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.

41 Responses

  1. For me the outstanding speeches were made by Councillors Bowden, Pissaridou, Ann Norman, Summers and Rufus. All spoke with passion about their beliefs and their constituents. Councillor Pissaridou particularly impressed with her grasp of hardships being suffered by working-class people. Councillor Jason Kitcat is undoubtedly brainy but I feel he lacks the necessary diplomatic skills to lead a council with no overall control. Councillor Ania Kitcat failed to impress.

    • Your comment about Ania Kitcat is unfair.

      I was really impressed by the Mayor’s superb chairing of Budget Council. And part of that was her invitation – promptings that got Ken Norman complaining to her for doing it – to councillors who were not down to speak, who had not come with prepared speeches, to contribute.

      Ania Kitcat at first demurred but was made angry by Tory baitings about councillors who had not been born in the city – close to fascist comment really. Ania is Polish and her chastising remarks made the quasi fascist comment look bigoted and small. They were bigoted and small. Very Nasty Party of old.

      • I think Ms. Kitkat should think before she opens her mouth in future. To suggest that those born and bred here will engage in “inbreeding” without the arrival of people such as herself is something of an insult.

      • Councillor Mrs Kitcat is my ward councillor in Regency. I was interested to learn what she had to say about the budget – the only item on the agenda. She had nothing to say about the budget. She does not live in the ward she represents or in an adjacent one and declines to hold surgeries for her constituents. She keeps a very low profile. My father was born in what is now the Czech Republic so I was initially impressed in May 2011 that a person from eastern Europe had been elected to council. I am disappointed Councillor Mrs Kitcat had nothing of a fiscal nature to contribute to the budget setting meeting.

      • The is nothing ‘fascist’ about suggesting that people with a longer history in an area may tend to be more attached to its heritage/culture.

        To come back with such a nasty slight against natives of the city was truly disgraceful.

        Nothing said had anything to do with where she comes from, other than it not being the city.

  2. I thought Mr Janio’s tie was a great touch! I feel I have to mention the appalling behaviour of the crazy green fanatics who were shouting over the prayers and showing the councillors no respect at all… or the Mayor for that matter! It was reminiscent of the travelling fans of Millwall FC circa 1984!

    • I was in the public gallery for prayers and what you suggest SIMPLY DID NOT HAPPEN. Your comment should be removed. Any noise was from people still arriving and shuffling into seats or seeking paperwork.

      • I have heard that the Greens Machine Faction were misbehaving outside and inside at the start of the meeting just like last year when they were worse and Geoff Wells came close to clearling the public gallery on 4 secret they are Atheists.

      • In reply to Valerie Paynter denying the performance the green fanatics put on during prayers, All i can say is that it’s a shame I follow rules and didn’t record it as i would have loved to upload a link and expose the true colours of the greens. Perhaps it could be recreated at the Amex at some point? And I must add Valerie that now two independant people have confirmed it as true. Maybe your comment should be removed on the strength that it’s a lie? As i said 80s Millwall!

  3. Welcome back blogger. I thought that you were among the things that were, and am glad that you are not.

    Is your comment about Graham Cox being ‘the Newt Gingrich of Brighton politics’ supposed to be double-edged or have you not been following the Republican race very closely?

    As to the budget, it appears that the food recycling pilot has been canned and that’s probably a good thing at the moment – right idea, wrong time. And the mayor’s number plate has been sold. Good. These things only matter to self-important and vain people.

    I hope Craig Turton is OK – gather he was taken ill at the meeting.

  4. Welcome back blogger, we have missed you. I also applaud Alex P’s principled abstention. I would have liked a few more. Then The LabCons could have tried to implement their own hobbled budget. LabCon coalition, who’d a thunk it

  5. The reason for the similarities between Labour and Tory amendments was, I’m given to understand, because both drew on the same advice given by Council finance officers. I don’t know how many times both parties have to emphasise that they had no discussions or agreements before Green spinners stop peddling the untruths about collusion – on past form however many times they do it will make no difference.

