Councils cannot take another five years of Conservative Government

Town HallMuch will be written about this coming General Election, with Theresa May keen to make it as much about Brexit as possible. Whatever the outcome, she won’t get it all her own way; most people vote in General Elections on issues much closer to home, on prospects for them, their family and community.

It is perhaps a paradox that many local elections become a verdict on national government, whilst many of the factors that can determine peoples votes in a General Election are in fact controlled by councils. Local services and their future could, indeed should, be a major factor in this election.

Council and mayoral elections in May should not just be a warm-up act for the main attraction in June. Those who run town halls, city halls and devolved authorities still wield much more power than individual MPs, despite the enormous cuts and additional pressure they face.

Since the Conservatives first took power in 2010, alongside the Liberal Democrats (who should hang their heads in shame for their betrayal of local government), councils have faced cuts of between 30-40% in their funding, as the Revenue Support Grant has been steadily reduced. For my own council this will mean around a hundred million pounds a year less in 2020 that we had in 2010. Meanwhile the range of costs and responsibilities we have has been steadily added to by central Government, for example free bus travel for older people which costs us £10 million a year.

Schools funding is also being cut, with the Government hoping that blame will fall on councils, through whom the money is passported, rather than Whitehall. Housing for many councils is another challenge, but again any extra cash is funneled through developers not councils who can target need, not maximize profit.

Planning decisions, whilst nominally left in the hands of quasi-judicial planning committees, are now effectively in the hands of central Government through planning inspectors and the National Planning Policy Framework. Decisions are made in favour of the developers, but councils get the blame when new housing overtakes green fields.

Meanwhile the costs of social care are increasing rapidly, with an ageing population living longer with acute health needs. The Conservatives will talk of the billions more they have put into care, but in truth this is money generated by giving councils no option but to increase council tax bills by up to 5% a year. Here in Brighton and Hove, with a younger than average population, our social care bill far outstrips what we raise through council tax. Once again, the blame falls on town halls not Whitehall, as taxes go up but services shrink.

I fear that another five years of Government will be bleak for local Government. Increasingly the ability of local people to influence decisions will reduce further, away from the supposed ideal of “localism” championed by David Cameron (remember him). If Brexit does immense damage to the national economy, the impacts will be felt locally, and costs will be passed down. We could see a drift to the American model, where small councils meet infrequently to hand out private sector contracts where accountability is far removed from the resident.

The people responsible for making sure the bins are emptied and streets cleaned, for making sure restaurants don’t poison you and that buildings are safe, for running the mortuary and the registry office, should not be forgotten in this election. If your local council services are not on your mind when you vote in May and again in June, then they should be.

The Conservative Government’s Budget will not help Brighton and Hove

BudgetThe Conservative Government’s national insurance increase on the self-employed will hit up to 20% of the city’s workforce, many of whom are already affected by benefit reductions.

The money for social care is nowhere near enough to address the crisis, and as yet we don’t know where it is coming from. On past experience it will be from the budgets of local councils already slashed by 20% in a year, or already announced money brought forward.

After big cuts to our state schools, new free schools and grammars got hundreds of millions. There was nothing for housing, nothing for rail infrastructure, nothing substantial for the NHS and nothing on the impact of Brexit. This Budget won’t help our council, our small businesses or our public services in Brighton and Hove.

Faced with huge Budget challenges, we are delivering for Brighton and Hove

received_10154080748042534.jpegCan I begin my speech today proposing the 2017/18 Budget by expressing thanks, on behalf of myself as Leader of the Council, on behalf of the Administration, and I hope every elected member here, to all of the officers and staff of Brighton and Hove City Council for their part in bringing it before us today and delivering it.

From the Chief Executive and the Executive Leadership Team, to Department Heads and front-line staff, they have met the challenge of putting together the most difficult and challenging Budget in this council’s history. They have put in place savings of over £20 million through innovation and hard work, through modernisation and service redesign, through stepping up and doing more. Some staff, as is inevitable with savings of this magnitude, are facing up to a future outside of the council.

None of this Budget, none of what this council does every day, would be possible without our officers and staff, from the Executive Director bearing huge legal responsibility, to the Cityclean operative making sure our streets are cleared and our refuse collected. So before we begin our debate today I’d ask all members to join me in showing our appreciation for what staff do.

It is one of the three key priorities of this Administration to get the basics right within the scope of our reducing resources. That means investment, innovation, savings, new partnerships, service redesign – finding ways to do more, to do better with less. If we are asking our residents to pay more in council tax, we have to meet this challenge, not shy away from it.

We are investing in the basic services people use everyday. New wheeled recycling bins, replacement communal bins, new Big Belly compactor bins to make our streets cleaner. New parking meters with card and contactless payment to give people even more easy parking payment options. Fines for litterers and fly-tippers to crack down on those who pollute our public spaces and expect others to pick up the cost as well as the mess.

Commercial waste collections, garden waste collections and vehicle servicing are bringing in new revenue to maintain and improve the services we provide. In-house textile recycling is now raising money for local charities. The £7million invested in modern street lighting will mean our network is more energy efficient and will cost less to run.

Our recycling rates are again increasing. This Budget contains no cuts to front-line Cityclean staff. The Big Conversation has led to proposals for a new City Parks Foundation and new partnerships with sports clubs to make their activities in our parks – football, tennis, bowls – sustainable.

I pay tribute to my colleague Cllr Gill Mitchell for driving these changes through and delivering success after success after success. We have continued to improve residents’ satisfaction with our services – in fact we are the only public sector organisation in the city to achieve this, and it should be applauded.

We will in the period of this Budget revolutionise our customer services and our relationship with the residents of the city, with Digital First delivering new online bulletins for residents and staff, improved transactional services and a better website, alongside a significant element of the planned four year savings through digitisation and streamlining of hundreds of functions in this authority. We want to drive customer satisfaction still higher, so we are reviewing the top 20 interactions that residents have with us as a council, to ensure that even more customer journeys are positive ones.

Cllr Emma Daniel is leading our neighbourhoods work, taking the council back out into communities, taking forward the work of the Fairness Commission we established, helping join up our services across council teams, tackling issues at an earlier stage to improve outcomes and save money, getting the local right. I thank her and her committee for the innovative work she is leading in helping transform this council and the way it works with all our residents, all our communities.

