I was extremely pleased with the outcome of the council’s budget meeting a couple of weeks ago. We managed to get agreement on five out of our six amendments which made all the hard work we have put into the process worthwhile. Our successes included:
Restoring £440,000 to the Youth Services Budget which Labour had proposed to cut by £645,000. Increasing funding by £150,000 for the Direct Payment scheme to secure short respite breaks for families with disabled children
Reducing Labour’s proposed cut in the budget for support to the city’s vitally important community and voluntary sector by £148,000
Investing £50,000 in new playground equipment in Mile Oak Recreation Ground, Portslade, something promised by Labour before the 2015 elections but not delivered
Increasing the budget for street tree planting and maintenance by £14,000
Reducing the money spent on councillors’ ‘Special Responsibility Allowances’ by £43,000
Helping to tackle air pollution by removing the discount on resident parking permits currently enjoyed by owners of diesel cars
However, these headlines only tell half the story! Despite telling everyone who would listen that he didn’t want to be doing any behind-closed- doors deals this year, less than an hour before the meeting was due to start, we were shown an amendment produced a little bit earlier by council leader Warren Morgan to his own budget designed purely to try and buy off the Greens.
I’m pleased to say that his tactics failed.
I would also like to take this opportunity publicly to thank all the young people who worked so hard persuading key decision makers just how important youth work is to them and thousands of other young people in Brighton and Hove.
They turned out in numbers for protests, took deputations to council meetings and asked intelligent and incisive questions of the Labour administration at committees. This took a great deal of courage and perseverance and they deserve huge credit for articulating their case so clearly. I’m very pleased that we were able to support their cause.
Attention now turns to the national Budget on Wednesday which gave a series of commitments to projects that could greatly benefit residents and businesses in Brighton and Hove.
Most notably: a £300m national fund for local authorities to assist businesses most negatively affected by the 2017 business rate revaluation, a £690m fund available to local authorities to improve urban congestion, a £2bn cash injection over the next three years into adult social care and £100m investment to place GP’s in A&E departments by next winter.
There is no doubt that these investments will help to alleviate some pressing issues in our area and I therefore look forward to the council utilising these pots of money to the city’s best advantage.
Cllr Geoffrey Theobald is leader of the Conservative Group on Brighton and Hove City Council.