Tag Archives: social care

Getting the basics right, protecting the most vulnerable, and growing an economy that benefits all.

 

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Our draft Budget for 2017/18 is now out. My Labour & Co-operative Administration is facing up to the harshest ever financial circumstances the city council has faced. We are making a stand, drawing a line in face of the biggest ever cuts imposed by the Conservative Government.

We are protecting:

  • Early years services including nurseries and childrens centres, child protection is our legal duty and top priority
  • Libraries, not just as a place to borrow books but as community advice hubs and assets, the heart of our neighbourhoods approach
  • Refuse, recycling and street cleaning, the basic service your council tax pays for, with £400k coming in from commercial waste collection. Investment in big belly bins, new street cleaning vehicles, garden waste are new service innovations.
  • Public toilets no more cuts proposed, none added in the current year, no additions to the closures chosen by the previous Green Administration
  • Domestic violence we are pushing back against to cuts to this vital preventative service
  • Rough sleeping we are succeeding working to prevent hundreds of families entering homelessness, and are resisting pressure from benefit cuts that put more at risk
  • Poverty proofing the school day was a key recommendation from the Fairness Commission, giving pupils a fair start at school
  • Living Wage protected at local level not the national rebranded minimum wage
  • Social care: we are reviewing and redesigning services to focus on effective signposting, build stronger communities through increased partnership working, provide preventative services and ensure people get the safe, high quality, personalised, accessible and sustainable support they need.

This is our plan, our positive way forward, building a co-operative council and city to keep vital services going:

  • Investing millions in digital customer services
  • Saving millions through managing assets better, like our move from Kings House which will save £2m a year
  • Designing neighbourhood services and partnering with other organisations to keep services going locally through local hubs, volunteer-run parks
  • Saving half a million through our new housing allocations policy
  • A £7m investment in better street lighting that will deliver a £500k saving each year
  • Placing the Royal Pavilion into a trust to protect it and enable it to raise more money
  • Joining the Orbis partnership with neighbouring councils sharing support services to protect jobs and grow capacity
  • Housing investment in new council houses and truly affordable homes to tackle poverty and homelessness, and bring in new council tax
  • Major projects – new infrastructure, economic activity, more business rates/rents
  • Revenue generation from services like commercial waste, vehicle workshops

All this in the face of enormous pressures:

  • Government grant is down by another £11 million this year. It is shrinking from £140m to £6m over an 8 year period, a 40% funding reduction in real terms
  • We have already saved £70 million in last 4 years, £20 million in current year, leaving no easy cuts, no simple solutions, no savings that are pain-free
  • We still have to make £51 million savings over next three years, £24 million in the coming year
  • We are still £3m off balancing the Budget for 2017/18 – more savings need to be found
  • The £125m income from council tax is now smaller that £150m costs of care, increasing by £7m in the coming year
  • We are putting £1.5m more into supporting council tax payments for people on low incomes as Government funding for that scheme is cut
  • We are putting £300k more into free bus passes for older people, from the £562k additional parking revenue – the total cost of free bus travel is now more than £11m
  • We are making a further £2m of management savings

Cuts include:

  • £750k from youth services, however £250k remains for advocacy, services and support for young people vulnerable to exploitation, involved in substance misuse, entering the criminal justice system or requiring emotional and mental health support. We also continue to fund Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) work, the Youth Employability Service, the Youth Offending Service, and services for adolescents.
  • £600k from parks covered in our Big Conversation, and £100k from sports club subsidies
  • £290k from supported bus routes – still leaving a £900k subsidy

We are not alone. This is all in a national context:

An additional 2% social care “precept” on council tax, above what was allowed in the last financial year, has been asked for by most councils responsible for for social care, but this was not announced in the Government’s Autumn Statement. Even if it is, it won’t be Government that pays it will be us, with them transferring the financial burden of social care on to local taxation.

LGA Chair Lord Porter (Conservative) warns that councils will face an ‘extremely challenging’ situation over the next few years to tackle the £5.8bn funding gap by 2020: ‘Many councils are faced with difficult decisions about which services are scaled back or stopped altogether.’ He said the government must take urgent action to fund social care properly, if councils are to stand any chance of protecting care services for elderly and vulnerable people. Porter said that extra council tax-raising powers would not bring in enough money to alleviate the pressure on social care services for elderly and vulnerable, and that people are at breaking point now.

So far 24 top tier councils both Labour and Conservative-led are taking up full increase in council tax allowed at just under 4%. The days of council tax “freezes” are over.

Other councils have it even worse. In Liverpool all council-run services, including libraries, sports centres, maintenance of parks, highway repairs, street cleaning and rubbish collections, would have to be cut by 50% to balance the books, with Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson warning there will soon be no funds left, even for basic services.

There is a nationwide crisis in social care:  77 of the 152 local authorities responsible for providing care for the elderly have seen at least one residential and nursing care provider close in the last six months, because cuts to council budgets meant there were insufficient funds to run adequate services. In 48 councils, at least one company that provides care for the elderly in their own homes has ceased trading.

Is the Government getting it’s priorities right? No.

