Byelection issues 2: the city council budget

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.

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2 Comments on “Byelection issues 2: the city council budget”

  1. Woodcote249 says:

    Great summary. The minority Green Council has achieved many things (see latest HEG newsletter) but will always walk a tricky line between being radical and satisfying the core vote at the same time as not stirring those eager to brand them loony left. There’s no shame in admitting that as with all parties there’s a clear philosphical split – mangoes want to be seen to administrate well – watermelons want a different style of politics.

    As for Caroline Lucas, anyone who has actually spent time in her company will know she’s absolutely genuine. In parliament she’s a lone voice against austerity and does all she can to champion unpopular causes. Locally, her stamina and generosity with her time on minority issues is inspiring. When local councillors say they are too busy to canvass, she’s out there on the doorsteps – even in the heart of East Brighton where few knew who she was and there was slim chance of victory. Therefore, it’s so depressing to see Labour’s tribal determination to snuff Caroline out of politics – last night’s rabid reaction to her saying she picked up a used nappy, a rare chance for them to dig some dirt.

    Whatever the long-term future of Caroline and the Greens, their successes have made politics richer and brought social justice/environment issues more centre stage. While nationally Labour continues to steer right, down here the Progress-favouring Warren Morgan does all he can to be seen to be left-ish. In HEG Emma Daniels knows she has to court the ‘muesli’ vote to win. Hence her uncosted promises of kitchen waste schemes which Labour previously dismissed as indulgent.

    I’m sure both David and Emma would make good, committed councillors. I don’t know Emma but with David, what you see is what you get. You won’t receive a speedy reply to your request here but a considered, well thought-through response. I get the feeling his preferred communication is face-to-face discussion rather than instant social media. Above all, David is a local candidate in the truest sense. As far as I know this isn’t the first step to a bigger political career. As he has already shown in his work with HASL, David wants nothing more than to champion the needs and aspirations of the ward. It would be a real shame if the wider politics surrounding the CityClean dispute robs him of the chance.


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