All posts by warrenmorgan

About warrenmorgan

Leader of Brighton and Hove City Council Labour and Co-operative Councillor for East Brighton www.brightonhovelabour.com @warrenmorgan

“These are our priorities, this is our ‘municipal socialism’, this is our Budget for the year ahead.”

wp-1456083489509.jpegMadam Mayor the Budget is a time to reflect on the past twelve months and to set out a programme for the city council for the year ahead. In the third year of this Labour Administration and our four year financial plan there is no slowing of our resolve, no pause in our work, no diminishing of our desire to drive this council forward in the provision of essential basic services, care for the most vulnerable amongst us, and in securing economic growth for the benefit of all in each and every one of the communities we serve.

Madam Mayor, I want to begin by expressing my thanks, on behalf of myself as Leader of the Administration, to officers and staff of Brighton and Hove City Council for their hard work in getting us to this point.

On the back of two years where we have had to save in excess of £40 million, our teams have worked with members to identify a further £12 million savings in this Budget, a task that becomes harder with each year that passes.

None of this would be possible without the huge commitment of staff from the front line social worker all the way through to the Executive team. My thanks, and the thanks of this Administration, goes to all the council staff who keep this organisation going, who help deliver over £2 million worth of services, day in and day out, for the people of this city.

Madam Mayor I want to acknowledge and put on record some landmark achievements of the city council in this current period.

Just a short distance from here is one of the country’s oldest leisure centres in continual use. The King Alfred is long past its natural lifespan and thanks to our partnership with the Starr Trust, Crest Nicholson and a successful bid for Government funding, the end of a decade and a half of effort is now in sight, and a high quality public leisure centre fit for the second half of 21st century not the first half of the 20th is a deliverable reality.

Preston Barracks, derelict for twenty years, sees completion on the deal tomorrow and the start of construction on a major new £300 million regeneration project delivering 1,500 new jobs, nearly 400 new homes and over £280 million in economic growth for the Lewes Road area over the coming decade.

Madam Mayor last summer we launched a campaign to save the Madeira Terraces. Many believed we would not reach our goal. Many doubted our resolve to save this iconic structure and give it new life. Others pitched in with pledges, fundraising efforts and tireless volunteering work. Reach it we did and save it we will. Our city’s heritage is not something to be remembered, it is something to be lived.

Critical to the success of this city, Madam Mayor, vital to our public services, essential for business and so important to the health and wellbeing of our residents is the availability of good quality and truly, not just policy compliant, affordable housing. It is perhaps the biggest challenge we face. We are meeting that challenge. In the current twelve months we will have completed and handed to tenants over one hundred and thirty new council homes, the biggest annual total in thirty years.

And soon we will see the first three sites come forward in our Living Wage housing project which will deliver in partnership with Hyde Housing Association a thousand homes to rent or buy at genuinely affordable rates, in the communities that need them, for the local people that need them, a truly transformative housing programme I’m proud to stand behind as a real and meaningful achievement for this Labour-led council.

Let me move on to our biggest project. In the 1960s and 1970s, our predecessors helped secure the economic future of this city by creating a conference centre and concert venue that has served us well for the last four decades. As the place where I began my working life, saw my favourite bands, met my first girlfriend, it is somewhere close to my heart. It has served us well for forty years but it is time to plan a new conference centre and concert arena fit for today’s needs.

In the 1990s and 2000s our recent predecessors helped secure the economic future of this city by recreating and extending our 1960s shopping centre so that it could compete in the modern retail world. For the past two decades it has outperformed its rivals and been the beating commercial heart of our city, complemented by the Lanes, the North Laine and our independent traders across our communities. The time for a retail renewal has arrived again.

Madam Mayor through the partnership we have with Standard Life, we as a council will undertake both these tasks again, simultaneously, in a two-site, half a billion pound, decade-long project that will secure the economic future of Brighton and Hove and for generations of local residents.

As many in the city follow UK success at the Winter Olympics, we should be inspired to do more to promote opportunities for Olympians of the future. I remain, Madam Mayor, committed to the long term goal of delivering a permanent ice sports arena in the city and invite anyone with deliverable proposals to achieve that goal to come forward.

Jobs in construction, jobs in retail, jobs in management, secure and well paid jobs for young people growing up in Brighton and Hove, being educated in our schools and colleges; these should be our goals and our ambitions. But we need to aspire to more.

Business should be for good, business should have broader social benefits than just profit. Today I set out two “business for good” aspirations I have for this city. Madam Mayor, a Labour Administration elected in 2019 would look to develop social enterprises in partnership with local employers and the voluntary sector that would employ homeless people, giving them a route out of the poverty, rough sleeping and hopelessness that blights their lives.

A Labour Administration elected in 2019 would pursue the community wealth model pioneered in the UK by Preston’s co-operative council, championed by the Co-operative Party and supported by John McDonnell at an event this month, ensuring a greater proportion of local spend stays in the local economy. The approach in Preston has resulted in six large public bodies committing to buying local goods and services. These spent £38m in Preston in 2013; by 2017 the number had increased to £111m, despite a reduction in the council’s budget. Overall, more than £200m returned to the local economy and supported 1,600 jobs.

Securing the economic future of our city, creating good jobs for our residents, growing business for good, building a Brighton and Hove where everyone benefits from growth; this is the task of the city council and with these projects we can and will deliver the strong economic future that Brighton and Hove deserves and needs.

