Tag Archives: economy

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.

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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.

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What We Were Told, And What Is The Truth

We were told that leaving Europe would mean £350 million extra a week for the NHS. We now know that this won’t happen.

We were told that 100,000 overseas students outstayed their visas. We now know this wasn’t true.

We were told that non-UK EU residents needed to run our agriculture and public services would stay. Tens of thousands are leaving.

We were told that London’s place as a world financial centre was secure. Now we know tens of thousands of jobs will move to Frankfurt.

We were told that cut loose from Brussels, our economy would flourish. It is already stagnating.

We were told families would not be split up. Now people are being told to go, then told it was a mistake.

We were told that anyone asking for the “divorce payment” of £60-£100 billion to leave the EU could “go whistle”. Now we are told we will have to pay up.

We’ve been misled. We’ve been fooled. We’ve been conned. We have been lied to. I’m sick of it.

We shouldn’t be spending up to £100 billion to leave the EU, meaning jobs are lost, industry suffers, skilled staff disappear, families are broken up.

If there is £60 to £100 billion available in the Treasury for that, I want it spent instead on proper funding for local council services, replacing the £100 million a year my council will have lost by the end of the decade.

I want it spent on a proper system of social care for our ageing population, on not just adequate but world-class mental health care. I want that £350 million extra a week for the NHS.

I want money spent on decent and affordable new homes so that people have somewhere to live and businesses can get the staff they need, where they need them.

I want investment in our universities, to promote research and development into the medical, biomedical and technological steps forward that contribute to science and learning, innovation and healthcare, local and national economic wellbeing.

I want the machinery of government focused on making this country a better place to live and do business, not on disentangling 40 years of international co-operation.

We are going ahead with an extraordinary act of national self-harm, costing us tens of billions in the short term, hundreds of billions in the long term. It will put our social and economic future at grave risk. We are not “taking back control”, we’re taking our hands off the wheel and closing our eyes to what’s ahead. It is the most important and urgent issue of our time.

We should at the very least have a second referendum based on the facts, and on the deal struck with the EU, if one is at all.

Better still, our leaders should admit we were misled, and abandon Brexit before further irreparable damage to Britain is done.

The Conservative Government’s Budget will not help Brighton and Hove

BudgetThe Conservative Government’s national insurance increase on the self-employed will hit up to 20% of the city’s workforce, many of whom are already affected by benefit reductions.

The money for social care is nowhere near enough to address the crisis, and as yet we don’t know where it is coming from. On past experience it will be from the budgets of local councils already slashed by 20% in a year, or already announced money brought forward.

After big cuts to our state schools, new free schools and grammars got hundreds of millions. There was nothing for housing, nothing for rail infrastructure, nothing substantial for the NHS and nothing on the impact of Brexit. This Budget won’t help our council, our small businesses or our public services in Brighton and Hove.

Faced with huge Budget challenges, we are delivering for Brighton and Hove

received_10154080748042534.jpegCan I begin my speech today proposing the 2017/18 Budget by expressing thanks, on behalf of myself as Leader of the Council, on behalf of the Administration, and I hope every elected member here, to all of the officers and staff of Brighton and Hove City Council for their part in bringing it before us today and delivering it.

From the Chief Executive and the Executive Leadership Team, to Department Heads and front-line staff, they have met the challenge of putting together the most difficult and challenging Budget in this council’s history. They have put in place savings of over £20 million through innovation and hard work, through modernisation and service redesign, through stepping up and doing more. Some staff, as is inevitable with savings of this magnitude, are facing up to a future outside of the council.

None of this Budget, none of what this council does every day, would be possible without our officers and staff, from the Executive Director bearing huge legal responsibility, to the Cityclean operative making sure our streets are cleared and our refuse collected. So before we begin our debate today I’d ask all members to join me in showing our appreciation for what staff do.

It is one of the three key priorities of this Administration to get the basics right within the scope of our reducing resources. That means investment, innovation, savings, new partnerships, service redesign – finding ways to do more, to do better with less. If we are asking our residents to pay more in council tax, we have to meet this challenge, not shy away from it.

