Brighton and Hove in ‘dark chapter’ – Council leader warns

Brighton and Hove City Council is facing a “dark chapter” with limited resources and “few options left”, according to its political leader.

That was the dire prediction of Green Council leader Phelim Mac Cafferty as he addressed senior city councilors this week.

His comments came at the start of a meeting of the Council’s Policy and Resources Committee, ahead of discussions about this year’s spending overruns and next year’s budget-setting process.

Cllr Mac Cafferty said: “The options remaining on the ground are bleak and to balance the books we face heartbreakingly difficult decisions.

“I realize this Government will protect community services where we can but vicious Tory cuts to Brighton and Hove mean there are limited resources and limited options left.

“This is another very dark chapter for our city and the council will likely look and feel different by the end of the process.

“One example of this is that to this day we pride ourselves on being a high spending community on things like child care. That era seems to be over.”

The council’s external auditor’s annual report to the Audit and Standards Committee next Tuesday said the council needed to have an “urgent” focus on its finances.

Cllr Mac Cafferty said: “The reality is that funding from local government is on hold and even the government knows it.

“With funding cut by over a third in real terms over the past decade, local governments across the country and across the political spectrum are in desperate financial straits as over 250 have opted to increase council taxes to the highest rate .

“The government is telling us that we should either fund the gaps through council taxes or close community services.

“Given that council taxes only fund 19 percent of the council budget, you can see that this is not the complete solution to the problem.

“Even the government is beginning to recognize that more municipalities are facing Section 114 bankruptcy filings because of their funding.

“At a cynical new low, in the week when the government should have put adequate funds in its budget for councils, they have been campaigning for future commissioners to be sent to councils to guide them when they declare bankruptcy .

“Meanwhile, the government is praising its grant-funding funding model which saw Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s green rural constituency today receive £19m from taxpayers to ‘step up’.

“These pots are not only undemocratic, they actively contribute to the difficulties all local authorities face in establishing sustainable longer-term funding strategies as they pit local governments against one another.”

The Green Government is putting together its budget for 2023-24 and has to find £22million in savings due to inflation, wage increases and a surging demand for services.

When the draft budget was presented to councilors last month, the proposed cuts and savings covered £12.6m of the shortfall, with a further £8.3m to be found.

The council is expected to increase the council tax by 2.99 per cent and the adult welfare bid by 2 per cent when council members debate the budget on Thursday 23 February.

Residents are opposed to the cuts. Parents, staff and supporters of the Bright Start Nursery, which is set to close to save £104,000 a year, are planning a protest at St Peter’s Church on Saturday 4 February at 12pm.

Supporters of the Early Years Project toy library protest outside Hove Town Hall ahead of the full council meeting on Thursday 2 February against a plan to save £9,000 of the £22,000 grant funding.

There are two separate petitions against the closure of 18 public toilets – one on the council’s website with more than 4,000 signatures and another on the website with more than 5,000 signatures.

And this week opposition councils voted against charging public toilets and slammed proposals to close 18 toilets in parks and along the seafront.

Conservative and Labor members of the Council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee also voted against increases in parking fees and residents’ permits, and the introduction of parking fees in parks.

The Council’s Policy and Resources Committee is due to meet on Thursday 8 February to discuss the budget. The meeting will be webcast on the Council’s website.—council-leader-warns/?ref=rss Brighton and Hove in ‘dark chapter’ – Council leader warns

Fry Electronics Team

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