    Of course, the Tories, in the end, voted the Green budget through – was this the result of a backroom deal between them and the administration?

    As to your approbation of Cllr. Kitcat – all I can say is that I was sitting in an office with around 20 people of mixed and no political allegiances and his speech was greeted with groans. The general opinion was that he came across as pompous, arrogant and egotistical, so I’m delighted he is being annointed as their Chosen One.

    The year ahead is going to be a difficult one for many in the city and, as is their wont, the administration will no doubt find a way now to blame every single cut in services on Labour’s amendment. That’s to be expected, but the Labour group worked hard to find ways to spare B&H residents a tax rise at a time when many are losing their jobs and the low-paid are seeing their real incomes eroded by the day.

    Those in the leafy Green strongholds may have been convinced by Kitcat’s airy dismissal of the effects on strained family budgets of a 3.5% council tax rise, the hard-pressed 60%+ who didn’t vote for his party were not so fooled and will welcome this small respite.

  6. Speaking from the leafy green stronghold of my council street where i and my both my next door neighbours voted green unlike the middle class labour strongholds in the big houses up by queens park i can say we are gutted by the loss of any hope of our services being kept, especially disability and care stuff which affects many of us. My six year old autistic son is having his DLA slashed by the cuts started by Blue labour, £200 a month now, another £100 to follow and his mum who has Aspergers being forced onto workfare next with no childcare provision for us. I utterly hate all 3 main parties, my grandad was right when he resigned from labour in 1914, they are warmongers and tory stooges at the end of the day.

  7. Its dissapointing that the greens agreed a compromise budget i think they should have said if the torys and labour wont allow our budget we resign as a minority counci leadership and let them run and take responsibility for there own budget as a coalition. all three parties voting together is the worse result for all three. I expect that a new protest vote will emerge in brighton maybe the pirate party or tusc and this will indeed help the torys at labour and greens expense. i think labour should be ashamed by voting down the green budget it was cheap and populist and nothing to do with resisting national government attacks on local government.

  8. Tim is right that despite Green propoganda there was no collusion between Labour and the Tories for the reasons we explained, ie; based on the advice of finance officers there was little room for manoeuvre so it is not surprising there were similarities in proposals. What seems to have been missed is our complete disagreement with the Tories about where funding would come from, ie; Brightstart nursery and robbing trades union staff members. Jason is right that there were passionate speeches from all sides but also some absurd claims. How is axing City News -(which every Party proposes in opposition but retains once in power – Labour, Tories and now Greens all guilty here) – going to harm vulnerable people? I didn’t speak in the debate as Fitchy had already made the points I would have done, ie; Labour supported 98% of the Green budget.

    Speaking of missing, I can’t recall any councillor mentioning how we should be seeking to use the budget to tackle waste and improve the quality of services provided. The Council apparently has 15 call centres(!), 8 different payroll systems and doesn’t know with any certainy how many casual staff it employs. If true (and I am in the process of finding out) this is very concerning. How much could be saved by having one call centre and one payroll system and reinvesting the savings in frontline services under pressure?

    Thanks to those for best wishes but I’m fine now. Paramedics asked if it had been a particularly heated meeting which caused me to pass out(!).

    • Craig. I imagine the 15 call centres all have different specialisms, so might be hard to merge. e.g. social care access point is totally different to cityclean.

      • This is absolutely correct. And even with these, it is a nightmare to get who and what you want from them and end up emailing someone. What of those who can’t email? Who don’t know the who’s who of WHO to email. Nightmare.

    • Craig! So pleased to read your post and read that you are OK. I got really worried. Wondered if you were dehydrated with blood pressure crashing….or worse. Wanted you to be lying down….just in case. Paramedic was there unbelievably quickly…

      I was disappointed that you did not speak at the meeting and question the call centres (I don’t agree on that one) and 8 payroll systems (I agree with you on that one). Having mentioned it to me, I waited for it to come up.

  9. Kitkat is too posh. The Greens dont need him! And I dont get what his wife does on council? Speak for like a minute as her maiden speech… haha weak.