We are investing in the basic services people use everyday. New wheeled recycling bins, replacement communal bins, new Big Belly compactor bins to make our streets cleaner. New parking meters with card and contactless payment to give people even more easy parking payment options. Fines for litterers and fly-tippers to crack down on those who pollute our public spaces and expect others to pick up the cost as well as the mess.

Commercial waste collections, garden waste collections and vehicle servicing are bringing in new revenue to maintain and improve the services we provide. In-house textile recycling is now raising money for local charities. The £7million invested in modern street lighting will mean our network is more energy efficient and will cost less to run.

Our recycling rates are again increasing. This Budget contains no cuts to front-line Cityclean staff. The Big Conversation has led to proposals for a new City Parks Foundation and new partnerships with sports clubs to make their activities in our parks – football, tennis, bowls – sustainable.

I pay tribute to my colleague Cllr Gill Mitchell for driving these changes through and delivering success after success after success. We have continued to improve residents’ satisfaction with our services – in fact we are the only public sector organisation in the city to achieve this, and it should be applauded.

We will in the period of this Budget revolutionise our customer services and our relationship with the residents of the city, with Digital First delivering new online bulletins for residents and staff, improved transactional services and a better website, alongside a significant element of the planned four year savings through digitisation and streamlining of hundreds of functions in this authority. We want to drive customer satisfaction still higher, so we are reviewing the top 20 interactions that residents have with us as a council, to ensure that even more customer journeys are positive ones.

Cllr Emma Daniel is leading our neighbourhoods work, taking the council back out into communities, taking forward the work of the Fairness Commission we established, helping join up our services across council teams, tackling issues at an earlier stage to improve outcomes and save money, getting the local right. I thank her and her committee for the innovative work she is leading in helping transform this council and the way it works with all our residents, all our communities.

We are succeeding in delivering the schools our young people and our economy need. Under Cllr Tom Bewick and Cllr Daniel Chapman we have seen the number of schools rated Good or Outstanding increase by 10 per cent to 92 per cent overall, above the national average for the first time. We are now in top 25 authorities for primary schools nationally. We should praise all in our schools for their efforts to make this happen.

We plan to re-design the Early Help system and modernise the special school provision across the city. We’ve seen awards for our LGBT work in schools recognised as the best in the UK, and we’ve doubled free childcare. For those leaving school we will deliver 1,000 apprenticeships in 1,000 days.

As soon as we balanced the Budget we restored over two hundred thousand pounds to the youth service budget that was proposed in December, half of that recurrent every year. As a council we will still be funding services to young people by over two million pounds to promote routes into employment, better mental health, and work to keep young people out of substance misuse and crime.

Under Cllr Alan Robins we have taken up the challenge of implementing the libraries plan agreed last year, we have maintained the number of libraries, extended their opening hours and set them on course to be the hubs at the heart of our communities. All of our decisions are difficult, but we have to put the long-term benefit of the city at the heart of our decision making.

In pursuit of that benefit we have protected the Royal Pavilion and our museums for future generations by placing them in a trust that can access the charitable and lottery funding they need.

We will see in the coming months the continued construction on Phase 1 of £18m refurbishment of the Royal Pavilion Estate.  Our familiarity should not breed complacency when it comes to what is, alongside our seafront, the heart of our tourist and cultural offer.

We were elected to deliver a council that works for everyone, a council that gets the basics right, universal services delivered, and essential infrastructure improved.

The second of our key objectives is protecting the most vulnerable, focusing the resources we as a council and as a city have on those in priority need. It is a duty incumbent on us all.

I would like to thank my colleagues Cllr Karen Barford and Cllr Daniel Yates for their incredibly hard work and able leadership in health and social care, the largest and most challenging element of our budget. So much of their vital work is behind the scenes, but essential to the future of our council and its care services, how we work with the NHS, how we deal with the needs of an ageing population.

Despite the immense financial challenges, the message to our residents is clear. Where need is identified, we will continue to provide a service. We will help you stay fit, healthy and active, but when you need our help we will be there.

We are funding projected demand pressure for adult and children’s social care and temporary accommodation to the tune of an extra £12 million. Providing these care services alone will cost over £160 million next year, far more than the £127 million we will receive in council tax.

