Tag Archives: Development

“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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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.

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

We need to build affordable homes now

housingThis week I went to London to lobby government ministers for more powers to tackle the housing crisis in the city and our region. We need the power to bring forward new sites, draw in new funding, and co-ordinate work to build more affordable homes for rent or to buy.

The statistics on housing in the city are staggering. This week a report said that rents in Brighton and Hove are rising by 18 per cent a year. The average rent for a one-bedroomed flat is around £900 a month. The average price of a flat is £260,000. For a semi-detached home that rises to £360,000, and for a terraced house the average is now £425,000, some £40,000 less than London.

Four thousand people move here from the capital each year, while the student rental market eats more properties each month. With the lack of supply these factors mean house price inflation of more than 12 per cent a year.

Current council policy asks for 40 per cent of major new developments to be “affordable”, meaning on offer at 80 per cent of market rents. With rents so high, even that is unaffordable to those we seek to help, and 40 per cent of units are rarely if ever achieved.

That’s why we are looking to build 2,000 homes for rent at 60 per cent of market rent through our proposed joint venture with Hyde. We are building dozens of new council homes in Whitehawk as part of our pledge to build at least 500 council homes by 2019.

Some argue for rent controls; we are committed to a fairer rental market, with transparent fees and rights for tenants so that the few unscrupulous landlords and letting agents who give the sector a bad name can be made to clean up their acts and not undercut the decent majority.

We will look at any and all opportunities to build, and seek to offer homes of all types and tenures in the city to those who need them.

Our economy depends on staff being able to afford to live here. Our council needs the additional income new council tax-generating properties will bring.

The government is pushing the city and our regional neighbours to build. In his Autumn Statement the Chancellor said he wants 200,000 “starter homes” built by 2020, at 80 per cent of market rates and capped at £250,000. This is welcome, though that price will still be well out of reach for many on lower incomes. The government required us to look at every option in drawing up our City Plan which must deliver over 11,000 new homes in the next 15 years.

Of course when developers bring forward plans to build, as they have done recently in the east of the city, the opposition from Conservative councillors and MPs is vociferous. Any plans to build out into the urban fringe, up in high-rise developments or on brownfield sites are opposed.

Unless we are to become a “London-by-the-sea” with properties only within reach of the wealthy, and new build reserved for overseas investors, the Conservative Government must give us the powers to intervene in the market, and Conservative politicians must accept the case for more homes to be built.

Bold solutions, difficult decisions and innovative partnerships are needed if we are to do what is needed to tackle our city’s housing crisis.

2016: The Year We Start Building A Better Brighton & Hove

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Within this shot are the sites of i360, the Brighton Centre/Churchill Square redevelopment and the West Street/Shelter Hall project. Photo: Reg Bradley  http://www.bygones.org.uk/page_id__206.aspx.

In my previous blog post I set out the enormous financial challenges the council faces, but as a city we face enormous opportunities too. In this post I set out what is ahead in the coming year.

2015 has been a year of change and challenges for the city, but 2016 will be a very big year, the year we start building a better Brighton and Hove. There are a huge range of projects that will grow our economy, build new homes and provide new and better paid jobs for thousands of local people.

Far from being vanity projects, these are multi-million pound schemes that will deliver new hospital facilities, a new leisure centre, a new conference and concert arena, and new shopping facilities that could generate millions for council services in new business rates.

Work starts in January to rebuild the road and supporting structure at the junction of Kings Road and West Street, using £9 million of external funding as part of the £100 million we need to spend on our seafront infrastructure. At the same time new buildings will start to go up on the old market site in Circus Street, including new office space, 140 homes and a new home for South East Dance.

Within weeks there will be a decision on the King Alfred in Hove. A successful bidder to build a new sports and leisure complex will be announced, with the scheme including housing that will pay for the centre as well as generating new income from council tax.

We will launch our Joint Housing Venture with Hyde Housing, providing more than a thousand truly affordable homes, with rents at 60% of market rates and 40% of Living Wage income. Providing homes that are within reach for local people is an absolutely essential task for the council I lead and one we will pursue at every opportunity.

With our partners Standard Life we will present plans for an extended Churchill Square, and a new arena and conference venue at Black Rock, to ensure we have retail, convention and concert facilities to rival Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and London. They have already announced a partnership with renowned architects Wilkinson Eyre on the project.

We are making significant progress towards being able to publish our proposals to restore the Madeira Terraces, ensuring that our heritage is preserved alongside new investment and facilities. We recently secured funding to help make that happen.