Since I stood here last we have had twelve months in which this Government has tried and failed to win a majority in the Commons. A year in which nothing has been done to address the twin crises of underfunding in social care and in local government. And yet it has been a year in which this Government has committed billions to the black hole of Brexit, with no deals done and little comfort or hope for the businesses and individuals in this city who stand to suffer most.

Some in my Party say the Conservative Government are evil. I disagree and disassociate myself from that view. As Jo Cox said, we have more in common that that which divides us. Despite the stereotypes, most of us on whichever side enter politics for the right reasons.

What is unconscionably worse than malicious intent though is lack of planning, absence of strategy, sheer incompetence. No clear plan for funding local government, no clear plan for funding social care, no focus for anything save for Brexit, and even then they are as clueless and directionless as they are on so much else. No map, no satnav, not even a back-seat driver to give directions, this Government is asleep at the wheel. It is dangerous, it is negligent and it is unforgivable.

Lord Porter, Conservative Chair of the Local Government Association has warned that the majority of councils have little choice but to increase council tax bills again this year. He has also warned the government that “there cannot be a sustainable NHS without a sustainable social care system”, and called for “significant new investment into our social care system” to stop the winter crisis becoming an “all-year round NHS crisis”.

Figures published by the Department for Education have revealed that a child is referred to social services every 49 seconds. The LGA are pointing to a £2bn funding gap by 2020 on children’s care services alone. Madam Mayor, like me all members will also have been concerned to read that some councils are now using school reserves to balance their budgets. It’s come to something when councils are forced to gamble with the future of their young people just to make ends meet.

Brighton and Hove should be looking at a bright future; instead the outlook is clouded by Brexit, by ongoing austerity and by a real threat to the financial sustainability of this council, the services it runs, and the fabric of our city. This council is the stitching that holds the garment of our place together, it cannot be allowed to unravel, to come undone.

Having made £40 million in savings since 2015, and with a further £12 million next year, the demands upon our services are now stark.

This administration does not want to increase council tax by 5.99%, it’s an increase few can afford, but the inaction from central government leaves us no choice if we are to keep our services running. It’s a choice almost all councils have had to make.

Our neighbours East Sussex are increasing council tax by 6%, whilst making £17 million in cuts, their Deputy Leader saying “We believe this is the best set of options in the difficult circumstances we face. We face a further £31 million of savings over the next two years. It will be a very difficult time for our residents.”

Our neighbours West Sussex will increase by 5% with over £19 million in cuts, their Leader saying they were having to “adapt and change” in the face of an uncertain financial future for local government, with the government’s approach to funding “fit for the past” and not the future.

In Kent, a 5% increase, with £48 million in cuts. “Every year that goes by the government’s austerity programme becomes ever more challenging” said their leader this week.

In Surrey another 6% increase, £66 million in cuts, with their leader saying: “The simple fact remains that demand for our services continues to rise but government funding continues to fall.”

Damned by their own side, by their own council leaders, in every part of the South East. No map, no direction, no destination. Under this Tory Government, councils are on a road to nowhere.

Madam Mayor, local councils are far more than a set of numbers on a balance sheet on a computer on a desk in Whitehall. They are what our communities depend upon. They are part of the fabric of daily life. Councils, this council no less than any other, are the embodiment of public service, of civic duty, of pride in the places we live. We must fight against their erosion and ultimate demise, we must demand of this Government the action that is urgently needed.

Let me send a message to the Prime Minister today, as clearly and as bluntly as I am able.

Give us the means to fund our services now and into the future.

Give councils who need it the money to make high rise blocks safe after Grenfell, like you promised.

End the austerity measures and suspend the welfare changes that are putting people on our streets.

Enable us to build the new affordable homes this city needs. Not by subsidising developer profits, but by backing providers. Both in partnership and alone, Madam Mayor, there is no better provider of truly affordable housing in this city than this city council. And most of all, lift the HRA borrowing cap Mrs May, lift it now.

Give us the freedoms and flexibilities we need if we are to be financially self sufficient. Allow us to keep all of the money paid in business rates in Brighton and Hove to fund our services and support our local economy. If devolution and localism are concepts consigned to history along with David Cameron, then say so, and tell us what replaces them.

Give us the solutions to the twin funding crises we face. That, as a Government, is your job.

Set up an independent commission to establish a system of social care that can meet demand, deliver decent services with well paid staff who work in those services and dignity to those who use those services.

Set up an independent commission to establish a system of sustainable and fair funding for local government that meets local need, taxes according to the ability to pay and enables councils to meet the needs of local residents, the aspirations of local communities, and the ambitions of local businesses.

Northamptonshire in crisis, a dozen others including Surrey on the brink, councils around the country putting up council tax by five or six per cent on residents who in many cases cannot afford the increase. We are not yet at the point of crisis, thanks to the sound management of this authority’s finances by this Administration and our excellent team of officers. But we cannot go on like this, Prime Minister.

Time is fast running out on the funding, structures and services of local government, in town halls and county halls and city halls of every political colour across this country. Don’t wait for a crisis, don’t wait for a collapse, don’t wait for for an election Mrs May, do these things and do them now.

Madam Mayor, you don’t need to take my word for it when I tell you that, in contrast to this directionless government, we have a clear focus on getting the basics right. A diverse range of performance measures tell the story. Customer satisfaction as recorded by the City Tracker has improved once again. More people agree we are delivering value for money, and spending what we have wisely.

Recycling rates are up. The effectiveness of our planning service is much better. Our auditors have commended us for our approach in securing value for money, and indeed we are delivering a balanced budget in the current financial year despite the challenges that we face.