  • The Autumn Statement gave £240m for Grammar Schools whilst failing to help councils with social care and basic service funding.
  • Over the course of the Conservative’s decade in power they will give away £21 billion in tax cuts for higher earners, and another £1 billion in inheritance tax.
  • In the same period they are handing over £12 billion in corporation tax cuts for big businesses.
  • All this while £7.6 billion is cut from local government. That’s councils like ours.

Find out more about our Budget and watch my Budget message here.

Sign my petition calling on the Government to reverse their tax cuts and restore council funding: https://www.change.org/p/theresa-may-mp-save-our-services

 

Our team, working for you

VictoryChris Moncreiff, as a political commentator of many years experience, makes some valid points about the state of the Labour Party (Argus, Sept 8th). Some readers may worry what this means for the running of their local council in Brighton and Hove.

I’d like to reassure residents of Brighton and Hove that we are and remain a strong team focused on delivering what we were elected to do for all our residents and communities.

Cllr Gill Mitchell is leading work on tackling littering and flytipping, with new compactor bins and our enforcement team cracking down on people who dump rubbish in our streets, now ably assisted by Cllr Saoirse Horan on all environmental and transport issues.

Cllr Tom Bewick is pushing for ever better schools, more apprenticeships and equipping our young people for the world of work. Cllr Dan Chapman is leading cross-party work on schools admissions to include the new secondary school opening next year.

Cllr Anne Meadows is overseeing the building of 500 new council homes, and our new joint venture to build a thousand truly affordable homes for rent or sale at 60% of market rates, while Cllr Tracey Hill leads work to make the city’s private rented sector fairer and Cllr Clare Moonan pushes ahead with work to tackle rough sleeping.

Cllr Emma Daniel is in charge of building stronger communities and neighbourhoods, taking up the challenge of our Fairness Commission to deliver on our pledge to ensure everyone shares in the city’s success. Cllr Alan Robins now heads our efforts on supporting the arts, culture and economic development, while Cllr Julie Cattell is delivering huge improvements in our Planning service.

Cllr Dan Yates and Cllr Karen Barford are facing up to the huge challenges our city faces in adult social care and health issues, and Cllr Caroline Penn is working with partner agencies to improve mental health.

Cllr Les Hamilton brings four decades of experience on the council to the immense challenge of changing our council to meet the demands of a budget that is 40% smaller in the face of growing demand.

I’m working to build new partnerships to give us the muscle to tackle the big issues and compete on a national and international stage, and hope to be able to make a big announcement soon.

I’m proud to lead this great team leading Brighton and Hove. Despite the cuts and increasing pressures we face, despite the fact that the Greens and Tories can and do outvote us when it suits them politically, we will work every day to make a difference.

We will preserve and restore our city’s heritage, we will make our communities stronger and our society fairer, we will find new ways of funding the decent basic services you expect. Jobs, homes and schools remain at the heart of what we do.

We are here until 2019 at least, I hope longer, doing the job you expect from us whatever the national political situation . At its heart, politics is not about labels, it is about energy, ideas, aspiration and hope. We will do our best to deliver those for Brighton and Hove.

(First published in The Argus, 12th September)

Ten ways the Government is cutting council funding

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Photo: HM Treasury open media

Council finances are in crisis. Local Government has taken a bigger hit than any other part of the public sector since 2010, with the recent Budget making even deeper cuts than anticipated to the funds councils spend on local services. Here are ten ways that George Osborne and David Cameron have hit local government since 2010, and what the impact of those cuts have been in my own council of Brighton and Hove.

1) Revenue Grant: accounting for a third of expenditure on local services, this general grant will be abolished entirely by 2019. Here in Brighton and Hove that means the loss of over £140 million that the council was spending on street cleaning, libraries, street lighting and dozens of other services in 2010.

2) Council Tax benefit: this is the discount given to those who can’t afford to pay council tax. The Government is passing responsibility for paying for this to local councils, and funding an 80% discount will cost Brighton and Hove around £3 million in the coming financial year.

3) Bus Passes for Older People: introduced by the Labour Government, this keeps older people active and healthy. Again the Government has passed the cost to councils, meaning Brighton and Hove has to use almost all of the surplus from parking revenue to fund it, around £9 million. This money would otherwise be spent on subsidised bus routes, road safety, pedestrian crossings and more.

4) Benefit Changes and the NHS: cuts to benefits and healthcare mean councils have to deal with the costs of people made homeless, discharged from hospital early or thrown into debt. The introduction of Universal Credit alone is estimated to cost councils £1 billion.

5) Cuts to Social Rents: the reduction of 1% in rents for council and housing association tenants is moderately good news for the, though the main beneficiary will be the Treasury in Housing Benefit savings. However the impact on councils will be severe. Brighton and Hove will lose £16 million, money earmarked for building much-needed additional council housing.

6) Introduction of the National Living Wage: another welcome but limited boost to people on lower incomes, but one which will increase council wage bills by an estimated £834 million nationally by 2019/20. There is also the Apprenticeship Levy, which councils will have to pay at a cost of £600 million.

7) Starter Homes: the Government is requiring councils to build new housing on offer at 80% of market rates, well beyond what is affordable to most here in Brighton and Hove. However it is exempting those homes from the Section 106 and Community Interest Levy payments that developers normally pay towards new infrastructure to support additional housing. Councils will have to meet those costs, around £3 billion nationally, themselves.

