Reflections on the Budget Council meeting at Brighton Town Hall

So what to make of tonight’s Budget Council meeting? Labour and the Tories voted down the Green Party’s Council Tax rise, and then the Greens joined with Labour and the Tories to vote through the Budget 53-1 (the one being Green councillor Alex Phillips who appeared not to be able to stomach this compromise).

For the Tories the stand out impression (other than the tie of the wonderful councillor Janio and his reference to the “great man” Ronald Reagan), was the emergence of their Leader-in-Waiting Graham Cox. His speech put clear blue water between the Tory Group and the rest. He is the Newt Gingrich of Brighton politics, the one who could capture the public imagination. Labour and the Greens be warned, he could see a Tory revival in 2015.

Labour were in a no win situation. The one Labour councillor who understood the politics of the occasion was Brian Fitch. It was he who articulated that Labour would OT be supporting the Tories. In the event, the Tories supported Labour. Labour will make much of this, countering the Green claim that Labour and the Tories had voted together. They will both be right. But there will be a nagging feeling amongst Labour supporters that the Tory and Labour budgets were not that dissimilar, and that Labour hardly ushered a word against the Tory government, focusing all their fire on the Greens.

For the Greens, Jason Kitcat was impressive, in command of his brief, and replied well. If this, his first major outing, is anything to go by, he will do fine as the Green leader. I was uncertain about the Greens voting for the budget. An honourable (?) abstention was what I would have expected from most, with more than Alex Phillips voting against. I imagine that, as Geoffrey Bowden said, most voted with a heavy heart. I thought the speeches by councillors Phillips and Sven Rufus were ones that should be noted regarding conduct.

But that’s not to say there shouldn’t be some humour, even some slapstick to lighten the mood. Councillor Janio’s ‘dual’ with councillor Hawtree is fast becoming the matter of legends, and councillor Hawtree’s repost was pure class. Perhaps a way of raising funds for this cash-strapped Council would be for the two of them to go on stage together, with half the proceeds going to libraries, the remainder to the third sector, after all, councillor Janio would not trust even a £3 note to local government.

It feels good to be back.

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