This week marks the start of the budget-setting process for 2019/20, and the fourth budget produced for the city under the Labour administration.
Over these four years the city council has faced three significant challenges, including meeting £56m of growth in demand for services – much of this in adult social care and children’s services. Additionally we have seen our costs rise by £16m over this time, caused by pay settlements and inflation. Finally our government support grant has been cut by £39m to only £6.5m next year.
This has meant three years of significant council tax rises to help to bridge the gap. The initial budget proposals are the first step in setting a budget for next year and meeting again these massive challenges.
We know that in other authorities services have been slashed (and even entire councils gone to the wall), and that their failures to meet the challenges of Tory austerity have seen their local communities facing services that do the bare minimum.
Brighton and Hove is not about the bare legal minimum, and I’m proud that this budget and our four-year planning approach have shown innovation and ambition rather than simply cuts and stagnation. We have invested year on year in adult and children’s care services to protect our most vulnerable residents, working with partners and external funders to make our performance amongst the best in the country.
With a scheme like Brooke Mead, we have innovated to offer the extra care housing that supports our residents’ desire to remain independent. Our rough sleeping strategy is driving us to support those living in the most vulnerable circumstances in the city. Where other councils are slashing libraries we have one more library in the city than in 2015, and have introduced Libraries Extra, with improved access and opening times across our libraries service as a whole.
I will not claim that every change is positive or that every decision has been easy or straightforward. But considering the size of the challenge and the risks of failure, I look forward to engaging across the city to get this fourth Labour budget delivering for the many not the few.
Cllr Daniel Yates is the leader of the Labour group on Brighton & Hove City Council.