Conservatives unveil amendments to Labour’s budget for Brighton and Hove City Council

Cllr Tony Janio, leader of the Conservatives on Brighton and Hove City Council SUS-180215-140221001
Cllr Tony Janio, leader of the Conservatives on Brighton and Hove City Council SUS-180215-140221001

The Tories have today (February 25) unveiled their ‘alternative budget’ proposals for Brighton and Hove City Council for the next financial year (2019/20).

They would axe the Neighbourhood, Inclusion, Communities and Equalities Committee and make further cuts to the administration, communications and economic development teams.

But the Conservatives said this would mean they could reduce the council tax rise and reduce cuts in respite services for children and young people with disabilities and sexual health services.

The proposals going before councillors on Thursday (February 28) are the Labour administration’s plans, but last week the defection of a Labour councillor to the Conservatives mean the Tories have one more councillor.

Related stories: Conservatives could take over Brighton & Hove City Council as Labour councillor defects

Council tax rise and jobs axed at Brighton and Hove City Council

The Conservative Group, which now has 21 councillors to Labour’s 20 – has revealed two amendments to the budget it will put to council this week.

It would need the backing of Labour or 11 Green councillors to get its amendments approved.

It said the amendments would ‘see a cut back in Labour’s tax rise, by reducing bureaucracy and waste whilst protecting front-line services’.

Conservative Group leader Tony Janio said: “After four years of Labour, it’s not surprising Conservatives can find areas where money is still being wasted.

“We are proposing cutting this waste to give council tax payers a small break. We are able to go further by using some of these resources to support some of the most vulnerable people in our city. On the doorsteps, people tell us they are ashamed of the state of our city. We are not just saying Conservatives can sort this out; we have made concrete proposals providing the resources to do it.”

Conservative finance spokesman Andrew Wealls said: “Every year Labour propose cutting services for children and families with disabilities. We understand how challenging keeping families together can be when a child is disabled and every year for the past four years we’ve tried (and succeeded) to reverse Labour’s attack. We are trying again this year.”

Cllr Daniel Yates, Labour leader of the council, said: “Whilst the Conservative government is stripping out money from our council budgets today, these local Tory proposals plan to borrow from an uncertain Brexit future to create an election-focussed council tax change of only 0.37 per cent.

“The Conservatives are a party who claim to be planning on running the city council, but who have only come up with budget proposals which affect less than 0.1 per cent of the Labour administration’s general revenue fund budget.

“This shows that their ambition and competence to run our city is minimal. What happens when the money runs out appears to be something that the Conservative group aren’t prepared to discuss at this point, just like the Conservative government’s head in the sand approach to Brexit.”

Conservative amendment one

The first amendment proposes £639,000 in savings, which includes £200,000 extra cuts to administrative posts.

It would also cut the council’s communications service by £250,000, prioritising ‘key internal and external communications’.

The Conservatives would also scrap the Neighbourhood, Inclusion, Communities and Equalities Committee from May 2019, saving £11,000 a year in special responsibility allowances.

And it would see cuts of £70,000 to the Economic Development and Regeneration Team in reducing resources in business support.

The Travellers’ service would also be cut by £60,000 through a review of the Horsdean Transit Site security and staffing of the service.

The amendment also details cuts to the transport budget, and the facilities and building maintenance service.

It said these savings would allow the proposed council tax increase to be reduced by 2.99 per cent to 2.62 per cent – a difference of £519,000.

It is also set to reduce proposed £140,000 saving in respite care and short breaks for disabled children by £40,000, increase cash for the library service’s book fund by £10,000 and provide an extra £10,000 to the rough sleepers service to deliver an information campaign to residents, businesses and visitors on how they can best support rough sleepers in the city.

It would also reduce the proposed £93,000 saving in Public Health for sexual health services by £60,000 to £33,000.

Conservative amendment two

The Conservatives have also proposed releasing capital funds to invest £1m in waste and recycling bins and to purchase more street cleaning equipment, as well as a further £1.9m to invest in pavements, parks, bus stops and grass verges.

The amendment detailed how this would be paid for: “It is proposed to release £1,000,000 of the £1,500,000 resources earmarked to support the Brighton Town Hall development from resources ringfenced for regeneration, and use these resources to replace the £1,000,000 allocation from capital receipts to support the Shelter Hall Scheme; thereby releasing £1,000,000 general capital receipts

“Release the unused £30,000 capital allocation to support Social Enterprise approved at Budget Council in February 2018.

“Use the expected rental income generated from the Shelter Hall development to borrow over an extended period of 50 years in line with the minimum life of the asset created instead of 20 years.

“This increases the borrowing from £2,000,000 to £3,900,000 with the extra £1,900,000 used to support the Shelter Hall project and thereby release £1,900,000 of unringfenced Local Transport Plan capital funding currently allocated to this project for reinvestment.

“The total resources released from the above proposals is £2,930,000.”

The Budget Meeting takes place at Hove Town Hall on Thursday (February 28) from 4pm.