Caroline Lucas’ plea to Chancellor: Deliver a budget that works for our city

Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, has called on the Chancellors to ‘deliver a budget that works for Brighton & Hove’.

Lucas hand delivered a letter [1] to the Treasury this week calling on the Government to commit to protecting Brighton & Hove’s health and social care services, deliver support for businesses facing rate hikes, invest in the Brighton Mainline and create a Living Rent Commission. 

In the letter Lucas detailed some of the cuts faced to the health services in Brighton & Hove, including:

  • Early Help: These are the services that work with families and very young children to curb problems that may result in crises, and stop children needing to go into care.  In total there are £640k planned cuts to Early Help.
  • Sexual Health Services: £712k will be cut from the city’s sexual health services despite the number of infections rising.
  • Substance misuse rehabilitation services: There are £600k worth of cuts planned to these services, on top of measures to reduce drug work teams.  There are serious concerns about drug use and litter risk rising as a result.
  • Older people’s physical activities: These face cuts to the value of £641,000 over the next three years.

To help the city’s small businesses Lucas has demanded that the Government further extend the current Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) for small businesses, including increasing the threshold for 100% relief to £15,000, tapering to at least £18,000. 

Caroline Lucas said:

“With an NHS in crisis, a crumbling railway, businesses facing extreme rate hikes and eye watering rents there’s no doubt that our City is in serious trouble. This really could be a fork in the road for Brighton and Hove. Either the Government commits to investing in our city – and to protecting the services upon which we rely – or they neglect us, and leave our continued success at risk. ]

“For the sake of decent public services, affordable homes and thriving local businesses the Chancellor must present a Budget that works for Brighton on Wednesday. Failing to address the serious challenges we face would be a dereliction of duty.”



[1] The full letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer:

Rt Hon Philip Hammond, MP

Chancellor of the Exchequer

HM Treasury

I Horse Guards Road

London SW1A 2HQ

Ref: ML.C0044.ID.24.02.17

Date: 24th February 2017



Dear Philip,

Brighton and Hove and the Spring Budget

I am writing to you ahead of the Spring Budget to call on you to take account of the following urgent priorities for the city of Brighton and Hove in which my constituency is based.


Social Care and NHS

Our local NHS services are in crisis - GP provision, public health, community care, hospitals, and ambulance services.  The Government’s Sustainability and Transformation Programme is not matched by the capital funding required.  For example, the STP plan for Brighton and Hove includes a ‘predicted benefit’ that we’ll be able to reduce spending on traditional hospital care by 12%, equating to £80m by 20/21.[1]  We are also told that an additional £112m of social care efficiencies have been identified.[2] This is deeply alarming, when it is plain to those living and working in the city that there is no scope for further cuts or service reductions without putting patients and staff at significant increased risk.

At advice surgeries and in my post-bag, I frequently hear about what the underfunding of health services means for patients, including, for example, multiple cancellations of surgery leaving people in pain and impacting on their recovery prognosis.

Moreover, nurses and health care assistants are underpaid and undervalued and many cannot afford to live in Brighton Hove given sky high rents. I therefore urge you to end to the miserable 1% cap on NHS pay awards.

I also urge you to give the NHS a much needed injection of capital.  The UK spends less than other comparable economies on healthcare and the repeated claim from Ministers that the NHS is getting a £10billion cash boost has been exposed as false.  £10billion is a figure that can only be arrived at by shifting money away from public health budgets, health education and training, and also by manipulating the date from which real-term increases are calculated.  The figure also ignores NHS specific inflation.

Social care also needs investment rather than to be the victim of central Government cuts. Brighton and Hove Older People’s Council have specifically raised grave concerns about plans to cut the city’s adult social care budget, whilst proposed £4.74m of cuts to community care, including nearly £500,000 worth of support for people with sensory loss and physical disability, goes against the Government stated aim of increasing preventative care.[3]

To further illustrate the impact of central Government’s austerity measures on our local authority, the following essential services face cuts[4]:

  • Early Help: These are the services that work with families and very young children to curb problems that may result in crises, and stop children needing to go into care.  In total there are £640k planned cuts to Early Help.
  • Sexual Health Services: £712k will be cut from the city’s sexual health services despite the number of infections rising.
  • Substance misuse rehabilitation services: There are £600k worth of cuts planned to these services, on top of measures to reduce drug work teams.  There are serious concerns about drug use and litter risk rising as a result.
  • Older people’s physical activities: These face cuts to the value of £641,000 over the next three years.

