Monthly Archives: February 2015

Into the Valley – the Green Party’s other costly legacy

Valley-Gardens-proposal-southern-sectionWe all know that last year the Green council, with support from the Conservative group on the council, voted through a 25 year loan of £36 million to the i360 project, against Labour opposition. That is a legacy to the council and the taxpayer that we have to live with, and hope that the project is a success. However, it is not the only legacy the outgoing Greens are leaving us with.

This week, in the dying days of their council administration, the Green Party is seeking to tie the council to a £20 million + five year project that would use all the available transport funding for the lifetime of the next Administration. It would condemn the city centre around the Old Steine to five years of roadworks. It would turn Valley Gardens – the area from St Peter’s down to the Aquarium roundabout – into an enormous park, at a time when the council is having funding for parks maintenance cut to almost nothing.

It would halve the road capacity of the major route from London on to our seafront, at a time when we are planning several major new developments and attractions there.

It would remove the Mazda Fountain and the Aquarium roundabout and replace it with an unworkable junction – despite assurances that it would not. It would bring in £14m of government funding, but the council would need to match 25% of that with its own money – money the council does not have. It is a project that has already cost the council £2 million at a time of unprecedented cuts.

The area does need better pedestrian access and cycle routes, and Labour pushed for improvements in 2006 when “Urban Realm” funding was available from the Labour government, but spending £14 million on a five year scheme is going too far.

All this at a time when the A259 seafront road, seafront arches and Madeira Terrace is literally crumbling onto the beach. All this at a time when more road capacity is needed to service the seafront, new shopping centre and new seafront arena – as well as the i360 – not less.

Make no mistake, this is a Green vanity project on a scale not seen before, a legacy of unfunded and unsustainable roadworks that will cripple a new administrations ability to do anything. That they have duped the Conservatives into supporting it – as they did with the i360 – is breathtaking. The Local Enterprise Partnership had concerns but these were dismissed by the Greens, who have built just 3% into the funding for “optimism bias” cost overruns, when the standard expected in major projects is 25%.

A Labour council under my leadership would immediately suspend all work on the Valley Gardens scheme, review whether it can be afforded or completed, and whether any of the funding can be used on what is surely our priority; Brighton and Hove seafront.

UPDATE: the Greens and Conservatives voted to move the scheme to the next phase at the final Environment and Transport Committee yesterday (17th March). Work will begin in September.


Deja vu – not something we will see again

moneyThis is another déjà vu Budget from the Greens.

Another year of dodging difficult decisions, another year of failing to prepare adequately for the future.

Another leak of Budget proposals to the media ahead of sharing with the other parties, another year of showing they put politics above positive co-operation.

Another Budget designed and engineered to try and shift the blame for unpopular cuts on to Labour, not the Tories whose government are imposing them, in order to stem the haemorrhaging of Green votes.

Another budget that puts politics ahead of what’s best for residents and their council services. Another Budget with an above inflation increase for residents with below inflation pay rises.

Another political gesture rather than responsible government. That they have deliberately and consciously chosen children’s services for cuts simply to blackmail people into backing their 6% increase is appalling and shameful.

Another year of Greens saying they will vote against their own Party’s proposals, voting down a legal Budget. Déjà vu for those of us who remember the days of Militant in Liverpool, and a Budget outcome that would only lead to government intervention, more cuts, faster and deeper privatisation.

And it’s more déjà vu from the Tories. The Conservative Party’s “council tax freeze” would mean even more cuts this year and in the future. If they can’t get a freeze they’ve hinted at backing a referendum on a 6% increase, which would cost almost a million pounds if the result was a “no” in May.

They and the Greens say “let the public decide”; if you don’t elect councillors to set a Budget, what are councillors for? Last year it was Labour that faced up to the responsibilities residents give us, it was Labour that set the Budget and – déjà vu again – it’s Labour that will do so once more, even from opposition.

It’s time to end the déjà vu, the political game playing. It’s time to take some responsibility for tough decisions, and it’s time for some proper leadership. We won’t be seeing this kind of Budget again next year.

Reasons To Be Cheerful

imagesThe Tory press’s favourite “Labour supporter” Dan Hodges wrote this week that the Conservatives had achieved “crossover”, a point where they had a consistent lead over Labour in the polls, from which point they were on course for victory in May.

These Tory leads lasted for three polls with one pollster, never amounted to more than a lead of one point, and were all well within the margin of error of plus or minus three points. A range of other polls still had Labour in the lead by one point or a dead heat, and then in the YouGov poll for the Sunday Times this week Labour led by three points, 35% to 32%, their highest share this year. For those with long memories, that was the national share of the vote in 2005, when Labour won a third term with an overall majority of 66 seats. Overall the broad trend in the polls hasn’t moved since September.

Let’s say though, for arguments sake, that the two main parties are tied on polling day, at 34%. On a uniform national swing that would result in Labour being just 3 seats short of a majority. To achieve an overall majority over Labour, something which has eluded them for almost a quarter of a century, the Tories need to be some 7% ahead. A range of election predictions put the race too close to call, with many saying that both main parties will emerge with around 280-285 seats.

Of course we are no longer in the days of uniform national swing, and there are a number of individual regional and local battles involving the Lib Dems, UKIP and Greens that will to some extent affect the result. The biggest factor will, as we all know, be Scotland, where many of Labour’s 41 seats are at risk from an SNP lead in the polls that currently stands at around 20%.  How that plays out on May 7th will be key to the UK wide result.

Keen to make the General Election far more interesting than 2005, and with the Tories doing badly, the media have talked up the Labour collapse to the SNP, the threat to Labour from UKIP particularly in the North and the East Coast, and most recently the “Green surge”.

UKIP may well have peaked. Their highs of polling regularly in the low twenties and upper teens seem to have gone, though they are likely to score well above the tiny percentage they got in 2010 come polling day. They will hold or gain less than five seats, but of course could influence the result in several more constituencies.

The “Green surge”, which has seen them rise from their base of 2% up to at points 10% also seems to have peaked in the glare of media scrutiny over some of their policies, as well as wider publicity around their appalling record in Brighton and Hove. They have dropped back to six per cent and are likely to be competitive in only one or two constituencies at most. There is every chance they may emerge with no seats at all.

Let’s look at some other pointers. Recent polling in London has shown Labour ten points clear of the Tories, and on course to make significant gains in the capital on an 8% swing since 2010. In Wales Labour are marginally ahead of where they were four years ago, and set to make modest gains, leading the Tories by around 16%.

In England overall, Labour were eleven per cent adrift of the Tories in 2010, but are now level-pegging or at best 4% ahead. In 2005 that gave Labour 92 more seats. Even 4% ahead, they would lose 43 seats to Labour. Unless the Tories can make gains from Labour in England, they can’t win, and the UKIP factor makes it even harder for them to add the votes needed.

Despite some 2010 Lib Dem support leeching to the Greens rather than Labour, Labour remain likely to win most of their Lib Dem targets, whilst the Tories will struggle to take many of theirs. Amongst first-time voters Labour have a massive 15% lead, which if turnout can be maximised, would boost chances of an overall majority considerably. Significantly, the NHS now tops the list of voter concerns, an issue on which Labour has a considerable lead.

So, for any Labour supporters gloomy at recent polling, some reasons to be cheerful. Still on course to be the largest party, and if a recovery in Scotland can be achieved, on course for a majority of 25 seats or more.