The ten year NHS redevelopment of the Sussex County Hospital will begin in earnest, creating a world-class health-care facility and regional trauma centre on our doorstep. In 2016 a planning application for new homes and business space at Preston Barracks will be submitted, and construction of the £14m new council homes scheme at Kite Place in Whitehawk will get underway.

Locally there will be news on a new secondary school, set up and run by Brighton University to meet the growing demand for places, and action by our new Employment and Skills Task Force on boosting skills and better paid careers for our young people.There will be announcements on our devolution bid, submitted to Government in September and offering the possibility of a Greater Brighton City Region stretching along the coast and up towards Gatwick, with new powers and economic muscle to rival the Northern Powerhouses.

As well as more shops in an expanded Churchill Square on the horizon, the timetable for John Lewis opening their first store in the city at the Clock Tower will be set out, and there will be some exciting news about North Street and the Lanes, with additions and restorations to the unique shopping experience in our historic old town.

In addition to a decision on the King Alfred and Madeira Terraces, there should be news on a swimming pool at the old Peter Pan site and of course the opening of the British Airways i360. We all need to get behind this new attraction now that it is there, and because we need to see it succeed so we can use the £1m a year it should generate to invest in our seafront infrastructure.

The Fairness Commission is now hard at work, and will report in June on its findings, making recommendations about how the city as a whole can focus its resources on tackling poverty and inequality, something that impacts on us all. We have committed to ending street homelessness by 2019 and convened a summit in December to focus everyone involved in dealing with the issue on the solutions needed to do that.

As a council, we are hard at work finding ways to deliver services in better ways, online and in your neighbourhoods, which deal with the fact we will have a third less in funding to do it with. I’ve launched The City Innovation Challenge to harness the talent, imagination and innovation that this city has to find ways of doing that, with five £1000 prizes backed by sponsors including Microsoft, the Hilton Brighton Metropole, Entrepreneurial Spark/NatWest, the University of Sussex and Brighton and Hove Buses supporting the awards.

According to the city tracker survey results, you are already seeing some improvement in your refuse and recycling services, and in how clean your streets are. We are working hard to develop commercial waste collection and vehicle maintenance services that generate an income we can invest in protecting jobs and making those services even better.

By the end of the year the city council will leave its seafront offices and move to Hove Town Hall in a move which will mean millions of pounds can be invested in a major community advice hub and online council services that will make a real difference to how you interact with your local authority.

So by this time next year agreements will have been made, plans will be in place or ground will have been broken on all of these projects. Hundreds of billions of pounds of investment will be on its way into our city. We need to ensure that as our city changes, as our economy grows and as the landscape takes shape, that all our residents from Portslade to Patcham to Saltdean share in the benefits.

This is the year we start to build a better Brighton and Hove; join us in helping to make it happen.

Council funding crisis and cuts are down to the Government

moneyThe city council faces a funding crisis, now and in the years ahead. Growing financial pressures on the NHS and low-income working families seeing the support they receive in tax credits cut, means that there has been a huge rise in demand for social care locally. The council has a duty to care for children at risk of harm, vulnerable adults and the growing population of older people. That pressure, and the failure of the previous Green administration to get a grip on council finances, means the council is forecast to spend over seven million pounds more by next April than budgeted for in March.

This is the context in which we are dealing with calls for money to support heritage projects like the Madeira Terraces and Saltdean Lido, as well as the need to keep improving our universal services like road repairs and recycling collection.

The news that councils will be able to keep all of their business rates may be welcome for those authorities who stand to gain, but it isn’t an answer to the financial crisis Brighton and Hove faces. As a city we don’t have many large employers, big industrial and manufacturing units, or out of town shopping centres that generate large scale business rates. We rely on thousands of small and medium sized enterprises in the retail, restaurant, digital and service sectors.

The changes are unlikely to come into effect until 2020, by which time the council will have had all of its Government revenue grant (which provides a third of our funding) cut entirely. In addition the Government is handing councils more and more responsibilities, like council tax rebates, pensioner bus passes and public health, and then cutting the funds to run them.

If we do not make far-reaching reductions and changes to services, to the buildings we run and the number of staff we employ, the combination of rising social care costs and cuts to funding will mean that by 2019 we look likely to be spending over £100 million more than we bring in from grants, charges, business rates and council tax. Keeping all of the city’s business rates will only replace half of that, meaning we still have to cut our costs by at least £50 million.