8) Pensions: within five years, 34p in every pound paid in council tax will have to be spent on funding local government pension payments, and the Budget made that worse to an as yet uncosted amount. As council tax increases by 2 – 4% each year, including the levy to fund Osborne’s “extra money” for rising social care costs and to make up for cuts to grant funding, more and more pension costs will be met by councils. We don’t yet know the impact here.

9) Schools: as the Government increasingly strips councils and local parents of the powers to run schools, so funding will go too. Here in Brighton and Hove that is around £150 million a year.

10) Business Rates: the final nail in the coffin of local government. Osborne said again in his Budget speech that councils will be fully financially self-sufficient by 2020, when they can retain all of their local business rates. At present the Treasury takes half. This was already at risk from a revaluation exersise next year, and from a growing number of appeals by businesses against what they are required to pay. Yet moments after saying this, the Chancellor said that almost all small and medium sized businesses would be exempt from paying business rates from 2017. Almost all of the businesses in Brighton and Hove have fewer than 200 employees, meaning that a very significant proportion of the £100 million we might have got in 2020 will now vanish. Good new for local shopkeepers  accounting, but more bad news for councils who clean and maintain the streets in which they trade. The Government have said they will compensate councils for the loss of some £1.7 billion in revenue. I very much doubt it.

The Local Government Association estimated that even before changes announced in the Local Government Settlement and the Budget, councils would be around £10 billion worse off.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said after the Budget: “Every library that’s been closed, every elderly person left without proper care, every swimming pool with reduced opening hours or closed altogether is a direct result of government underfunding our local authorities and councils.”

People will be paying more in council tax, but in many cases seeing a reduction in services as a result. Osborne expects most residents to blame local councils, and not the Government, making his task of shrinking down local government via the back door easier.

Brighton and Hove has huge challenges in delivering affordable housing, in funding social care, and in maintaining basic services. We are probably looking at a cut of around 40% in our funding over a ten year period, somewhere in the region of £200 to £250 million when all of the above is factored in. Yet we are probably mid-table in the rankings of councils worst affected. Conservative councillors have had the hypocrisy to complain this week about grass verges being unmaintained, and a library building being sold, without taking any responsibility for their own Government’s actions.

We want a fair deal on council funding and we want local Tories to join with their colleagues elsewhere in saying so.

We will innovate. Our joint housing venture, City Innovation Challenge and cooperative schools proposal are just three of the ideas we are putting forward to challenge Tory cuts. We can’t escape the impacts, however, and in common with many councils across the country, the days of easy choices and pain-free savings are long since gone.

A Budget for Brighton and Hove

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Madam Mayor it is an honour and a privilege to propose the first Budget of this administration, the first Labour budget in nine years, and one that sets a course for this city in the most challenging of financial conditions.

We face unprecedented reductions in our funding, unprecedented demands on housing and infrastructure, an unprecedented need for new and imaginative answers to the challenges we face, and unprecedented opportunities to build a better Brighton and Hove for the future.

There is no hiding the scale and extent of the cuts we face this year and in the next three. Let there be no doubt that jobs will be lost and services will be hit. We will no longer be able to do what we did in 2010 in 2019. However we do not, as a local authority, stand alone in this crisis.

The crisis in local government funding stretches far beyond our boundaries. The policies of the current Government on council funding seem to many incoherent and unfair, let alone sustainable.

The head of Solace, the organisation of local government chief executives said of the Local Government settlement: “Many of these measures do not make local services sustainable in the long term. Without more fundamental change to how local services are paid for and provided, the support individuals and communities receive will be drastically curtailed.”

Conservative peer Lord Porter, Chair of the Local Government Association, said last Summer: “Even if councils stopped filling in potholes, maintaining parks, closed all children’s centres, libraries, museums, leisure centres and turned off every street light they will not have saved enough money to plug the financial black hole they face by 2020.”

No private business can absorb £25 million in cuts and increased costs year on year, as we are in this council. Few businesses of comparable scale can add £25 million to their profits each year, every year. It is not a sustainable or viable situation.

The Government challenging all councils to be financially self-sustaining goes to the heart of who we are and what we do. Are we a public service or are we a private business whose primary function is to generate revenue?

Any private business that charges its customers more can expect demands from them for better services in return. We, like other councils, face charging our residents more in council tax, fees and charges, in return for less.

We will no doubt hear from the Conservative Group today about inefficiencies, about trades unions, about managers and about waste. We will hear from them about the need to be self-sufficient financially and about how we should achieve that, somehow without increasing council tax, fees and parking charges on local residents.

We will hear them say that what is happening beyond Brighton and Hove, about what their fellow Conservative councillors are doing with their council tax levels, is none of our concern. But it should be.

The Conservative led Local Government Association said in September that Councils have withstood a fall in core central government funding of 40 per cent over the past five years.

Having already made £20 billion worth of savings since 2010, there is limited scope to keep protecting services through making further efficiency savings. If spending reductions follow a similar pattern over the next five years, councils will be facing a £12.4bn funding gap by the end of the decade.