I am incredibly proud of the work being done by Cllr Caroline Penn on behalf of this Administration on improving the mental health of this city and tackling stigma. As a nation we are recognising the impact of mental health, the need to look at it in a new way, and to put it at the heart of our health and wellbeing agenda.

Elsewhere, we have saved £350,000 by increasing our in -house foster care placements, we have signed up to ethical care charter, and we have backed the Fast Track Cities initiative on HIV/AIDS. We have been recognised for tackling fuel poverty that costs so many tenants in the city so much and is so fundamental to overall poverty levels in the city.

I am pleased that whilst we wait to determine the full impact of benefit and tax changes locally, we in this Budget will maintain a significant discretionary fund to help those who do find themselves in poverty, supporting the vital work done by our neighbours in this building from Money Advice, the Credit Union and Citizens Advice.

I am proud that in this Budget we are protecting funding for domestic violence services, with over £600 thousand going in to community-based interventions, prevention and recovery services, and refuge and floating support. All the time I am Leader of this council, this will remain one of our top priorities.

On housing, the private rented sector and rough sleeping I commend the work done by Cllr Anne Meadows, Cllr Tracey Hill and Cllr Clare Moonan. We’ve won agreement for a thousand affordable homes in our joint venture, our pledge to build 500 council homes is on track, a new allocations policy has been set, and the ground-breaking Rent Smart initiative was launched across a wide range of partners.

Our Rough Sleeping Strategy has been adopted and implemented, we have boosted our temporary accommodation with two new in-house schemes at Oxford Street and Stonehurst Court, and we have launched the joint Make Change Count appeal raising funds to help people off the streets.

Whether it is health or housing, care or communities, renters or rough sleepers, we are working hard to help those who need it.

The third objective we have committed this council to is growing an economy that benefits all.

Brighton and Hove is open for business. Apprenticeships are up by 19 per cent in the city, putting us above the national average for the first time. Retail is set to get a massive boost with John Lewis coming to the city, Redevco investing in the new Lane and Hanningtons estate, Standard Life investing hundreds of millions into the Churchill Square extension, and Ikea proposing a store on land in our city region owned by Brighton and Hove Albion.

Our colleges and universities continue to equip our young people with the skills and innovation needed to compete in the local, national and global market, and I have forged ever closer working relationships with them in partnership work that benefits the city as a whole.

I’d like at this point to commend in particular Cllr Julie Cattell, Chair of Planning and Deputy Chair of Economic Development, for the immense work she and all our dedicated planning officers have done in the last 18 months to turn our planning department around – to have it running at pace is key to business confidence and the continued growth of our economy. Cllr Jackie O’Quinn is also doing a fantastic job at the helm of the Licensing Committee.

We are bringing in billions of pounds to the city in regeneration projects, including the Waterfront arena, Shelter Hall, Preston Barracks, and King Alfred through bodies such as Greater Brighton, Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership, and Brighton and Hove Business Partnership. We are campaigning for the Brighton and Hove Living Wage, opposing zero-hour contracts, growing career opportunities and working to deliver the full potential of all our residents. We are putting in place a new Civic Office to bring further inward investment into the city.

Brighton and Hove is indeed a place to invest, a place with a talented, trained and innovative workforce on which to draw, a unique location for business to spark and grow. We are open for business, we will grow an economy where everyone shares in the benefits of that growth.

I would like to use this opportunity to make two new announcements today, ones which I hope will command support across this chamber.

The loss of a child is one of the most unimaginable things any family could have to bear. I pay tribute to the campaign led by Carolyn Harris MP in the House of Commons, which has won support from all parties, to end funeral fees in the case of child deaths. A number of councils have responded positively to this campaign.

Whilst we do not charge for child burials or cremations, we do charge for the grave plot and the headstone, meaning families can face costs of almost £170. Mr Mayor I am asking Council today to support me in saying that this will be the last Budget where we will set charges for the burial of children, and that we will take the necessary steps to end child funeral costs in the city council Budget as soon as possible.

I would like to pay tribute to the former Chair of the Children and Young People’s Committee Cllr Tom Bewick for the work he did in that role during the first two years of our Administration, in particular his instrumental role in setting up a Care Leavers Trust for young people who have not had the benefit of a stable family environment as they start out in life.

