Finishing touches to budget for Brighton and Hove City Council

Hove Town Hall
Hove Town Hall

This year’s council spending plans for Brighton and Hove were described as ‘a polished over-ripe banana’ by the opposition.

Last night (February 14), council leader Dan Yates outlined the latest draft of the 2019/20 city council budget.

It now includes spending £250,000 on a year-round homeless night shelter and reversing a £50,000 cut to services for women and girls who are victims of violence.

But while Conservative group leader, Councillor Tony Janio praised officers for their work, he criticised the Labour leadership for lacking in imagination.

Speaking at the policy, resources and growth committee , he said: “I think the best thing to say is your officers have polished an over-ripe banana.

“This budget is an over-ripe banana lacking in imagination, it is dripping with no innovative schemes. Just nothing.”

In response committee chair and council leader, Labour’s Daniel Yates said: “It is officers who do most of the hard work to deliver services, ensuring the on-going services we can afford, thanks to Tory austerity.”

This year’s proposed council tax increase of 2.99 per cent is the highest it can go without triggering a local referendum.

The council’s total spending budget for the year is £761.647 million with government grants including education and housing.

The biggest budget areas are education, housing, adult social care and children’s services.

A year-round night shelter for rough sleepers and protection of services for victims of domestic violence was announced by the council on February 6.

Previously the night shelter operated during the winter, only. Now £250,000 will keep it going all year.

And a £50,000 cut in services for women and girls affected by violence was withdrawn after an extra £375,000 in savings was found else where in the budget.

There is now just one stage left before the budget goes forward and the city council’s share of the bill for the average band D home increases to £1,595.45.

This increase works out at £46.38 from last year but does not include the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner and East Sussex Fire and Rescue share of the bill.

Green Councillor Ollie Sykes raised the issues of job losses within the library services and community safety team for a saving of £242,000.

These work out as eight full time positions in libraries and one in community safety.

He also asked about the £210,000 given to local authorities from central government to help them prepare for Brexit.

In response director of finance and resources David Kuenssberg explained this is on hold until the authority has an idea of what Brexit will look like but was for preparation rather than dealing with the impact.

Chief executive Geoff Raw said the council is working with other authorities in the region in preparation and expected more direct support from the government once the picture is clearer.

Conservative group leader, Councillor Tony Janio thanked Mr Kuenssberg and the finance team for delivering a balanced budget while laying criticism at the Labour administration.

This year’s budget includes savings of £14.761m.

Money from central government has dropped by £39.574 million in the last four years.

This year Brighton and Hove received £6.523 million from the government as Revenue Support Grant, down from £14.144 million last year.

Pay increases, inflation  and increased demands mean the authority has had to make £111.584 million in savings during the four-year period.

The budget goes before the full city council when it meets in public at Hove Town Hall on Thursday February 28 from 4.30pm.