Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Tory Council budget plans add to Brighton unemployment woes

Yesterday evening I received my copy of the Tory administration's plans for next year's Brighton and Hove City Council Budget.

Hot off the press, it contains just the headline details at this stage. It will be publicly discussed for the first time next Wednesday - and then be subject to a range of scrutiny investigations (to check it's lawful, I think, but no-one really knows the point of the scrutiny process yet) - before being adopted (or not, a real possibility for the first time) by the Council next March.

A few hours of close reading later, and it's clear this budget will be an absolute disaster, particularly for the most vulnerable in the city.

If adopted, it will mean 160 jobs are to go, public services will be hived off to the private sector wherever possible, and cuts will mean less social care support, and respite care for older residents, less job advice for young people, less help with the costs of getting vulnerable children to school, reduced museum opening hours, and the cancellation of some bus subsidies - to name just a few.

I could hardly believe what I was reading, really. I woke up to the news that 450 Brighton jobs were to go at Lloyds TSB, spent my lunchtime hearing the details of plans to sack 116 from the University of Sussex, spoke with staff at retail giants Threshers and Borders about their uncertain future - and then ended my evening digesting the news that 160 council jobs are to be cut too.

And all in the name of lowering taxes - just about the only mechanism we've got for ensuring the cost of delivering a fair society are met according to people's ability to pay.

We've seen a derisory government grant as Gordon Brown continues his policy of withdrawing public support for council's on the south coast of England, and the local Tories are cock-a-hoop at the propect of one of the lowest Council Tax rises in history, at just 2.5%. 

This will be great news for a few - but bad news for thousands of the most vulnerable in the city. And an absolute disaster for the local economy: it doesn't take much wit to realise that the best way of helping people in a recession is to offer them job security, and make sure there's money being spent locally, and make sure public services are protected in the face of rising demand. 

The papers are available here.

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