All of us have a responsibility as Corporate Parents to those children and young people in our care and leaving our care. That is why, Mr Mayor, I would like this council to support the campaign by the Children’s Society and exempt fully all local care leavers from council tax until the age of 25. We will be bringing forward proposals to enable that during the course of the coming year.

I want at this point to address the broader issue of local government funding.

Mr Mayor it is the fault of successive governments that no sustainable solution to the funding of council services has been devised. The removal of the Revenue Support Grant between 2011 and 2020, over a hundred million pounds a year in our case, leaves us increasingly reliant on council tax and business rates. These are two property taxes based on outdated valuations, regressive in their impact and utterly insufficient to fund the services local councils are charged with providing.

Let me be clear on the proposals in this Budget to raise the council tax level in Brighton and Hove by 4.99%. I opposed similar rises in the past and I stand here proposing this increase with a very heavy heart. This rise will hit people on lower incomes hard at a time when they are seeing living costs increase and benefit support reduced. It is right that we maintain a substantial discretionary fund to support those pushed towards poverty, homelessness and the food bank.

However with the pressures of social care costs increasing here as they are in every top-tier authority, we have little choice but to apply the full three per cent social care precept as we try to close the gap and ease funding pressure on other services.

Calling for a national funding review, my West Sussex counterpart Cllr Louise Goldsmith said at their Budget meeting last week that nationally social care services are “seriously, seriously underfunded” and that the social care precept provided “just a few drops of help in a vast ocean of need.”

The results of The Municipal Journal and LGiU annual finance survey were published last week. Nearly eight out of 10 respondents to the survey of more than 160 council chief executives, leaders, finance directors and portfolio holders from 131 local authorities across England said they lacked confidence in the sustainability of the sector’s finances.

13% admitted there was a danger they would no longer have enough funding to fulfil their statutory duties in the coming year, with half of those based in the South East.

The president of the Association of Local Authority Treasurers Societies, Duncan Whitfield, said the next two years would be ‘make or break for some of the more beleaguered authorities’.

The survey also found an overwhelming 94% planning to increase council tax in 2017/18 and four out of five of those eligible said they were likely or very likely to take up all or some of increased social care precept. Four out of five top-tier respondents named social care as their greatest immediate pressure.

Lord Porter, the Conservative peer who heads the Local Government Association, said this week:

“Social care faces a funding gap of at least £2.6 billion by 2020. It cannot be left to council taxpayers alone to try and fix this. Councils, the NHS, charities and care providers remain united around the desperate need for new government funding for social care. By continuing to ignore these warnings, social care remains in crisis and councils and the NHS continue to be pushed to the financial brink.

“The Government cannot ignore this any longer. Genuinely new government money for social care is urgently needed. Without this, our most vulnerable continue to face an ever uncertain future where they might no longer receive the dignified care and support they deserve, such as help getting dressed or getting out and about, which is crucial to their independence and wellbeing.

“Councils face an overall £5.8 billion funding gap by 2020. This will push councils perilously close to the financial edge over the next few years and force them all to make significant reductions to the local services communities rely on, including filling potholes, collecting waste, maintaining our parks and green spaces and running children’s centres, leisure centres and libraries, to plug growing funding gaps.”

Chief executive of the LGiU, Jonathan Carr-West, said: ‘Local government finances across the country are in a dire state. Everyone is expecting someone to fail. They are just hoping it won’t be them.’

Thanks to the work of this Administration, our officers and the support of members across party in this council, it will not be us. But we are far from the least affected.

The Government has said that from 2020 councils will retain all of their business rates, rather than the 50% they do at present. Although that in theory offer this authority the prospect of in excess of fifty million pounds, it is clear that revaluation, rebates and redistribution may mean we see no net benefit. This will not be anything other than a fiscally neutral move by the Treasury, leaving them no worse off and local government no better off as a result

Over the last 4 years, this council has saved £76 million in order to ensure that we keep pace with the demand and inflationary cost of social care and temporary accommodation, within an envelope that is shrinking as the result of diminishing funding from central government. No one is immune from savings, and I have ensured my Administration has saved £70,000 from the special responsibility allowances set by the Independent Remuneration Panel.

