Sunday 23 September 2012

Brighton Council sets out budget options

Further to the previous article I reproduce below the page on which the minority Green Council in Brighton and Hove is consulting on its budget.  Last year's consultation in Brent at the Area Consultative Forums consisted of  a presentation by Ann John and Muhammed Butt which was very broad sweep with few details or options. Audiences were rather frustrated as a result. Will the new leadership have a more detailed consultation in the new Brent Connects forums?

 Budget public event

The council is inviting anyone who lives in the city to come to a free event at Jubilee Library, Jubilee Square, Brighton on Wednesday, 26 September from 6.15pm to 8.30pm. Attendees will be able to have their say about how the council should plan for the future. 

Booking a place is essential, registration is free and only takes a few minutes. Please register using our budget public event booking form.

There are many ways you can get involved and have your say on the budget, find out more on our your money, your services, your say page and join the debate on twitter using #BHBudget.

Budget examples activity

During this event one of the activities will include looking at five broadly different ways the council could work.

You will be asked to consider 'what if the council used this way of working and how would it affect me?' As well as this it is worth considering how the different examples would affect others, such as:
  • A single young professional, living in a shared flat in the city centre
  • A single mother of a child aged 9, living on benefits
  • A family of five - two working adults and three children aged 13, 7 and 3, living on the outskirts of Brighton
  • An older couple living on their pensions
You can find out more about the examples by clicking on the links below. Each of these include suggestions of how the different ways of working may affect certain services and people.

’Just the basics’

Aside from some services that it must undertake, the council would provide only basic services (like social care, bin collection, council housing) and charge for everything else as and when you want it. 
This would reduce the amount of money the council would need to spend to fund services and mean that council tax might be lower or, at least, would not increase.
Here are examples of the changes this might lead to: 
  • Collecting rubbish less frequently, say fortnightly. If you needed rubbish or recycling taking away any sooner you would pay an extra fee for the disposal of each bag of rubbish or recycling.
    - “I’m surrounded by students who make loads of rubbish compared to what I put out to be collected”(Single mother)
  • Increasing charges for leisure, library or cultural facilities.
    - “It used to cost us £x to go swimming together on a Saturday morning. Now it costs £y. That’s a lot, but in truth we can afford it” (Mother in the family)
  • Charging for the use of public toilets such as those in pavilion gardens, and not providing others at all.
    - “I do get caught short now and again. It seems wrong to ask me to empty out my purse each time.” (Pensioner)

‘Prevention rather than cure’

The council focuses spending on services which work to stop behaviour or events that lead to higher costs for the council in the future. 
Long term, the prevention of these issues would reduce the overall financial burden on the council and public services in the city, but in the short term more expenditure might be needed. This may only be achievable by cutting back on less critical services until long term costs reduce. 
Here are examples of the changes this might lead to: 
  • Spending more now on tackling anti-social behaviour, alcohol and substance misuse before these become expensive problems further down the line. For example, Community Support Officers could patrol parks to prevent and deal with anti-social behaviour. Similar to the government’s stop smoking campaigns, more resources could be put into helping people reduce drug and alcohol use.
    - “I spend a lot of time in the parks. I feel a lot safer seeing people on patrol.” (Pensioner)
  • Talking with families and communities early to prevent or seek early resolution of cases of domestic violence, teenage pregnancy, substance misuse, anti-social behaviour, school exclusion, etc.
    - “This is a waste of money. Even if every resident’s problems were sorted out, there would always be more people turning up. People should sort out their own problems.” (Young professional)
  • Working with health services and other partners to find ways to maintain people in their homes and communities for longer, avoiding the need for more expensive care.
    - “This has made a great difference to the quality of life of my parents, and, to be honest, a great difference to us in terms of not having to pay fees to nursing home.” (Wife in the family)

‘Keeping services not cutting them’

The council delivers all services on the basis of need without any extra charges. This means people paying for services they may not use but which are vital to others. 
To deliver all services for free would require an increase in overall revenue, including revenue from council tax. 
Here are examples of the changes this might lead to: 
  • Children’s Centres that deliver more services free of charge.
    - “I don’t see why rich families with lots of children should be able to use Children’s Centres for free when they have the money to pay. It was their choice to have so many kids.” (Single mother)
  • Health related gym passes.
    - “Why should I have to pay for other peoples gym passes, their health is nothing to do with me. (Young professional)
  • Garden waste collection for all properties.
    - "I live in a flat and don't have a garden, why should my money go towards this service." (Pensioner)

‘Partnership council’

Services are still provided to businesses and residents but not necessarily delivered directly by the council. 
This could reduce the cost of those services to the council and council taxpayers.
The council would play a supportive role in making sure that services were delivered in a way that best suits the community and the city. 
Here are examples of the changes this might lead to: 
  • Adult social care could be delivered through a combination of reduced council provision but increased private and voluntary sector organisation provision.
    - “I’m worried about ending up in a private care home after some of the things I’ve read.” (Pensioner)
  • Neighbourhood councils could involve communities more in local decisions. Community organisations might then be invited to deliver services, for example, parks or street cleansing.
    - “I’d love to be involved in some of the decisions that affect me, but no-one listens to me at present.” (Single mother)
  • Youth services could be provided by community/voluntary or private organisations working in partnership with the council.
    - “I’m involved in a youth club. I’m sure we could run some of these services better than what the council does.” (Teenager in family)

‘Go for growth’

The council re-directs more funding to help build the local economy. Spending on the transport system would ease congestion, for example. More new homes would be built to attract new investment. Loosening of planning regulations would enable swifter building of housing and business developments. Targeted business rate discounts could be introduced to make the city more attractive to investors. 
In the short term council income would be reduced which could endanger some basic city services like bin collection and libraries. 
In the longer term people should have more money to spend as the economy should thrive which in turn will create more jobs as businesses can take on more staff, which in turn leads to more growth. There would also be revenue from an increased number of council tax payers and extra business rates from more companies. 
Here are examples of the changes this might lead to: 
  • Spend more money on better infrastructure to improve how people can travel around the city, which could help businesses develop.
    - "It takes a long time to get around the city in rush hours because of the congestion.” (Young professional)
  • Invest more in affordable housing to attract people and businesses to the city.
    - “I just can’t find any decent jobs in Brighton, which is why I’m stuck in this one bedroom flat." (Single mother)
  • A reduction in business rates to encourage big businesses to set up in the city.
    - “We have a pretty good life, but the worst thing about it is commuting up to London. I wish there were more better paid jobs in Brighton & Hove so I could spend more time with my kids.” (Husband in family)

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