“Bluntly, no one in Government can say how councils will be funded after 2020 when they were all supposed to become self-financing.”
This is the stark conclusion of one newspaper report this week as it has become clear that plans by the Government to hand back local business rate money to town halls are stalled at best.
My counterpart in Newcastle, and vice-chair of the Local Government Association Cllr Nick Forbes said: “We’re approaching a cliff edge and no-one has any idea how to stop us hurtling over it.”
The Government keeps more than £50m of the rates paid by businesses in Brighton and Hove. By 2020, whoever runs our city council will have £100m less in Government funding to pay for the services we all use. Costs don’t stand still either. More litter has to be collected, social care costs are increasing, benefit cuts mean pressure on welfare services, and no-one knows exactly how badly Brexit will hit our economy. And then there are the cuts in Government funding of over £11m to our schools.
The challenges are enormous. In just over 18 months time you will again go to the polling stations to elect the councillors who will have to meet those challenges.
My team and I will be ready. We will stand on our record of achievement in housing, basic services, protecting the vulnerable and boosting an economy that works for all, a record that is already good but which we will add to in the coming year. We will offer more.
We will ask for a majority on the council, the chance to build on that record, meet the challenges we face, and bring our experience to bear on the issues that matter to you. We will innovate and adapt, we will fight for fairer funding and get the best deal for your communities. More decent and affordable homes, more secure and well-paid jobs, continued improvement in all our schools, an infrastructure fit for tomorrow. In the face of difficult times we will offer stability and hope for an ambitious, better Brighton and Hove, confidently British and European, outward looking and open for business, proud of its heritage and future. If our vision is one you support, share your ideas with us and think what contribution you can make to ensure a majority Labour council in 2019.
Warren Morgan is the Labour leader of Brighton & Hove City Council.