Brighton’s Greens, Council Tax and a disgraceful act of moral blackmail

There’s an old political saw that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. As they come to the end of four years in office, and as they start the process of setting out their last budget, the peculiar genius of Brighton and Hove’s Green Party may well have been to turn that formulation on its head: last year was farce, but this year has tragedy written all over it.

For a second year running, the Greens are proposing a substantial increase in Council Tax – next year of 5.9% – that would require the approval of a referendum.  And the arguments are largely the same; that an increase of this magnitude is needed to offset the effects of austerity.

And the same arguments against such a rise apply this year too: that it is an entrenchment of austerity, using legislation designed to reduce the power of local authorities and to reduce them to hollowed-out commissioning bodies of a skeleton level of local services, provided by the lowest bidder; that it avoids the responsibilities that Councillors are elected to take; that it will make no real difference to the cuts faced by the city; it will hit hardest those who on low incomes who have seen their real incomes fall dramatically, in a city with some of the highest living costs in Europe; and that it is more about gesture politics than about effecting real change.  I blogged at some length about these changes last year

This year, however, there is a particularly distasteful twist.

As noted last year, a Council Tax referendum is hypothecated – the additional revenue from the Council Tax increase must be spent in a specified manner.  Last year, the Greens put adult social care up for grabs – services that Labour had committed not to cut.  This year, the Greens are gambling £4million of support for Council Tax relief – for reducing the council tax burden on the poorest households.  They are challenging their political opponents effectively to back their tax rise or abandon some of the people on the lowest incomes in the city to a significant increase in their living costs, by increasing the proportion of Council Tax they pay from 8.5% to 25%

And it’s an act of moral blackmail.  Quite simply, Council Tax support is at issue in this way because the Green administration has chosen to make it the issue.  Other options were on the table, and the Greens have taken a quite conscious political decision to gamble Council Tax support on a referendum they know they are overwhelmingly likely to lose, while at the same time effectively endorsing Eric Pickles’ localism agenda.  Green pet projects remain unscathed; and if the proposed Council Tax increase is defeated in a referendum those on Council Tax relief will take the full increase.

To repeat: Support for Council Tax in the City relief is at risk because of a conscious decision by a Green administration in its death-throes to make it the stake in an electoral gamble aimed at securing the only political ambition the city’s Greens have left – to re-elect Caroline Lucas (and to discredit the Labour Party in the process).  They know they cannot win the Council Elections next year; half the Green Group is standing down, many simply no longer function as councillors, and they are struggling to find candidates for next year’s election.  This is a piece of grandstanding, an act of political self-abuse by a party on the brink of electoral defeat, and which knows that the consequences of their decision will be borne by an incoming administration that they will not form.

Greens are quite good at talking about neoliberalism and austerity; the mask slipped when Jason Kitcat told the Council’s Policy and Resources Committee in July that 40% child poverty in East Brighton was “on target”, and when Greens opposed the monitoring of food bank use in the city.  It has become increasingly obvious that the poorest and most vulnerable people in the city simply aren’t on the Greens’ radar.

As Neil Kinnock might have put it: do not be poor, do not be sick, do not be old, in a Green-administered city. The Brighton Greens simply see you as collateral damage, caught in the friendly fire of Caroline Lucas’ re-election campaign – a campaign that needs to portray itself to the people outside Brighton who will fund and staff it as standing against neoliberalism and austerity, in the sure knowledge that after next May the Green Party won’t be running the city.

At least the Green Party have flagged up – months in advance – what they see as the acceptable price of Caroline Lucas’ re-election.  It remains to be seen how many of the many decent, progressive people who looked to the Greens for change in 2010 and 2011 will consider that a price worth paying.


7 thoughts on “Brighton’s Greens, Council Tax and a disgraceful act of moral blackmail

  1. I’ve been reading about Green Brighton from afar. Pretty shocking. I wonder how many progressive voters across England who are now considering the cuddly Greens know how they’ve behaved given control of a local authority.

  2. This is good old fashioned politics of scrapping politicians with an eye on the prize of a general election. Politics down and dirty is what politicians have to deal with. Its par for the course. Politicians do not care about people. They never have.

    Being poor, The Greens offer me more than Labour, that I voted for all my life.

    I am 60 without state pension payout. Disabled and chronic sick no benefits, including unemployment. Having to wait 6 years for state pension massively reduced by the flat rate pension, with many other women born from 1953 and men from 1951, with huge numbers ending up NIL STATE PENSION FOR LIFE.

    The article says Council Tax would rise 25 per cent for the poorest people, but Labour sacks Labour Councillors who vote against council spending cuts budgets. And all kinds of politicaly party run councils have withdrawn 100 per cent Council Tax benefit since this was devolved to cash strapped councils.

    Why should I vote Labour, when my denied state pension that is food and fuel money is going for an 11 per cent pay rise in 2015 for all MPs, and women MPs kept their work pension payout at 60.

    Just like the average women’s works pension, mine is around the 4 per cent poorest income.

    Council spending cuts have meant far more basic grades job cuts, in a public sector with mostly women employees.

    If Brighton’s Labour go against the rise in Council Tax and the poor get hit by not gaining the £4 million worth of Council Tax Benefit, then neither Labour nor The Greens could win, but the up and coming various socialist parties could win a landslide victory in Brighton.

    Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
    Left Unity Party
    The Socialist Party
    et al

    We live in exciting times. But the poor are key to winning the general election and only The Greens offer in their 2015 manifesto:

    – universal and automatic Citizen Income, non-withdrawable
    to the level of basic tax allowance
    instead of the cruel benefits regime that is the cause of the 70 per cent rise in starvaton since 2010
    when Mr Balls’ of Labour says Labour would be even harder on welfare reform thant he Tories

    – Full State Pension to all citizens, irregardless of National Insurance contribution / credit history,
    so leaving not one citizen with NIL STATE PENSION
    and three quarters of the rest with massively reduced pension
    from the already lowest level of all rich nations bar poor Mexico

  3. The repeated attacks on the Greens on pro-Labout blogs like this just shows how much of a threat they might be next May. If your party had anything left to offer its traditional supporters you’d be drawing our attention to that instead of resorting to smearing the opposition.

  4. The Greens in our area (Bury) seem intent on helping the Tories. They’re a vile and unprincipled bunch of people whose only interest is to slag down the Labour council (which is actually pretty bllody capable), so they’ve allied with the Tories.

    They should be utterly ashamed of that, but that’s apparently not on the Green agenda, whatever it is.

    Vote for those two faced chancers? Never.

  5. Pingback: 2014 – a Brighton and Hove Labour year in review | Cllr Warren Morgan's blog

  6. Pingback: Greens: the myth of the “new left” debunked | Politics and Insights - kittysjones

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