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Green submission for the 2017/18 Newcastle City Council budget

The theme for our 2016 budget submission is Taking Back Control.  Government needs to devolve more funding and powers to local authorities, and the Council needs to devolve to its neighbourhoods.  The Council's budget proposals promise more of the same - more investment in the city centre to attract new businesses, and "to grow as both the regional capital and as one of the great cities of the north."  But more of the same has delivered cuts to the services that residents use on a daily basis, deeper dependence on big businesses, and increasing disillusion with the Council's ability to deliver local services.  We need an alternative, one that allows our communities to take back control of the city's finances.

The Green budget submission therefore unashamedly looks to the long-term, challenging the Council to use its Reserves more boldly.  The Council Reserves were £45.8m in 2012, and were then predicted to fall to £16.1m by March 2016.  Instead, they have grown every year, and now stand at over £106m.

We also challenge the trickle down economics that is at the heart of the city's proposals.  They plan continued investment and ongoing maintenance of the city centre, arguing that it is essential to provide revenue, jobs and benefits for the city as a whole.  But trickle down too often becomes trickle away.  For every pound spent within the big hotels, supermarkets or chain stores, most of that pound goes on national contracts or servicing corporate profits.  Over-investment in the city centre delivers few benefits for the neighbourhoods, and gradually only the poorest or smallest businesses are left to struggle on local high streets, making them even less viable and more marginal.  So we set out measures to combat this approach, and to shift funding away from the city centre and back to the neighbourhoods.

Support for the neighbourhood economy and local universal services is also key to empowering communities and winning more co-operation from residents.  We share the Council's aspiration to find co-operative solutions to our city's needs, so our submission offers proposals to better support residents and ward budgets, especially within the city's most deprived communities.

Finally, we look back to our last budget response in January 2013.  Some of what we called for then has since been taken on board by the Council (including the need for Council Tax rises), other calls we have unapologetically repeated in our current submission, and we challenge Labour to commit to setting three-year budgets every year (not just when there are no scheduled local elections, as in 2013 and 2017).