Brighton Pavillion
Image Credit: Creative Commons: Brighton Pavillion

This week, Brighton and Hove councillors meet to debate and vote on the city’s budget.

Our city faces three challenges in this budget: a spiraling climate emergency, an affordable housing crisis and continued cuts to public services. A whole decade into failed Conservative austerity, and the city council’s budget will be cut once again.

The global climate crisis is here and now: red alert floods see parts of Wales and Worcestershire under water, reflecting the scenes of climate breakdown over recent weeks in the Philippines, East Africa and Australia.

This combination puts pressure on council spending, but failure to address each issue, separately or together, will have more severe consequences – particularly for our more vulnerable residents.

Tackling the key issues.

Greens are the official opposition party on Brighton and Hove City Council, with 19 councillors. We have been scrutinising every penny spent and pushing to make the budget the best it possibly can for residents and our city.

We have limited scope to amend the budget. The budget is Labour’s to propose. Despite this, we enter the budget meeting having already had some key wins to tackle our housing crisis.

At Policy and Resources Committee two weeks ago we won £3M investment buying accommodation for homeless people needing extra support. We also used an underused reserve to fund more ‘Housing First’ placements which supports long term solutions for rough sleepers. This was an initiative first introduced under the City’s first Green Administration between 2011-2015.

Our principles for a fairer budget

Heading into the Budget meeting, we have four proposals to tackle our city’s toughest challenges.

Our approach is set by two guiding principles- doing everything we can to avert the climate crisis and helping the most marginalised. In recognition of the decisive action needed to tackle the climate crisis, we have creatively identified ways to fund the urgent solutions our city needs.

If we want to stop our city’s problems getting even worse, we need to fund services that deliver both for our communities and our environment. We can do this through a commitment to a Green New Deal, a plan to prevent climate change, but in ways that create positive outcomes for our residents. We will do this with:

  • £3.9m will fund transport improvements: investment in public transport, bus networks, bike hire, roads, electric vehicle charging.
  • £2.6m will develop an insulation programme for Warmer Homes for the city, to prevent cold homes and reduce carbon emissions.
  • Revising some parking charges will generate income, while ensuring our changes to controlled parking zone (CPZ) fees and high emission vehicle costs do not apply to the poorest households or those on benefits.
  • Funds will be given to flood prevention, enhancing wildlife and planting trees.
  • Alleviating food poverty and supporting the development of District Heat Networks are further Green priorities.
  • Financial support will be provided for projects identified by residents taking part in the city’s Climate Assembly.

Reversing damaging cuts

Improvements to our environment and to our community services go hand in hand. Yet services our residents rely on for health, wellbeing and quality of life have been cut dramatically.

We maintain that cuts to community services planned for this year are short-sighted and will increase costs – and harm – longer term.

Money raised through our budget changes will also be used to reduce and in some cases completely reverse damaging cuts to vital services, like disability support, domestic violence services and short breaks for carers.

In total, Green proposals will inject nearly £13m into the budget. We create 19 jobs in areas focused on transport improvements, preventing flooding, tackling poverty, increasing social value, enhancing wildlife and planting trees

Rather than comply with a Tory agenda that consciously ignores the crisis, puts the burden on the most vulnerable and defers to business as usual, Greens will push for bold alternatives, that centre around protecting our environment while protecting those most at risk.