notes from JK

Launching the draft Green budget for our city

This morning I took part in a press conference launching the first budget from the UK’s first Green-led council. There was lots of interest and you can read all about the Green proposals online.

The response from the community and voluntary sector so far has been cautiously positive. In contrast Brighton Politics Blogger hasn’t held back in being very positive indeed.

Privately and publicly Labour’s response, despite our open letter, has not been particularly constructive. In fact it’s been completely contradictory as they have attacked “Green Tory cuts” and also attacked our plans for a 3.5% council tax rise. Increasing council tax by just 57p more a week for the average home is how we can resist the worst of the Tory government’s cuts and keep job losses to an absolute minimum. I wonder what union members think of Labour’s position advocating a tax freeze at the cost of jobs and public services?

Tories have also gone for the contradictory approach – astonishingly saying Green plans are attacking frontline services, whilst continuing to push their freeze gimmick which would be funded at the expense of services and funded by pension fund raids. The Tory-led government are the reason the council is facing such a challenging budget-setting process.

But it gets better, the brass-necked Tories have issued a release filled with inaccuracies and lies. They claim they protected frontline services during their period in power, which is utterly false. Let’s run through other falsehoods in their release:

” This Green Administration has wasted the last 6 months by failing to continue with our value for money programme”

FALSE: We have continued the Value for Money programme this year, and details of its continuation for the next two years are in the budget papers. An underspend is predicted for the end of this financial year, we are managing public money carefully. Their statement is completely false.

” increases in parking charges, including a £400 per annum increase in the cost of permits for businesses”

FALSE: Business parking permits will be increased to £400, not increased by £400 as the Tories claim! Our proposal is below the £420 charged in Eastbourne, £1,000 charged in Lewes and £1,560 charged in Islington… for example.

” Closing some Sure Start children’s centres across the city.”

FALSE: No specifics are mentioned in the budget papers whatsoever other than a consultation. Legally the consultation has to consider all options (including closure). We are looking whether centres are in the best locations possible for access by those residents most in need of their services. Making the best, most efficient use of council access points is something you’d think Tories would like!

“Big increases in admission charges to the Royal Pavilion”

FALSE: We don’t expect or refer to big increases in charges, what we do expect is a continuing increase in the popularity of the Pavilion as has been the case in recent years. That continued growth will help offset budget pressure from the government imposed cuts. We are looking at more flexible pricing year-round which may increase and decrease prices at various times but the “saving” in the budget papers is income from increased patronage.

The release questions why no savings are being proposed for human resources and communications.

FALSE: The budget papers cover savings proposals for both of these areas adding up to hundreds of thousands of pounds over the next two financial years.

Will the Tories correct their release?

UPDATED 3/12/11 To clarify language relating to children’s centres.

5 replies on “Launching the draft Green budget for our city”

I was looking at your response to the “completely false statement by the Tories” re the increase in business permits…you compare to the cost to that charged in Eastbourne and Lewes but it is my understanding that a business permit in both Lewes and Eastbourne allows parking in multi zones and not just outside your office front door. I think you must agree that a permit which allows you to park across the city is entirely different to a permit for one zone and if you are trying to charge the same or similar fees the Brighton scheme would offer a lot less value for money. I think businesses would be pleased to pay an EXTRA £400 per annum if it allowed them unlimited parking all over the city, but that is not what you had in mind I guess. Have I misunderstood?

There are two kinds of permits we offer – the business ones are for just the zone the business is in. It’s aimed at people wanting to park near their business, and so they are cheaper. There are also trader permits which allow parking across the city, hence they are dearer.

Brighton & Hove is larger than Lewes or Eastbourne and has much greater demand so I think it’s fair to say we need more options than a single all-out option. Hope that clarifies.

Thanks for clarification, but it doesn’t quite explain why you then use Eastbourne and Lewes fees as a direct comparison and justification for your rise when they are offering a completely different proposition. Don’t you think that going from £175 to £400 is quite a jump? You’d never get away with a rise like that for residential, so why is business fair game for rises like this?

Eastbourne will be half the price of Brighton after the increase I reckon:

Eastbourne: There are four sub-zones in Eastbourne, called zones A, G, S and N.
Permit cost for One sub zone: £220 per year
Permit cost for All sub zones: £420 per year

Hi. I didn’t pick the comparisons, council officers did. I think they add context but you’re right they aren’t perfect direct comparisons. Local differences often make direct comparison imperfect.

The £175 rate was introductory when the permits were first implemented. We are now catching up with where they should have been. On a per day basis they will still be good value. Also the changes help us increase the number of permits available to reduce the waiting list.

Not perfect is an understatement. Misleading is another way of putting it. This is why people get fed up listening to politicians. I’m disappointed.

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