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Local government :: Council tax
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Green-led Brighton council's budget meeting on 26 February ended in a stalemate after five hours, with six Green councillors voting against their own party's budget.
But the main disagreements were not over cuts or no-cuts budgets, but over the choice between Green proposals of a 5.9% council tax increase and £20 million of cuts, Labour's 1.99% council tax increase with £25 million cuts, or the Tories' 0% increase and £26 million cuts.
The council has already cut £70 million, with £25 million set to be axed annually for the next three years.
However, six Green councillors (out of 21) did take a stand and refused to vote for any budget that contained cuts, saying that they "would not vote for another cut, enough was enough".
The leader of the Labour group accused the six of being "middle class revolutionaries" and told them they were inviting in the Tory commissioners to run the council. In response, one of the Green rebels said he didn't believe the Tories would send in the commissioners before the general election, but if they did they would be met with protests and angry pickets.
After the vote, I asked one of the rebel Greens why they had not put forward an alternative 'no-cuts' budget using reserves and borrowing to 'plug the gap'.
I was told that they would have needed a group of at least two for it to be recognised, and this wasn't done as "we wanted to keep people together".
A clear split has opened up in the Brighton Green party membership. A few weeks ago, an all-members meeting voted for a no cuts budget to be set.
But another all-members meeting on 25 February overturned that position by voting to back a 5.9% council tax increase and £20 million cuts position by 75 to 50.
The rebel Greens need a clear strategy for a way forward and using their positions to build a mass campaign to resist the government. The Socialist Party and TUSC locally will seek to work with those who genuinely want to put forward a no-cuts alternative in the coming elections.
As we go to press, the council - where no party has a majority but the Greens are the largest group - is meeting again to see if a new deal can be cobbled up.
The most likely outcome is that Labour and a majority of Greens agree on a budget of cuts and council tax increases.
Update: As predicted, Labour and most Green councillors voted through a 1.99% council tax rise on 3 March along with cuts that include 300 job losses. Three Green councillors voted against with two abstaining.
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is an electoral alliance that stands candidates against all cuts and privatisation.
In 2015 TUSC aims to stand 100 general and 1,000 council election candidates in the biggest socialist left-of-Labour election challenge for over 60 years.
It involves the RMT transport workers' union, leading members of other trade unions including the PCS, NUT and POA, as well as the Socialist Party and other left and anti-cuts groups and individuals.
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Article dated 4 March 2015
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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