Our revenue support grant will all but disappear in 2020.  Health budgets for 2017/18 and beyond have not been set. It seems unlikely that the full impact of welfare reform has yet been felt.

I am pleased to say that we are rising to this financial challenge, and managing this council’s finances well. I thank my colleague Cllr Les Hamilton for his role in ensuring we are on a sound and sensible course.

At this halfway point in our Administration’s first term, in the face of unprecedented funding challenges, with 40% reductions in our spending power, I am determined that we will maintain the vast majority of our services in some form, and strive to keep the number of compulsory job losses to levels below those of many other authorities in the same situation. Achieving that in this Budget has been an immense task, but as most will acknowledge, we are not in circumstances that are unique or that are of our own making.

We are by no means the worst off as a council, but we are far from being the one with the best deal. As a council we are modernising and reforming, managing responsibly and competently, innovating and changing the way we do things, making savings while investing in new resources and revenue generation. This year we instructed officers that a projected overspend of close to £4 million had to be reduced to within the risk provision we prudently set. We delivered. Our auditors, Ernst & Young, have recognized our sound financial management and recently gave us an improved and positive rating for securing value for money for the taxpayer.

During this year we will deliver savings through sharing services with other councils via the Orbis partnerships, both in support services and legal. Having stress-tested the four year integrated service and financial plans first agreed in February 2015, we have identified further initiatives that will help us, for example a fresh approach to the neighbourhoods agenda and to enforcement.

Through our investment in Digital First we will have a renewed focus on those projects that deliver the biggest savings – starting with mobile working and using predictive analytics in the adult social care service. We have ensured that the council’s ambitious Modernisation Programme will continue apace – its work streams will deliver most of the required savings for 2017/18 to add to the £17 million forecast for this year.

Mr Mayor we have adopted a financially responsible approach, a more commercial approach, a more co-operative approach, a more customer-focused approach. We are getting a grip on demand led services, streamlining processes and delivering £2 million in management savings last year and next year. All of us should be proud of what this council is achieving, in the face of the challenges common across local government, and in the face of our own specific housing and infrastructure challenges here in Brighton and Hove.

We are leading the city through by strengthening our collaboration with all our partners and asking the Better Brighton & Hove think tank to research, address and solve the economic, social, and public service challenges facing the city.

In conclusion, all of us were elected to serve the residents of this city, to make it a better place to live now and in the future, to preserve our heritage and invest in our economy. We are the temporary custodians of a valuable and historic place, a collection of rich and varied communities and culture, a city with incredible resources and immense potential.

We should be united in saying that Government should help us do what we were all elected to do, help us get to the basic services right, protect the most vulnerable, and ensure everyone benefits when our economy does well.

We should be united in asking Government to devolve to us the powers to fund what we need to do, and to deliver what our residents and businesses need.

We should be united in calling for an urgent review of how local government is funded and how it meets the challenge of providing social care services, not to apportion blame but to address a national crisis.

I say to this council, very simply, we should be united in support of this council, our residents and for Brighton and Hove.

We in this Group will support a significant number of the opposition amendments, because we recognise the work put in and the intent from opposition parties to make our budget better. I hope they in turn recognise our work and our intent in making the difficult choices, significant savings and sound financial decisions we have in this Budget today. The amendments today total less than 1% of the total revenue, HRA and capital budgets we have in front of us today. So let us view how we vote tonight in that perspective.

Let’s be united for care homes, nurseries and libraries. Let’s be united for those youth services we all care about, united for the seven hundred services this council provides for the people of this city, from the simplest cleaning job to the most complex legal social care case.

Let’s be united in support of the social worker and the street sweeper, for the dedicated men and women employed by this council who have adapted and adjusted and upped their game year after year after year.

Let us be united for the community and voluntary services we support, we commission and we partner with in Brighton and Hove, for the small businesses who need our support in the face of unfair government business rates rises AND the council taxpayer hit by benefit changes and tax increases.