We are succeeding in delivering the schools our young people and our economy need. Under Cllr Tom Bewick and Cllr Daniel Chapman we have seen the number of schools rated Good or Outstanding increase by 10 per cent to 92 per cent overall, above the national average for the first time. We are now in top 25 authorities for primary schools nationally. We should praise all in our schools for their efforts to make this happen.

We plan to re-design the Early Help system and modernise the special school provision across the city. We’ve seen awards for our LGBT work in schools recognised as the best in the UK, and we’ve doubled free childcare. For those leaving school we will deliver 1,000 apprenticeships in 1,000 days.

As soon as we balanced the Budget we restored over two hundred thousand pounds to the youth service budget that was proposed in December, half of that recurrent every year. As a council we will still be funding services to young people by over two million pounds to promote routes into employment, better mental health, and work to keep young people out of substance misuse and crime.

Under Cllr Alan Robins we have taken up the challenge of implementing the libraries plan agreed last year, we have maintained the number of libraries, extended their opening hours and set them on course to be the hubs at the heart of our communities. All of our decisions are difficult, but we have to put the long-term benefit of the city at the heart of our decision making.

In pursuit of that benefit we have protected the Royal Pavilion and our museums for future generations by placing them in a trust that can access the charitable and lottery funding they need.

We will see in the coming months the continued construction on Phase 1 of £18m refurbishment of the Royal Pavilion Estate.  Our familiarity should not breed complacency when it comes to what is, alongside our seafront, the heart of our tourist and cultural offer.

We were elected to deliver a council that works for everyone, a council that gets the basics right, universal services delivered, and essential infrastructure improved.

The second of our key objectives is protecting the most vulnerable, focusing the resources we as a council and as a city have on those in priority need. It is a duty incumbent on us all.

I would like to thank my colleagues Cllr Karen Barford and Cllr Daniel Yates for their incredibly hard work and able leadership in health and social care, the largest and most challenging element of our budget. So much of their vital work is behind the scenes, but essential to the future of our council and its care services, how we work with the NHS, how we deal with the needs of an ageing population.

Despite the immense financial challenges, the message to our residents is clear. Where need is identified, we will continue to provide a service. We will help you stay fit, healthy and active, but when you need our help we will be there.

We are funding projected demand pressure for adult and children’s social care and temporary accommodation to the tune of an extra £12 million. Providing these care services alone will cost over £160 million next year, far more than the £127 million we will receive in council tax.

I am incredibly proud of the work being done by Cllr Caroline Penn on behalf of this Administration on improving the mental health of this city and tackling stigma. As a nation we are recognising the impact of mental health, the need to look at it in a new way, and to put it at the heart of our health and wellbeing agenda.

Elsewhere, we have saved £350,000 by increasing our in -house foster care placements, we have signed up to ethical care charter, and we have backed the Fast Track Cities initiative on HIV/AIDS. We have been recognised for tackling fuel poverty that costs so many tenants in the city so much and is so fundamental to overall poverty levels in the city.

I am pleased that whilst we wait to determine the full impact of benefit and tax changes locally, we in this Budget will maintain a significant discretionary fund to help those who do find themselves in poverty, supporting the vital work done by our neighbours in this building from Money Advice, the Credit Union and Citizens Advice.

I am proud that in this Budget we are protecting funding for domestic violence services, with over £600 thousand going in to community-based interventions, prevention and recovery services, and refuge and floating support. All the time I am Leader of this council, this will remain one of our top priorities.

On housing, the private rented sector and rough sleeping I commend the work done by Cllr Anne Meadows, Cllr Tracey Hill and Cllr Clare Moonan. We’ve won agreement for a thousand affordable homes in our joint venture, our pledge to build 500 council homes is on track, a new allocations policy has been set, and the ground-breaking Rent Smart initiative was launched across a wide range of partners.

Our Rough Sleeping Strategy has been adopted and implemented, we have boosted our temporary accommodation with two new in-house schemes at Oxford Street and Stonehurst Court, and we have launched the joint Make Change Count appeal raising funds to help people off the streets.

Whether it is health or housing, care or communities, renters or rough sleepers, we are working hard to help those who need it.

The third objective we have committed this council to is growing an economy that benefits all.

Brighton and Hove is open for business. Apprenticeships are up by 19 per cent in the city, putting us above the national average for the first time. Retail is set to get a massive boost with John Lewis coming to the city, Redevco investing in the new Lane and Hanningtons estate, Standard Life investing hundreds of millions into the Churchill Square extension, and Ikea proposing a store on land in our city region owned by Brighton and Hove Albion.

Our colleges and universities continue to equip our young people with the skills and innovation needed to compete in the local, national and global market, and I have forged ever closer working relationships with them in partnership work that benefits the city as a whole.

I’d like at this point to commend in particular Cllr Julie Cattell, Chair of Planning and Deputy Chair of Economic Development, for the immense work she and all our dedicated planning officers have done in the last 18 months to turn our planning department around – to have it running at pace is key to business confidence and the continued growth of our economy. Cllr Jackie O’Quinn is also doing a fantastic job at the helm of the Licensing Committee.

We are bringing in billions of pounds to the city in regeneration projects, including the Waterfront arena, Shelter Hall, Preston Barracks, and King Alfred through bodies such as Greater Brighton, Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership, and Brighton and Hove Business Partnership. We are campaigning for the Brighton and Hove Living Wage, opposing zero-hour contracts, growing career opportunities and working to deliver the full potential of all our residents. We are putting in place a new Civic Office to bring further inward investment into the city.

Brighton and Hove is indeed a place to invest, a place with a talented, trained and innovative workforce on which to draw, a unique location for business to spark and grow. We are open for business, we will grow an economy where everyone shares in the benefits of that growth.

I would like to use this opportunity to make two new announcements today, ones which I hope will command support across this chamber.

The loss of a child is one of the most unimaginable things any family could have to bear. I pay tribute to the campaign led by Carolyn Harris MP in the House of Commons, which has won support from all parties, to end funeral fees in the case of child deaths. A number of councils have responded positively to this campaign.

Whilst we do not charge for child burials or cremations, we do charge for the grave plot and the headstone, meaning families can face costs of almost £170. Mr Mayor I am asking Council today to support me in saying that this will be the last Budget where we will set charges for the burial of children, and that we will take the necessary steps to end child funeral costs in the city council Budget as soon as possible.