Despite finding over £300 million in “transitional funding” for mostly Conservative-run shire counties, not that we are not grateful for our £30 thousand share of that, the LGA says “most councils will continue to have serious funding gaps”.

Why did Brighton and Hove receive just £30 thousand in so-called transitional funding last month, when Surrey County Council got £11 million? Yes, they have four times the population as Brighton and Hove, but why get three hundred times the funding?

I’m sure the letters of protest from Tory leaders and threats of rebellion from Tory backbenchers played no part in that decision at all, or indeed the petitioning by Mr Cameron’s mum and aunt against closures in his own constituency.

Madam Mayor, why does the Chancellor not use some of the £20 billion windfall from lower inflation and falling borrowing costs he will announce in his budget next month, for local government? Just a fraction of the unpaid corporation taxes from highly profitable multinationals, with whom the Chancellor has frequent meetings, would go a long way to address the financial crisis councils face.

Local government of every political stripe is feeling the pain, paying the costs of austerity at a point when the Government says austerity measures are coming to an end. No let up, no reprieve. And it is residents, till now shielded by the remarkable efficiencies of local government, who will feel the pain most. In their parks and streets, in their schools and children’s centres, in their care homes and day centres.

The Tory government can, as they did last week, find £80 thousand for printing laws on vellum, but they can’t find money to fund our essential front line services.

Madam Mayor I’d argue, and I’m not alone, that this is local government reorganization by the back door, slash and burn reform, survival of the fittest, a bonfire of the civic values that have made Britain’s towns and cities great over the last two centuries.

The 2016 State of Local Government Finance survey, conducted by think tank the Local Government Information Unit and published last week, found that 89% of the 132 councils surveyed say they will have to increase charging in 2016-17. Nine out of ten councils are increasing car parking charges.

The number saying they will have to dip into their reserves has risen sharply, from 55% in 2012 to 82% this year. And nearly 40% say cuts in their frontline services will be evident to the public.

At the very least, as called for by LGA Vice Chair Nick Forbes, the planned £700 million of new funding from the Better Care Fund should be brought forward to 2016/17 in order to help alleviate growing social care pressures.

The full retention of business rates is held out as an answer, but it won’t come until 2020, long after our Revenue Grant has gone, and after a revaluation that could see revenues fall. Whether we will actually benefit from an additional £50 million, after appeals, remains to be seen. However it will only go part way to offset the loss of almost £150 million from this councils funding in the decade that precedes it.

Madam Mayor, with no freeze grant on offer, nine out of ten of England’s unitary and county councils are increasing their council tax by 3.99%, including the 2% social care precept, as we are proposing, yet three-quarters of them say that the money raised from residents will not be enough to keep pace with increased costs.

Even our neighbours in Conservative-led West Sussex, who have frozen council tax increases for the past six years, are putting up their bills by the same amount as we are in their 2016 Budget. So we will take no lectures from the Group opposite about the council tax increases we propose today.

Madam Mayor I would have respect for those members opposite seeking to reverse cuts in their communities if they, like their Conservative colleagues elsewhere in this county, acknowledged just once that it is their Government that is removing the funding for essential local services. We are after all, Madam Mayor, all in this together.

Madam Mayor, we will hear from the Green Group about the past, about what could and should have happened and how if only we had, then that would have prevented the cuts we face today. They will say that if only we’d had a referendum on bigger tax increases, if only we had fought outsourcing and privatisation alongside them, then none of this would be happening. It is empty rhetoric.

In harking back to the budgets of the past there will however be no mention of the failed Green Administration Budgets of the last two years, where Green councillors voted against Green budgets because they could not cope with even the limited responsibility they took in office for the challenges we face. It’s an empty promise of a failed alternative.

I’m not surprised by Councillor McCafferty’s attacks on the Labour budget; they are little different to the attacks on Green budgets over the past four years. He and his colleagues have but one function setting, opposition, and they seem much happier there than in office this time last year. Empty words are easy in guilt free opposition.

Where are their answers? Not implementing cuts would mean setting an unlawful budget, and handing the running of our city over to Government-appointed bureaucrats. Putting up council tax to offset the cuts and cost pressures would mean increases of 20 to 30% on residents bills, not something they will back in a referendum, and not something I’d impose on the city’s lowest income households. But even those empty gestures remain words rather than actions, with neither proffered as an alternative here today.

Last week half a dozen Green Party members were outside an empty Treasury building, protesting against officials and ministers and a Chancellor who were not there to hear it. An empty noise outside an empty building, an empty gesture from a party that failed to deliver on empty promises when in office, one that is empty of ideas in opposition, as we can see from their lack of any amendments today.

This isn’t fighting the cuts. It’s walking away, hands in the air, leaving others to deal with things they simply can’t or won’t face up to. It is a shameful abdication of the job the voters of their wards elected them to do.

Last May the residents of this city saw through the Green Party’s empty record and their empty manifesto with its empty promises and realized there was nothing there worth supporting. With nothing but empty protest the Green Party’s utter and abject failure to propose an alternative today proves those voters right.

