out to the public nearly 3 months in advance deliberately so you have the opportunity and time to contribute – no other adminstration has done this. Note too that it is a “draft” i.e. this is not the final budget nor is it what we are insisting upon. It’s out for consultation so get on with it please and enough of the unhelpful, uninformed criticisms.

  8. What’s Hawtree saying about the cuts to libraries?

    • Given that other councils are closing libraries completely, I think he said he is pleased that in Brighton & Hove we are only reducing hours at selected branches and mothballing the mobile library – he posted something to this effect on another thread.

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