The Conservative group on Brighton & Hove City Council have condemned the Council’s Labour Administration for going on a spending spree whilst at the same time predicting a Budget overspend of over £1.3 million.
A report to the Policy, Resources and Growth Committee highlights over £800k of additional resources that have become available due to an underspend on last’s year’s Council Budget.
The Conservatives say Labour is proposing to spend all of this money on various ‘pet projects’ such as additional Trade Union officials and a £5,000 ward budget for each of the 54 councillors on the local authority.
The Conservative Group proposed an amendment to the report calling for the money to be held back in reserves until there is more certainty over the Council’s overall financial position. This was defeated by Labour with the help of the Green Group.
Conservative Group Finance Spokesman Andrew Wealls, said: “During the meeting, the Council’s Chief Finance Officer warned about the difficulty of meeting this year’s savings targets and admitted that there is still great uncertainty over whether or not they can remain within Budget. So giving a £295k bung to Ward Councillors and £50k to keep the Trade Unions on side is the height of irresponsibility.”
Conservative Group Leader, Cllr. Janio, added: “Labour’s fiscal incontinence is part of their DNA. They seem to forget that it is not their money but the public’s, paid for through their hard-earned taxes. As soon as they get a whiff of some extra money, their first instinct is ‘how can we spend it’. By contrast, our approach is to say ‘let’s put this money aside in case the financial situation worsens’. That is the responsible thing to do.”
A Labour Group spokesperson, responded said: “For the Conservatives to try to call us financially irresponsible when we delivered an underspend last year is ridiculous – an extremely unconvincing attempt to distract from Labour’s success in getting the basics right when it comes to budget management.
“The Conservatives know full well that the Trades Union money is not additional, but rather the deferral of a previously agreed reduction due to increased current demands on Trade Union support at this time.
“We also disagree with the Conservatives’ opposition to putting a quarter of a million into local communities and neighbourhoods – which had the sole purpose of addressing on the ground residents’ local priorities. This was plainly about recognising how well councillors know their wards and residents, and to reflect those strong relationships. Despite the Conservatives choosing to misrepresent this, fortunately it is still planned to go forward on a pilot basis, which is very encouraging.
“We are also disappointed the Conservatives voted against money to improve park cleaning and safety at weekends, as well as additional money to support services for people experiencing domestic violence, and more, but happily we were able to get these very positive uses of the underspend through despite their opposition.
“The Conservatives should be reminded at every opportunity that it is their Conservative Government that is cutting over 40% from the funding of essential local services. Until they, like their Conservative colleagues elsewhere, start calling for a better deal for Brighton and Hove residents, then we will treat this kind of intemperate spin with the contempt it deserves.”