Instead, Madam Mayor, the people of Brighton and Hove chose substance, chose imagination and chose hope. They chose leadership that meets challenges with innovation: that meets inequality with fairness; that meets competition with co-operation. These are the values of the Labour administration I lead and these are the values that our four year Budget plan will deliver, giving clarity and certainty to residents and staff in very difficult times.

My colleagues with through the course of this debate focus on the positive work we are doing in protecting our services wherever we can, building new services where we are able, redesigning services where we can do better for less, and joining in new partnerships with the voluntary sector, communities, neighbourhoods and residents, local businesses and not-for-profit trusts, to find new ways of designing services fit for the future and fit for our local need.

Madam Mayor, I want to pay tribute to the work of my lead councillors, and the officers of this council, in bringing forward these final budget proposals today. We have listened and we have acted, we have worked hard to put funding where it is needed most.

More money for park rangers and animal welfare. More funding to tackle domestic violence and poor standards in private rented accommodation. More resources to enable change in the Playbus service and in the Brighton Centre. More money for public toilets than planned under the Greens, and funding for community groups at the heart of our neighbourhoods strategy protected.

We’ve made investments in modern customer service and online systems, in revenue-generating services within Cityclean, ever better use of our buildings and property, all aimed at bringing in funds to pay for public services.

We’ve taken tough decisions to get the £9 million overspend we faced when taking over last summer under control. We must live within our means, despite the pressures we face.

We’ve asked for our city, one of the best educated, innovative and creative cities in the UK, to put their minds to new solutions via our City Innovation Challenge. We’ve asked some of the best experts we could find to bring together and build on the work being done to tackle poverty and inequality in the city via our Fairness Commission. And we have asked some of the best business minds in the city to look at how we can unlock the talent and potential of our young people via our Employment and Skills Task Force.

We will deliver on our pledge to build 500 new council homes by 2019 – indeed we may exceed it with construction beginning on almost half by May. In the next few weeks we will seek approval for our Living Wage Housing joint venture that will deliver over a thousand homes to rent at 60% of market rates. With work to tackle an unfair and unaffordable rented market, we will meet the housing crisis in this city head on.

We will within weeks present a new strategy to tackle rough sleeping, and next month will see the start of a new service to crack down on the littering and fly tipping that blights our streets. We said we’d get the basics right and we will.

We will work with our service users, our vulnerable residents and their families, to design support that meets their needs. We’ve acted to ensure better pay for staff in the social care sector though the Unison Ethical Care Charter. We will work with health partners to ensure GP provision meets demand, and that mental health provision sits alongside on an equal footing.

We will work to provide school places and the highest standards in education, in the coming months begin consultation on new school catchment areas and to raise aspiration amongst our young people so that no talent in our city is wasted, no opportunities missed.

We will continue to support the arts, tourism and creative digital industries so vital to our economy, and draw in new businesses like John Lewis so we become ever more resilient, attractive and prosperous on a local, regional and international stage.

We will continue to attract and invest hundreds of millions in our city’s infrastructure over the next four years; a new arena at Black Rock, a new shopping centre next to the Grand, a new leisure centre at the King Alfred, new homes, facilities and business space at Circus Street and Preston Barracks, new seafront infrastructure at West Street, investment in our heritage at the Madeira Terraces and Royal Pavilion estate.

We will cut our own cloth as a council to fit our budget.  Almost two million pounds in savings from management costs. Tens of thousands less on councillor allowances this year compared to last. An independent review of the number of councillors to be elected in 2019.

We will win new devolved powers from Government and we will devolve power down to local residents in every community, becoming a new co-operative council that works with residents designing and building solutions to their local issues. Cuts to our funding mean we may no longer be a provider and a funder, but we will be an enabler, a partnership-builder and a leader our city’s diverse neighbourhoods.

As the leader of this council and the Labour Group I am proud to move the General Revenue Fund, Capital Resources and Housing Revenue Account Budgets for 2016/17. As a whole this Budget reflects our priorities for this council and for Brighton and Hove, our principles as a Labour and Co-operative administration, our determination to act and not just protest in the face of cuts, our determination to deliver for our residents.

These are the values, these are the actions, these are the ambitions that underpin our Budget and our plan for this council and this city for the year ahead and the years to come. This is what having a Labour Administration means for this city. We are delivering on our contract, we are delivering a council that works for you, we will deliver a better Brighton and Hove.

 

 

 

The truths and realities about your council’s budget

moneyOver the past few weeks the protests against cuts to council services have grown as we head towards the meeting to set our budget on February 25th. From day care centres to animal welfare, park rangers to parking fees, there have been many voices raised, understandably, in defence of individual services.

We have succeeded in minimizing the cuts to the park rangers, protecting community group funding, supported bus routes and the times of the older peoples bus pass. We are working to keep services going either in-house or via other means such as voluntary and community groups, cooperatives or merged services. I’ve set up our City Innovation Challenge inviting anyone to submit ideas on how we can do that; there is still time to enter and successful ideas will be used in our four-year budget.

However, the reality is that no organisation can lose 30% of its funding and continue to provide the same services. No private company, no matter how efficient, could absorb the loss of £25 million a year without making cuts.

