Brighton & Hove City Council’s Conservative Administration has unveiled its budget proposals for 2011/12, the centre-piece of which is a 1% reduction in Council Tax. This would be the first Council Tax decrease in the history of the City Council and would leave residents in a ‘Band D’ home almost £60 better off than if council tax had gone up by inflation. This is in stark contrast to the increase in council tax of 124 imposed by the previous Labour Administration during their 10 years in charge of the Council.
Other measures in the budget include:
- A 5% reduction in the cost of resident parking permits
- An additional £500k of new money for youth services
- Protection of the budgets for voluntary organisations, Supporting People, Homelessness, Aids Support and respite for carers.
- Free swimming for under 11s
- Increased small grants for sports clubs and funding for the Take Part Festival
- Funding to refurbish Portslade Town Hall
- Removal of the controversial Grand Avenue / The Drive cycle lane
- More funding for repairing potholes, pavements and street lighting
- Establishing a new Local Homes Venture Fund for new housing
In addition, in contrast to many councils up and down the country, the Conservative Administration has committed to:
- No library closures and no reduced opening hours
- No closures to Sure Start Children’s Centres
- No cuts to City bus services
- No closures of public lavatories
- No move to fortnightly bin collections
- No enforced staff pay cuts and a minimising of compulsory redundancies
All this has been achieved in spite of a £17 million reduction in the Government’s Formula Grant to the City Council. The proposals will now go before the Full Council for approval on 3rd March.
Cllr. Mary Mears, Leader of Brighton & Hove City Council said:
”This is not a cuts budget, this is a budget to support the City. At a time when residents are struggling with high fuel and food bills we think it is important that we give them some relief by reducing their council tax and parking permits. I would urge the opposition Groups to think very carefully about this before casting their votes on 3rd March. Residents will not thank them if they combine to overturn this budget.”
A significant part of the £24 million savings package which the Conservative Administration is putting forward have come from the innovative Value for Money review. This review was initiated in late 2009 when it became clear that councils would be required to make a significant contribution to the Government’s national debt reduction package.
Measures taken include:
- removing vacant posts
- improving procurement practices
- cutting out unnecessary layers of management
- more effective management of sickness absence
- cutting down on the use of agency staff
- working to share costs and buildings with other councils and public sector partners in the City.
Cllr. Jan Young, Cabinet Member for Finance added:
“Whilst councils up and down the country are closing libraries, cutting voluntary sector grants and making thousands of staff redundant, we in Brighton & Hove are protecting all these things and more, and still putting money back in residents’ pockets. We have been planning very carefully for these challenging times and I think that the hard work has paid off. We have managed as far as possible to cut the cost of delivering services whilst doing our utmost to protect the frontline.”
“This has not been an easy budget to set by any means but we have made full use of the new freedoms and flexibilities provided by the Government’s decision to remove the ringfence on almost all their grant funding. This has allowed us to protect all our Sure Start Children’s Centres and funding for vital community safety work which we would otherwise have been forced to cut.”