The City Council is preparing to put your Council Tax up by 5% and hike residents’ car parking permits by 9% at next week’s City Budget.
This council tax rise is the maximum possible permitted by law and will no doubt hit residents and families hard across the City.
It is what we have come to expect from Labour and the Greens in Brighton and Hove since the City came together as one combined authority in 1997.
For 20 of these 24 years, Labour and the Greens have controlled the rate of council taxes charged to residents of the City.
There have been two 10-year periods of Labour and Green control punctuated by 4 years of Conservative administration from 2007-11.
In the first 10 years of Labour control from 1997-2007 Labour increased council tax by an eye-watering 124%.
Residents, understandably, eventually had enough of this and gave Labour the boot in 2007. A Conservative administration was elected with a mandate to run the ruler over the City’s finances.
The Conservative Cabinet member for Finance Cllr Jan Young, a trained accountant, set about transforming the City’s books by removing largess and waste.
Executive credit cards were brought under control. Councillor positions that served no benefit to residents were abolished. Labour’s International Peace Envoy for example - a councillor who travelled around the world - was abolished.
The prudent financial management of the City’s Conservative Administration between 2007 and 2011 delivered £115 million of savings to City residents.
These four years of hard work culminated in a great set of books for our City and a set of Conservative budget proposals for 2011/12 with a centre-piece 1% reduction in Council Tax and a 5% reduction in resident car parking permits.
This would have been the first Council Tax decrease in the history of the City and would have left residents in ‘Band D’ home almost £60 better off than if Council Tax had gone up by inflation. It was voted down by Greens and Labour.
The legacy of this good financial management in our city lasted another two years after the Green administration was elected in 2011 - with no further council tax rises needed in the following 24 months and a further £17 million savings dividend from the continued fruits of the Value for Money Programme put in place by the Conservatives.
Then the Greens decided to end the Value for money programme and predictably the tax rises started again.
The Greens started putting forward proposals for big council tax increases that attracted national attention - including proposals so big they would have triggered local referendums.
When the Green administration ended in 2015 and Labour took back control, the rate of Council tax increases began to accelerate.
5 years of unmanageable tax rises followed - averaging 4.5% a year - before Labour collapsed last year following their many crises and the Greens took power once again.
This takes us up to the present day and next week’s proposed Council Tax rise.
The Greens are proposing a maximum 5% tax increase and a painful 9% increase in residents parking permits. Labour has already supported this Budget at a pre-Budget Finance Committee meeting so it looks likely to be rubber stamped next week.
Band D households will soon be paying over £2,000 of council tax a year. Their Bills have gone up by a third under the Greens and Labour’s watch in the last few years.
Can it be justified?
The evidence suggests that it can’t and that a better run council could be reducing council tax rather than increasing it right now.
It was revealed this week that the City Council has reported a £4.8 million underspend for the financial year.
Taking into account the reported £16 million of wasted taxpayers money from policy failures over the past 12 months, a better run council would be at a minimum be reporting a surplus in excess of £20 million and being able to pass this onto residents in the form of council tax relief.
We also don’t know whether value for money has been achieved from the £22 million of Government Grants the Council has received, given the Council did not publicly publish the contracts on its website - breaking its own transparency policy – for over 6 months.
After 10 years of Labour and Green financial management the City’s finances are in a mess.
Labour clearly can’t manage taxpayer’s money – and neither can the Greens. They default to large tax rises rather than doing the hard work on your behalf and the City suffers as a result.