What is more, Madam Mayor, we have not rested on our laurels, and continue to find ways to modernise and improve the experience for these same residents. This budget provides for the new Field Officer role which will revolutionise the way we deliver services and tackle problems in our communities and neighbourhoods. Digital First continues to roll out apps that make engagement with our services ever easier.

Our libraries remain open, and their offer to residents is improved. Supported bus and school routes remain in place. Our procurement team is resourced to deliver ever greater savings from the contracts that we operate.  We are protecting the front-line through reducing management costs by more than £1 million again this year. These, Madam Mayor, are but just a few features of what a well-run council looks like.

Once again Madam Mayor this administration’s budget protects the most vulnerable in our city; it provides more than £9 million in pressure funding to cover the increasing demands and costs for adult social care, people with learning disabilities, and children’s social care placements. Our budget also sustains children’s centres, early year’s nurseries, support for care leavers, support for carers, and solid backing for the city’s valued community and voluntary sector.

To support those that have become financially marginalised, often as the direct result of the government’s remorseless welfare reforms, we are putting over £400 thousand in place to provide discretionary welfare payments, council tax discounts, specific support for those adversely affected by Universal Credit, support for the Community Banking Partnership and East Sussex Credit Union.

Turning to the young people in the city, this budget contains a series of measures designed to alleviate the problems that many face, such as increasing levels of mental health problems and exploitation, for example in the form of criminality and the unwelcome emergence of County Lines.

Madam Mayor, the third pillar of our commitment to this city is “business for good”, growing an economy that benefits all our residents.

I said it last year, and I make no apology for saying it again: Brighton and Hove is open for business. We are active in pursuing all opportunities that will sustain the economy of the city for all of our residents, by creating jobs, and an environment where creativity, ambition, and talent can flourish.

Our schools continue to thrive, and through working with them, our universities, and our colleges, we are preparing a work force that will take advantage of the major projects and investments I referred to earlier. With our partners in the Greater Brighton City Region, now expanded to include Crawley and Gatwick, and the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership that takes us to the threshold of London, we are putting in place the infrastructure and resilience to meet the impact of Brexit and secure the city region’s economic future.

Madam Mayor I would challenge anyone to find a better team anywhere in local government than the one I have the privilege to lead. I am fiercely proud of their work over the past year and the measures they are putting forward in this Budget today.

Cllr Gill Mitchell has protected all of our 19 subsidised bus routes for the next four years, frozen almost all parking charges, invested in our parks, in new bins and in air quality improvements. Despite funding constraints, residents satisfaction with our city environment services is going up, a vital contribution to overall wellbeing in the city.

This budget is testament to Cllr Les Hamilton’s sound stewardship, with compulsory redundancies kept to zero under this Administration and a budget balanced despite the ongoing cuts and additional pressures the Government has imposed. All the while reducing back office costs to protect the front line.

Cllr Anne Meadows has delivered over 130 new council homes this year, has over £95 million in housing projects in the pipeline, is buying back former council homes, all alongside making significant savings as our lead on procurement.

Cllr Daniel Chapman has led our family of schools on a continued journey of improvement, and in this budget protected council nurseries, children’s centres and services for care leavers.

Cllr Emma Daniel has taken the lead on county lines and safeguarding young people from criminal exploitation, where this budget invests over £150 thousand, and trouble-shooting field officers to tackle problems in our communities at source.

Cllr Alan Robins has presided over an increase in our visitor numbers, work on the new arts and culture strategy.

Cllr Daniel Yates and Cllr Karen Barford have been working tirelessly with the health service to identify the benefits of health and social care integration. An immense task with enormous implications for the health and wellbeing of our city. With Cllr Yates backing we are the UK’s first Fast Track City tackling HIV/AIDs, and Cllr Barford has shown great leadership implementing our Adult Social Care direction of travel.

Cllr Julie Cattell has continued the rapid improvement in our planning service, and announced an open book from developers on affordable homes. We have given notice to developers that they must meet our targets on affordable homes, or account for why they cannot in a transparent and honest way.

Cllr Caroline Penn has used her Lead Member role to champion better mental health in the city, with the council playing its part in new mental health work in local schools, now also an agreed priority with the Conservative group for extending to colleges in securing £70 thousand in further funding in this budget, and is keeping our Digital First programme on track.

Cllr Tracey Hill has supported the Rent Smart partnership, has worked with planning enforcement so family homes are not lost to unauthorised HMOs, and is leading on our Landlord Licensing projects aiming to make life better for thousands of private rented sector tenants in the city.

Cllr Clare Moonan has worked tirelessly on meeting the growing and complex challenges of rough sleeping and the street community. Through our Make Change Count campaign, our Winter Night Shelter and steps which have taken 1200 rough sleepers off the streets this year and helped a further 2000 facing homelessness. We are making a difference, but we will do more, with this budget adding an extra £165 thousand to tackle the human tragedy that is rough sleeping.

Cllr Jackie O’Quinn has been keeping our leisure and night-time economy running as Chair of Licensing, with a strong focus on safety issues, and has also promoted more training for Licensing Committee members.

I’m fiercely proud of this Labour team, of the work we are doing to lead this city, to secure good quality basic services for all, to ensure the right care for the people who need it, and to guarantee a prosperous future for the many and not the few.

So in summary Madam Mayor;

We’re building 500 council homes, and will be delivering a thousand more at truly affordable rents, buying back council homes lost under Right to Buy.