Getting the basics right, protecting the most vulnerable and growing the economy. Managing the resources we have well, increasing them wherever and whenever we can. Those  are my aims as Leader, our aims as an Administration, they should be ours as a council, ours as a city with a great future ahead of it.

I make an appeal across this chamber today. Be united. Join together. Support our city, support our communities, support our residents. Support this budget and be confident in the future of Brighton and Hove.

Europe: It isn’t too late to think again

21505_EU-flag-missing-starIt is becoming abundantly clear in my view that leaving the European Union will be a disaster for Britain, and bad for Brighton and Hove.

As a city, we voted overwhelmingly to remain. That view now seems to be shared by many other cities and regions who voted to leave. I choose to represent the majority of voters in Brighton and Hove who voted to remain. I absolutely respect the views of those who believe otherwise and who will reject the arguments I set out here.

Opinion has been moving against “Leave” for months. A poll of nearly 5000 voters in August found overwhelming support for Britain staying in the EU, reflecting a growing belief that we we misled and that there is no plan on how to make it happen.

There is a strong argument that we should not ignore the democratically expressed will of the people. However I believe that the reasons for the outcome were based for many on misleading information, and many would now not make the same choice in the polling station.

The idea that Brexit would reverse immigration was never realistic and controls on the free movement of labour will be catastrophic for many sectors of the economy. Migration was one of the key myths on which many based their vote, but myths are easily busted, and the impact on business through much greater regulatory burdens could be severe.

The promise of an extra £350 million for the NHS has been shown to be a false one. It was a betrayal of voters and their trust. Acknowledging a decision was wrong should mean we review it, not plough on regardless.

The referendum was not binding. The result was close, so close that Leave campaigners said quite clearly before the vote that should the result go against them by a similar margin they would contest the outcome.

Brexit will have a “catastrophic” effect on higher education, a vital sector in our local economy. Analysis by national law firm Irwin Mitchell and the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) found Brighton’s economy is expected to see a significant slowdown in economic growth following the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

The idea that Brexit will boost the economy and create jobs is another myth. Open Britain argue that the UK will have to borrow an additional £58 billion to deal with the consequences. Over a quarter of a million was racked up in legal fees in the first two months following the referendum, and costs of negotiating our departure over a decade are estimated at £65 million a year, at a time when social care is in crisis, the NHS is being run into the ground, local government is being starved of funds and rough sleeping is rocketing.

The respected Brookings Institute in Washington DC warned that Brexit could be “the greatest catastrophe of the 21st Century” leading to the breakup of the UK. The Peterson Institute for Economics called it a “disastrous experiment in deglobalisation.” Richard Branson said “there’s been very, very little to be gained from it and there’s been an awful lot to lose from it.”

Many claim that Brexit has had no impact on the economy, or indeed a positive impact on the economy. Of course we haven’t yet left the European Union, the worlds largest trading bloc, and predictions remain gloomy. In May of 2016 the UK was the world’s 5th largest economy. Just eight months later we have slipped behind France and India to 7th.

The resignation of the UK’s Ambassador to the EU lays bare the stark reality that the Government has no plan for exiting the EU that in any way benefits the country. The Government never had a plan because it never expected to lose the referendum. The pledge to put EU membership to the vote was entirely designed to stop the hemorrhage of Tory votes to UKIP at the 2015 General Election and secure a Tory majority.

The involvement of figures like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove in the Leave campaign was clearly more about their ambitions to succeed David Cameron than what was right for the country.

Even senior Tories now warn that “this is grown-up stuff, with consequences”. If we trigger Article 50 in March, we have just two years to successfully conclude negotiations or leave with nothing. Today the Prime Minister said she would present a plan “within weeks“, denying thinking in Government is “muddled”. I do not have faith in this Government to deliver.

Sir Keir Starmer is right that we should find bold and progressive solutions to the issues that underpinned the narrow vote to leave, but I disagree with the view that the outcome of the referendum cannot be challenged. 70% of Labour voters now believe we are wrong to leave the EU, many of them now looking to the Liberal Democrats to represent their views. I believe Labour should speak for a pro-European Britain.

