Ten days ago, Brighton and Hove, Britain’s first Green-run Council, proposed a radical but pragmatic local budget. The headline that made the Today programme was the Greens’ rejection of the deeply regressive Tory Council Tax freeze, instead going for a modest 3.5% increase to protect services. It’s modest, and it’s also the highest permissible that doesn’t trigger an automatic local referendum.

The Tory model for the freeze is actually more respectful of local democracy than the equivalent SNP trick – the bung offered by UK Ministers would cover increases of up to 2.5%, meaning the Greens’ approach would bring in a 1% increase to local budgets. To take numbers from Aberdeenshire, John Swinney offered to cut funding by 2.6% provided Council Tax was frozen, or by 6.4% if not. It’s the classic Mafia offer you can’t refuse.

The interesting part of the Brighton and Hove Greens’ approach, though, isn’t primarily the headline figure – it’s the comprehensive alternative to the austerity model being promoted by national government and accepted by other local authorities. As per the first link, they’ve ramped up parking charges to raise additional revenue but they still remain lower than neighbouring local authorities. They’re protecting libraries and children’s centres from the Tory/Lib Dem assault, saving money by sharing IT systems with other public sector bodies, and honouring a string of election commitments like a living wage for council staff. The party’s also set out two-year plans to reduce uncertainty. There’s even a tool to allow you to set your own budget – see if you can do better.

Much credit for this should go not only to Bill Randall, the experienced former Labour Councillor now leading the local authority, but to Jason Kitcat, the local party’s fiercely bright cabinet member for finance (left, above).

The Greens have run a minority administration since May, with 23 councillors to the Tories’ 18 and Labour’s 13. The Lib Dems unsurprisingly lost their last seat. This makeup is simple trigonometry compared to the complex five-party-plus-Margo maths that the SNP had to manage during the last session of Holyrood.

Essentially, the Greens and the Tories will never agree. Their electorates barely overlap, let alone their ideologies. This puts Labour in a crucial but difficult position, issue-by-issue, a position more like that you’d have previously expected the Lib Dems to find themselves in. They could side with the Greens, the very party who have shown up Labour’s weak managerial centrism and whose passionate politics has outshone them locally, which will just ensure a smoothly run Green administration that’s very hard to get out. Alternatively they could side with the Tories and attempt to humiliate the Greens, in the hope that all people have to remember is a failed Green administration, not the actions of Labour councillors which led to a failure of that sort.

From the rumblings coming out of the Council this week, it seems that Labour intend to side with the Tories and vote down the Green budget in its entirety. It’s one way to help guarantee a majority Green administration next time, that’s for sure. In the 2010 General Election campaign, Labour pretended that Brighton Pavilion was a two-horse race between them and the Tories, and that voting Green risked a Tory MP, a line of argument comprehensively disproved by Caroline’s election. Now they’re planning to help Greens write leaflets which point out that Labour will, if pressed, do the Tories’ dirty work for them, and that literally only the Greens offer any alternative. Both possible simple Labour positions look likely to doom them, but at least by supporting a progressive local alternative they’d have retained enough goodwill to get back in the game if the Greens started making mistakes.

Councillor Kitcat also proposed an open all-party process for discussing the budget line-by-line. If Labour were smart they’d use that process to set out some progressive stalls, not just siding with the local representatives of Osbornomics. But if Labour were smart..