I would like to pay tribute to the former Chair of the Children and Young People’s Committee Cllr Tom Bewick for the work he did in that role during the first two years of our Administration, in particular his instrumental role in setting up a Care Leavers Trust for young people who have not had the benefit of a stable family environment as they start out in life.

All of us have a responsibility as Corporate Parents to those children and young people in our care and leaving our care. That is why, Mr Mayor, I would like this council to support the campaign by the Children’s Society and exempt fully all local care leavers from council tax until the age of 25. We will be bringing forward proposals to enable that during the course of the coming year.

I want at this point to address the broader issue of local government funding.

Mr Mayor it is the fault of successive governments that no sustainable solution to the funding of council services has been devised. The removal of the Revenue Support Grant between 2011 and 2020, over a hundred million pounds a year in our case, leaves us increasingly reliant on council tax and business rates. These are two property taxes based on outdated valuations, regressive in their impact and utterly insufficient to fund the services local councils are charged with providing.

Let me be clear on the proposals in this Budget to raise the council tax level in Brighton and Hove by 4.99%. I opposed similar rises in the past and I stand here proposing this increase with a very heavy heart. This rise will hit people on lower incomes hard at a time when they are seeing living costs increase and benefit support reduced. It is right that we maintain a substantial discretionary fund to support those pushed towards poverty, homelessness and the food bank.

However with the pressures of social care costs increasing here as they are in every top-tier authority, we have little choice but to apply the full three per cent social care precept as we try to close the gap and ease funding pressure on other services.

Calling for a national funding review, my West Sussex counterpart Cllr Louise Goldsmith said at their Budget meeting last week that nationally social care services are “seriously, seriously underfunded” and that the social care precept provided “just a few drops of help in a vast ocean of need.”

The results of The Municipal Journal and LGiU annual finance survey were published last week. Nearly eight out of 10 respondents to the survey of more than 160 council chief executives, leaders, finance directors and portfolio holders from 131 local authorities across England said they lacked confidence in the sustainability of the sector’s finances.

13% admitted there was a danger they would no longer have enough funding to fulfil their statutory duties in the coming year, with half of those based in the South East.

The president of the Association of Local Authority Treasurers Societies, Duncan Whitfield, said the next two years would be ‘make or break for some of the more beleaguered authorities’.

The survey also found an overwhelming 94% planning to increase council tax in 2017/18 and four out of five of those eligible said they were likely or very likely to take up all or some of increased social care precept. Four out of five top-tier respondents named social care as their greatest immediate pressure.

Lord Porter, the Conservative peer who heads the Local Government Association, said this week:

“Social care faces a funding gap of at least £2.6 billion by 2020. It cannot be left to council taxpayers alone to try and fix this. Councils, the NHS, charities and care providers remain united around the desperate need for new government funding for social care. By continuing to ignore these warnings, social care remains in crisis and councils and the NHS continue to be pushed to the financial brink.

“The Government cannot ignore this any longer. Genuinely new government money for social care is urgently needed. Without this, our most vulnerable continue to face an ever uncertain future where they might no longer receive the dignified care and support they deserve, such as help getting dressed or getting out and about, which is crucial to their independence and wellbeing.

“Councils face an overall £5.8 billion funding gap by 2020. This will push councils perilously close to the financial edge over the next few years and force them all to make significant reductions to the local services communities rely on, including filling potholes, collecting waste, maintaining our parks and green spaces and running children’s centres, leisure centres and libraries, to plug growing funding gaps.”

Chief executive of the LGiU, Jonathan Carr-West, said: ‘Local government finances across the country are in a dire state. Everyone is expecting someone to fail. They are just hoping it won’t be them.’

Thanks to the work of this Administration, our officers and the support of members across party in this council, it will not be us. But we are far from the least affected.

The Government has said that from 2020 councils will retain all of their business rates, rather than the 50% they do at present. Although that in theory offer this authority the prospect of in excess of fifty million pounds, it is clear that revaluation, rebates and redistribution may mean we see no net benefit. This will not be anything other than a fiscally neutral move by the Treasury, leaving them no worse off and local government no better off as a result

Over the last 4 years, this council has saved £76 million in order to ensure that we keep pace with the demand and inflationary cost of social care and temporary accommodation, within an envelope that is shrinking as the result of diminishing funding from central government. No one is immune from savings, and I have ensured my Administration has saved £70,000 from the special responsibility allowances set by the Independent Remuneration Panel.

Our revenue support grant will all but disappear in 2020.  Health budgets for 2017/18 and beyond have not been set. It seems unlikely that the full impact of welfare reform has yet been felt.

I am pleased to say that we are rising to this financial challenge, and managing this council’s finances well. I thank my colleague Cllr Les Hamilton for his role in ensuring we are on a sound and sensible course.

At this halfway point in our Administration’s first term, in the face of unprecedented funding challenges, with 40% reductions in our spending power, I am determined that we will maintain the vast majority of our services in some form, and strive to keep the number of compulsory job losses to levels below those of many other authorities in the same situation. Achieving that in this Budget has been an immense task, but as most will acknowledge, we are not in circumstances that are unique or that are of our own making.

We are by no means the worst off as a council, but we are far from being the one with the best deal. As a council we are modernising and reforming, managing responsibly and competently, innovating and changing the way we do things, making savings while investing in new resources and revenue generation. This year we instructed officers that a projected overspend of close to £4 million had to be reduced to within the risk provision we prudently set. We delivered. Our auditors, Ernst & Young, have recognized our sound financial management and recently gave us an improved and positive rating for securing value for money for the taxpayer.

During this year we will deliver savings through sharing services with other councils via the Orbis partnerships, both in support services and legal. Having stress-tested the four year integrated service and financial plans first agreed in February 2015, we have identified further initiatives that will help us, for example a fresh approach to the neighbourhoods agenda and to enforcement.

Through our investment in Digital First we will have a renewed focus on those projects that deliver the biggest savings – starting with mobile working and using predictive analytics in the adult social care service. We have ensured that the council’s ambitious Modernisation Programme will continue apace – its work streams will deliver most of the required savings for 2017/18 to add to the £17 million forecast for this year.

Mr Mayor we have adopted a financially responsible approach, a more commercial approach, a more co-operative approach, a more customer-focused approach. We are getting a grip on demand led services, streamlining processes and delivering £2 million in management savings last year and next year. All of us should be proud of what this council is achieving, in the face of the challenges common across local government, and in the face of our own specific housing and infrastructure challenges here in Brighton and Hove.

