The Green Party has voted that it will not support any further cuts in council services.
The Green Party has voted that it will not support any further cuts in services by Brighton and Hove City Council and has insisted a 5.9% increase in council tax - proposed by its own councillors - is "not viable".
A general meeting of the party’s grassroots voted in support of a motion that stated: "To propose this rise in council tax in conjunction with a cuts budget would fatally undermine the Green Party's anti-austerity stance locally and nationally. It is the worst of all worlds."
The "no cuts" motion - proposed by John Medhurst, a respected author and trade unionist - had 17 seconders, including four Green Party councillors and a parliamentary candidate: Ruth Buckley, Green councillor for Goldsmid and deputy leader of the city council; Alex Phillips,Green councillor for Goldsmid; Davy Jones, Green parliamentary candidate for Brighton Kemptown; Liz Wakefield, Green councillor for Hanover and Elm Grove; and Mike Jones, Green councillor for Preston Park.
Activists in Brighton and Hove Green Party have been buoyed by news that membership has hit a new record - with 1,264 members in the city, increasing at the rate of up to 50 a day since the start of 2015.
The meeting also voted to ask Councillor Jason Kitcat to stand down as leader of the minority Green administration - or "Convenor" of the Green Group - in the run-up to the city council elections on May 7.
A second motion passed by the party's general meeting noted that Cllr Kitcat - who did not attend the meeting on Saturday - was not standing in the elections. It stated: "With this in mind, the Party asks that the Convenor steps down at the earliest possible opportunity to allow for internal elections to take place for a Convenor who can be the primary public figure in the campaign and lead the Green Group towards the best possible result."
In theory, the Green Party "no cuts" vote has to be followed by the party's 20 councillors; in practice, the Green Group is not "whipped" - and so individuals can decide how to vote on any issue.
The party motion, however, is crucial - coming as it does only weeks after Brighton and Hove Independent revealed some - or all - of the 18-member Conservative Group may vote to enable a referendum on the level of council tax to go to a referendum.
A referendum is required if councillors vote for an increase of 2% or more; the Labour Group - with 13 members, the smallest on the council - will vote for a 1.99% increase. The Conservative Group is determined that council tax bills will remain the same.
Today's disclosure means that complex calculations about what could happen as the city council struggles to plug a £26 million funding gap have got even more complex.
Even proponents of a 5.9% council tax increase accept this will provide only about £4 million towards bridging the funding gap.
Both Green and Conservative councillors accept that it is at least possible Labour will be left to vote through a cuts budget, with both the other main parties abstaining.
Similarly, it is possible that Green councillors who support a 5.9% increase might engineer a way of narrowly outvoting Labour councillors, with the Conservatives abstaining. Thus triggering a referendum required by government legislation.
For more details, see this week’s Brighton and Hove Independent.