A lot has happened since I wrote my review of 2013. Every year has its ups and downs, and if you are an Albion season ticket holder like me you’ll know what I mean. Yet every time I walk on the Downs, in view of the sea and the city centre, I’m reminded of how lucky we are to live here.
Of course, our location between the sea and the South Downs National Park make building the homes we need very difficult, and being so close to London makes housing increasingly expensive. One of the tough choices we faced this year was on our City Plan; deciding how best to build homes for local families without losing our open spaces. Others involved opposing the Greens 5% council tax increase, their £36 million loan to the i360, and recently their council tax benefit proposals.
One of the highlights of 2014 was May’s European elections. Labour in the city doubled its vote on the last elections in 2009, from nine thousand to over twenty thousand, pushing the Greens into second place and helping to elect our fantastic new MEP Anneliese Dodds. Our positive offer to the electorate and strong local campaigning paid off. Despite topping the poll nationally, UKIP came fourth in Brighton and Hove.
Opinion polls have continued to show Labour in pole position to beat both the Greens and the Tories next May. We are not complacent though, and have worked hard in the past twelve months to put the foundations in place for success at the elections next May.
Over the course of this year I’ve spoken to over fifty key organisations and leaders across the city, whilst colleagues have knocked on thousands of doors from Portslade to Saltdean, the seafront to Patcham. We have put what we learnt into our ten key pledges; our Contract with Brighton and Hove, which will form the foundation of our offer to voters next May.
We have chosen over forty of the fifty four people needed to fight the local elections; a great team to stand alongside our three excellent Parliamentary candidates Purna Sen, Nancy Platts and Peter Kyle.
Together we have campaigned for new rights for tenants in the private sector, for our local firefighters, for new play area facilities, for more local GP surgeries, for a safer city and for an end to violence against women, for a Living Wage, allotments, food banks, payday loans and much more. Throughout the year we have urged the Greens to do better on keeping our streets clean, collecting the city’s refuse and reversing the decline in recycling.
We’ve pledged to set up a Fairness Commission to tackle poverty and inequality in the city during our first year in office. Our team is in place, our priorities are clear, our campaigns are stronger than ever.
2015 will be a very challenging year for Brighton and Hove, but also one of opportunity to put our co-operative values into practice. As our local politics becomes more polarised between the Greens on the left and the Tories and UKIP on the right, and despite the huge financial challenges Brighton and Hove faces, my New Year’s Resolution is to try an offer our city hope for positive change in May. We will deliver a fairer, better Brighton and Hove.
Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.