It is Groundhog Day as councillors look to the elections on May 7

The group leaders: Jason Kitcat (Green), Geoffrey Theobald (Conservative), and Warren Morgan (Labour) will speak at our Have Your Say meeting on Tuesday
The group leaders: Jason Kitcat (Green), Geoffrey Theobald (Conservative), and Warren Morgan (Labour) will speak at our Have Your Say meeting on Tuesday

It is at time like these that even Brighton and Hove Independent has to reach for a cliché.

It is at time like these that even Brighton and Hove Independent has to reach for a cliché.

Somehow, in the early squalls of electioneering - amid the dead calm, it has to be said, of electorate apathy - it seems appropriate.

Here goes.

The definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

That's what Albert Einstein said. Although nobody quite knows when, or where. Or even why.

Welcome to Groundhog Day.

When members of all parties go through the motions - literally, in the case of the Green Party last weekend - and, in the spirit of holier-than-them, try to crawl to the moral high ground, if such a place exists in our budget-setting process.

We know the routine, much as Bill Murray does in the great 1993 Hollywood hit.

He knows the script, but he cannot escape it.

In the parochial version that is so beloved of our political leaders in Brighton and Hove, it goes something like this: the minority Green administration tries to increase tax beyond what - according to the government - we are not allowed to contemplate, at least not without spending excessive amounts on a citywide referendum. (Note for the near-future: Will a Labour government remove this ludicrous restriction, if elected after May 7? We are a grown-up city that should be allowed to make grown-up decisions for ourselves.)

Then, the Conservative opposition argues - in, it has to be said, a principled and perfectly proper way - that the budget should be frozen. That we would not choose to start from where we are; that it it is not too late to re-think what the city council does and how it does it. (Note for the near-future: What exactly do they propose?).

Oh no, say the others. We can't allow that - and we certainly cannot allow Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government, implement it.

So then we come to Labour, with 13 councillors, the smallest group on the council. We don't want, they say, "hardworking" families who are suffering a "cost-of-living crisis" to pay for the cuts of a Conservative-led government. No, we will vote only for a 1.99% council tax increase. Unless, of course, you are one of the unemployed families living in poverty or near-poverty, for whom the cost of surviving (rather than living) is top priority.

In which case, Labour is willing - in the case of 16,000 of our poorest households - to push through a 76% increase in council tax by changing the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

The Greens won't vote for such a modest "threshold" 1.99% increase in council tax; the Conservatives won't vote for such a big rise in council tax - which is, after all, four times the rate of inflation. They won't, I can reveal, even vote determinedly to trigger a referendum that gives us the choice between 5.9% and 0%. They will join in Groundhog Day, with both the other parties.

And how will it end?

Not like Hollywood, that's for sure. Or if it does, it will be more like that other Hollywood hit, The Day After Tomorrow.

Or Armageddon.