We’ve abolished council tax for care leavers and ended burial fees for children.

We’ve for the first time put trade union recognition on a formal written basis.

We’ve protected libraries, supported bus services and children’s centres from Conservative cuts.

We’ve opened a winter shelter for rough sleepers, started a joint fundraising campaign, and protected over 3000 people from homelessness in one year.

We’ve not privatised any council services, with libraries, refuse & recycling still in-house and staying in-house.

We’ve prevented compulsory redundancies in our workforce despite 40% Tory cuts to our funding.

We’ve secured £50 thousand extra for domestic violence services and protected funding for our voluntary sector partners.

We’ve set aside £400 thousand to support the credit union and help people hit by Universal Credit.

We have risen to the challenges given to us, we have taken the tough decisions, put the resources we have left where they can be put to best use, employing our principles to direct our pragmatism – as Aneurin Bevan said, “the  language of priorities is the religion of socialism”.

Madam Mayor these are our priorities, this is our municipal socialism, this is the Budget we put to council and to the city of Brighton and Hove for the year ahead, I’m proud to move it, vote for it and to deliver it for our wonderful, vibrant and diverse city, the city I am so privileged to lead.

 

 

 

 

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A thousand truly affordable homes in Brighton and Hove

Today we formally launch our plan to deliver a thousand truly affordable homes for Brighton and Hove.

Half will be to rent at 60% of market rents, with the rest available for shared ownership on average incomes. This is 20% less than what is usually described as “affordable” but which rarely is in the city’s inflated property market.

They will be affordable to people on the National Living Wage, costing tenants no more than 40% of their household income on those levels of pay. The properties wont be subject to Right to Buy, and will be allocated on the same basis as our council homes.

The first three sites are being brought forward in Portslade, Coldean and Whitehawk, after the project was given full cross-party backing in the city council last year.

The thousand “joint venture” homes will supplement our programme of council house building, which is limited by the borrowing cap imposed by the Tory Government. However we are delivering 500 new council homes through new build projects like Kite Place and by buying back properties lost under Right to Buy.

We are delivering these much-needed new homes in an equal partnership with a housing association, Hyde Housing, with equal contributions of land and finance. A not-for-profit project, all money from rents will be re-invested in the housing we need.

No council assets other than the land being used to build the housing on are committed. No residents will be moved from existing homes. These are new affordable homes in communities that need them across our city.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of that scheme, this isn’t comparable to the Haringey LDV, as our local MP and former council colleague Lloyd Russell-Moyle has said:

“I’ve explained how in Brighton, under Warren’s leadership, we have not engaged anything like HDV. Our joint venture is not kicking people out of council homes to put them in to the private sector. Our joint venture has backing of full council, will have a number of social rents, will be additional to council home building not substitute to it, has been consulted with members well, with Warren presenting to many Labour meetings.”

“Our joint venture is with a non-profit housing association this is the why it’s right for any member raise concerns about something like HDV but wrong to make parallels with Brighton…there’s just no comparison with Haringey and Brighton & Hove.”

With our housing market under pressure by over 5000 people moving down from London each year, with a significant amount of our housing stock currently in the student letting market, with a worsening homelessness crisis made worse by Tory welfare policy, with our public sector crying out for homes their staff can afford, I’m not waiting another day to start delivering every home I can to meet that need.

Labour councils must act now for people who need help today

ManifestoFrontEvery day the council I lead delivers services to all of the 280,000 residents on Brighton and Hove. Roads are patched, care visits are undertaken, rough sleepers are helped into accommodation, streets are cleaned, and new council homes are being handed to tenants.

The demands on local councils are huge and they are urgent. The financial collapse of Northamptonshire County Council shows the level of crisis faced by councils like mine in dealing with rising social care costs and falling levels of funding from the Conservative Government.

The Local Government Association says there is a £2 billion funding gap in children’s services alone. Nationally there is a £12 billion backlog of road repairs. Conservative peer Lord Porter warns councils have “no option” but to increase tax bills to try and meet a £2.3 billion social care funding gap.

As the Socialist Health Association said, “Councillors cant wait for the revolution, or even the next Labour Government. They have to take difficult decisions about health and social care and protect their residents the best they can this week.”

There might be another General Election this year, but only if the Conservative Prime Minister (whoever that is) calls one (which seems unlikely given their experience last June), or the DUP abandon their £10 billion deal to guarantee the Tory majority (possible given a “hard border” Brexit, but again less than likely).

Labour needs a clear lead in the polls to win a majority, but is currently level. Under the Fixed Term Parliament Act, the next General Election doesn’t have to happen until 2022.

So like every other Labour council leader, I’m desperate for a Labour Government, but have a Budget to pass in two weeks time. I’ve got dozens of people sleeping rough on our streets, with more coming every day. I’ve got long waiting lists for homes and house prices continuing to rise. I’ve got residents just about managing who face the impact of Universal Credit and increased council tax bills in the next few months. I am not about to let them down.

We are building 500 new council homes, with the latest handed to tenants this month. We are going ahead with 1000 new homes on offer for shared ownership or rent at 60% of household income on the National Living Wage, truly affordable housing in partnership with a local housing association. I’ve called for the HRA borrowing cap to be lifted by Government to enable us to do much more.

We are taking hundreds of people off of the streets or saving them from getting there each month. We are investing in jobs and support to stop people slipping into poverty and protecting our core services. We are putting our most valued assets and the valued staff that run them into a not-for-profit charitable trust to protect them from ongoing Tory austerity cuts.