    Brians and Svens were pretty epic. Much respect for Sven. He dressed like a normal man in the chamber, he spoke like a normal person and spoke from his heart.
    Janio was also quite a laugh to watch, as he always is! I didnt see many of the Labour lot speak apart from brian and gill, both impressive though.

    • Oh my god haha I just saw Cllr Philips’ speech. The most self righteous thing I have ever seen? Who does that woman think she is? “an ex comrade” yea I hope it stays like that!

  10. […] Most of the councillors who spoke did so from prepared scripts which they simply read aloud. This made for a poor quality of debate. If you’re reading from notes held below you, you cannot make the eye contact necessary to obtain rapport with an audience. Scripted speeches are not dialogue. They frustrate the ability to respond to points made by others. The highly educated population of Brighton & Hove could expect higher standards of intellectual engagement from its elected politicians. Listening to one tiresome tirade after another, delivered in this orchestrated fashion left at least this public observer wishing that they had all just circulated their speeches in advance and cut the meeting short. Luckily the debate was not entirely dominated by this unimaginative approach. Notable amongst the exceptions was Chris Hawtree. His performance in the Council Chamber yesterday would never win any prizes for public speaking but he certainly won everyone’s attention. He’s the sort of fellow who doesn’t change his truly idiosyncratic character to fit the occasion. He’s the same in person as he is on a podium. This goes a long way to explain why he unexpectedly outperformed his political opponents fighting for office in Central Hove, winning the seat without Green Party funds and resources to assist him. British politics needs more characters like him: hard hitting, politically mature and yet very much more human than so many of the policy wonks modern political life seems to favour. Brighton Politics Blogger (whose posts and comment threads contain much of the local political debate) described his tussle with the Conservative Councillor Janio as “fast becoming the matter of legends&#822…. […]

  11. Nice to have this new blog! I disagree with you about Cox. His behaviour was loutish. Out-louted Cllr Janio last night! All strutting cock swaggering at the Greens and looking for a fight. Little interest in discussion. That was not a sign of Leadership capacity, just irritation and Nasty Party roots.

    The meeting was actually really, really absorbing.

    Because all the contentious detail was out there 2 months ago and argued over before Budget Council, the meeting itself seemed to me to concentrate of the pros and cons of the strategy choice as between the 3.5% increase and the £3m bribe plus freeze.

    The meeting was beautifully and smoothly chaired with great skill by the Mayor and I do believe it contributed to the manner in which councillors conducted themselves – a mountainous height of decorum and integrity compared to the baiting and brawling days of the Bodfish Administration

  12. Regardless of whether Lab & Cons actively collaborated or not, one thing which really came across was how comfortable they were with each other and how uncomfortable they both were with the Green people. Having between them – in one order or another – run the city for years they have certainly developed a way of rubbing along together and seem hostile to the greens not just for politcal differences but because of the rift caused to their comfortable way of doing things. Its just not like it used to be anymore!

    • Ohhhh, tou-shay! Both Labour and the Conservatives are obsessed with portraying the Greens as outsiders, non-U, not “one of us”, as interlopers, as gatecrashers, as misfits, as accidentally elected, as people to talk down to, speaking slowly so they understand (in spite of the immense educational gap in favour of the Greens), as having the nerve to even exist.

      I have a theory about this. Looking at the Tory bench, you see cutout dolls, made from the same materials in the same factory according to a set pattern – no deviation. Looking at the Labour bench, same.

      Look at the Green bench and you are seeing a microcosm, the city in miniature with a spread of the particular types and kinds of people that reflect its identity in the wider world. A mirror image of the city. All different, but strung along a common thread and the whole city can relate to this familiarity.

      Template politicians are mortified because the Greens don’t play their identikit game.

  13. Welcome back, BPB! We’ve missed you at this crucial time.

    If Labour did not collude with the Tories, their amendments showed that they now think just like them. That looks even worse for Labour.

