This morning I took part in a press conference launching the first budget from the UK’s first Green-led council. There was lots of interest and you can read all about the Green proposals online.
The response from the community and voluntary sector so far has been cautiously positive. In contrast Brighton Politics Blogger hasn’t held back in being very positive indeed.
Privately and publicly Labour’s response, despite our open letter, has not been particularly constructive. In fact it’s been completely contradictory as they have attacked “Green Tory cuts” and also attacked our plans for a 3.5% council tax rise. Increasing council tax by just 57p more a week for the average home is how we can resist the worst of the Tory government’s cuts and keep job losses to an absolute minimum. I wonder what union members think of Labour’s position advocating a tax freeze at the cost of jobs and public services?
Tories have also gone for the contradictory approach – astonishingly saying Green plans are attacking frontline services, whilst continuing to push their freeze gimmick which would be funded at the expense of services and funded by pension fund raids. The Tory-led government are the reason the council is facing such a challenging budget-setting process.
But it gets better, the brass-necked Tories have issued a release filled with inaccuracies and lies. They claim they protected frontline services during their period in power, which is utterly false. Let’s run through other falsehoods in their release:
“ This Green Administration has wasted the last 6 months by failing to continue with our value for money programme”
FALSE: We have continued the Value for Money programme this year, and details of its continuation for the next two years are in the budget papers. An underspend is predicted for the end of this financial year, we are managing public money carefully. Their statement is completely false.
“ increases in parking charges, including a £400 per annum increase in the cost of permits for businesses”
FALSE: Business parking permits will be increased to £400, not increased by £400 as the Tories claim! Our proposal is below the £420 charged in Eastbourne, £1,000 charged in Lewes and £1,560 charged in Islington… for example.
“ Closing some Sure Start children’s centres across the city.”
FALSE: No specifics are mentioned in the budget papers whatsoever other than a consultation. Legally the consultation has to consider all options (including closure). We are looking whether centres are in the best locations possible for access by those residents most in need of their services. Making the best, most efficient use of council access points is something you’d think Tories would like!
“Big increases in admission charges to the Royal Pavilion”
FALSE: We don’t expect or refer to big increases in charges, what we do expect is a continuing increase in the popularity of the Pavilion as has been the case in recent years. That continued growth will help offset budget pressure from the government imposed cuts. We are looking at more flexible pricing year-round which may increase and decrease prices at various times but the “saving” in the budget papers is income from increased patronage.
The release questions why no savings are being proposed for human resources and communications.
FALSE: The budget papers cover savings proposals for both of these areas adding up to hundreds of thousands of pounds over the next two financial years.
Will the Tories correct their release?
UPDATED 3/12/11 To clarify language relating to children’s centres.