The debate about Brighton and Hove Council’s proposed 4.75% Council Tax rumbles on, with the crucial Policy and Resources Committee Budget meeting on 13 February and the Full Council Budget vote two weeks after that. The Green Party continues to argue that this is an exercise in local democracy. I don’t want to rehears the arguments I’ve made before about why this isn’t, but rather to point to a crucial issue that has emerged in debate on Twitter tonight.
In response to questioning from myself and others, Council Leader Jason Kitcat confirmed that if the Green Budget is passed, Council Tax bills will be issued at the increased rate, i.e. including the 4.75% increase, from 1 April. The referendum would take place on 22 May, the same day as the European Elections. In other words, council tax payers would need to find the additional £6 per month for their April, May and June payments at the very least. And the process of reissuing bills and amending direct debits could extend into July.
In other words, regardless of the outcome of the vote, vulnerable households would be hit by the increase. And it’s all very well saying that people will get the money back in the form of lower payments later; this is about people finding the cash up front. And in the face of the Coalition’s cost of living crisis, that means people will be hit hard. But the cost of the referendum will still have had to be met; and that means more needless cuts on top of those being made from Whitehall.
It reinforces the growing impression that the Green budget and referendum proposal is a shambles – an ill-thought-through palliative that has far more to do with uniting a fissiparous Green Party than protecting the vulnerable in Brighton and Hove. And all this served with a side-order of sanctimonious lectures on democracy, largely from outside the city; as the debate continues it’s the sheer frivolity of the Green approach to this issue that appalls.