    However, it was a sad night for the Greens. They – and Jason Kitcat in particular – have explained very clearly the long-term consequences for Council services of accepting Eric Pickles’ £2 million bribe with no change in council tax this year. To have any consistency with that, and their electoral promises last year, they should refuse to take responsibility for a budget which has had its central fiscal plank removed. It is now a Tory/Labour budget, and those parties should take responsibility for it. They were the majority on Thursday, and it is simple democracy for the Greens to stand down in their favour. Theirs is only a minority administration after all.

    That would also be good politics for the Greens. If they stay in office they will get the blame for all budget cuts to come. If they don’t, the other parties will get it. And after displaying such affection for office, the Greens will offer a standing invitation to the Tories and Labour to vote them out on any pretext of their joint choosing.

    On the other hand, if the Greens did stand down – as I think they should have done – they could tell the voters that Labour had brought the Tories back to power. What a propaganda gift that would be! Hopefully it is not too late for the Green Party to reconsider.

    • This is one U-turn I think the Greens should resist. They are in the crucible for sure but after agreeing the budget it would look weak to stand down. And to stand down so soon after election would be a show of weakness before the electorate that would mean erasure at the polls and a charge of being gutless and unable to ‘take it’.

      Did you make this post as a temptingly dressed bit of poisoned bait, by any chance or do you really believe it?

  14. My understanding of how the wretched cabinet system works is imperfect, but I am not sure that the Greens could stand down even if they wanted to. Anyone else know better?

    I didn’t watch the debate as I was at work, but I haven’t seen anything in the coverage to counter the essential Green argument that this decision will lead to deeper and more damaging cuts next year. Any Labour advocates want to tell me something different?

  15. Thankyou BPB for reinstating a forum for hopefully sensible debate. Labour has gained party advantage and shored up traditional support by making the Green’s seem impotent.Well done.
    But it is Tories who are the puppet masters here -able on occasion to vote wi
    Labour on issues tinged ideologically blue. So Geoffrey the king-maker can decide until 2015 exactly how and when to destroy the Greens. What a lovely position to be in -power without responsibility.
    And on a wider level it is the blue leafed with yellow edges Coalition that is a puppet master too, artfully manipulating central grants with council tax levels.
    If a were a Tory I’d be thinking it is game, set and by 2015 probably match!

    • Zombie: I can’t see the basis for this prediction of an inevitable new Tory dawn. They hold just 18 seats out of 54 and took a fair old hiding last year. The historical pattern is that their vote has been on the slide in Brighton and Hove as a whole for two decades or more.

      Nationally, they are the most pro-capitalist party, and we are in a crisis of capitalism which their free market ideological straitjacket renders them unable to deal with. Locally they are split and, with the exception of Andrew Wealls, don’t appear to have anyone much on board who would trouble the scorers of Brain of Britain very much.

      As for ‘puppet masters’ – well, the Pickles bribe and subsequent pressure on refusniks shows how strong the Tory commitment to localism really is. But apart from the that, from the handling of the NHS reforms to the welfare-to-work debacle, they are starting to look more like muppets than puppet masters.

      As for Labour, I would have thought the fact of having voted with the Tories on the key budget issue wouldn’t be too well regarded by a lot of the core support. I’ve still seen nothing to counter the notion that this will mean deeper and more damaging cuts in the longer run.

      • The Budget was voted for by the Greens, Labour and Conservatives (excepting one Green) I don’t see anyone is any position to accuse anyone of ‘voting with the enemy’.

      • Labour voted against every Tory ammendment. The Tories voted for Labours ammendment – not the other way round. (see Paul’s reply for the rest of the voting on the finally ammended budget)

      • I should have made myself clearer: when I said ‘key budget issue’ I meant the vote on the council tax, from which everything else flowed.

        As others have said, the fact that it was a Labour amendment supported by the Tories is neither here nor there — ditto whether there was actual collusion. The point is that the two parties voted together, and Labour haven’t offered a convincing reason (that I have heard) as to why this won’t mean more (and worse) pain later.