We are leading the city through by strengthening our collaboration with all our partners and asking the Better Brighton & Hove think tank to research, address and solve the economic, social, and public service challenges facing the city.

In conclusion, all of us were elected to serve the residents of this city, to make it a better place to live now and in the future, to preserve our heritage and invest in our economy. We are the temporary custodians of a valuable and historic place, a collection of rich and varied communities and culture, a city with incredible resources and immense potential.

We should be united in saying that Government should help us do what we were all elected to do, help us get to the basic services right, protect the most vulnerable, and ensure everyone benefits when our economy does well.

We should be united in asking Government to devolve to us the powers to fund what we need to do, and to deliver what our residents and businesses need.

We should be united in calling for an urgent review of how local government is funded and how it meets the challenge of providing social care services, not to apportion blame but to address a national crisis.

I say to this council, very simply, we should be united in support of this council, our residents and for Brighton and Hove.

We in this Group will support a significant number of the opposition amendments, because we recognise the work put in and the intent from opposition parties to make our budget better. I hope they in turn recognise our work and our intent in making the difficult choices, significant savings and sound financial decisions we have in this Budget today. The amendments today total less than 1% of the total revenue, HRA and capital budgets we have in front of us today. So let us view how we vote tonight in that perspective.

Let’s be united for care homes, nurseries and libraries. Let’s be united for those youth services we all care about, united for the seven hundred services this council provides for the people of this city, from the simplest cleaning job to the most complex legal social care case.

Let’s be united in support of the social worker and the street sweeper, for the dedicated men and women employed by this council who have adapted and adjusted and upped their game year after year after year.

Let us be united for the community and voluntary services we support, we commission and we partner with in Brighton and Hove, for the small businesses who need our support in the face of unfair government business rates rises AND the council taxpayer hit by benefit changes and tax increases.

Getting the basics right, protecting the most vulnerable and growing the economy. Managing the resources we have well, increasing them wherever and whenever we can. Those  are my aims as Leader, our aims as an Administration, they should be ours as a council, ours as a city with a great future ahead of it.

I make an appeal across this chamber today. Be united. Join together. Support our city, support our communities, support our residents. Support this budget and be confident in the future of Brighton and Hove.

Europe: It isn’t too late to think again

21505_EU-flag-missing-starIt is becoming abundantly clear in my view that leaving the European Union will be a disaster for Britain, and bad for Brighton and Hove.

As a city, we voted overwhelmingly to remain. That view now seems to be shared by many other cities and regions who voted to leave. I choose to represent the majority of voters in Brighton and Hove who voted to remain. I absolutely respect the views of those who believe otherwise and who will reject the arguments I set out here.

Opinion has been moving against “Leave” for months. A poll of nearly 5000 voters in August found overwhelming support for Britain staying in the EU, reflecting a growing belief that we we misled and that there is no plan on how to make it happen.

There is a strong argument that we should not ignore the democratically expressed will of the people. However I believe that the reasons for the outcome were based for many on misleading information, and many would now not make the same choice in the polling station.

The idea that Brexit would reverse immigration was never realistic and controls on the free movement of labour will be catastrophic for many sectors of the economy. Migration was one of the key myths on which many based their vote, but myths are easily busted, and the impact on business through much greater regulatory burdens could be severe.

The promise of an extra £350 million for the NHS has been shown to be a false one. It was a betrayal of voters and their trust. Acknowledging a decision was wrong should mean we review it, not plough on regardless.

The referendum was not binding. The result was close, so close that Leave campaigners said quite clearly before the vote that should the result go against them by a similar margin they would contest the outcome.

Brexit will have a “catastrophic” effect on higher education, a vital sector in our local economy. Analysis by national law firm Irwin Mitchell and the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) found Brighton’s economy is expected to see a significant slowdown in economic growth following the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

The idea that Brexit will boost the economy and create jobs is another myth. Open Britain argue that the UK will have to borrow an additional £58 billion to deal with the consequences. Over a quarter of a million was racked up in legal fees in the first two months following the referendum, and costs of negotiating our departure over a decade are estimated at £65 million a year, at a time when social care is in crisis, the NHS is being run into the ground, local government is being starved of funds and rough sleeping is rocketing.

The respected Brookings Institute in Washington DC warned that Brexit could be “the greatest catastrophe of the 21st Century” leading to the breakup of the UK. The Peterson Institute for Economics called it a “disastrous experiment in deglobalisation.” Richard Branson said “there’s been very, very little to be gained from it and there’s been an awful lot to lose from it.”

Many claim that Brexit has had no impact on the economy, or indeed a positive impact on the economy. Of course we haven’t yet left the European Union, the worlds largest trading bloc, and predictions remain gloomy. In May of 2016 the UK was the world’s 5th largest economy. Just eight months later we have slipped behind France and India to 7th.

The resignation of the UK’s Ambassador to the EU lays bare the stark reality that the Government has no plan for exiting the EU that in any way benefits the country. The Government never had a plan because it never expected to lose the referendum. The pledge to put EU membership to the vote was entirely designed to stop the hemorrhage of Tory votes to UKIP at the 2015 General Election and secure a Tory majority.

The involvement of figures like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove in the Leave campaign was clearly more about their ambitions to succeed David Cameron than what was right for the country.

Even senior Tories now warn that “this is grown-up stuff, with consequences”. If we trigger Article 50 in March, we have just two years to successfully conclude negotiations or leave with nothing. Today the Prime Minister said she would present a plan “within weeks“, denying thinking in Government is “muddled”. I do not have faith in this Government to deliver.

Sir Keir Starmer is right that we should find bold and progressive solutions to the issues that underpinned the narrow vote to leave, but I disagree with the view that the outcome of the referendum cannot be challenged. 70% of Labour voters now believe we are wrong to leave the EU, many of them now looking to the Liberal Democrats to represent their views. I believe Labour should speak for a pro-European Britain.

We have not yet triggered Article 50. The Supreme Court may yet rule that Parliament must have the final say. There are various legal options the Court could give Parliament to consider. MPs need to think about their responsibility to all of the people, the national interest and the future before deciding to carry on with what is at best a high risk leap into the unknown.

