Brighton & Hove Labour Council achieves balanced budget and announces new Fairness Fund

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Brighton & Hove’s Labour Council has passed its budget for the 24/25 Financial Year. Despite facing a budget gap of over £30m, the largest in the history of the local authority, Brighton & Hove has achieved a balanced budget. In the proposals, Labour have prioritised protecting essential services including all council-run nurseries, libraries, street cleansing teams and keeping public toilets open.

At Budget Council yesterday, Labour also announced a new Fairness Fund of over £600,000, which will support those most in need with food vouchers, discretionary payments, support for foodbanks, and funds to community groups that help those most in need.

Labour have also taken a long-term approach to keep the city moving forward and investing in strategic priorities. Capital funding has been allocated towards reopening the public toilets at the Royal Pavilion and scoping options for a Park and Ride site, which was a key manifesto pledge. Labour have also committed funding to piloting on-site counselling support for Year 9 pupils to address the mental health crisis in schools.

Amongst the Opposition amendments to Labour’s budget proposals heard at Budget Council, the Conservative Group proposed getting rid of the council’s anti-racism lead and cancelling the piloting of counselling support for pupils in the city’s schools. They also proposed getting rid of the Special Responsibility Allowance for Councillors who are Chairs or Deputy Chairs of Committee. Notably, the Conservatives did not propose this when they were in administration, nor is it a policy adopted by Conservative-led Councils.

The Green Group wanted to keep the city’s weeds growing unchecked, causing hazardous pavements for residents, adding to the £60 million back log of repairs the council is already facing.

The Greens also incorrectly asserted that Labour are ending funding for four refuge places for LGBT survivors of abuse, however this is not true. As an administration, Labour are completely committed to this work and will be maintaining a gross budget of over £1m to support VAWG Reduction in 2024/25. This includes £600,000 ‘new burdens’ funding under the Domestic Abuse Act as well as significant additional Council funding.

The Independent Group proposed cancelling major public realm project, Valley Gardens 3, which would only take the city backwards.

Leader of the Council, Councillor Bella Sankey said: “We are proud to have achieved a responsible, balanced budget for our city. We know how hard 14 years of Tory cuts have hit local services and how much the cost of living crisis is affecting residents. That’s why we’ve announced Brighton & Hove’s new Fairness Fund for residents & community groups in hardship.

“I was appalled that the Tories budget proposals included ripping up our plans to support the mental health of our young people & tackle racism in schools. They also want to take us back to the 1970s, expecting elected portfolio holders to get by with no allowance, signalling that they believe only those with personal wealth should enter politics.

“The Greens seemed confused about the details of the budget and have made various errors in what they’ve stated recently – although finance and budgeting has never been a strong suit for the Green party in this city.  They wanted to add to the £60 million backlog of repairs to pavements by proposing that weeds be allowed to continue to grow unchecked.

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“Labour knows that our city can only move forward if none of us are held back. Despite significant financial challenges, we won’t allow inequality in our city to become even more entrenched. Through our Fairness Fund, protection of vital public services and investment in regeneration and development, we can now move forwards.”

Deputy Leader and Finance Lead, Councillor Jacob Taylor said: “As a Labour administration we’ve worked so hard to bring the council in on budget this year and propose a balanced budget next year, despite facing cuts of £30million.

“There can be no doubt that the scale of financial challenge has made this the most difficult budget to set in council history and that means difficult decisions have to be made. However, these proposals will keep public finances on track, prioritise spending on front line essential services, while continuing to protect our most vulnerable residents.

“Our tight financial management also means that we have been able to introduce a new Fairness Fund of £614,000, to support people who are most struggling in this broken Tory Economy.”

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