Green Party Councillors in Brighton and Hove have rejected the principle of holding a referendum to enable them to impose an increase in Council Tax in excess of the 2 percent permitted without holding a public vote.

Green Party leader, Councillor Jason Kitcat is quoted as saying that councils like Brighton and Hove should have “more freedom to raise money from taxes”.

Under Government guidelines, Councils are permitted to increase Council Tax, but before they exceed the 2 percent limit, they must hold a local referendum. The results of these are legally binding. Therefore, if the voters reject an increase, the Councils are not permitted to exceed this 2 percent limit.

What Cllr. Jason Kitcat is trying to do therefore is to deny Brighton and Hove residents the opportunity of deciding their level of Council Tax. Furthermore, he might be seen to be attempting to grab power to increase taxes beyond the set guidelines without having to resort to public approval, claiming “The referendum rule is mad. It’s not really workable and would cost about £300,000 to run”.

Actually, Cllr Kitcat’s estimate seems highly inflated, since other councils have put the cost of referenda at between £70,000 to £150,000, and with electronic voting this may be reduced yet further. It may be interesting to obtain from Cllr. Kitcat the amount spent last year by his Council on promoting their Green agenda, and how this compares with the cost of providing some basic form of Local Democracy…

This reluctance to offer Brighton and Hove residents an opportunity of Local Democracy follows considerable resistance from the Local Government Authority (LGA) to the principle of holding Local Referendums, thus demonstrating the fundamentally anti-democratic nature of Local Government.

As the Local Audit and Accountability Bill enters its final reading in the House of Lords, the LGA is intensifying pressure on Government to publish estimates of the resulting effects on infrastructure projects, claiming concern of a “significant threat” to city deals, flood defences, etc.

Local Councils appear to have no idea of what “democratic accountability” actually means. Their priorities are put before the interests and concerns of the public, which is then duty bound to pay for them, on pain of imprisonment.

Local Government should be for Local People!