We are working hard to replace that lost income through new sources of revenue such as retail rents, commercial waste collection and more, but we are at heart a public service, not a profit making company and could never recoup that loss.

And no we don’t make a profit from parking charges. The £9 million surplus we get from parking goes almost entirely to pay for the cost of providing free bus passes for older people and supported bus routes, and we are increasing parking charges by only 2% this year in most cases.

Added to the complete cut of our £140m revenue grant by the Government, the costs of providing care and protection services for older people, vulnerable children and people with disabilities is increasing by more than 3% a year. It is by far the largest part of our budget already and by 2020 will use almost all of our annual funding. The Government has said that you must pay for these increasing costs through an extra 2% increase in your council tax, though that alone will not be enough to close the gap.

We are asking officers and staff to undertake the incredibly difficult task of trying to manage the growing demand for care services. However we have been warned that if we do not make savings, then further cuts could put the safe delivery of services at risk. We’ve seen elsewhere the tragic and appalling consequences of that happening, and we must not risk that here.

The Government has said we should use reserves and capital funding to meet our service costs, and of course where we can use buildings to raise funds from commercial rents, or build homes that grow our council tax base, we will. Of course you can’t pay for day to day services from the one-off sale of assets, just as you can’t replace your salary with the money you get from selling your car.

Some argue we should be more efficient, and they are right. We took over the running of the city council last May and soon found we were facing an overspend of around £8 million in this financial year. Through the hard work of our senior officers we’ve taken some tough decisions, and balanced the budget.

Some say we should cut the costs of senior management and councillors. We are and we will; a reduction of just under £2 million in management costs are set out in the Budget, and we have already taken tens of thousands out of the councillor allowances budget.

Some argue that we should refuse to implement the cuts. That would mean spending more than we have coming in, running up a deficit and not setting a lawful budget. That would lead to the Government stepping in to take over the running, or more likely the total dismantling, of our council and local services. I’m not prepared to let that happen.

Some say this is just politics, and that Labour councils will always complain about Tory cuts. Yet now we are seeing Conservative council leaders from across the south east complaining bitterly about cuts to their funding too. The Conservative-led Local Government Association warned this week that councils “will have insufficient resources to fund services.” 

True-blue authorities like West Sussex, who have frozen council tax for years, will be putting forward 4% increases just as we will. We don’t do so willingly, council tax impacts disproportionately on people with lower incomes, but if we don’t we’d have to make another £4 million in cuts to your services.

These are the facts and the realities behind the campaigns and the headlines, these are the immensely difficult challenges we face as a council and as a city. I and my team are up for that challenge if we can count on your support.

 

Cuts are putting people in need of care at risk. The Government needs to act.

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It is wrong for politicians to be alarmist, to cause concern in order to score political points. It’s referred to as “shroud-waving”. I’ve criticised others for doing so, and I’ve thought long and hard about publishing this post. I do so not to win votes or do down the other side, but out of genuine fear both for for the people who need social care and those charged with providing it.

I posted recently about the competing campaigns against various cuts we are being forced to make to services because of the reduction and eventual removal of the Government’s Revenue Support Grant which until now has provided around a third of our funding. As that funding reduces and ultimately disappears, the cost of providing social care services is rising rapidly.

Those cost increases are down to a huge range of factors. An ageing population, increasing poverty, welfare reform, growing pressures on the NHS, growing numbers of children being identified as a risk, and more. It is right that care workers are paid the Living Wage, but the requirement on providers to pay it brings a cost.

In around four years, without a combination of additional resources and new ways of working, the costs of social care will consume the entire council budget, save for some basic environmental services like refuse collection. In the coming year almost £20 million of risk has been identified across our social care services in Brighton and Hove.

High profile failures like Victoria Climbie, Baby P or Rotherham cannot be allowed to happen again if we can possibly prevent it.

Whether it is services for frail older people, vulnerable adults with learning disabilities, or children at risk of abuse, it is your local council that is responsible for looking after them. If those council care services fail, it is the service directors who are held legally responsible. Councillors are legally and morally responsible as corporate parents for children in care.

Without a proper funding regime involving the collaboration of all agencies, any further cuts to social care budgets by the Government could, in the near future, lead to formal notification by those directors that they cannot guarantee a safe level of care.

The 2% council tax increase, ring-fenced for social care, will bring in an extra £2.2 million each year. It sounds a lot but it isn’t sufficient to meet the increased costs and demand.

Urgent action on the part of Government is needed, before people are put at risk.

Fund our services from collecting unpaid tax

HMRCIt’s that time of year when many people face the task of completing their tax returns. Most people know that their taxes go towards funding the services they use, the services they rely on to keep them safe, or the services they can turn to when things go wrong.

Peter Mandelson infamously said he was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich as long as they pay their taxes” (a comment he has since rowed back from). And some have been getting very rich indeed.

A year ago a Sunday Mirror investigation found that six major companies alone made some £14 billion in the UK – companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Ebay and Starbucks – yet combined they only paid £41 million in tax. This is because they register their businesses in other countries with lower tax regimes, such as Luxembourg. This is legal under UK law.

The Government is losing more than £1 in every £10 it tries to collect from companies to tax evasion and avoidance. The true figure could be over £12 billion a year, or potentially as much as £34 billion according to the HMRC itself.

