I submitted this letter to The Argus in response to this spread of letters on the budget process. Unfortunately The Argus haven’t yet chosen to publish it, so here it is:
How quick the Conservative and Labour councillors are to criticise, yet it is both their parties who argue the devastating budget cuts being imposed on us are necessary. Greens disagree and we are campaigning hard to change national policies which will harm the poorest and most vulnerable residents of our city. We face a 33% cut in the council’s formula grant over 4 years.
Conservatives are being disingenuous in claiming they had no plans for a 2.5% council tax increase. On 17th February 2011 the Conservative administration’s cabinet voted for a Medium Term Financial Strategy which included a 2.5% council tax increase for the next three financial years. Will Jan Young and Cllr Ann Norman withdraw their statements to the contrary?
Let’s be clear, the discussion currently underway is about the next council budget for the financial year 2012/13. It is highly misleading to suggest the underspend from the last financial year (2010/11), which in their dying days Conservatives had already programmed into the current year’s budget (2011/12), should have anything to do with the next year (2012/13)!
It will be up to all councillors to vote on what the next budget will be, including council tax. We understand the challenge everyone’s finances are facing: We are being careful with every penny. The proposed 3.5% increase is below inflation and will cost a Band D taxpayer 85p more a week compared with this year’s tax rate. Meanwhile the council needs to reduce its spend by up to 15% in the next two years.
Our whole budget approach will be to face that challenge in the most open, inclusive and sensitive way possible. I encourage all The Argus’ readers to participate in the consultation process when it starts later this year.
Cllr Jason Kitcat
Green Cabinet member for Finance & Central Services
Brighton & Hove City Council