        I had serious doubts about the Green’s capabilities to run the city within a realistic budget but now, as far as I can see, they are looking like the fiscally prudent party. Who would have thought it?

      • “Labour haven’t offered a convincing reason (that I have heard) as to why this won’t mean more (and worse) pain later.”

        The burden of proof is actually on the Greens.

        It goes like this:

        Green Party propose something.
        Labour oppose.
        Greens claim that their opposition will result in more cuts later.

        At no point have I seen the Greens justify this claim, and I would welcome some verifiable hard facts and figures rather than airy-fairy and emotive statements, which is all the Greens provided in the meeting.

  16. Apologies – my previous comment flew off before I had finished it.

    Dear BPB,

    It is good to see you re-emergence after a period of hibernation.

    I hope you won’t mind if I take this opportunity to notify your readers of the re-emergence of another “old favourite” – GREENSPEAK

    Greenspeak – a popular forum for talks and discussions on ideas with a green tinge- will be reincarnated this week as:


    Meetings will be free(donations welcome) and anyone (whatever their political persuasion) who is interested in political ideas and ethical issues will be very welcome to attend. Although Greenspeak is organised in association with the Green Party, we are hoping to invite speakers who will also challenge our ideas and to organise debates between political groupings.

    The idea is that meetings will take place on the last Wednesday of each month at the Terraces Bar & Grill Brighton Seafront ( opposite the Brighton Wheel).

    The FIRST MEETING will be this Wednesday 29th Feb. at 7.15 pm under the title of ‘The Optimist Agenda’.

    The speakers will be Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation and author of ‘Tescopoly’, and George MacKerron the father of ‘Mappiness’ – the largest survey on happiness ever made.

    More details can be found on our website


    • I met Joseph last year, and much enjoyed his company/support of Ollie, Phleim and myself. We had a good time. Pavement banter. And he made a special trip down to us on the day in May when we won. I much appreciated that. So I think Joseph must surely have then – the very figures – appreciated that it is not the easiest of situations in which we found ourselves. It’s a challenge. “And what’s wrong with that? I’d like to know.”

      • Yes Chris, I did come down and campaigned in fact twice, as well as attending the victory do. I did also enjoy your company and that of Phelim (a close friend of mine) and Ollie. In the comments on my blog you will see that I have responded re the ideological roots of the Greens and the need to remain radical. I have been excoriatingly brutal about New Labour, whom I hate and detest with a passion. So my statements should not be used in any way by Labour as a justification for their complete sell out of the most vulnerable and poorest in our society.

        I respect much of what the Greens are doing in Brighton but cannot in all conscience accept this turning away from providing leadership and inspiration to the anti-cuts movement. Millions of people in this country are disillusoned with electoral politics – we need a new and different sort of politics and they expect the Greens to provide it. The Irish Greens are the ghost of Xmas Future if they do not.

    • He made a post he may come to regret. What is achieved by setting an illegal budget? The loss of public confidence, the derision of the press and votes meltdown, I’d say. And then a legal budget would have to be set. The man is just another disaffected ego splitting off into a little one-man faction where he can lick his wounds and shout from the sidelines. Indeed, I’d say, a careerist thwarted.

      • But many of the present Green Party, and Councillors in B+H took the same action to leave Labour when there were policies they couldn’t support. Splitters? Careerists? Disaffected egos? Shouting from the sidelines? Ummm….

      • Valerie

        You write ‘The man is just another disaffected ego splitting off into a little one-man faction where he can lick his wounds and shout from the sidelines.’

        If you make a few gender substitutions (‘woman’ for ‘man’ etc) you come up with ….

        ‘The woman is just another disaffected ego splitting off into a little one-woman faction where she can lick her wounds and shout from the sidelines.’

        – this sounds like somebody we all know well on this blog …..

        I just can’t remember her name???

        Have a splendid day

  17. […] Dems – support the Greens and bolster them in office or oppose them to side with the Tories. In February, Labour made its mind up and aligned with the Tories to amend the Green budget to remove a 3.5% […]

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