We may well have to deal with the crippling impact of those Tory cuts for another four years. We have a responsibility to prepare for that probability, and find what solutions we can to the austerity we face. That doesn’t mean abandoning our Labour values, it doesn’t mean privatisation or repeats of the Carillion debacle. It does mean the kind of innovation and policy development that Labour councils have consistently proven they are good at.

The people who need our help can’t wait another day for it. It is the duty of Labour councillors to do whatever they can with the resources at their disposal now, that is the municipal Socialism our communities expect and deserve.

I can’t say it better than Cllr Nick Forbes, the Leader of Newcastle City Council and of the LGA Labour Group: “As Labour councillors, elected by people who look to us for help today, we cannot wait for the next Labour government – we have to act today, and we do act, with courage and determination, and are we proud to do that for the communities we serve”.

 

While you are here – we are recruiting an organiser to help deliver a Labour majority in Brighton and Hove in 2019, could that be you? http://www.w4mpjobs.org/JobDetails.aspx?jobid=64482

Nancy Platts: a great addition to a strong team

I’m delighted that Nancy Platts is the Labour candidate for the forthcoming by-election in East Brighton,triggered by the resignation of Lloyd Russell-Moyle following his win at the General Election and new role in the Commons as one of our MPs.

I’ve known Nancy for ten years, through her excellent parliamentary campaigns in both Brighton Pavilion in 2010 and in Brighton Kemptown in 2015, where she slashed the Conservative majority making it one of Labour’s top target seats. As I began my term of office as Council Leader, Nancy led the City Labour Party as Chair helping to cement our position as the most successful party political organisation in Brighton and Hove.

If on February 8th East Brighton voters make the same excellent choice as East Brighton Labour members and elect Nancy as their new councillor, she will make a welcome and valuable addition to the fantastic team I have the privilege of leading on the city council.

It is a team that already has more than half of its members who are women, and women fill more than half of the senior roles in both the Labour Group, chairs of committee and lead roles. Cllr Gill Mitchell leads on improvements in our environmental services and our parks, Cllr Anne Meadows on building new council housing, Cllr Emma Daniel on communities and public safety, Cllr Julie Cattell on Planning, Cllr Karen Barford on Social Care, Cllr Jackie O’Quinn on Licensing, Cllr Tracey Hill on improving the private rented sector, Cllr Caroline Penn on Mental Health and Cllr Clare Moonan on rough sleeping. Cllr Saiorse Horan chairs the Labour Group.

I believe that we do politics better as a result, and our record demonstrates this.

Nancy’s experience as a parliamentary candidate, in the campaigns sector, in Westminster and more, will bring a fresh voice to the Labour and Co-operative Group as we begin our campaign to win a majority on the council in 2019. We have achieved a great deal in very difficult circumstances, with huge Conservative Government cuts and opposition parties who, combined, can frustrate and delay our work.

We can and must do more, on keeping essential services going, on further improving our recycling rates, on tackling poverty and inequality, on keeping more people from becoming homeless and sleeping rough, on building more homes, on safeguarding our heritage, and on growing our economy so that more local people have access to well paid jobs and rewarding careers in our thriving economy.

Labour is ambitious for Brighton and Hove, and I look forward to Nancy Platts being elected to the team that will stand on a strong record with a bold and radical manifesto for the next local elections in sixteen months time.

If you want to get involved in Nancy’s campaign, email alex@kemptownlabour.org.uk

2017: Our Year In Review

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I was proud of the Madeira Terraces campaign that brought the city together in 2017 around a valued part of our heritage.

In keeping with a chilly January, the year started with us announcing that the majority of parking charges in Brighton and Hove would be frozen for another year.

Some of our target 500 new council homes were completed in Portslade, and we put forward proposals for ‘Rail South’ giving commuters and businesses a voice in how services are run. Our plans to put the Royal Pavilion and our museums into trust took shape.

As work began on the new Hanningtons Lane off North Street, in February we secured £12 million in funding towards preparing for the new arena and conference centre at Black Rock. We got through one of the most difficult Budgets in council history as we worked to keep services going in the face of an over £11m reduction in funding from government.

As Spring began in March our successful anti fly-tipping campaign, our new multi-million pound Brighton and Hove Community Fund and work on our new Economic Strategy all blossomed.

April saw approval for more new council homes at Hobby Place in Whitehawk, the launch of our plans to restore and improve Brighton Town Hall, and the rollout of new contactless machines making it easier for people to pay for parking. The idea of a ‘Southern Accelerator’ centred on the city, rivalling the Northern Powerhouse, was put forward.

As the city celebrated Albion’s promotion to the Premier League, in May the council awarded the Freedom of the City to manager Chris Hughton and chairman Tony Bloom, before helping to organise a huge parade and party on the seafront. Meanwhile we abolished fees for child funerals, and council tax for care leavers.

As we prepared for the summer, more bins were installed along the seafront, whilst new wheelie bins for recycling were rolled out to many neighbourhoods. All tenants in our council high rise blocks got hand delivered letters with key information in the wake of the Grenfell disaster, and the council signed up to the British Sign Language Charter. The council became a founding member of the new Transport for the South East body planning road and rail for the future.

The summer kicked off in July with the launch of the Madeira Terraces crowdfunding campaign, and the successful sale of Kings House. 100 more new homes were given the go-ahead, the popular bike share scheme was launched and work began on the Circus Street project. An extra £100 thousand was put into the city’s parks, and £50 thousand on work to tackle domestic violence.

