Byelection issues 2: the city council budgetPosted: June 17, 2013
I’ve been struggling to find a second question to put to candidates in the Hanover & Elm Grove byelection. It’s difficult to see much beyond the rubbish swirling about in our streets, and to get away from the feeling that the outcome of this dispute will overshadow all politics in the city for years to come.
The historical background to the dispute is long and complex, and (as I think I mentioned before) only a very few people have the information necessary to devise a solution that is just for everyone. It is also taking place in the confining context of brutal year-on-year cuts to the council’s budget.
How the council has responded to that onslaught is part of the story of what has brought us to this pretty pass. In my opinion, the Green administration has missed an opportunity to champion the needs of Brighton & Hove’s residents, choosing instead a managerial path of damage limitation, just like Labour councils all over the country.
This timid approach has meant that alliances between the council, unions and residents’ campaigns have not been built in Brighton & Hove over the past two years. It has eroded the optimistic and fighting spirit that sent Caroline Lucas to Parliament, to the point that there is a real danger of her losing her seat in 2015. And it has left Green councillors feeling boxed in and lacking in the confidence and courage they needed to take a principled stand when a court decision on an equal pay case in Birmingham brought the allowances issue to a head.
Brighton & Hove Labour, meanwhile, has concentrated on scoring points against the Greens, to the exclusion of all else – leading them to vote alongside the Tories to defeat a council tax increase in 2011, causing a reduction in the tax base into the future and further endangering local services.
Nationally, Labour remains as dreadful as ever, colluding with retrospective legislation to do claimants out of the compensation they were owed for being deceived into workfare schemes, promising a welfare spending cap to continue the misery being rained on poor people by the Tories, and engaging in bizarre policy acrobatics to avoid simply making a commitment to setting the minimum wage at a level that enables people to live decently.
Amid all this gloom, today brought a welcome piece of news – Unison’s Local Government conference passed a motion in support of Councillors Against Cuts – a network of Labour councillors who are determined to vote against the cuts being imposed on their electors, often by their own colleagues in council administrations.
So, my second question to David Gibson and Emma Daniel is this: What do you think local councillors should do to resist the budget cuts imposed by government?
I will report back on their answers, but feel free to supply your own in the comments box.