Budget proposals from the UK's first Green-led council have been unveiled for an unprecedented three-month long period of public scrutiny before the budget is set in February 2012.
At an event in Hove Town Hall on 1 December 2011, the Green administration of Brighton and Hove City Council presented its plans for ‘A Fair Budget for Tough Times' against a backdrop of exceptional funding cuts by Britain's Conservative-led Coalition Government.
The proposals seek to defend services for the most vulnerable men, women and children in the city from government cuts, say its authors. Among the key protected areas are homelessness services, support for carers, and community and voluntary sector grants.
The plan has been drawn up after months of consultation with partner organisations, other political parties, the community and voluntary sector, union representatives and local residents.
Leader of the council Bill Randall commented: "The first budget produced by the UK's first Green-led council is is a fair budget for tough times. The Tory-led Coalition has imposed cuts of at least 33 per cent, at source, in the funding we receive from central government for this council term. This is above the national average at a time when our obligations to those most in need are increasing."
"Nevertheless, in this draft budget we have honoured our manifesto pledge to protect services for the most vulnerable men, women and children in the city as far as possible," Randall declared.
He continued: "Many city organisations, the other political parties and more than 2,000 citizens accepted our invitation to take part in the conversation that has helped produce this draft budget, through meetings and social media. Their participation in drawing up these proposals is unprecedented in the city and in most other local authorities. However we are only half way through the conversation. We urge anyone who has not yet participated to give us their views."
Councillor Jason Kitcat, Cabinet Member for Finance and Central Services, added: "We are breaking with tradition by presenting two-year proposals so that the council can plan more effectively and to ensure that the focus isn't solely on short-term savings.
"Because of the Conservative-led government imposing huge cuts in our funding, we have had to make savings across the council," she said. "However we have been led by our Green values to make this budget as fair to residents as possible."
"In the draft proposals we are seeking to make as many savings as we can from joint working, improved contract management, exiting excess buildings and IT efficiencies. We have worked hard to keep job losses to a minimum while protecting frontline services. There have been difficult choices and we welcome residents' views on the current draft of the budget," said Mr Kitcat.
"By reviewing subsidies and fees, and proposing a below-inflation 3.5 per cent tax increase, we will be able to protect key services including those for carers and homelessness prevention, and to maintain levels of adult social care. We have also been able to maintain levels of support for the community and voluntary sector," he added.