Bun fight over burger vans and the Budget

Hove Town Hall
Hove Town Hall

It all began with a burger van.

Last week Conservative councillors secured a review over Brighton and Hove City Council’s policy on mobile street traders, after raising concerns about a burger van opposite Hove Town Hall.

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It was unfair, the Tories said, that mobile traders didn’t have to pay business rates, when directly competing with shops and restaurants which do pay.

Then came the Spring Budget announcement.

Cllr Warren Morgan, the Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, wrote an article for this week’s Brighton & Hove Independent asking where the local Conservatives’ ‘outrage’ was concerning ‘their own government’s policy on local authority funding’, and accused the local Tories of remaining ‘silent’ on business rate rises, NHS funding and the social care crisis.

And Cllr Morgan then released a statement which said: “This week our local Tories have been expressing fake outrage at the wrong target, and zero outrage where it should be directed: at their own Chancellor of the Exchequer. They have been upset about one burger van while failing to notice all the wheels coming off their own government’s policy on local authority funding. They need to speak up or stand down, and leave representing the people of Brighton and Hove to those of us with the city’s interests truly at heart.”

Geoffrey Theobald, leader of the Conservative Group on Brighton and Hove City Council

Geoffrey Theobald, leader of the Conservative Group on Brighton and Hove City Council

But Cllr Geoffrey Theobald, leader of the Conservative Group on Brighton and Hove City Council, hit back.

He said: “This bizarre rant from the council leader shows just how far detached from reality and the interests of ordinary working people the Labour Party has become under Jeremy Corbyn.

“Yes, Cllr Morgan, we do back the £2 billion extra for adult social care and the £425 million for the NHS that the Chancellor allocated in his Budget to help tackle the problems associated with the country’s ageing population.

“Yes, we do back the £735 million that the Chancellor committed to help small businesses cope with the business rate revaluation.

“Yes, we do back the huge investment in new Free Schools, another one of which (and you Cllr Morgan have backed), will soon be opening in this City.

“And yes, we certainly do back the £500 million a year investment in post-16 technical education for our talented young people who don’t want to follow the academic route.

“Perhaps Cllr Morgan would also like to join us in celebrating the city’s all-time record high employment rate, the highest wage increases in the country for the city’s workforce and the multi-million pound investment in major projects in the city from the Government’s Local Growth Fund.

“What we have spoken up about are the local Labour Party’s attempts to decimate the city’s highly valued youth service and thanks to our hard work and perseverance, this has now been saved. So much for Labour having the city’s best interests at heart.

“I wish that Cllr Morgan would put as much effort into running Brighton and Hove City Council as he does into churning out pointless press releases.”