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 …..

Budget Masterplan shows the campaigning skills of Mary Mears

‘Clive’ had criticised me on two or three occasions for not explaining what strategic thinking is.  He feels I have been silent of the matter for too long.  I will remain silent further –  it is not my role to get inside the head of this or any other political leader.  What I can say is that the announcement today from Mary Mears has boosted the chances of her party in May’s elections and demonstrates, once again, what a competent politician she is.

The budget announcement offering a 1% cut in Council Tax has Mary Mears fingerprints all over it.  A master stroke.  Now you and I may dismiss it as a mere political gimmick, but it is a smart one.  It will give the Tories a bounce and boost Mary Mears’ standing in the Tory Party itself.  Many of the Young Turks in its rank, (Rachael Bates, Rob Buckwell, etc.) sees Council Tax cuts as the Holy Grail, and councillor Mears is delivering. (Update: When I first posted this item, I called Rob Buckwell ‘Rob Buckley’.  I have corrected this and send Rob my apologies.  I used to know an estate agent called Rob Buckley.  Can’t think how I made that mistake!).

She told me (actually, it was a press release from the Council) “We face challenging financial times and our aim has been to ensure we are as lean and effective an organisation as possible. Our new structure means we identify how best to deliver the services that residents in the city want.

“But through robust financial management we want to help residents in the financial squeeze by reducing council tax and ensuring that we deliver essential services effectively.”

There will be a debate, of course, about the redundancies that have been announced, but even here the council (or is it Mary Mears, again?) looks to have been smart.  As the council press release says: “Job losses will be minimised because the council has already started deleting empty posts and reducing use of agency staff as well as redeploying and retraining. These principles have helped reduce the risk to jobs overall.”

Clive has also commented on my alleged ‘grudge’ against Mary Mears, as suggested by ‘The truth’: “if the blogger has a huge grudge against Mary Mears, he has an odd way of showing it.”  I recently posted an item describing Mary Mears as a shrewd operator you underestimate at your peril.  Read that post here.

One final points, Christopher Hawtree bumped into me, I mean Roy Pennington earlier today.  Chris confronted me/him, as to whether he was the Brighton Politics Blogger.  “I saw Roy Pennington today and he said, chortlingly, that the most basic textual analysis would show that there is no connection between him and the Blogger.”  Phew, that was a close call.

Doorstep Brighton 6: Official – no Estate Agents standing for the Tories in Goldsmid Ward … or is this denial really true?

Rob Buckwell, who I have met on several occasions and is a very nice, earnest young man, has the wisdom to say that “there are times when (the BPB’s) analysis is sadly incorrect. This is certainly the case with the Conservative campaign in Goldsmid.” 

He goes on with the usual guff that all candidates spout about working extremely hard to get their message out to the people of Goldsmid and reassures us that his party has far from given up on this ward.  He is hardly going to say we are a pathetic bunch of wasters with no hope of election. “On the contrary” he says “we are campaigning extremely hard to win all three seats in this crucial three way marginal. We passionately believe in our priorities for the ward and the city, and I look forward to the time Brighton & Hove has some of the lowest council tax in the country under a Conservative majority council.” 

Young Conservatives are becoming as bad as New Labour types with their on-massage line, with Tories it is looking forward to the time when “Brighton & Hove has some of the lowest council tax in the country”. 

Responding to a comment I made about the three Tory candidates resembling estate agents, he writes: “I can inform you that I am not an Estate Agent!”  But Rob fails to provide the assurance that neither of his fellow candidates are not estate agents either.  What does this omission tell us?

I am always pleased when some controversy surfaces about those wards with less prominence, and even more delighted when it becomes personal.  The shy and retiring ‘Dr Faust’ hesitated before making this comment given what he perceives as my general view of Green councillors, and my particular “affection for Amy Kennedy”.  In response to the headline that Green councillors take their responsibilities more seriously, have more weight of expectation upon them, and work harder (not my view, I hasten to add) he says that in Preston Park ward it “is certainly not the case”.  He says that it is his experience “that Amy rarely replies to issues raised, other than a ‘holding’ response, whereas the Labour members are more likely to.”

‘Steampunk’ jumps to the Good Lady’s defence.  He writes: “A Labour supporting work colleague from Preston Park recently told me that the two Labour councillors in her ward were pathetic (her words) but she found Amy very diligent.” 

I have previously been known to tease Amy by making made reference to her obsession with baking and her Stassi-style tabards (ok, she only wore it once) but I am happy to say that I have great respect and admiration for her as an unapologetic feminist.  I still think the speech she made in 2009, in which she introduced a successful motion calling on Brighton & Hove City Council to celebrate its leadership of women’s rights by adopting the Fawcett Charter, is worth watching (it can be found on You Tube).

My ‘spies’ in Preston Park ward tell me that Amy has been fantastic as a ward councillor, and several of them involved in the protracted campaign against the development of land alongside London Road station have been so impressed by her that at least two activists (both former Labour Party members) have joined the Green Party.

Preston Park remains one of the most interesting seats in the City, a key battleground between Labour (with two councillors – Kevin Allen and Juliet McCaffery) and the Greens.  Rumours have it that both Juliet and Amy will not be seeking re-election.  In both cases, a great shame.  Perhaps someone could let me know if this is actually the case, and who the candidates are for both Labour and the Greens.

‘Clive’ takes me to task by saying that I you never took up his point regarding David Watkins and Ann Giebeler who ended up as independents, and how little renegade independents seem to prosper. I agree, Clive.  I think it is a shame that there are so few independents elected at local level across the country.  Clive refers to the exception that was Jayne Bennett, but asks, “how renegade was she anyway?”.  Indeed. 

And here ends the latest Doorstep Brighton update – with no mention of Christopher Hawtree.  Oh, damn.  Ruined it …