An Open Letter to the Green and Conservative Group Leaders

PenDear Jason and Geoffrey,

First of all I would like to thank you for the civil way in which negotiations were conducted at Budget Council on Thursday, even though ultimately no agreement was reached.

When we return to the council chamber on Wednesday, the Budget on the table will be one based on an inflation-level council tax increase. It is the level proposed in the original Green budget published in December, and it is the same level proposed and voted through by the Conservative councils in East Sussex, Surrey and Kent.

Whilst I know it is not your preferred option, it is the only compromise position between your two parties’ views, both of which I respect. I would hope that even if you and your councillors cannot support this compromise position, you will at least ask your councillors to abstain rather than oppose, and allow my councillors to pass a lawful, balanced budget as we are required to do by law. The public expect that responsible and sensible action from us.

The consequences for the city council and Brighton and Hove of us not passing a budget would be very serious indeed. At best it will cost the council a great deal in both loss of money and damage to our reputation. At worst the Government would step in and take over, with terrible implications for local services.

I understand that by allowing us to vote through that compromise budget, politically the Conservatives will say “Labour are voting for more tax rises”, and the Greens will say “Labour is voting for more cuts”. If that is what it takes for control of our city’s finances to remain in the hands of our democratically elected local representatives, then so be it. It is time to put the interests of the city ahead of the interests of our political parties and sort this situation out without any further delay.

With best wishes,

Warren.

Update: the Budget was ultimately passed with a council tax increase set at 1.99%, following a vote supported by all Labour councillors and all but six Greens. The Tories again voted against. Four of Labour’s amendments to fund community grants, Able & Willing, Pride and respite care breaks for disabled children and their families were successful.

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