Today a full council meeting will tackle the anticipated city budget. Labour will be putting forward proposals which they believe will deal with the cuts in funding they must deliver. But as reported in the Brighton and Hove Independent, the Conservatives believe the cuts don’t streamline enough and the Greens criticise where the axe is falling. What is certain, there will be tough times ahead for many of the city’s vital services.
It’s important to remember at this crucial time how councils have been systematically targeted since the coalition government and now the Conservatives. A strategy of deep cuts, which has not delivered on it’s promises, saw central government moving services previously run by national government to local government and reducing the settlement in parallel. Even die hard Tories who believe in a reduced state machine are backing away from this latest round of cuts. Local authorities have truly had the rug pulled from underneath them and it’s frontline services such as adult social care and children’s centres that suffer.
Brighton and Hove City Council have to find savings of £68m over the next four years. In the recent £300m ‘transition fund’ lifeline thrown to councils to help them cope with funding cuts, Brighton and Hove only received £33,000, while neighbouring Conservative-led authorities received millions. However, leader of the local Conservative members, Cllr Geoffrey Theobald claims Brighton and Hove are already well-funded compared to Country Councils, for whom this fund was designed to recognise where there’d been a shortfall (while being careful not to say if it makes up the gap).
While the debate rages on, it is clear, in Brighton and across the nation, these continued round of cuts means impacting vulnerable people, pushing them into poverty and risking lives. Pressure will put on the NHS and as it buckles, the stories of failure due to funding shortfalls with only fuel the Tory agenda to keeping selling it off.
It is national economic policy driven by Tories that have allowed these cuts. I have accepted my children will struggle to get a decently paid job and quality, affordable housing unless there’s a radical change in government moving away from the mediocre centre-right politics of ‘nothing’. In Brighton Pavilion and Hove wards, a statement has been made but depressingly surrounded by a sea of blue.
Whilst it is crucial we input into local policy decisions, we shouldn’t get drawn into the political stand-off by posturing councillors vying for political stardom. It’s annoying to see councillor spats on Twitter, when regular people just want to see joined-up thinking to solve the city’s problems.
The fact is this budget must be made, otherwise the DCLG will force a budget on us from a central government level, I think we can all agreed it must be made locally, by elected officials.
We, as citizens, can set change in motion. A recent study concluded that social media is influencing the way we form political opinions. By posting our thoughts in our feed we are potentially exposing people to alternative views they may not usually be exposed to other ways. It perhaps helps people to consider different sides of an argument and understand there’s more than one way to spin a story.
Being a keyboard activist isn’t as useless as we may think!
Follow #BHBudget for comments, stories on the 2016/2017 budget.
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