August saw the launch of our “Streets Ahead” campaign to reduce litter, and our “Make Change Count” campaign to help rough sleepers. We signed the Small Business Charter with the Federation of Small Businesses, joined the Fast Track Cities initiative on HIV, and our schools saw great exam results again.

A busy September included the go-ahead for the huge Preston Barracks scheme, the joint housing venture with Hyde to build 1000 truly affordable homes, and more council homes were agreed. Action on HMOs through planning enforcement began, work on Mile Oak playground started, a new A&E at the RSCH was approved, funding to buy back council homes sold under Right to Buy was agreed, and £150 thousand went into saving all of the city’s supported bus routes.

In October a big improvement in our recycling rate was revealed, and the new swimming pool on Madeira Drive was given the go-ahead.

November saw work begin on yet more council homes in Hollingbury, the launch of our new million pound children’s fund, and calls for fair pay for public sector staff and fair funding from Government. We signed a new recognition agreement with our trades unions, and welcomed Crawley and Gatwick to the Greater Brighton City Region. The Madeira Terraces crowdfunding campaign hit it’s target, raising over £450 thousand from residents and businesses.

In December we held the first “Rent Smart” conference to improve the private rented sector, saw a big improvement in our planning service recognised, and almost 60 new council homes at Kite Place were finished and ready to welcome their first residents. We opened our shelter for rough sleepers, and the city tracker poll revealed that resident satisfaction with the council is at a five year high.

This has been our 2017; thanks to all council staff, residents and partner organisations who have helped us achieve so much. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

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Read more about our record in office here.

Fair Pay For Public Sector Staff #ScrapTheCap

scrap_the_cap_blogpost_picIt is time to scrap the cap on public sector pay.

It’s time to do it because our public sector staff deserve it, because our public sector services cannot survive without it, and because we cannot afford not to.

According to the Royal College of Nursing, nurses have had a 14% pay cut in real terms since 2010.  The IPPR calculate that workers in the NHS have experienced a seven-year pay squeeze, with a two year pay freeze from 2011/12, followed by pay capped at 1 per cent for the following five years. This has significantly eroded the value of pay in the NHS; pay for a band 5 nurse is £3,214 or 10.1 per cent lower today than pay for the same role in 2010/11.

Up to a third of workers in some NHS trusts have quit in the past year. The number of full-time nurses and health visitors in England dropped by 469 between April 2016 and April 2017, according to a Health Foundation report. Staff retention is a huge issue with the leaver rate varying from under 10% in some trusts to more than 30% in some acute and mental trusts.

In May, the Royal College of Nursing got Freedom of Information responses showing one in nine posts are now unfilled – and about 40,000 nursing posts were vacant in England.

Frontline police officers are £6,000 a year worse off in real terms compared to 2010. In May the Argus reported Matt Webb, chairman of the Sussex Police Federation, saying it has helped several officers so far this year after they found their wages left them struggling to put food on the table.

The average rent for a one bedroom property in Brighton and Hove is currently £957 per calendar month, leaving officers just £463 to cover other household bills, food and fuel costs. A three bed house will set renters back £1,630 a month, or £19,560 for the year – £440 short of the average officer’s annual wage.

The former head of the armed services, writing in the Telegraph, said that soldiers deserve a pay rise. The starting salary of an army private has dropped by £1,000 in real terms since 2010, whilst rising rents in service accommodation and changes to tax credits have hit service personnel hard. We now have a real crisis in recruitment and retention across all three services.

A firefighter today is earning £2000 less in real terms than they were in 2010. A midwife has seen their pay cut in real terms by £3000. During this time the cost of living has risen 22%.

Ministers need to raise public sector pay to help retain skilled staff, the Institute for Fiscal Studies economic research group has said, especially in the south-east where living costs are highest. It says that more restraint “would take public pay to historically low levels relative to that in the private sector”, it says. Average weekly public sector pay has fallen by 4% in real terms in the past eight years, and “higher paid groups have fared least well.”

A modest pay rise is not unaffordable. If public sector workers saw their earnings rise by inflation over the next five years, it would add just 1% to annual departmental spending. And it would pay for itself through a local economic boost – not least in the UK’s poorest regions – and through a higher tax take.

Recent research by the GMB shows that while the government said that the pay cap would save £2.2bn this year, the bill for agency and temporary workers has risen by £2.5bn across the public sector.

Last year, a study found there had been a 61% rise in advertising spend since 2010 in secondary schools alone, costing £56m in 2015. Shortages in the health service mean NHS Trusts are paying millions every month to agency and bank nurses to ensure there are adequate levels of staff on wards.

An Age UK study estimated the NHS lost 2.4m bed days, costing it £669m over five years, as shortages of social care support means frail patients cannot be discharged.

According to a Unison study based on International Monetary Fund figures, every 1% increase in public sector pay would generate between £710m and £820m for the government in increased income tax.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said if public sector pay were to rise in line with inflation for the next three or four years it would cost the public purse £6 to £7 billion more than continuing with the cap.

The public sector pay cap is having a disastrous impact across the board in our public sector; schools, the NHS, our armed forces, social care, local government, the civil service, police, fire and more. Our economy is suffering because these public sector staff cannot spend in the economy, our nation is suffering because we are missing out on tax revenue, our services are suffering because they cannot pay the rates they need to attract new staff.

We need to scrap the cap, we can afford it, we cannot afford not to.

