Conservatives call on Greens to freeze council tax

Conservatives on Brighton & Hove City Council have reacted to the latest Budget proposals from the Green Administration which include a 2% rise in council tax for 2013/14.

Group Leader Cllr Geoffrey Theobald said: “Just as they tried to do last year, the Greens are proposing to turn down Government funding which could deliver a council tax freeze for residents – this time £1 million. This is money which could be going into the local economy. There are lots of things that the Greens could be doing to make efficiency savings in the organisation rather than turning to the council tax payer or continuing to salami slice departmental budgets. If we were running the Council we would be able to deliver a council tax freeze by:

  • Doing some serious market testing of Council services to ensure we are getting the best value for money. The Greens aren’t doing this because they are ideologically wedded to the Council delivering all services in house. Like the Labour Party, they are in hock to the unions. We would have no hesitation in contracting out services to the voluntary or private sector if they could provide them cheaper than the Council.
  • Carrying out a root and branch restructure of the organisation – in particular stripping out layers of middle management where we still have far too many.
  • Working proactively with other councils and large organisations in the city to jointly provide services and share costs. It is plainly ridiculous for example that there are 15 separate Human Resources departments covering all the main councils in Sussex. I cannot see a great deal of evidence that this Green Administration is trying to do anything about it.”

Group Finance Spokesperson – Cllr. Ann Norman – responded to accusations from the Green Administration that they have been forced to implement Budget cuts by the Government: “The Council’s gross budget this year is nearly £710 million – roughly the same level as it was just 3 years ago, at the height of Labour’s public spending boom – hardly great austerity. In fact, Brighton & Hove does relatively well when it comes to spending on services compared to other councils, with the highest spending per head out of any council in the south east region. For example, just last week the Council received £840,000 to implement a communal recycling scheme and the Greens’ Lewes Road transport proposals are being funded by over £4 million from the Government.”

Cllr. Theobald concluded by saying: “Brighton & Hove is getting left behind. There are numerous examples of forward thinking councils who have decided to test the market and work together to reduce running costs for both back office and customer service functions. East Sussex and Surrey County Councils for example have just advertised for a £60 million contract to manage their back office and IT systems more effectively. Barnet Council has just signed a 10 year contract for its back office services that will save them £12 million a year. West Sussex County Council has also just signed a similar contract which they expect to save around £10 million a year. What is Brighton & Hove doing? The Audit Commission still says that our services are relatively expensive compared to other similar councils and we are generally in the top 10% of spending authorities.”

“Because the Green Party is ideologically wedded to the old model of councils funding and delivering all their own services in house they are passing up numerous opportunities of making the organisation more efficient – of getting better value for money. They are letting the council taxpayers of this city down. Rather than look at these sort of radical new ways of working they prefer to carry on with the same old salami-slicing approach which next year will see over £4.5 million taken out of Adult Social Care and almost £3.5 million out of children’s services.”