Brighton and Hove can and should remain oriented towards Europe, with 50% of our tourism coming from the EU. We are the home of the European headquarters of American Express, and other financial services groups like Legal and General. Our creative arts and digital sectors, our hotel and conference industry, our universities and language schools cannot afford barriers to trade with Europe. We can and shall remain open for business. 

I believe we should think again before it is too late, and remain members of the European Union for the benefit of our city and our country.

2016: fifty positive things your council has achieved this year

 

received_10154080748042534.jpeg2016 has been a year memorable for many of the wrong reasons. Here in Brighton and Hove though, there has been a lot that has been positive.

Here are just some of the things your Labour-led council has achieved despite huge cuts from government.

  1. Affordable homes joint venture approved to deliver 1000 homes: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/new-project-build-affordable-housing-city-agreed
  2. Air quality improves: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/city%E2%80%99s-air-quality-improving
  3. Animal warden service revamped: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/new-animal-warden-service
  4. Apprenticeships up by 19 per cent in the city, putting us above the national average for the first time; new challenge set: http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/jobs/apprenticeships/1000-apprenticeships
  5. Big Belly Bins introduced: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/council%E2%80%99s-bigbelly-bins-able-devour-more-waste
  6. Big Conversation on city parks draws huge response: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/big-thanks-3500-responding-parks-survey
  7. Budget passed: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/budget-agreed-201617
  8. Care leavers’ trust fund established: http://present.brighton-hove.gov.uk/Published/C00000883/M00006141/AI00052207/$BrightonandHoveChildrensCommitteeSavingsandTrustFundforCICmay2016.docA.ps.pdf
  9. City Innovation Challenge winners announced: http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/council-and-democracy/council-finance/city-innovation-challenge
  10. Commercial waste collection service earns money for services: http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/environment/recycling-rubbish-and-street-cleaning/commercial-recycling-and-rubbish
  11. Council house building programme on track to deliver 500 new homes: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/housing/council-housing/new-homes-neighbourhoods https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/latest-approval-new-generation-council-housing https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/work-starts-57-new-council-homes
  12. Credit Union strengthened: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/bhcc-seeks-strengthen-citys-credit-union-services
  13. Ethical Care Charter adopted: http://www.brightonhovelabour.com/new_contract_will_deliver_labour_s_ethical_home_care_pledge
  14. Fairness Commission completes work: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/fairness-commission-announces-their-recommendations-city
  15. Food poverty action plan wins best partnership at the city sector stars event: http://bhcommunityworks.org.uk/sector-star-winners/
  16. Foster parents increase by 8 per cent in last year; saving £350k on agency out placements.
  17. Free childcare doubled: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/%C2%A3120k-council-bid-success-free-childcare-plan
  18. Fuel poverty tackled: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/city-gets-top-marks-tackling-fuel-poverty
  19. Garden waste collection service introduced: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/garden-waste-scheme-grows
  20. HIV prevention Fast Track Cities Initiative “90-90-90” adopted: http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/14948188.Brighton_and_Hove_bid_for_HIV_Fast_Track_City_status/
  21. Housing allocations improved: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/housing-allocations-proposals-strengthen-focus-local-need
  22. King Alfred replacement given go-ahead: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/council-chooses-crest-nicholson-redevelop-king-alfred-site
  23. LGBT schools support rated best in the country: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/council%E2%80%99s-lgbt-support-schools-rated-among-best-country
  24. Library hours extended: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/libraries-open-extra-thanks-pioneering-out-hours-scheme
  25. Litter fines introduced: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/drop-litter-pick-a-fine-0
  26. Madeira Terraces rescue plan in place: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/%C2%A34m-bid-goes-start-brighton-terraces-re-build
  27. Mental health for young people highlighted in campaign: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/iamwhole
  28. Motor Neurone Disease Charter signed: http://www.mndassociation.org/news-and-events/latest-news/success-two-more-councils-adopt-the-mnd-charter/
  29. Nursery in children’s centre rated outstanding: http://www.brightonandhovenews.org/2016/05/16/brighton-nursery-rated-outstanding-after-ofsted-inspection/
  30. Office move saves £2m: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/%C2%A32-million-saving-a-year-hove-town-hall-officially-opens
  31. Parking meters go contactless: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/contactless-pay-and-display-machines-just-ticket-drivers
  32. Pavilion future secured: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/securing-future-royal-pavilion-and-museums
  33. Planning service improves: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/planning-services-steps-improve-performance-working
  34. Recycling improves: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/city-waste-services-improving-residents-and-businesses
  35. Refugees helped with support from residents.
  36. Rent Smart launched for private tenants: http://rentsmartbrightonhove.org/
  37. Rough Sleeping Strategy agreed: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/draft-rough-sleeping-strategy-2016-consultation
  38. Seafront gets a billion pounds investment: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/council-and-democracy/news/search-news
  39. Schools success: number of schools rated Good or Outstanding up by 10 per cent (now 92 per cent) city is above the national average for the first time, and now in top 25 for primary schools nationally https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/city%E2%80%99s-schools-top-50-key-new-government-performance-table https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/city%E2%80%99s-primary-pupils-top-30-nationally-key-stage-2 https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/city%E2%80%99s-schools-are-way-ahead-key-stage-2
  40. Sharing support services to save money: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/four-councils-sharing-legal-services-save-%C2%A31-million-a-year
  41. Shelter Hall work underway: http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/parking-and-travel/roads-and-highways/rebuilding-former-west-street-shelter-hall
  42. Street Lighting investment approved: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/future-bright-super-smart-street-lighting
  43. Street sweeping boost: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/clean-green-sweeping-machines-hit-citys-streets
  44. Temporary accommodation boosted: http://present.brighton-hove.gov.uk/ieIssueDetails.aspx?IId=50474&PlanId=0&Opt=3#AI49506
  45. Textile recycling boosts funding for communities: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/community-groups-benefit-new-textile-recycling-scheme
  46. Transport team awarded top prize: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/brighton-hove-wins-top-national-transport-award
  47. Velodrome restored: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/preston-park-velodrome-reopened
  48. Volunteering pledge signed: http://www.brightonandhovenews.org/2016/11/28/volunteering-race-equality-and-domestic-violence-on-the-agenda-at-brighton-and-hove-council-meeting/
  49. Wheeled bin recycling rolled out: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/cash-wheelie-bins-will-increase-recycling
  50. Zip wire given the go ahead: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/brighton%E2%80%99s-300-metre-zip-wire-approved