We have not yet triggered Article 50. The Supreme Court may yet rule that Parliament must have the final say. There are various legal options the Court could give Parliament to consider. MPs need to think about their responsibility to all of the people, the national interest and the future before deciding to carry on with what is at best a high risk leap into the unknown.

Brighton and Hove can and should remain oriented towards Europe, with 50% of our tourism coming from the EU. We are the home of the European headquarters of American Express, and other financial services groups like Legal and General. Our creative arts and digital sectors, our hotel and conference industry, our universities and language schools cannot afford barriers to trade with Europe. We can and shall remain open for business. 

I believe we should think again before it is too late, and remain members of the European Union for the benefit of our city and our country.

Our team, working for you

VictoryChris Moncreiff, as a political commentator of many years experience, makes some valid points about the state of the Labour Party (Argus, Sept 8th). Some readers may worry what this means for the running of their local council in Brighton and Hove.

I’d like to reassure residents of Brighton and Hove that we are and remain a strong team focused on delivering what we were elected to do for all our residents and communities.

Cllr Gill Mitchell is leading work on tackling littering and flytipping, with new compactor bins and our enforcement team cracking down on people who dump rubbish in our streets, now ably assisted by Cllr Saoirse Horan on all environmental and transport issues.

Cllr Tom Bewick is pushing for ever better schools, more apprenticeships and equipping our young people for the world of work. Cllr Dan Chapman is leading cross-party work on schools admissions to include the new secondary school opening next year.

Cllr Anne Meadows is overseeing the building of 500 new council homes, and our new joint venture to build a thousand truly affordable homes for rent or sale at 60% of market rates, while Cllr Tracey Hill leads work to make the city’s private rented sector fairer and Cllr Clare Moonan pushes ahead with work to tackle rough sleeping.

Cllr Emma Daniel is in charge of building stronger communities and neighbourhoods, taking up the challenge of our Fairness Commission to deliver on our pledge to ensure everyone shares in the city’s success. Cllr Alan Robins now heads our efforts on supporting the arts, culture and economic development, while Cllr Julie Cattell is delivering huge improvements in our Planning service.

Cllr Dan Yates and Cllr Karen Barford are facing up to the huge challenges our city faces in adult social care and health issues, and Cllr Caroline Penn is working with partner agencies to improve mental health.

Cllr Les Hamilton brings four decades of experience on the council to the immense challenge of changing our council to meet the demands of a budget that is 40% smaller in the face of growing demand.

I’m working to build new partnerships to give us the muscle to tackle the big issues and compete on a national and international stage, and hope to be able to make a big announcement soon.

I’m proud to lead this great team leading Brighton and Hove. Despite the cuts and increasing pressures we face, despite the fact that the Greens and Tories can and do outvote us when it suits them politically, we will work every day to make a difference.

We will preserve and restore our city’s heritage, we will make our communities stronger and our society fairer, we will find new ways of funding the decent basic services you expect. Jobs, homes and schools remain at the heart of what we do.

We are here until 2019 at least, I hope longer, doing the job you expect from us whatever the national political situation . At its heart, politics is not about labels, it is about energy, ideas, aspiration and hope. We will do our best to deliver those for Brighton and Hove.

(First published in The Argus, 12th September)

A 2020 Vision For Brighton and Hove

Brighton from sea (2)By the time you read this the EU Referendum will be over and Britain’s role in or out of Europe will be decided. After months of debate this will be a relief to most.

For Brighton and Hove though, another question about our place in our region and the world must be addressed. Small to medium sized cities like ours around the globe are looking to the future and deciding what they want to offer residents, visitors and businesses.

Alongside the day to day concerns about social care and parking, grass cutting and libraries, as Leader of the City Council I have a responsibility to ensure our city makes progress and does not decline, that it competes and cooperates rather than building walls around itself.

Within our region and largely out of the public spotlight, discussions are going on about a range of new geographies and governance arrangements for health, transport, planning and economic growth. Local government faces wholesale but largely unstructured change; without a plan to see us through it the ability to provide the things residents need and expect is under threat.

Our city should lead, not follow. We should be at the heart of change, not at the mercy of it. We need a vision for 2020 and beyond that secures a better future, not one that harks after a better past. With the social, financial and infrastructure challenges we face, we have to take risks, find bold and innovative solutions, not retreat into a comfortable but ultimately sterile decline.

