In a year’s time the residents of Brighton and Hove will elect 54 councillors to run the city until 2019, in a time of unprecedented challenges for our local council.
The task of a Labour council under my leadership, if Labour wins the most seats on May 7th 2015, will be to restore confidence in local government in the city, to ensure the council gets the basics right, and to begin delivering the solutions on jobs, homes, schools and cost of living challenges that Brighton and Hove needs.
Getting the basics right is vital if we are to win back the trust in our local council that the Greens have squandered. We will listen to residents and work with them and their communities, our communities, not impose the solutions we think best as the Greens have done. Satisfaction with the Green council stands at under 50%. Labour in Hackney has taken resident satisfaction levels with the Council from 23% in 2001 to 74% last year. Labour in Brighton and Hove want to do the same.
As one of our first priorities, during our first year we will ensure that rubbish is collected, that streets are kept clean and that recycling levels begin to climb again. Less recycling is collected now than in 2007, and Brighton and Hove is recycling less than half the waste of most similar cities. This must change. Residents expect their refuse and recycling to be collected, and their streets cleaned; the most basic and universal of services people expect in return for their council tax.
Brighton and Hove has weathered the recession well but too many people are in jobs that don’t use the talents they have, or are in jobs that don’t give them the pay and security they need to get on the housing ladder or avoid falling into debt. We will promote the creation of jobs paying the Living Wage or more in all parts of the city and all sectors of the economy, not just the city centre. No young person should be unemployed for more than a year; we will help meet the commitment made by Ed Miliband that a Labour government will provide jobs and training for people under 26 and out of work.
Labour will work with communities, developers, tenants, landlords and other partners to deliver more affordable housing. It is not right that the city has dropped into the bottom ten places for new housing starts under the Greens. We want to make sure that fair rents and decent, affordable rented accommodation are within reach for those that need it in the city. Labour has pledged action on this that will benefit thousands of private sector tenants in Brighton and Hove. Homelessness in our city is simply unacceptable, and a Labour council will do whatever it can to help people off the streets and into secure housing.
The demands and rising costs of social care are a challenge for the city, and Labour will not shirk it’s responsibilities to the vulnerable residents who rely on care services the council provides. Working with partners in the NHS we must ensure care focuses on the person.
We need schools providing enough places, enough choice and the highest standards of education for our young people. We will end the political games played by the Greens and the Conservatives with our schools. If elected Labour will strive to ensure children are taught in excellent schools where staff are valued and qualified, and the potential of every pupil is brought out. The new strategy announced this week is a way forward we support.
Council funding is being cut by tens of millions, but Labour councils around Britain have shown that local services can be protected and run in a financially responsible way, and we will do that here. A responsible council, delivering the basics, focussing on jobs, homes and schools, and helping those that need it most; that is what Labour will seek to deliver for Brighton and Hove.
A recent local BBC poll put Labour in the city on 38% of the vote, the Conservatives on 24%, and the Greens on 21%, so Labour is best placed to get the Greens out next May on the same day as the General Election. (UPDATE: Labour came top in the European elections in the city, winning well over 20,000 votes – up from 9,000 in 2009 – and beating the Greens into second place, with the Tories some way back in third.) So Labour can win, but that victory must be earned. We will show, in the coming twelve months and in our election manifesto, how we will achieve these goals and why we deserve the trust of residents to run the city.
Our candidates and volunteers are knocking on doors across the city every day listening to residents and sharing thoughts and ideas on how to get our city back on track. You can have your say via www.brightonhovelabour.com/contact/