I've written to my local MP regarding his latest newsletter, where he laments projects in Hove being abandoned in favour of Brighton ones.
Here is the newsletter article in question:
Hove Funding Shortfall
Mike has raised concerns over the allocation of funding in Brighton & Hove, which he believes is not apportioned fairly, especially when it comes to large public works projects. Mike recently wrote to the Chief Executive of Brighton & Hove City Council, Penny Thompson, to highlight his concerns about the dearth of large projects taking place in Hove. Mike also enquired about the percentage of Council Tax revenue that is raised from residents of Hove and Portslade. Brighton & Hove City Council’s response highlighted that, once adjusted, just under 40% of Council Tax revenue comes from Hove and Portslade. Yet few public works projects could be named that actually took place in Mike’s constituency. Example projects that Mike cited in his letter include: New Road; Jubilee Library; London Road; The Level; Seven Dials; Seafront arches; i360; St James’s Street; Lewes Road; Brighton Station; Valley Gardens; and East Street. Mike has also been particularly disappointed with the slow progress of the King Alfred redevelopment. For more, click here.
And here is my open letter to him to ask his opinions on certain matters relating to the city as a whole:
Dear Mr Weatherley,
I write to respond to your newsletter article regarding how you are concerned that developments in Hove are being neglected compared to developments in Brighton.
These comments concern me both as a Hove resident and as a "Brighton and Hove" resident - a member of the city to whose council my council tax is paid.
Looking at the previous years' budgets, I find the following figures:
* The "Formula Grant" from Westminster to Brighton and Hove for 2010/11 -> 2011/12 went from 129,658,000 to 112,413,000. This is a drop in central govt funding of 13.3%
* The "Formula Grant" for 2011/12 -> 2012/13 went from 114,889,000 to 104,372,000. This is a drop of 9.15%
Overall, if I have understood the budget correctly (And I'm looking for clarification here if not) the govt budget for Brighton and Hove last year was 20% lower than its 2010/11 level. ( (129658-104372)/129658 = ~20% )
Naturally not all projects can be funded and the town as a whole needs to be maintained on a mere 80% of its 2010 (pre-election) budget.
I note that in this article, the local Conservative party, of which you are a member, have criticised Green party proposals to try to make up the shortfall with a 4.75% council tax rise. Naturally a rise is not ideal for residents, but nor is a cut in funding of around 20% by central govt.
(Source: http://thelatest.co.uk/brighton/2014/01/17/conservatives-criticise-brighton-and-hove-greens-council-tax-rise-and-referendum-plan/ )
It would far from ideal for us residents, but perhaps if this rise had been allowed / voted for, your projects in Hove would not now have been abandoned. Your leader, Geoffrey Theobald, is quoted as saying that Council Tax should be frozen. But by freezing council tax, the Conservative central office reduction of 20% would have left an even larger budget deficit than we are currently suffering, and even more projects, and perhaps essential services, would have to be reduced or abandoned.
Also in that article are quotes regarding how central govt offered Brighton and Hove extra grants which they refused, and how the local Conservatives consider that these grants should have been accepted. Reported by the BBC is news that many councils have been offered this, and its value is typically 1% of the budget. A 1% rise in the Formula Grant would not cover the deficit created by a 20% reduction in said grant. I would be grateful if you can tell me what offer was made to Brighton and Hove by central govt, and what conditions, if any, were attached to this offer.
(Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-25684811 )
I also note that your voting record as an MP shows the following things:
* Voted very strongly against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability
* Voted very strongly against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices
* Voted moderately against a banker’s bonus tax
* Voted moderately against lower taxes on fuel for motor vehicles
* Voted moderately against spending public money to create guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time unemployed
* Voted strongly for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits
* Voted strongly for increasing the rate of VAT
* Voted moderately for reducing the rate of corporation tax
* Voted moderately for measures to reduce tax avoidance
(Source: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/24889/mike_weatherley/hove/votes )
I cannot find your "local" voting record, so I can only assume you voted in line with your party to not raise council tax. This would be odd, as your MP's voting record shows consistent voting for higher taxes for people and reduced spending on them, apart from where you voted against taxation of our financial sector and also where you would like to see the tax burden reduced on our already almost tax-free "super-corporations". You did vote moderately for reducing tax avoidance, but as we know from recent news, any changes made here have not affected the business operations of Vodafone, Google, Apple, Amazon and others, and have certainly not swelled the coffers of the Exchequer to the point where our local Formula Grants can be raised back to 2010 levels.
I would be grateful if you can answer the following questions for me please:
1. Can you confirm the budget figures and the percentage drop in central funding I have cited above?
2. Did you vote for or against the local Council Tax rise?
3. As an MP, did you have any part in any discussions in parliament regarding local council grants for Brighton and Hove for any of the periods from 2010 to now?
4. Do you agree that with a Formula Grant reduction to 80% of its 2010/11 level, it is not possible to fund every project, and only the most critical projects and services can be funded: ones which affect the welfare and well-being of the city as a whole?
5. Which Brighton projects would you like to "drop" in favour of which Hove ones?
6. With the Formula Grant reduced to 80% of its 2010 level, how would you propose to fund all projects across the whole city without rises in local taxation?
7. What offer was made by central govt to Brighton and Hove in respect of a grant increase in exchange for a council tax freeze? Were any conditions attached to this offer?
I have written this as an open letter, which I will be posting to my personal blog as I think it is of interest to many here in Brighton and Hove. If I have made any mistakes in my calculations or citations, please let me know and I will be more than happy to correct. I will post any answers I receive immediately below in the same blog.