Bring on 2017: we will deliver even more for Brighton and Hove.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My media week

pr-101_fundrazr-blogIt’s been a busy week on media with interviews on the Budget,social care, devolution and benefit changes. Here’s a round-up:

TV

Sunday Politics South East (from 48 minutes in): http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0833g95/sunday-politics-south-east-27112016

Radio

BBC Sussex, Wednesday: https://twitter.com/BBCSussex/status/804018608707928064

BBC Sussex Breakfast, Thursday (from 2 hours 8 minutes in) : http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04fpc7l

Juice 107, Friday: not yet online

Press and online

Brighton and Hove News, Sunday: http://www.brightonandhovenews.org/2016/11/27/facing-hard-budget-cuts-together-brighton-and-hove-council-leader-issues-a-call-for-help/

The Argus, Monday: http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/14931607.City_faces_falling_behind_without_elected_mayor/

Brighton and Hove News, Wednesday: http://www.brightonandhovenews.org/2016/11/30/brighton-and-hove-council-to-shed-300-staff-and-cut-51m/

City Council website, Wednesday:                                                             https://youtu.be/pyW6DvutooE?list=PLkn6wzCIq2ylpH785q-65w3B_snw35ew-

The Argus, Wednesday: http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/14937620.__24_million_cuts_for_Brighton_and_Hove_City_Council_in_toughest_year_ever/

Brighton and Hove Independent, Wednesday: http://www.brightonandhoveindependent.co.uk/news/brighton-to-brace-itself-for-24-million-council-cuts-1-7706445

My blog, Wednesday:                         https://warrenmorgan.wordpress.com/2016/11/30/getting-the-basics-right-protecting-the-most-vulnerable-and-growing-an-economy-that-benefits-all/

The Argus, Thursday: http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/14940320.__24m_cuts_for_Brighton_and_Hove_could_make_for__most_difficult_year_ever_/

Change.org petition, Thursday:                                                           https://www.change.org/p/theresa-may-mp-save-our-services

The Argus, Friday: http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/14942281.Opposition_claim_Labour_administration_lack_coherent_plan_for___24_million_council_cuts/

Brighton and Hove Independent, Friday: http://www.brightonandhoveindependent.co.uk/news/opinion/warren-morgan-we-cannot-avoid-making-painful-cuts-1-7707138

 

Getting the basics right, protecting the most vulnerable, and growing an economy that benefits all.

 

WM portrait

Our draft Budget for 2017/18 is now out. My Labour & Co-operative Administration is facing up to the harshest ever financial circumstances the city council has faced. We are making a stand, drawing a line in face of the biggest ever cuts imposed by the Conservative Government.

We are protecting:

  • Early years services including nurseries and childrens centres, child protection is our legal duty and top priority
  • Libraries, not just as a place to borrow books but as community advice hubs and assets, the heart of our neighbourhoods approach
  • Refuse, recycling and street cleaning, the basic service your council tax pays for, with £400k coming in from commercial waste collection. Investment in big belly bins, new street cleaning vehicles, garden waste are new service innovations.
  • Public toilets no more cuts proposed, none added in the current year, no additions to the closures chosen by the previous Green Administration
  • Domestic violence we are pushing back against to cuts to this vital preventative service
  • Rough sleeping we are succeeding working to prevent hundreds of families entering homelessness, and are resisting pressure from benefit cuts that put more at risk
  • Poverty proofing the school day was a key recommendation from the Fairness Commission, giving pupils a fair start at school
  • Living Wage protected at local level not the national rebranded minimum wage
  • Social care: we are reviewing and redesigning services to focus on effective signposting, build stronger communities through increased partnership working, provide preventative services and ensure people get the safe, high quality, personalised, accessible and sustainable support they need.

This is our plan, our positive way forward, building a co-operative council and city to keep vital services going:

  • Investing millions in digital customer services
  • Saving millions through managing assets better, like our move from Kings House which will save £2m a year
  • Designing neighbourhood services and partnering with other organisations to keep services going locally through local hubs, volunteer-run parks
  • Saving half a million through our new housing allocations policy
  • A £7m investment in better street lighting that will deliver a £500k saving each year
  • Placing the Royal Pavilion into a trust to protect it and enable it to raise more money
  • Joining the Orbis partnership with neighbouring councils sharing support services to protect jobs and grow capacity
  • Housing investment in new council houses and truly affordable homes to tackle poverty and homelessness, and bring in new council tax
  • Major projects – new infrastructure, economic activity, more business rates/rents
  • Revenue generation from services like commercial waste, vehicle workshops

All this in the face of enormous pressures:

  • Government grant is down by another £11 million this year. It is shrinking from £140m to £6m over an 8 year period, a 40% funding reduction in real terms
  • We have already saved £70 million in last 4 years, £20 million in current year, leaving no easy cuts, no simple solutions, no savings that are pain-free
  • We still have to make £51 million savings over next three years, £24 million in the coming year
  • We are still £3m off balancing the Budget for 2017/18 – more savings need to be found
  • The £125m income from council tax is now smaller that £150m costs of care, increasing by £7m in the coming year
  • We are putting £1.5m more into supporting council tax payments for people on low incomes as Government funding for that scheme is cut
  • We are putting £300k more into free bus passes for older people, from the £562k additional parking revenue – the total cost of free bus travel is now more than £11m
  • We are making a further £2m of management savings

Cuts include:

  • £750k from youth services, however £250k remains for advocacy, services and support for young people vulnerable to exploitation, involved in substance misuse, entering the criminal justice system or requiring emotional and mental health support. We also continue to fund Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) work, the Youth Employability Service, the Youth Offending Service, and services for adolescents.
  • £600k from parks covered in our Big Conversation, and £100k from sports club subsidies
  • £290k from supported bus routes – still leaving a £900k subsidy

We are not alone. This is all in a national context:

An additional 2% social care “precept” on council tax, above what was allowed in the last financial year, has been asked for by most councils responsible for for social care, but this was not announced in the Government’s Autumn Statement. Even if it is, it won’t be Government that pays it will be us, with them transferring the financial burden of social care on to local taxation.

