The Green administration of Brighton council is proposing £10.5 million cuts for 2012, with an additional £17.7 million for 2013/14.
Most departments are facing 5 to 15% cuts in services. The main cuts over the year 2012/13 will be to adult social care (£3.2m), children's services (£2.78m), housing (£2.09m), communities (£1.1m), city regulation and infrastructure (£4.85m) and resources and finance (£1.85m). Up to 120 council jobs will be lost, although this figure only includes permanent posts, as they are also stopping the usage of agency staff in many areas, which is not included in the figures.
There will be increased parking charges and charges for registering births, deaths and marriages, scrapping mobile libraries, reducing library opening times and closing many public toilets. The cuts in areas such as adult social care and children's services will see day centres, meals on wheels and community care cut, as well as cuts to mental health services, childcare training schemes and children's centres.
In particular, school attendance budgets and assistance to young people not in education, training or employment will face cuts.
There are also little nasty things hidden away in the budget, such as the 100% cut to the Talking Book service, whereby blind people can request that (any) book be audio recorded for them, which is proposed to be abolished.
And, despite their “Green” principles, they are also increasing allotment fees by 67%, pricing out lower income families from growing their own food.
The Greens claim to be a pro-trade union party. Since they got elected in May they have made much of the fact that all Councillors are trade union members. They have given us some concessions; when we struck over the pensions in November, they ordered our HR department to delay the strike deductions until February so we wouldn't lose money before Christmas. They have also introduced a Living Wage for Brighton Council workers (with the minimum hourly rate now being £7.19), which they funded by cutting the salary of senior directors.
They also have lots of anti-austerity policies, campaigning for progressive taxation and the abolition of Trident. They even conducted their local election campaign on the basis that they would “fight the cuts”, and last year every single Green councillor voted against the Tory cuts budget.
Before they got elected in May, many individual councillors were members of our Brighton Stop the Cuts group, and regularly attended meetings and demonstrations alongside us. Since their election this hasn’t been the case.
Our Brighton Stop the Cuts group hosted a public debate with the Greens a few weeks ago, and their essential message is that their “hands are tied”.
They say they don’t “want” to pass on the Government's cuts, and feeling sorry about having to do so. Their most-used claim is that they’re “being compassionate and effective in protecting the vulnerable”. But to workers being handed redundancy notices, it doesn't matter if the person who's doing it is smiling or crying crocodile tears.
The Greens were voted onto Brighton Council on an anti-cuts platform, but they had absolutely no strategy for it. They have no roots, or belief in, the organised strength of the working class to be able to effect change.
They can be forced into u-turns on some issues; very recently there was a colourful community-led campaign opposing the cuts to the music service (which would have prevented lower income families accessing subsidies to music lessons), and they bowed under pressure and agreed to save this (although without specifying where the money to save it was going to come from).
The two trade unions organising at the council — GMB and Unison — have a close working relationship, and will be stepping up the fight against cuts, whichever party is making them.
The GMB took strike action against the last administration when they were threatening to cut workers’ pay, and won, so will not hesitate in doing so again in future fights over jobs.
Joseph Healy, founder member of Green Left (a left-wing faction in the Green Party) and key activist in the party’s Trade Union group, has resigned, citing the Brighton budget amongst his reasons.
For more, see his blog here.