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Brighton to hold England’s first council tax referendum

Brighton and Hove City Council is set to hold England’s first referendum on increasing council tax, after the authority proposed a hike of 5.9% in its new budget.

Any rise above 1.99% requires a local referendum, which critics of the policy say has little chance of succeeding. The minority Green Party administration will need the move to be approved by the full council before any referendum is held.

The government introduced requirements for any council that wants to increase rates by more than 2% to put the plan to a local vote in 2012-13, but so far no poll has been held.

Councillor Ollie Sykes, finance lead at the authority, said: “Council services are already under huge pressure and the predicted combination of increased demand and reduced funding means savings of £102m are needed over the next five years. This is on top of £77m already taken out over the last four years.

“Decisions on where to spend less will be tough but we can’t stand still if we are to keep providing the city with public services whilst absorbing the extreme reduction in government grants.”

The council has also had to propose a substitute budget in case the referendum fails. The back-up plan includes a council tax hike of 1.9%, the maximum allowed without a vote, and would see the council need to make £24.9m in spending reductions.

If the referendum passes the authority would have to save £4m less, a total of £20.6m.

Some of the key components the council lists of any of the proposed budgets include de-commissioning or reducing some services, and re-commissioning others – including joining up the approach across Adult Social Care, Housing, Children’s and Public Health as well as integration with health services under the Better Care initiative. 

(Image source: My another account)

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