LGA Chair Lord Porter (Conservative) warns that councils will face an ‘extremely challenging’ situation over the next few years to tackle the £5.8bn funding gap by 2020: ‘Many councils are faced with difficult decisions about which services are scaled back or stopped altogether.’ He said the government must take urgent action to fund social care properly, if councils are to stand any chance of protecting care services for elderly and vulnerable people. Porter said that extra council tax-raising powers would not bring in enough money to alleviate the pressure on social care services for elderly and vulnerable, and that people are at breaking point now.

So far 24 top tier councils both Labour and Conservative-led are taking up full increase in council tax allowed at just under 4%. The days of council tax “freezes” are over.

Other councils have it even worse. In Liverpool all council-run services, including libraries, sports centres, maintenance of parks, highway repairs, street cleaning and rubbish collections, would have to be cut by 50% to balance the books, with Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson warning there will soon be no funds left, even for basic services.

There is a nationwide crisis in social care:  77 of the 152 local authorities responsible for providing care for the elderly have seen at least one residential and nursing care provider close in the last six months, because cuts to council budgets meant there were insufficient funds to run adequate services. In 48 councils, at least one company that provides care for the elderly in their own homes has ceased trading.

Is the Government getting it’s priorities right? No.

  • The Autumn Statement gave £240m for Grammar Schools whilst failing to help councils with social care and basic service funding.
  • Over the course of the Conservative’s decade in power they will give away £21 billion in tax cuts for higher earners, and another £1 billion in inheritance tax.
  • In the same period they are handing over £12 billion in corporation tax cuts for big businesses.
  • All this while £7.6 billion is cut from local government. That’s councils like ours.

Find out more about our Budget and watch my Budget message here.

Sign my petition calling on the Government to reverse their tax cuts and restore council funding: https://www.change.org/p/theresa-may-mp-save-our-services

 

Facing hard budget cuts together

images

There is no sugaring the pill, no sweetening the message, no avoiding the truth. Your council Budget in the spring will contain cuts to services and jobs unlike any seen so far. We are likely to have to make savings of tens of millions in the coming years, on top of the £100 million savings that have been delivered over the past five years. At the same time it is likely that your council tax will increase by  at least 4%. And the cuts will continue until 2020.

I know there will be campaigns and protests over many of the cuts we are being forced to make, strong cases put forward as to why services should be spared the axe, why they bring value above and beyond their cost. Those campaigns will be right, their anger justified and understandable. There are no services the council provides that do not bring benefit to you, your community or our city. Any cut we make will have an impact.

So why are these cuts happening? Three reasons. Firstly the Government is removing the third of our service funding it has until now provided. £27m is being cut from the money the Treasury gives Brighton and Hove each year by 2020.

Secondly, more and more people need the social care services the council has to provide. Care for the growing number of older people, people with disabilities or long term health conditions, and vulnerable children in care. It is the biggest part of our budget and we have to find £10 million more next year, and by 2020 care costs could eat our entire budget.

Last year the Government added 2% to permitted council tax increases to help fund this, but the £2 million that brings in isn’t enough to keep pace. Most Conservative-led councils agree. The government may yet add a further 2% for next year, although there was no indication of it in the Autumn Statement.

Thirdly, we are in the middle of a housing crisis with rising demand for temporary accommodation as many people struggle with rents due to benefit reductions. We are building new council homes and new affordable homes as fast as we can. Our joint venture with Hyde Housing due for approval in December could deliver over a thousand at just 60% of market rates.

Why aren’t we making other savings, finding new income or investing to save? We are. My team of Labour councillors is working tirelessly with support from officers to find new ways of meeting the financial challenges. we are joining an innovative scheme with East Sussex and Surrey to share “back office” support services like human resources, finance and legal.

We are investing money from selling buildings like Kings House in better online services, and in the process saving £2 million a year in running costs.  We are innovating, changing, bringing co-operative ideas to how we work with you to keep services going. There will be many ways you can pitch in and play your part.

In an uncertain global economy we will fight for investment in good jobs and affordable homes in Brighton and Hove. Any new development brings in additional business rates and council tax to fund your services. We are earning money from new enforcement fines, clothing recycling and vehicle workshop services to help fund front line refuse and street cleaning services.

Over the past eighteen months we have been dashing to catch up with other councils who have been changing the way they fund and provide services for years. Transforming and innovating in what we do needs time and investment.

Why isn’t parking revenue used to offset the cuts? Most of the money we get from tickets, permits and charges goes to fund free bus travel for older people. Why not charge students council tax or just borrow more? The simple answer is that we can’t by law.

Will being able to keep all our business rates help? That won’t happen until 2020, by which time revaluations, appeals and discounts by Government may reduce what we get from local businesses significantly.

Why aren’t we fighting the cuts? The Green Administration waved placards and beat drums outside an empty Treasury, and handed petitions to No 10 that were simply ignored. That’s gesture politics,  we are making the case to ministers, both directly and with our council colleagues across the country and across the political divide, for fairer funding, for the tools we need to do the job you expect us to do. Just as you have had to find new ways of making ends meet, so should we. Ultimately, by law we have to balance the books.

Despite the flood tide of cuts, we won’t just stand there King Canute-like as the water rises over us, we will lead the way to firmer ground. We won’t fall for offers of cheaper delivery from big private companies that could tie you into second rate services. We will work hard to get the basics right, to protect the vulnerable and to grow an economy that benefits everyone. We need your help and support. Let’s fight for your city and your services together.

Financial challenges, Labour values


Like Labour councils across the country, we are facing the complete cut of our support grant from the Conservative Government by 2020. Like Labour leaders, Labour mayors and Labour MPs, I have joined calls for them to end the cuts and stop the rapid erosion of the essential public services councils provide. I’ve taken those calls to the heart of Government, to Cabinet ministers and local MPs. Every week, in newspaper columns and in radio interviews, I remind the residents of our city of how deep and damaging these Tory cuts are.

Recently I and other Labour leaders met the Shadow Local Government Secretary Teresa Pearce MP, who was very supportive and pledged to lead the fight in the Commons for a fairer deal for our councils and local services. We have an excellent shadow CLG team in the Commons, including former council leader Jim McMahon MP.
We will tackle the 2017 Budget based on three Labour principles: getting basic public services right, protecting services for the most vulnerable, and ensuring everyone shares the benefits of a growing local economy.

So what is the scale of the challenge we face here in the city?