The Government is requiring local authorities to do more and more whilst refusing to centrally provide the funds required. It’s irresponsible to pass the buck to local authorities and demand further “efficiency savings” when services are already cut to the bone and this inevitably translates into further reductions in essential services.

Dedicated staff are holding things together as best they can but, despite their tireless efforts, the overall picture in Brighton and Hove is bleak – my constituents are directly paying the price now and will continue to do so in future because the system is being starved of sufficient funding.

No one with expertise believes that the Government’s proposed £22billion of efficiency savings to close the £30bn funding gap by 2020 is achievable. Moreover, it is clear that to make social care free by abolishing the false distinction between nursing and personal care would take additional funds - based on the amount spent on private social care currently, this would be in the region of around £8bn. 

More investment is needed for our health and social care system to function as it should.  Options for raising this money include raising National Insurance contributions for employees and employers by eg 1 per cent as happened under Gordon Brown.  The IPPR have recently estimated that such a move could raise an additional 4bn a year, thereby providing an extra 12bn over the remainder of the Parliament. [5]

Public belief in the principle of pooling the money needed and sharing it out to provide services free on the basis of need is as strong as it ever was.  We must not allow the founding principles of the NHS to be eroded by the false suggestion that as a country we cannot afford to look after people.


Energy Efficiency and Fuel Poverty

You are no doubt aware that 25 million existing homes will not meet the insulation standards required by mid-century to meet our climate change targets. [6] Starting today, this means that one house every minute will need to be retrofitted between now and 2050. Meanwhile, four million people still live in fuel poverty – including in 6500 homes in my constituency of Brighton Pavilion[7]

We know that a national programme of retrofitting could create over one hundred thousand jobs, bring £1.27 in tax revenue for every £1 invested, and improve the standards of living for millions of people. [8] I am writing to ask you to make energy efficiency a national infrastructure priority, make sure every existing home is warm and introduce zero-carbon standards for new homes.


Business Rates

The total Rateable Value for commercial properties in the city has now increased from £265,646,021 to £311,176,836 which equates to 17.14%.  This increase is not spread equally across all local businesses and many are reporting hikes of up to 400% and even 26,000%.

I welcome the Prime Minister’s indication in response to my question during PMQs last week that there will be ‘additional relief’. I urge you to ensure that it is adequate to ensure that small and micro businesses in particular are fairly supported and that the current fund for transitional relief includes new money.   Without this level of support, many local businesses are warning they may be forced to close or scale back their business as a result of rate changes – that’s bad news both for my city’s local economy and also for the Treasury.

There is a particular problem faced by smaller shops and businesses in areas that have seen high increases in rent, like Brighton and Hove. I am concerned that some firms face an alarming cliff edge after losing their entitlement to rate relief.  Therefore, I repeat the call I have previously made for more businesses to benefit from the business rates relief scheme.

I therefore urge you to further extend the current Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) for small businesses, including increasing the threshold for 100% relief to £15,000, tapering to at least £18,000. 

For places like Brighton and Hove, where small businesses face acute rises but the local authority cannot afford to provide discretionary relief due to the chronic pressure on local budgets and services, I also urge you to respond positively to the call from the FSB for a national hardship fund, to which local government could bid to establish mitigating local reliefs for smaller firms outside the scope of the SBBR.

And I urge you to seriously consider redesigning the unfair business rates model.  Business rates are the third biggest expense for many small businesses after rent and wages.  They are a regressive tax, unrelated to ability to pay and they place a disproportionate burden on small businesses.  

The RSA report entitled The Entrepreneurial Audit[9] explores 20 policy ideas to strengthen micro-businesses and self-employment in the UK, including proposals to overhaul business rates.  The report recommends transitioning from business rates to a revenue rates system, with a levy based on firm turnover, as a possible stepping stone towards a future Land Value Taxation system.  As you will be aware, there are strong economic arguments for a Land Value Tax as a replacement for business rates, and I have long called for the Treasury to act upon the recommendations made by Sir James Mirrlees[10] and undertake the work needed to design a workable system. The RSA report suggests exploring the scope for a revenue rates system.

In the meantime, I hope you will give serious attention to a further recommendation from the RSA, and also supported by the FSB, for Government to undertake more regular property revaluations.  This would at least make levies more accurate, reduce the number of appeals and allow businesses to absorb smaller tax hikes over time.

