Brighton and Hove’s Labour Council leadership have now published the blueprint for the city’s budget (Policy, Resources and Growth Committee papers, available here: P&R Papers). Green Councillors have reacted to the announcements, raising concerns about the number of services and members of staff facing damaging cuts.
The Green Group Finance Lead, Councillor Ollie Sykes commented:
“This is another salami-slicing budget from Labour that proposes cuts to many areas of council work: from services to vulnerable children and adults, services to families such as family coaches, through environmental health and licensing, to essential back room support in finance, audit and human resources. Presenting this as having no impact on front line services is disingenuous and ignores the council’s own impact assessments.
Obviously the principal blame for cuts lies with Conservative central Government for its political and economic mismanagement of the country, with perpetual austerity devastating public services and at the same time contributing to increasing demand. But Labour locally should be doing better. Greens over the past couple of years have blocked the worst of Labour’s expensive pet projects, for example £300k for councillor ward budgets. Greens have also found additional resources to protect essential services, to the tune of nearly £2m over the past couple of years. Pity Labour didn’t do that when Greens were in power. Our interest will always be to put the city first.
It’s a disappointing budget that we will be scrutinising closely over the next few weeks with an aim to propose positive changes. Fundamentally we think it makes sense for central government to provide a decent level of funding to local government; in the absence of movement there we will do what we can at a local level.”
Green Group Convenor Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty added:
“We are appalled that while local Labour held a press conference to inform journalists about the budget, opposition Councillors were kept in the dark until this afternoon. Not one Councillor from the Labour administration is quoted in the council’s budget press release on the city’s finances. It might be Labour’s budget – but they are ashamed to put their name to it.
“The budget picks up where last year’s left off. Of the 80 redundancies that the Labour administration are proposing our understanding is that 18 of those are compulsory. That for Greens is an absolute red line on any budget and we had not one compulsory redundancy in any of the Green budgets.
“Although Labour have been fast to downplay the impact of their budget, a closer look it reveals that cuts will take big lumps out of our communities:
“The Revenues and Benefits department is attempting to move online but I am worried about people being excluded because they simply don’t have any internet access. According to Age UK 3.8 million people aged 65+ have never used the internet.”
“Money that was used to support communities to fight anti-social behaviour and hate crime is now proposed to be cut.”
“Despite all of the rhetoric from Labour on the chronic problem of homelessness their budget proposes cuts to frontline staff in the Housing department. According to the council’s own Equality Impact Assessment this will ‘impact on groups such as families with dependent children or pregnant women.’
SEXUAL HEALTH CUTS
“There are huge cuts to things like chlamydia screening, which is the most common Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) among young people. While we know already that a push to make cuts and move to so-called ‘self testing’ will result in higher levels of Sexually Transmitted Infection and HIV- which in a city with some of the highest levels of STIs is completely unacceptable. We are very alarmed to hear Labour’s cuts in this area might put the Brighton Station Health Centre clinic at risk.”
CUTS TO CHILDREN’S SERVICES
“Similar to last year, again our children and young people are expected to take a hit for Labour’s budget:
“There are serious threats to things like home to school transport. Regardless of income families could be expected to contribute to the cost of travel for pupils.
“Early help for families and young people with complex mental health needs is being hit with family coach posts proposed for cuts. These are people who work with families who need help early on, who do not qualify for social work support.
“Children centre groups are being cut, which has an undue impact on the city’s BAME communities and women who use them most – groups who are already being disproportionately affected by cuts across all of our public services.
“As a city with a disproportionate high number of kids in care, we have to do everything in our power to look after them. But Labour is cutting the budget that supports foster carers to adopt children. We should all be worried that the budget Equality Impact Assessment says that cuts in this area will deliver an “insufficient budget to appropriately financially support new adopters coming forward.”
“So behind the rhetoric, Labour’s budget will be really damaging to some of our most oppressed communities.We will be looking in much more detail at the budget proposals and preparing a fuller analysis in the coming weeks.”
You can view the Impact assessments of the budget plans here: http://phantom.brighton-hove.gov.uk/Published/C00000912/M00006705/$$Supp28021dDocPackPublic.pdf