The council spends around £760 million a year on hundreds of different services from street cleaning to schools, libraries to homelessness, and street lighting to licensing bars and restaurants. The biggest part of our budget is social care, at around £163 million. In this budget we will have to address a predicted budget gap of £18m through savings, following a similar level of savings already being implemented this year.

This is because the government is cutting entirely what is called the revenue support grant to councils by 2020 and we have to meet growing costs and demands, across adult and children’s social services. The reduction in grant funding alone is around £27m by 2020. Our overall funding has reduced by around £45m over the last five years which, added to increasing costs and demands, has resulted in the very large annual savings we have and will continue to have to make.

As the government grant support is cut, there will be less money available for services the council could provide but isn’t required to provide. The bulk of the income we receive from parking charges, around £12.7m, goes toward funding the free bus passes for older people that the government does not fund. Similarly, we also have to put another £1.5m into support for people who can’t afford to pay all of their council tax, as Government is cutting the funding needed to do that.

The government is now also looking at councils taking financial responsibility for some NHS services, in crisis locally. Looking after older people, children in care and people with disabilities is already the largest part of our budget. Early estimates show that next year it will cost us at least £10m more. The government will again, through councils, allow two per cent to be added to your council tax bill to pay for this, but that will only raise £2.4m, not enough to keep up. Some councils are asking for another 2% on top of the 4% already allowed, but that would hit many on lower incomes very hard.

Your council tax used to make up around a third of what we spend on general fund services, with another third made up from fees and charges and the remaining third from business rates and government grants. There are also uncertainties regarding business rates; the government currently retains half of our local business rates, around £54m, and will be revaluing business rates next year. We don’t know how much we will receive from business rates by 2020, so we need to ensure more businesses come to the city. Businesses that create real jobs, not zero-hour contracts, and who pay a proper Living Wage, businesses that pay their taxes and are socially responsible.

As more students come to the city, fewer households pay council tax. While being a university city is part of our identity, there’s no ignoring the financial impact of providing services to non-council tax paying households. Landlords who let properties to students are also protected from business rates by the government; we have called for the right to charge landlords business rates so we recoup some of the money we need for public services.

Earlier this year we ran our City Innovation Challenge to find out if individuals, schools and businesses, had ideas to help out as our budgets shrink. Many said we should look to volunteering, and we have recently agreed a new volunteering policy. Meanwhile we are changing how we deliver services, with much more online, and more focus on joined up services in your neighbourhoods, designed by you around what works in your community.

As a Labour council we are building 500 new council homes, and 1000 homes to part-buy or rent at around 60% of market rates. Decent, truly affordable housing is one of the main ways we can get a grip on growing costs and tackle poverty and inequality locally.

We have no choice but to face the financial situation as it is, whilst fighting for a better deal from the Tory government. The Labour leadership made it clear last year that Labour councils cannot set illegal budgets by spending more than they bring in, and this was enshrined in Party rules by the NEC recently. We won’t be pushed down the wholesale privatisation route the Tories want, but we won’t just wash our hands of responsibility for the situation we find ourselves in – as the Greens did at the last budget council. The cuts we will have to make will be difficult and painful. None of us stood for election to make things worse, but we owe it to those who elected us to fight for the best possible outcomes under the worst of Governments.

We will make every effort to focus the money we have on getting the basics right, delivering the best services possible, and doing the right thing by those who most need help. We are paying all our staff the local Living Wage, and defending as many jobs as we can by bringing in new revenue. Where we can share services, use not-for-profit providers, get help from our communities and work in partnership with the voluntary sector to keep services running, we will.

It is a huge and very difficult task, but we are up for the challenge if you are behind us, supporting us in the face of these Tory-imposed cuts. Labour councils can make a difference, can deliver our values in office, and Labour will win nationally by showing we can run things locally. Let’s fight for our city and our services together. 
You can find information about the council’s current budget here.

Our team, working for you

VictoryChris Moncreiff, as a political commentator of many years experience, makes some valid points about the state of the Labour Party (Argus, Sept 8th). Some readers may worry what this means for the running of their local council in Brighton and Hove.

I’d like to reassure residents of Brighton and Hove that we are and remain a strong team focused on delivering what we were elected to do for all our residents and communities.

Cllr Gill Mitchell is leading work on tackling littering and flytipping, with new compactor bins and our enforcement team cracking down on people who dump rubbish in our streets, now ably assisted by Cllr Saoirse Horan on all environmental and transport issues.

Cllr Tom Bewick is pushing for ever better schools, more apprenticeships and equipping our young people for the world of work. Cllr Dan Chapman is leading cross-party work on schools admissions to include the new secondary school opening next year.

Cllr Anne Meadows is overseeing the building of 500 new council homes, and our new joint venture to build a thousand truly affordable homes for rent or sale at 60% of market rates, while Cllr Tracey Hill leads work to make the city’s private rented sector fairer and Cllr Clare Moonan pushes ahead with work to tackle rough sleeping.

Cllr Emma Daniel is in charge of building stronger communities and neighbourhoods, taking up the challenge of our Fairness Commission to deliver on our pledge to ensure everyone shares in the city’s success. Cllr Alan Robins now heads our efforts on supporting the arts, culture and economic development, while Cllr Julie Cattell is delivering huge improvements in our Planning service.

Cllr Dan Yates and Cllr Karen Barford are facing up to the huge challenges our city faces in adult social care and health issues, and Cllr Caroline Penn is working with partner agencies to improve mental health.

Cllr Les Hamilton brings four decades of experience on the council to the immense challenge of changing our council to meet the demands of a budget that is 40% smaller in the face of growing demand.

I’m working to build new partnerships to give us the muscle to tackle the big issues and compete on a national and international stage, and hope to be able to make a big announcement soon.

I’m proud to lead this great team leading Brighton and Hove. Despite the cuts and increasing pressures we face, despite the fact that the Greens and Tories can and do outvote us when it suits them politically, we will work every day to make a difference.

We will preserve and restore our city’s heritage, we will make our communities stronger and our society fairer, we will find new ways of funding the decent basic services you expect. Jobs, homes and schools remain at the heart of what we do.

We are here until 2019 at least, I hope longer, doing the job you expect from us whatever the national political situation . At its heart, politics is not about labels, it is about energy, ideas, aspiration and hope. We will do our best to deliver those for Brighton and Hove.

(First published in The Argus, 12th September)