An immediate, knee-jerk reaction to the Brighton and Hove City Council Budget Meeting

And so there we have it: the Brighton and Hove City Council budget for 2011/12. Here is my immediate and largely unconsidered knee-jerk reaction (nothing new there).

The amendments put forward by Labour and the Greens have been passed. That’s some good news at this time of harrowing cuts elsewhere. There are two ways of looking at this. One, put forward by @sandyd68 on Twitter, is that it is soft cuts as opposed to hard.  (Those supporting this view were calling, until the final vote, for Labour and Green councillors not to vote in favour of the amended budget.) The other, put forward by some Tories, is that if the Tory budget had remained unamended, elsewhere in the country people would be jumping for joy.

The reality is that the substantive budget put forward by the Tories was a clever election budget. There are 3 key matters that the Tories will now latch onto in the election campaign. One is the reversal of the Council Tax cut. It provides them with a useful headline and a rallying point for Grizzlies and the Estate Agent Tendency in Goldsmid. Two, the defeat of the parking permit cut will be used by the Tories in town centre wards, now the stronghold of the Greens. Fortunately, the Greens are too strong in these areas for this to make a difference. Three, the cutting of grass verges – £100k cut from that budget. Tories in the leafy suburbs will make hay while the grass grows. It could cost some votes in one or two areas of Hollingdean and Stanmer, but then that is largely a fight between Labour and the Greens. It could, however, make a difference in Labour / Tory contests in areas such as Hangleton and Knoll (now that Dawn Barnett and Brian Fitch have found common cause on the top deck of the No 5 bus).

For the Greens, the victory regarding the cycle lanes in The Drive and Grand Avenue is a two-edged sword. It preserves two cycle lanes (although not the greatest in the world) but denies the Greens a fantastic campaign issue for their campaigns in Central Hove and Goldsmid.

For Labour, they have the comfort of being part of something that wasn’t defeated by the Tories. However, they ame across as the minor partner in this budget coalition. On the whole, the Green councillors made stronger and more impassioned speeches. Some of the Tory speeches were ill-tempered and amounted to name-calling. It would have been better had more Tories made speeches that were positive about their budget rather than speak about Labour’s 2007 budget. Who the heck cares if it was Simon Burgess or Gill Mitchell who presented Labour’s last budget (it was Simon, for the record). Garry Peltzer Dunne is a very amiable chap to spend time with, but his speech was something else, not sure what, but something else!

The final twist of the evening came with Labour abstaining on the final vote on the budget (thereby ensuring it was carried).  The Greens voted against.  The Greens will be seen as carrying through its principles with Labour allowing the Tory budget through.  The Tories, of course, voted for the amended budget since it was largely theirs.  On balance, it was a good night for the Tories, Greens and, to a lesser extent, Labour. For the Lib Dem Group of One, opposing the Tory budget at least avoided political suicide.

The final word to @sandyd68 on Twitter.  “Labour sell out. Left wing coalition, my arse!”