You don’t have to be born here to love Brighton and Hove, but I hope that my Hove-resident grandparents would be proud that, after a decade as a councillor, I am now one of the people seeking to lead Brighton and Hove after the next local elections in May. I doubt it ever occurred to my parents, when I was growing up in Woodingdean and the Sackville Road/Hangleton area, that one day I’d have the chance to make a real difference to the two towns that became a city that were home to us. Despite the huge financial problems and significant challenges in housing, school places, infrastructure and inequality Brighton and Hove has to tackle, I’m optimistic about our future.
I believe we can restore faith and trust in the city council to get to grips again with the issues residents raise with me on the doorstep. That isn’t just about making sure that the bins are collected, streets are cleaned and that the amount we recycle goes up, not down. It’s about making sure that we have enough secondary school places for every child, and that all schools are excellent schools that put the city’s children on the path not just to secure, well-paid jobs, but rewarding careers that bring out their full potential. It’s about providing clear leadership and direction, but also about involving and empowering local communities to make their local area better too.
It’s about making sure, as past generations of local leaders of all parties have done, that the city is ready to take the next step and deliver jobs, homes and major projects that secure prosperity for the next generation of residents and beyond. We need a new conference centre, arena, hospital, leisure centre and housing for a population that is growing as it has done since the Prince Regent built his Pavilion. We need to preserve our Downland, as we have with the National Park, and our local heritage, the shops, culture, buildings and environment that make Brighton and Hove so unique. We can do both, as we did in the 1990s and 2000s with Churchill Square and Jubilee Library. We can grow our economy in a way that benefits the whole city, Portslade and Patcham, Hanover and Hangleton, Withdean and Whitehawk, with communities working together, not pitching neighbour against neighbour.
My ambitions for Brighton and Hove mean that we won’t just tackle inequality by stitching up the holes in the safety net, but by building a city where high quality education, real apprenticeships, jobs that pay at least the Living Wage and more affordable accommodation give residents and their families the opportunity to prosper. I’m putting together a team that will ensure the council, even with much less money than it has had to spend in the past, builds a local economy where businesses are supported not hindered, and where greater self-sufficiency and more co-operative partnerships ensure we have the services we need to clean our streets, protect our local NHS services and care for our vulnerable family and neighbours. We must to all this whilst being as careful with the city’s money, your money, as the government should be with the country’s.
We can’t turn back the clock, we can’t stand still, and whilst we will always lead the way on sustainability and the environment, we can’t save the planet on our own. We can, despite all the cynicism about politics, make a difference to our city and our communities if we work together with a positive vision and clear goals about what we want to achieve. I hope you will support me and my team of dedicated candidates next May and give us the chance to serve you and the city, making the most of the Brighton and Hove we’ve been lucky enough to inherit, and building a better Brighton and Hove for the future.