We will be taking firm action within a month to balance the books. We will look first at our own running costs before bringing forward reductions and changes to front-line services. We will focus on growing our business rates and council tax income from new businesses and new homes. If the business rate changes are meant to replace grant funding then we will challenge the Government to implement those changes earlier and in full, devolving funding and power to local councils and local communities. We will focus the money we have on delivering the services you rely on and caring for those who need it most. Your council needs fairer funding to do that and build a better city for all.

(Published in the Brighton and Hove Independent)

My ambitions and hopes for Brighton and Hove

WHATS%~1You 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.

Housing the city

A map of Brighton in around 1950 (Collins Bartholomew)
A map of Brighton in around 1950 (Collins Bartholomew)

Most of us in Brighton and Hove live in houses built on what were open fields and Downland a hundred years ago. Many of our estates and suburbs were added relatively recently, in the post war period. Go a little further back, and the swathes of Victorian terraces that make up so much of the city would vanish revealing farmland, smallholdings and orchards.

Only recently have we, quite literally, drawn a line, first with the A27 bypass and then with the National Park, placing a limit on further expansion north to add to the sea to the south and adjoining towns to the east and west.

We can’t limit who moves here, and even if we could, we can’t limit population growth. People are living longer and more people are living alone, meaning more and more homes are needed.

Demand is currently estimated to outstrip supply by more than twenty thousand. The Government’s planning inspector has said we as a city have not found sufficient sites to build on, and have asked the council to identify more places on the “urban fringe” that could be developed. However, even an approved plan is little protection against the Conservative government’s National Planning Policy Framework, dubbed the “developers charter”, which presumes in favour of development. Even if local campaigns to preserve open space are successful in persuading councils to deny approval, the Government Planning Inspectorate can just say “yes” and wave the development through, and then fine the council for trying to stop it.

Whilst the Tory government says “build anywhere”, the Tory Councillors say they will oppose anything and everything, from the comfort of their own homes with no regard for those aspiring to own homes themselves. This “banana” approach –  “build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything” – helps no-one in the long term.

Our two universities are expanding, and even the rapid building of new student accommodation, such as in the old London Road Co-op, can’t keep pace. Landlords are keen to snap up houses to rent to the ever-growing student market, reducing the number of family homes still further. Building new student accommodation won’t in itself meet new demand, and those units won’t count in meeting our housing targets.

housingThe private rented sector in the city is huge and growing, with landlords all too often buying up former social housing to rent out, in return for housing benefit money paid directly to them.

With property prices rising by almost six times the rate of inflation, few new houses being built by the Green council, and the Tory Bedroom Tax biting, is it any wonder that homelessness on the streets and in temporary housing is on the increase?

A Labour council would build. Our policy will be “brownfield first”, with 40% affordable homes in all new development. When last in power we added five hundred new homes a year. This is why we took the difficult decision to identify the privately owned urban fringe site of Toads Hole Valley for the building of 750 new homes.

We need to look at modernising our council stock, building new homes to make better use of the space available, without losing the open space that makes our estates good places to live. Where council houses sold under “Right To Buy” come on the market at auction the council should exercise its right of first refusal and buy them back as other authorities are doing.

Developers building seafront flats should provide affordable units on site. We want mixed communities, not social housing concentrated in a few overcrowded areas. We want a range of rental and ownership options on offer in new developments. We will use the powers available to us to pursue these principles robustly.

Where “brownfield” sites, former business, office or industrial are no longer needed to provide employment, they should be used to provide new homes.

We need to act to ensure private rented sector tenants get a fair deal from landlords, with decent standards and fair, affordable rents. We welcome polices proposed by Ed Miliband to return housing benefit to councils, giving them the money to build not line the pockets of landlords. Our Parliamentary candidate for Brighton Pavilion Purna Sen has launched a consultation on “Generation Rent” and I’ve said a Labour council will act on what tenants tell Purna if we are elected next May. Labour council candidates including Chris Henry (Hangleton) and Tracey Hill (Hollingdean) have done excellent work with tenants in the Clean_Up_Renting2Movement for Change “Home Sweet Home” campaign to improve the private rented sector in the city.

Contradicting policies and conflicting demands make this a difficult issue to tackle, and better national and regional solutions are needed. However a decent, secure home should be within reach of everyone. The limits of what we can realistically provide within the geographical and financial constraints we have can’t be ignored, but we must resolve to do what we can, working with communities and neighbourhoods so that new development is seen as natural growth not urban blight grafted on to established, settled streets.

Whether it is private rented, social housing, existing or new build, we want to hear your views on housing – email ourcity@brightonhovelabour.com