The Green-run administration in Brighton and Hove appear to be facing defeat over their plans to increase the Council Tax. There will be a meeting this evening and Labour and Conservative councillors are backing a freeze.
The TaxPayers Alliance have issued a dossier which notes that since 2001-02 Brighton and Hove residents have seen their Council Tax bills increase by 64 per cent.
It points out that:
- Brighton and Hove Council paid staff 65p per mile for using their cars in 2010/11, far higher than the HMRC recommended rate of 40p per mile.
- The Chief Executive at Brighton and Hove Council received total remuneration of £220,100 in 2010/2011.
- There were at least 10 staff who received more than £100,000 in remuneration at the authority in 2009/10.
- 17 councillors at Brighton and Hove Council were enrolled on the LGPS in 2010/11. Many authorities choose not to allow councillors onto the scheme, recognising the historically volunteer role of local politicians.
- Taxpayers paid (via employer contributions) £19,104,112 to the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) at Brighton and Hove Council.
- Councillors' allowances at Brighton and Hove Council cost taxpayers £879,000 in 2010-11 up £10,000 from the year before.
- The estimated cost of trade union officials at Brighton and Hove is £231,177 these are staff whose time is paid for by taxpayers while they work for the trade unions. This does not include the cost of other support provided such as office space or the administration of union fees.
- TPA research into 'unnecessary jobs' in 2010 revealed that Brighton and Hove employed three EU Officers and three Political Advisors at a cost of £228,635 in 2009-10.
- The TPA have highlighted various non-jobs advertised at the council including a Skate Park Development Worker and an Audience Development Officer.
The Shadow Cabinet Minister Lord Bassam has a very sound blog post which could also serve as a robust critique to the small number of Labour and Conservative councils planning tax rises. He points out that the Greens are combining cuts in front line services with their Council Tax hike.
He calls for "a radical re-think. This should be based around what we agree the local council is for and it’s priorities of the City.
"We need to down size management. The nonsense of four so called strategic directors has to end and end now. We should take out bureaucracy and make sure it is fit for purpose, that services are run by service heads who are accountable. Reduce the tiers of management. Our City is over managed. Concentrate on the front line. Currently the chief executive says he will take out one strategic director. I say plan for the future with a smaller management core. Set an ambitious target for management savings of £4m or £5m.
There are big savings to be made from shedding back office costs. Pool them. Why have 13 different authorities collecting council tax or administering housing benefit across Sussex for example? Most services have common back office features in terms of support. Create a Sussex consortia of authorities and agencies for common services.
Finally he suggests;
Take a harder look at procurement and contracts. Why have so many contracts got built in year on year percentage increases when across the public service we have wage restraints and freezes. The private sector that feeds off the public sector should not be immune from sharing the burden of austerity. If it is cheaper to procure In house do it, but if not then use another or cooperative or a joint public service provider. It is the service that matters.
That's all good stuff, isn't it? But what a shame Labour councils typically ignore Lord Bassam's advice.