It was revealed last month that five of the largest banks in the UK – JP Morgan, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, Nomura Holdings and Morgan Stanley – legally paid no corporation tax in 2014, though they made billions in profits.

As Margaret Hodge MP said to the BBC, HM Revenue and Customs needed to be “more aggressive and assertive in confronting corporate tax avoidance. These global companies are making money in the UK. All we are saying is that if you have economic activities in the UK you are making profits and tax is payable on that.”

Figures released within the last fortnight show that the Chancellor’s efforts to recoup unpaid tax have fallen over £600 million short. However the Government claimed some success in increasing tax payments by major banks and corporations this week, with well known names like Barclays and Vodafone paying more. The code is however voluntary.

Just before Christmas a new All Party Parliamentary Group on Responsible Taxation was established to put pressure on the Government to ensure multinationals pay their fair share. It will hold meetings in public and ask ministers, tax experts and business people to attend for questions and debate. The first item on the agenda will be how to respond to G20 recommendations to crack down on corporate tax avoidance.

Meanwhile, local councils are seeing their funding being cut by £11 billion, over 40% of what they spend on local services like refuse collection, roads, libraries, parks, social care, schools and children’s centres. All the time the costs of looking after vulnerable children, older people and those with disabilities is growing fast.

As I wrote last month, the outlook for council funding is very bleak indeed. People are very rightly becoming very angry as both Labour and Conservative-led councils begin to cut what residents see as essential services, with the Government hoping that the blame will fall on councillors, not on ministers.

There are many things that unpaid corporate taxes could fund, but as the Leader of a council facing cuts of well over £20 million each year, I’m going to make one simple call on the Government.

Make multinational companies and banks pay their fare share of taxes on profits they make in this country. Use some of that money to fund local council services and social care.

 

Our Innovation Challenge To You

 

innovationcityToday I am announcing the creation of the City Innovation Challenge 2016, a competition to drive new ideas and solutions for Brighton and Hove.

Brighton and Hove is a city of immense talent and imagination, where new ideas and innovative responses to challenge are part of what makes us great.

As part of our Budget process, I’m launching a competition to bring in new ideas, innovation and solutions to the funding challenges we face. I’m looking for new ways to run services, keeping them going as our funding reduces. I’m looking for bold and creative suggestions as to how the city council can bring in new revenue to fund services and invest in our city and its communities.

How can we keep our parks clean and well maintained? How can we meet the rising demand in social care? How can we provide the services we all use but which the council no longer has the funding to provide? How can neighbourhoods, local companies, community organisations and others get involved in the future of local services?

It might be a co-operative, a resident-led group, sponsorship, a new partnership between local organisations, new business initiatives or a volunteer scheme. Or something no-one has thought of yet. We are already sharing services, setting up trusts, reshaping our council and what it does, making best use of our assets to bring in new revenue, and ways of cutting our costs. We are investing £6m in digital customer services that will bring the council and residents closer. But we need to go further.

There will be five prizes of £1,000 each depending on who is submitting an idea; one for young people either individually or in a group, one for individuals, one for the community and voluntary sector, one for council staff and one for businesses. We will invite submissions from January 4th, and the closing date will be in mid-February. Details will be published on the city council website http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk and prizes will be awarded at a ceremony later in the Spring. Awards will be funded by sponsorship.

So far we have secured sponsorship interest from Microsoft, the Hilton Brighton Metropole, Brighton and Hove Buses, the University of Sussex, and Entrepreneurial Spark/Natwest.

I know that there is the talent, imagination and innovation in this city to overcome the challenges we face and find new ways of making Brighton and Hove better. Have a look at the issues we are facing on the council’s online Budget consultation, and over the next month get your thinking caps on!

 

Council funding crisis and cuts are down to the Government

moneyThe city council faces a funding crisis, now and in the years ahead. Growing financial pressures on the NHS and low-income working families seeing the support they receive in tax credits cut, means that there has been a huge rise in demand for social care locally. The council has a duty to care for children at risk of harm, vulnerable adults and the growing population of older people. That pressure, and the failure of the previous Green administration to get a grip on council finances, means the council is forecast to spend over seven million pounds more by next April than budgeted for in March.

This is the context in which we are dealing with calls for money to support heritage projects like the Madeira Terraces and Saltdean Lido, as well as the need to keep improving our universal services like road repairs and recycling collection.

The news that councils will be able to keep all of their business rates may be welcome for those authorities who stand to gain, but it isn’t an answer to the financial crisis Brighton and Hove faces. As a city we don’t have many large employers, big industrial and manufacturing units, or out of town shopping centres that generate large scale business rates. We rely on thousands of small and medium sized enterprises in the retail, restaurant, digital and service sectors.

The changes are unlikely to come into effect until 2020, by which time the council will have had all of its Government revenue grant (which provides a third of our funding) cut entirely. In addition the Government is handing councils more and more responsibilities, like council tax rebates, pensioner bus passes and public health, and then cutting the funds to run them.

