Brighton Greens’ council tax move shows the fight against austerity is on

Brighton Greens are to hold a referendum to let local people choose between cuts or paying a pound a week extra tax.

Josiah Mortimer sits on the national committee of the Young Greens, the youth branch of the Green Party of England and Wales

Brighton and Hove’s Green council is taking bold steps to counter austerity. Last week the administration proposed a 4.75 per cent council tax rise to protect vital adult social care services for the city’s elderly and vulnerable residents, as well as funding for the third sector which has been badly hit by national cut-backs.

After three year of callous cuts from central government, Greens in Brighton have said enough is enough, arguing that radical solutions are needed to circumvent the next round of austerity being forced upon cities up and down the country. Brighton is the second hardest-hit unitary council nationally in terms of the budget reductions the coalition have forced upon it. 

That’s why they are planning to hold a referendum to let local people choose between sweeping cuts to adult social care or give around a pound a week extra.

Less than a fiver a month to protect the elderly seems like a fair ask, despite times of course being hard for Brighton residents. As Green council leader Jason Kitcat has said:

“This is the right time to ask the people what they think is the right approach – do we cut back services or pay extra, £4.53 a month or less for the majority of households, to show we really are a caring society?”

That’s not to downplay the truism that raising taxes is rarely popular, but councils face little choice. Caroline Lucas, throwing her weight behind the move, put it clearly:

“This is an appalling situation, for which the government is alone to blame. A referendum would allow the people of Brighton and Hove…to decide on the best response.”

And it’s not just Greens supporting the campaign to let Brighton decide their services’ future. The local GMB and Unison branches have spoken out in favour of the referendum, with Mark Turner, the city’s GMB branch secretary saying:

“This new budget would protect frontline services in adult social care. Cuts would have absolutely terrible consequences on people’s lives. It is only right that the public have a chance to vote on this proposal.”

The proposal for Brighton&Hove will pass in Council in February, unless opposed by both Labour and Tory councillors. It would then proceed to a ballot on 22 May – the same time as elections for European Parliament, significantly saving on administration costs.

However, the Tories and Labour in Brighton seem to be planning to stop the referendum. The proposal was rejected by the Brighton&Hove Labour Party within fifteen minutes of the announcement. They’ve also called on the minority-run council to step down, and are planning to propose a vote of no confidence, with leader of Brighton and Hove Labour Group, Warren Morgan calling for “a cross-party caretaker administration to run the council till the elections in 400 days.”

Such a care-taker administration can only mean one thing – a Labour-Tory coalition. Essentially Labour is seeking to get into bed with the Conservatives just to spite the Greens.

Meanwhile, the Tories are likely to be wedded to the coalition’s ideological council tax freeze, which is year-on-year shrinking the local state and depriving residents of key services hit by a combination of increasing demand and austerity.

In the face of such opposition, the minority council is in an extremely difficult place. That’s why it’s important that people inside and outside Brighton who support public services back the ‘#BrightonDecides’ campaign.

This Saturday, Young Greens from across the UK are heading to Brighton to campaign in favour of the referendum. We’ve also written to the national press, encouraging all Brighton&Hove councillors, and indeed councils across the country, to give the voters the chance to fight the toxicity of austerity.

Unlike other parties, the Green Party fundamentally opposes austerity – not just in words but in actions too. It’s a brave position, and it’s one that other councils, instead of simply capitulating to permanent austerity, should follow.

12 Responses to “Brighton Greens’ council tax move shows the fight against austerity is on”

  1. Cllr Warren Morgan

    Or you can read what is really behind this move, and why people struggling with austerity in Brighton and Hove can ill afford to back this political stunt:
    http://warrenmorgan.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/are-brighton-and-hove-residents-being-asked-to-pay-6-more-a-month-so-the-green-leader-can-keep-his-job/

  2. Cllr Warren Morgan

    And here is the reality of our proposal for an all party caretaker council administration. Green support has plummeted 13% since they were elected, and 80% oppose their tax increase in a poll conducted by the local press:
    http://brightonhovelabour.com/2014/01/22/statement-from-the-labour-and-co-operative-group-on-a-caretaker-administration-for-brighton-and-hove-city-council/

  3. swatnan

    ‘Compass’ has supported this local referendum, for giving more power to the people to determine their future, and I do as well. I’m in favour of more local referenda, but not carried out through a biased Press. I’ve never been keen on rate capping; and if residents want a good service then it stands to reason that they have to pay for it. And if they don’t agree then, they have the opportunity to turf the administration out next time round.

  4. James

    The Greens don’t want there to be a caretaker administration. And they said they won’t let the Tories into power. Your proposal would let the Tories into power and Brighton. It seems you’re totally okay with letting people’s care services go to the wall. You should join the tories, mate.

  5. Cllr Warren Morgan

    The Tories are already in power – there is no overall control on the council. This kind of “support the Greens or you are a Tory” line is why the Greens are on the way out.

  6. honukokua

    I’m puzzled. Why is a Labour team recommending “Council tax would increase at the below-inflation threshold set by the Government which has been adopted by over sixty Conservative-led councils, including Kent County Council.” Why follow a Tory lead?

  7. James

    Democracy – it’s a political stunt according to Labour.

    You’re a right-wing disgrace mate.

  8. bluecatbabe

    Conservatives are afraid of losing votes to UKIP so they nick some of their policies.

    Labour are apparently afraid of losing votes to the Greens so they… er… decide to get into bed with the Tories in order to scupper them and to prevent local people having a say in the council budget.

    And the opposition to austerity is…. where?

  9. blarg1987

    In a way the biggest waste to tax payers and so increased cost is things like the above.

    After 45 we had a general concensus of goverment that varied slightly between labour and conservative, however major projects were commisioned and agreed by both parties and continued under change of leadership allowing long term savings and efficent service provision.

    Now we no longer have that in national or local goverment, one party renationalises, the other privatises. One proposes policies that will save tax payers money over decades, the other scraps them to save a cheap buck.

    Politics need to change, and political parties need to change this need to staarts at a local council level.

  10. Martin Cross

    If the Green Party really were ‘fundamentally opposed to austerity’ why will they be implementing such massive cuts, even with a 4.75% increase? This proposal is little more than cynical political posturing, seeking to hold the bitterly divided Group together, whilst trying embarrass Labour by trying to link them to the Tories. The reality is that any referendum will probably be lost, leading to a further £250K of cuts to pay for it. But no worries – you can blame the electorate then.

  11. palawanstinkbadger

    Only about a quarter of council funding is raised by the councils themselves. For the rest, councils have to rely on central government funding. Because that has been cut back so viciously, the Green Party cannot physically do anything else but impose cuts.

  12. gerbil

    if labour voted with the greens instead of cutting there nose off to spite there face they may ( because they never thought of the idea ) start to repair the damage caused by there betrayal of the working class . not that i ever want to hear the word labour again! you can’t go forward to the future coping Green policy and at the same time go backwards by copying farage and his ego party tory lite is not an option at the ballot box

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