Brighton Greens call for council tax referendum

Green Party-led Brighton council is planning a referendum on whether to raise council tax, to avoid implementing the latest round of Tory cuts. Green MEP Keith Taylor gives his view

January 17, 2014 · 4 min read

Once again history is being made in Brighton and Hove. First the city elected the UK’s first ever Green MP, then Greens took control of our first ever local authority and now we’ve called the first council tax referendum in modern times.

The referendum, which is set to take place on May 22, will give the voters of Brighton and Hove an important and difficult choice. Greens are asking people to consider a council tax rise of 4.7 per cent to protect vulnerable people in the city from Tory cuts. Residents will have the choice as to whether they support the tax rise.

The only option left

But this bit of history is being made reluctantly. Let’s not pretend that a tax rise is ideal. Indeed the nature of council tax means that any rise will hit people on low incomes, though many of the poorest won’t have to pay and the richest will pay the most. But, like it or hate it, a proposal to seek views on a possible increase in council tax was the only option left for Greens who refuse to take government cuts lying down.

For the last 10 years Brighton and Hove has seen some of the lowest levels of financial support from central government, under both Labour and coalition administrations.

But the cuts since the coalition has been in power have been larger than ever – indeed Brighton has seen the second highest levels of cuts of any unitary authority in the country. Now the council believes the time has come to give local people a choice as to whether to limit these vicious cuts.

Election writers’ fund

It’s striking that Brighton’s Labour party, who are happy to campaign against cuts in theory, were quick to come out against the idea of seeking people’s views on a measure to protect services. I had hoped they might at least consider a tax increase as an option in protecting our city from the vicious cuts passed down from Westminster.

It’s also worth remembering that Greens did propose a council tax rise a few years ago, but Brighton Labour joined the Conservatives in rejecting it. Once again, they seem to have had no hesitation in forming a pro-cuts coalition with the Tories.

Preferable to cutting servicesbrighton-town-hallThe fact that Brighton and Hove’s administration is the first to propose such a tax rise is telling.

The Tories introduced legislation which forces councils to call a referendum for any rise over 2 per cent, and they’re expected to lower this threshold to 1.5 per cent soon. But surely, as libraries close and social care creaks under ever increasing strain, other councils across the UK are going to have to consider this option. Council tax isn’t the tax we’d raise if we were in government, but whilst Tories slash local authority budgets, surely Greens aren’t the only ones to think that an average tax rise of £5.30 a month on a band C property might be preferable to cutting services for vulnerable people.

There’s no doubt that this proposal from my fellow Greens is bold. The campaign against us from a united front of the local Conservative and Labour parties will be vicious. But the risk we’re taking is minor in comparison to the potential harm that could be inflicted on the city’s residents if we can’t maintain the services they rely on.

Nobody likes paying tax, nor increasing it – but a reality is that these lifeline services cost money which the coalition government is refusing to grant the council. This announcement gives the people of Brighton and Hove a chance to decide for themselves whether a council tax rise is the best way to protect our city from vicious coalition cuts. I’ll be doing all I can to support the council in their efforts to guard my home city against austerity.

Keith Taylor is the Member of the European Parliament for South East England was previously a councillor in Brighton and Hove for 11 years. He was the Greens’ lead spokesperson for finance on Brighton and Hove City Council for several years.

What do you think? Email submissions@redpepper.org.uk


What do we do now? Join us on Monday 16 December at Rich Mix

What do we do now?

After knocking on so many doors, the movement built in support of Jeremy Corbyn needs to stay present particularly where people feel abandoned or under attack

Election 2019: The latest attack on travelling communities

The Conservative manifesto includes yet another attack on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. We can resist at the polls - and by responding to the public consultation, says Beth Holmes

We stand with Jeremy Corbyn

Letter: We stand with Jeremy Corbyn – just as he always stood with us

Organisations and individuals including Kehinde Andrews, Hanif Kureishi, Ahdaf Soueif, Gillian Slovo, Robert Del Naja and Anish Kapoor urge BAME and migrant communities to vote for Labour


Election 2019: Tackling tech giant tax avoidance

Conrad Bower reports on the main parties’ manifesto promises to address ‘aggressive’ tax avoidance by multinationals like the ‘Silicon Valley Six’

Election 2019: Battle lines drawn in Sheffield Hallam

Sam Gregory of Now Then magazine reports on the candidates vying for votes in a key Lib Dem-Labour marginal

Jo Swinson at the BBC leaders debate

Election 2019: Anti-semitism and phoney solidarity

The faux-concerns from the party’s opponents does little for Jewish people, argues Oscar Leyens


Football’s Race Stain

Racism marred the Manchester derby this weekend. This blemish on the game is an echo of our Prime Minister’s words, says Remi Joseph-Salisbury.

Another World is Possible

Election 2019: The end of neoliberalism in sight?

If elected, the next Labour government can finally depart from the neoliberal consensus and deliver a major shift in wealth and power, argues Adam Peggs

Small change

Simon Hedges shares his famous-on-Twitter analysis of the state of the left today


Election 2019: Transatlantic socialism rising

As Sanders and Corbyn head to the polls, Peter Gowan describes a new spirit of international collaboration on the left

Jeremy Corbyn and front bench holding copies of the 2019 manifesto

Election 2019: An ambitious, agenda-setting and credible manifesto

The 2017 Labour election manifesto was good but the 2019 version is the document we’ve really been waiting for, argues Mike Phipps

Brian Eno: Why I’m backing Labour in Kensington

In 2017, Labour won Kensington by just 20 votes. Brian Eno explains why he's backing Emma Dent Coad in the seat - and why voting Lib Dem is ‘voting Tory without admitting it’


Cartoonist from 1888 depicting John Bull (England) as the octopus of imperialism, grabbing land on every continent. Public Domain.

Election 2019: Education and Empire

Following Labour’s manifesto pledge to educate the public on the histories of empire, slavery, and migration, Kimberly McIntosh explains the dangers of colonial nostalgia in the national curriculum

Support our election writer’s fund

The stakes could not be higher during this election. Help us cover what's really happening