(Speech to full Council proposing the motion “Fair Pay For Public Sector Staff” 2/11/2017)

Getting On With The Job

Over the coming months, the Labour minority Administration on Brighton and Hove City Council, which I am proud to lead, faces a number of significant challenges.

We face a seventh austerity budget imposed on us by the Conservative government, taking £100m away from our service funding, and the same time as our costs are growing and Whitehall hands us ever more responsibility for things they previously paid for.

We face the challenge of securing funding and powers to secure our city’s heritage and infrastructure, at the Pavilion and on the seafront, particularly Madeira Terraces.

We have to continue to make progress on delivering 1500 new council homes and truly affordable homes through our Living Wage joint venture.

We have to meet the challenge of a rising tide of rough sleeping and homelessness caused by Government welfare policy.

We need to secure the progress made on getting a better deal for tenants in the private rented sector, and support the provision of student accommodation to ease pressure on the housing market.

We have to ensure the council and partner agencies are ready to help those hit by the Governments roll-out of Universal Credit.

We must secure progress on the new conference centre and concert arena, extension to Churchill Square, and funding for a new King Alfred. Jobs, homes and our city’s future economic prosperity depend on it.

We need to bring together the council and Clinical Commissioning Group to deliver the GPs, primary health care services and basic NHS provision residents need.

We must continue the improvement in recycling we have achieved, and the action against litterers and flytippers who are placing a strain on our city’s cleaning services.

We want to roll out troubleshooters into our communities to tackle problems as they arrive at a local level, and improve the way we provide customer services online.

We must push even harder for a better deal for Brighton and Hove from the Government, for the powers and funding to deliver what our communities need.

We have to ensure the places at our schools, all of which are good and improving, are there for the pupils that need them.

We must continue to prepare the city, our economy and our businesses for the impact of Brexit.

All this and much more needs to be done. Its the job I was elected to do, that the city expects me to get on with, and I will not be distracted or diverted from it.

Despite the challenges we face, Brighton and Hove can be as great as it ever was, and better, for everyone that lives here. That the job I’m getting on with.

Standing up to racism

Yesterday I made a public statement regarding anti-Semitism at the Labour Conference in Brighton and Hove.

As a city, we have clear policies on equalities, discrimination and racism. It is my job as Leader of the City Council to speak out against racism, bigotry and prejudice in all its forms. I’ve done so when the far-right came here to march. I’ve done so when refugees faced abuse, when the Muslim community faced hostility in the wake of events elsewhere.

Whatever my views on conflicts elsewhere in the world, my firm belief is that those conflicts should not be played out by groups or individuals against communities in our city. We are a City of Sanctuary, where people from all backgrounds should live alongside each other, live and work together, without the wars and conflicts in countries they may have connections with coming into daily life here.

Our right to free speech is bounded by the rights of others not to have their daily life subject to intimidation and fear. People are of course free to criticize and protest against the actions of the Israeli Government. Jewish people here are no more responsible for those actions simply for being Jewish than Syrian people are responsible for Assad or Americans are for Trump. Women in headscarves shouldn’t face abuse because of IS. Men in yarmulkes shouldn’t face abuse because of Netanyahu.

Legitimate debate on the Israel/Palestine issue should not be stifled, but neither should that issue it be a justification for the demonisation of an entire group of people based on their ethnicity or religion. My statement was not about that conflict.

Nor was it about the Labour leadership. Jeremy Corbyn and the front bench have been clear on their condemnation of anti-Semitism: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/sep/26/new-antisemitism-row-for-labour-over-fringe-speakers-holocaust-remarks-miko-peled?

Conference approved a rule change with the support of 96% of delegates to make anti-Semitic behaviour even more explicitly against the Party rules than it was previously. I’m calling for those rules to be enforced, so that we can welcome Conference back to Brighton and Hove again.

Anti-Semitism is racism. The Labour Party is an anti-racist Party. Brighton and Hove is a city where all should feel safe and secure. These are things which should not be in question.

A Dynamic And Ambitious City

My speech to the Centre for Cities reception at Labour Conference.

“Since I last welcomed you to the Centre for Cities reception here in the kitchens of the Royal Pavilion two years ago, much has changed in Brighton and Hove. The i360 now towers over Brighton and Hove seafront, a 21st Century version of the Victorian piers, bandstands, aquarium and promenades built to draw tourists to our seafront.

The city voted overwhelmingly – 70% – to remain in the European Union, to stay a European city that is outward facing and Open For Business. I will fight to the last to see the will of the people in Brighton and Hove made a political reality.

Brighton and Hove Albion were promoted to the Premier League, bringing in tens of millions into the local and city region economy.

The EON Rampion wind farm has sprung up off our coast, representing a period of new technologies, new energy and new transport, heralding a changing economy with new ways of working. All this offering challenges and opportunities in the modern economy which we are not yet coming to terms with, but which we must if we are both to compete and protect the rights of people working in it.

The General Election saw Peter Kyle increase his majority by a record breaking figure in Hove, and Lloyd Russell Moyle take the last remaining Conservative seat in the city with a comfortable win in Kemptown. As much as in London, Bristol and the cities of the north west, Brighton and Hove has moved to Labour.

Our Labour-led administration on the City Council has pressed ahead with innovative new schemes to improve daily life, build new homes and grow our economy. New ways to run services, grow our income and meet the challenges of social care. Our mission is to get the basics right, protect the vulnerable and grow an economy for the many and not the few.

We do so against a combined opposition that can outvote us in the last remaining committee run council, under funding and service pressures that would have made my predecessors weep, and in a political environment more unstable and uncertain than at any time in living memory.