The changes to business rates that will come into effect on the 1st April 2017 may lead to a six to eightfold increase in the Rateable Value on solar photovoltaics (PV) installed for self-generation.[11] This could make installing and running solar PV economically unfeasible for thousands of businesses and organisations across the UK – in fact, it is possible that businesses with panels already installed may be forced to remove them. I have already heard from businesses in my own constituency who have had projects put on hold because of the proposed increases.

As well as affecting businesses, the tax increase will also affect schools and community groups. This may well come as a surprise to teachers, parents and school-children whose time and energy has been spent supporting clean, renewable energy. I am therefore asking that you extend the exemption on small-scale (less than 50KW) solar installations to support the urgent transition to a zero-carbon economy.



The housing crisis in Brighton and Hove continues to push people into poverty and from their homes.  There are around 26,000 people on the council housing waiting list in the city.

I urge you to put the full weight of the Treasury behind an official Living Rent Commission.  We urgently need such a Commission to explore different ways of bringing rent levels in line with the basic cost of living.[12]

We also need bold and visionary action from the Treasury on supply of genuinely affordable housing in the form of a mass programme of affordable and secure council housing. The budget is an opportunity to combine fully lifting the borrowing cap on local authorities, so that they can invest in building enough homes, with additional capital support from the Treasury to boost council house building.  There is a large and growing number of people who will never be able to reach the income needed to enter into home-ownership – they need radical action on the supply of affordable, secure homes.



Lastly, schools and local authority nurseries in Brighton and Hove are deeply concerned by the budget cuts they face.

The 'fairer funding' formula will force many schools in Brighton and Hove into a position where they cannot sustain current levels of provision.   Schools in Brighton and Hove will be £11,113,345 worse off by 2019/20 than they were in 2015/16.[13]

One head teacher tells me there’s no money for key basic repairs, like the removal of black mould or to fix fencing. Others warn that constantly juggling money just to keep afloat is resulting in decisions that they do not consider to be in the best interests of their pupils.  

The funding changes are also predicted to have a negative impact on our city’s local authority nurseries.

I urge you to ensure that both our schools and nursery provision is properly funded and protected. 


Brighton to London Rail Capacity

Passengers using the Brighton Mainline – or trying to – continue to suffer every day, and rhetoric about investment in our rail services rings hollow when their experience is of delays, cancellations and poor service all round.  My constituents want Government action and for you to demonstrate some vision when it comes to investing in the rail infrastructure of the future.

Dealing with the chronic bottleneck at Croydon is vital to delivering the capacity and resilience that our regional railway needs.  As I understand it, Network Rail has identified the BML Upgrade project as their single top priority for investment.

I know that Council leaders from Brighton and Hove, Croydon, Reigate, mid Sussex, Sussex and Surrey have all made it clear to the Government that investment would lead to significant returns.  This reflects the cross-party and widespread regional commitment to getting the best deal for our region from greater Government investment.  It has also been signed by major employers and businesses.

In short, I should be grateful for an undertaking that the BML upgrade will be a committed project in Railway Control Period 6 (by the end of 2024).

Furthermore, a long term approach to our rail capacity is vital, and capital funding is also needed for the BML2 project to be realised.  I hope you will agree that the case for BML2 is overwhelming, and that there is a strategic case for investing in both existing and new capacity.  It is vital that the resilience benefits of a second line, not least in times of disruption to existing lines, are realised.  Investing in BML2 in addition to the BML upgrade would show real vision for our region, vision that is badly needed.

I urge you to build on the good faith established by your predecessor’s decision to commission a viability study prior to the 2015 general election, and commit to the funding that BML2 needs to get off the ground.

Brighton and Hove’s local economy and local services faces the twin threats of further austerity and the uncertainty associated with triggering Article 50. I hope I have demonstrated that there are some concrete measures the Government could put in place to mitigate what could be deep and lasting damage. I very much hope the Treasury will deliver a budget that works for the city.

Yours sincerely,

 Caroline Lucas MP

[1] page 8

[2] page 12









[11] Solar Trade Association, 2016. Business Rates On Self-Owned Rooftop Solar: Industry Briefing


[13] .  The website published by the NUT and other teacher unions, compares each school’s funding in 2015-16 with the funding the Government

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