If we do not make far-reaching reductions and changes to services, to the buildings we run and the number of staff we employ, the combination of rising social care costs and cuts to funding will mean that by 2019 we look likely to be spending over £100 million more than we bring in from grants, charges, business rates and council tax. Keeping all of the city’s business rates will only replace half of that, meaning we still have to cut our costs by at least £50 million.

We will be taking firm action within a month to balance the books. We will look first at our own running costs before bringing forward reductions and changes to front-line services. We will focus on growing our business rates and council tax income from new businesses and new homes. If the business rate changes are meant to replace grant funding then we will challenge the Government to implement those changes earlier and in full, devolving funding and power to local councils and local communities. We will focus the money we have on delivering the services you rely on and caring for those who need it most. Your council needs fairer funding to do that and build a better city for all.

(Published in the Brighton and Hove Independent)

Labour’s first 100 days in office – and what’s next

WHATS%~1The Labour Administration on the City Council has come into office at the most challenging time for local councils for decades, and we have made clear from the start that we will not shy away from tackling the issues of funding, infrastructure, jobs, homes and schools that face us as a city. We have in our first 100 days laid the foundations for the next four years, alongside some practical actions that we hope will see benefiting residents and neighbourhoods straight away.

Getting the basics right; cleaning up our city: We’ve begun or Big Summer Cleanup to get the city and our neighbourhoods looking cleaner: http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/council-spearheads-big-summer-clean In addition we have set out in our CityClean strategy how we are going to improve refuse and recycling services, bring in income to support the service, and take action on fly-tipping.

A fairer and more prosperous city: We’ve set up our Fairness Commission to tackle poverty and inequality in Brighton and Hove, making sure we all work to ensure our city’s economic success is shared by all. It will launch in the coming few weeks.

Keeping the city moving: We have intervened to keep a vital local bus service going: http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/council-steps-keep-bus-route-running and we will be undertaking a strategic review of all services and transport to see how we can ensure traffic keeps flowing, people can get to work and to the services they need.

Building the homes the city needs: We have approved a £14m new 57 home council housing scheme in Whitehawk and five more in Ardingly Street, and seen the opening of over 40 Extra Care Housing flats at Brooke Mead in Albion Street.  12 new housing association family homes are starting on site in Portslade and Hangleton.

Keeping people safe from harm: We have approved a new service for domestic violence and violence against women and girls, putting trusted local services doing vital work on a more secure footing: http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/new-domestic-violence-abuse-rape-sexual-violence-abuse-service-unveiled

Changing services and planning ahead: We have set out a four year Budget strategy, ending the annual shaving of services and pledging a fundamental review that will strive to direct what we do at achieving the best results for the city with vastly reduced funding from Government. Painful decisions lie ahead but we will consult and plan ahead so that there is clarity for everyone in how things are going to change.

Giving young people a better start: We have set out plans to create an apprenticeship training company to help small businesses take on apprentices and give our young people the start on rewarding careers that they need. We have put in place an action plan to improve children’s services across the board approved, including new priorities to focus on the most vulnerable.

Getting a grip on changes to our roads: We have taken urgent action to review the major proposals for roads and public spaces in Valley Gardens scheme, which would reduce road space from St Peter’s to the Aquarium roundabout and create a new park over the next five years and at a cost of several million pounds.

Taking action to protect our open spaces: We have begun consulting on the use of new powers to better protect the city’s open spaces from repeat trespass and anti-social behaviour.

Changing the council to get the job done: We have set up the new Neighbourhoods, Communities and Equalities Committee to ensure that every street and every community is engaged and involved with what the council and our partner organisations do, and to deliver change across the board. Lead councillors have been charged with responsibilities on Mental Health, Private Rented Sector Housing and Homelessness, and we have brought together the key areas of Education and Skills under one lead councillor. We have set up a new Procurement Board to ensure value for money, social value, well managed procurement process on new contracts.

In The Next 100 Days we will:

  • Launch our Fairness Commission
  • Set about becoming a Co-operative Council to help redesign our services in an accountable and democratic way
  • Get agreement on a new King Alfred, a new arena at Black Rock and the expansion of Churchill Square, all with new housing, jobs and public amenities included.
  • Bring forward outline plans to save Madeira Terrace, and press for the restoration of the Aquarium Terraces.
  • Announce proposals from the reviews of Youth and Children’s Centre services.
  • Publish a New City Employment and Skills Plan, putting local business in the driving seat under a new task force.
  • Start work on the regulation of the Private Rented Sector, making it more accountable and giving better protection to tenants, refresh our Student Housing Strategy and develop new policies on housing allocation and temporary accommodation.
  • Hold a summit on tackling homelessness, bringing together everyone working on the issue to co-ordinate efforts.
  • Begin work to secure vital seafront infrastructure at the West St junction with Kings Road.
  • Continue work with Brighton University on setting up a new secondary school.
  • Seek to get the best deal devolution deal possible, working with neighbouring councils and putting a strong case to Government.
  • Make appointments to the council’s senior officer team to ensure stability and vision in delivering the changes needed.
  • Plans to build truly affordable homes far in excess of our 500 new council homes target are in the pipeline.

Change will take time, and we will not do it all, but we have set the foundations for a council that does all it can to challenge poverty and inequality, a council that work for every resident and every neighbourhood.