The next two years will see the pace of change accelerate, and the challenges we face grow. The Greater Brighton city region is expanding to include the thriving economy of Crawley, led by the excellent Cllr Peter Lamb who is here tonight, and the global transport hub of Gatwick Airport. Together we will be stronger in facing those challenges and ready to exploit the opportunities of the industrial strategy and devolution to city regions.

Greater Brighton will become the heart of the Southern Accelerator, a rival to the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine, driving research and innovation in our universities, investment and growth in our digital and creative economies, a sustainable future for our financial services, tourism and visitor economy as Brexit draws closer.

We cannot rely on our proximity to the capital, as a region we must compete nationally, in Europe and across the globe in Japan and China, India and South America, Australasia and Africa, the Middle East and beyond for tourism, students, trade, investment and conventions. Through our strong partnership with Standard Life we will in the coming decade replace the Brighton Centre with a new conference and event arena at Black Rock, one which will secure our future just as the Brighton Centre did 40 years ago.

The challenge for Brighton and Hove, as the Centre for Cities has pointed out, is as great as for any city region in Britain as we sever our bonds with the EU. We will not allow this self created hurricane, born in the turbulent waters of Tory division, to lay waste to our economy. We will turn our faces to the coming storm. We will cast no one out; we will leave no one behind.

In the coming two years we will push ahead with ground-breaking health integration to ensure all our residents have access to GPs, screening and treatment. Our innovative new joint venture to deliver 1000 new homes affordable at under 40% of national living wage household income, will be given the go-ahead on Monday, and – I am announcing here for the first time tonight, we will forge a new relationship with businesses in Brighton and Hove and across the city region, starting with the Leaders Business Summit which I will convene in the new year.

Whilst we press ahead with building a new future for Brighton and Hove, we will continue to value and restore and preserve the heritage that made us what we are today; that made Brighton and Hove the unique place that it is, through work to restore our seafront and preserve our Royal Pavilion in trust for future generations.

That involves finding innovative new funding solutions and campaigns. Postcards and posters are around the tables promoting our Save Madeira Terraces crowdfunding campaign in association with Spacehive. Please donate pledge a donation if you can at www.savemadeiraterrace.org

We are a thriving, dynamic and ambitious city, a young city with a proud heritage, a great place to live and work, a city with a bold and ambitious future ahead of us. Brighton and Hove is the city I’m proud to lead, and pleased to welcome you to tonight. Thank you.”

http://www.CentreForCities.org

Photo credit: @CoopInnovation

2019: Beginning The Campaign For A Labour Majority For Brighton and Hove

The fight starts now for a Labour majority in Brighton and Hove at the next local elections in May 2019. We need six more councillors for a majority, ending more than a decade and a half of no overall control.

We’ve achieved a huge amount since winning minority control in 2015, despite savage Conservative Government cuts to our funding, and two opposition parties on the council who have wasted no opportunity to delay or frustrate the positive things we are trying to achieve for our city.

https://warrenmorgan.wordpress.com/2017/05/12/10×10-our-half-term-report/

So why do we need that majority, and what would we do with it?

Our goal is to build the homes Brighton and Hove needs – affordable homes, more temporary accommodation to tackle homelessness, excellent quality council houses, homes that people need for their families, homes that businesses need for their workers. We’ll push further on our work to make the private rented sector better for tenants and better for Brighton and Hove.

We want to go further and faster on building a city economy – and city region economy – that benefits everyone. More jobs that are secure, that pay well and that give people the security they need for their families. We believe Brighton and Hove belongs in Europe, with thriving universities, creative digital companies and an outward-looking visitor economy.

We want to build a city that cares for residents from their early years through to a healthy and active later life. Social care and good physical and mental is at the heart of what we do. There is no greater challenge – and no bigger opportunity – to lead on making a fundamental difference to the lives of ordinary people here in Brighton and Hove.

We have to stand up for our city to Government, for fairer funding for the services and infrastructure we need, for the business rates local businesses pay but which the Treasury takes, and for the ability to build the homes we need. At the same time we need to innovate in finding ways to pay for the basic services our families and communities rely on, working in partnership with the public sector and the voluntary sector at every step.

We need to be a powerful voice for the infrastructure we need, from housing to health, from rail to ultra-fast broadband. The people of Brighton and Hove need us to speak up for them regionally, nationally and internationally – we can’t continue to lose out because we’ve no clear leadership and a Tory group with near-parity.

Stronger communities are, we believe, the answer to the biggest challenges we face. With so many pressures seeking to divide us, we have to lead in our neighbourhoods, across generations, against racism, homophobia, transphobia and any forces that push our communities apart. Together we can achieve more. United we can face down bigotry and prejudice in all its forms.

These are difficult times. Our challenges are great and the future is uncertain. Our job is to give people hope, hope that their home city can not only weather the storm but build a Brighton and Hove that delivers excellent basic services, that cares for and improves the lives of everyone that lives here, and grows our economy for the benefit of the many, not the few.

Join us. In the next few months we will start building our team of 54 candidates to win that majority and take Brighton and Hove forward. We’ll be recruiting a full-time campaign organiser too. If you are not already a Labour member, join here.

Don’t let the Tories – just two seats behind us on the council – hold us back. Don’t let the Conservatives win just because it is “their turn”.

We believe in a fairer, co-operative and progressive vision for our unique and exciting city, a Labour vision. If you want to be part of the next stage in our journey, then join us, talk to us, stand with us.