Following a U-turn from Bristol’s Mayor on his controversial proposal to cut Council Tax support, Green Councillor Carla Denyer, who first raised the alarm that Bristol’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme consultation might be illegal in August, today asked the Labour administration to commit to protecting the scheme not just next year but for the remainder of the Mayor’s term to 2020.(1) Filling in for Marvin Rees (who was absent) at today’s Cabinet meeting, Deputy Mayor Craig Cheney insisted the council could not rule out anything happening in the future and suggested that changes could be necessary in responses to changes in Universal Credit or government funding.
In response, Cllr Denyer asked: “As you won’t commit to protecting council tax support, will you at the very least commit to running future consultations in a way that offers people a real choice?” and suggested the administration allow opposition councillors to contribute to designing consultations, to try to prevent a repeat of the previous consultation which the Green Group suggested may have been illegal (2). Deputy Mayor Cheney agreed to offering a ‘real choice’ in future consultations and made positive noises about councillor involvement.
Giving a statement at the same cabinet session, Green Councillor Clive Stevens accused the Labour administration of wasting public money with the consultation and subsequent u-turn on council tax support, pointing out that facts supporting their decision to maintain the policy without cuts had been available long before the consultation started, saying that the “information was available last summer and this whole expense could have been spared.”
Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Denyer said “I had hoped that this administration might commit to protect this vital support for the poorest in the City beyond just next year, and it is well within the Mayor’s powers to do so. While we’re glad they have announced a temporary U-turn, and that the deputy Mayor has now agreed to offer a proper consultation in future, so far it seems the Labour administration may not have learnt the lesson from the strong public response to cutting council tax support. Bristolians don’t want cuts to this vital protection and over the coming years Greens will continue to press the Mayor to make the right decisions on this.”
(1) See full text of Cllr Denyer’s questions below.
In his state of the city address the Labour Mayor Marvin Rees backed down on proposals to cut Council Tax Support – see full text here: http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/marvin-rees-state-city-address-647827
In her visit to Bristol on October 19th Green party co-leader Caroline Lucas supported the outcome: https://www.bristolgreenparty.org.uk/news/video-caroline-lucas-responds-to-mayor-marvin-rees-uturn-on-cutting-the-council-tax-reduction-scheme
Full text of questions from Councillor Denyer:
1. Will the Mayor please commit to protecting the poorest households in the city, by retaining the current Council Tax Reduction Scheme, not just for one year, but for the remainder of his term to 2020?
2. In your State of the City speech you said to councillors: “you have three years before election, step aside from party divides and come and tell me what you want to achieve.”
But you know as well as I do that we have been trying to make constructive suggestions and raise legitimate concerns; in direct communication with your office, through budget amendments and through the Scrutiny process; which you constantly rebuff.
So will the Mayor commit to stepping aside from party divides by allowing councillors from other parties to contribute to designing consultations in future, so that our breadth of knowledge and views can lead to better proposals?