500 signatures reached
To: Brighton Local Authority
Reject Austerity: Campaign for the Progressive Funding of Local Services
This coming financial year Brighton and Hove City Council are being forced by the Coalition government to make £25 million worth of cuts to the budget in addition to the £60 million per year of government cuts that have been made since 2010. So far, attempts have been made to protect residents and jobs through making savings and redesigning services, but this is unsustainable over the longer term. This year’s cuts push the finances of the city off a precipice, and will inevitably lead to closure of vital services, job losses and harm the most vulnerable residents.
The current situation, however, only represents the half-way point in an ideological drive to destroy local government, and it is expected that whether Labour or Tory win the General Election next year, by 2019/20, the government grant to Brighton and Hove City Council will be ZERO.
It is a matter of urgency that this assault on local democracy is stopped, and it is time to find new ways to fund local services, protect residents and jobs. Not acting now will mean that quality of life in the City will decline for the majority as services are withdrawn, wages are lost and insecurity rises.
We call upon Brighton and Hove City Council to invest time and resources now into investigating all possible legal avenues to make those residents with the greatest housing wealth pay a greater contribution in local taxes, and do this with full engagement between the council and residents. Furthermore, we ask councillors from Brighton and Hove Green Party and Brighton and Hove Labour Party to do everything possible to support council officers in the development of a more progressive form of local funding that will support life for the many, and not just the few.
Why is this important?
This needs to happen now because:
1. Council tax is regressive. Band A takes about 1% of the property value but Band H takes about a tenth of that. So, the more the house is worth, the less you pay.
2. At least 2,500 homes are worth at least £1 million in Brighton and Hove but the vast majority are not even in the top Council Tax band. That’s £ billions worth of homes only contributing about £7.5 million a year to local services, a tiny fraction of their value. Meanwhile, Housing Benefit has been cut but rents in Brighton and Hove went up on average by 27% over the last year.
3. The government gave councils responsibility for Council Tax benefits but gave them the funding less 10%, adding to the burden of already over-stretched councils. This means the poorest in the City are now required by law to pay Council Tax out of meagre benefits, yet residents living in the highest value property have only seen minimal rises to their council tax bills despite seeing the value of property increase an average of 12% in the past year.
4. The top rate of tax on income was reduced by the Coalition government from 50% to 45%. This means the highest earners have received a tax cut while wages have stagnated for the majority, and benefits cut for the poorest.
5. The poor already pay more of their income in tax than the rich http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/jun/16/british-public-wrong-rich-poor-tax-research
6. Rising wealth inequality in Britain is one of the highest in the industrialised world and this has resulted in perverse situation where the top 1% own the same as the bottom 55% of the population http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/may/15/britains-richest-1-percent-own-same-as-bottom-55-population
7. The Spirit Level research shows that wider income inequality exacerbates and increases social problems, from health, to life expectancy, to education to others see http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/
8. Thomas Piketty shows that the value of wealth has increased faster than the value of wages, effectively entrenching the circle of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/apr/28/thomas-piketty-capital-surprise-bestseller. Progressive taxation should be used as a policy lever to address high levels of inequality. This is something the Coalition government are ideologically opposed to but this leaves space for truly radical and progressive local politics to make bold an brave decisions.
Brighton and Hove City Council has the power both to make reductions in household council tax bills due to Council Tax Reduction regulations, and it also has the power to establish free standing benefits, outside of Council Tax regulations, to make local funding more progressive.
For more details and examples of what can be done, please go to our website www.newdeal4brightonhove.org
This petition will be presented to Full Council in October 2014, but the campaign won’t end there. When the petition is presented, we are granted a 3 minute speaking slot. This will be available on the council’s online podcasts.