We are bidding for devolved powers from Government that will give us the ability to tackle the housing crisis and bring in the money we need to fund basic services, and I met with the Secretary of State for Local Government recently to make that case, and presented him with our devolution bid prospectus. I want to explore growing the Greater Brighton City Region to Crawley and Gatwick, creating a real powerhouse in the south east with global access and reach. We need the power and influence to ensure we have the transport infrastructure and governance to guarantee rail links to London, and I am seeking discussions with the Mayor’s office in the capital to take that forward.

We need a vision for a prosperous city where all share in our economic success, and our plans for investment and growth along our seafront, throughout the city and including up to our universities are moving at pace. An economy founded on tourism and conferences, arts and creative industries, digital and financial services, education and skills, entrepreneurship and independent businesses must be driven to prosper.

Brighton and Hove has always faced outwards, has long been an international city, and to secure a successful future for those who live here we need to pursue this vision with energy and determination, confidence and aspiration, and a belief in ourselves as a city whose better days lie ahead of us.

A Billion For Brighton and Hove

Photo credit: http://www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk/page_id__10508.aspx
Photo credit: http://www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk/page_id__10508.aspx

Today the council took major steps towards bringing in more than a billion pounds of investment into our city and our seafront. This investment will deliver jobs, homes and much-needed funding for local services, as well as maintaining Brighton and Hove’s place as one of the UK’s top visitor and conference destinations.

Our plans to extend Churchill Square to the sea and build a new ten thousand seat arena for concerts and conferences at Black Rock got underway in earnest this week, as part of a £540 million deal with Standard Life Investments. This will be the biggest investment in the city since the Brighton Centre was built in the 1970s, and marks our determination to compete with major cities like Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester for conference business and major music tours.

We also gave the go ahead for the “Sea Lanes” open air swimming pool complex on the former playground site on Madeira Drive, returning outdoor swimming for the first time since the much-missed pool at Black Rock closed. This £4.5m privately-funded scheme will feature a 50m eight-lane pool, sauna, exercise studio and shops. Along with the arena, £1.7 million investment in Volks Railway and the new £1.7 million zip wire attraction, this will form the basis for our major regeneration of Madeira Drive, with our £30 million plans for the Arches due to be revealed soon.

Other seafront investment, both privately and publicly funded, includes the £11 million Shelter Hall construction and road strengthening at the seafront end of West Street, 850 new homes as part of the £250 million development at the Marina, £47 million British Airways i360 attraction, and of course £200 million King Alfred leisure centre project. All this takes investment in our seafront over the next six years to well over a billion pounds.

Add to this the hundreds of billions being invested in other projects across the city, the £150 million Preston Barracks with Brighton University that will deliver 350 new homes, the new John Lewis store, £36 million plans at City College, the redevelopment masterplan at Sussex University, and the ten-year £486 million redevelopment of the Royal Sussex County Hospital, and it is clear Brighton and Hove will emerge as one of Britain’s major coastal cities. There will be significant infrastructure investment in our transport network and in a new centrally-located secondary school as well.

At the same time we must ensure that our valued heritage is protected, and this week we took the first steps towards placing our Royal Pavilion and our museums in a trust that will have greater freedoms to draw in the funds needed to protect and invest in our cultural assets.

These projects will deliver thousands of jobs, create new spaces for businesses, restaurants and retail, draw in millions of pounds in rent and business rates to fund council services, and boost our tourist and visitor economy. Many of these projects will between them provide thousands of new homes, adding to the money we earn in council tax to help pay for some of the local council services facing cuts of over £160 million from central Government.

We cannot stand by and see Brighton and Hove decline and decay. Our city has always changed to meet the challenges of the times, whilst retaining its culture and heritage. Even as we face a 30% cut in our funding, we must ensure we innovate, compete and prosper as a city, and that the benefits of that prosperity are shared by all.

Securing the future and driving growth

Photo: Royal Pavilion and Museums
Photo: Royal Pavilion and Museums

In the closing weeks of the first year of the Labour Administration  we will move to accelerate growth and ensure that what we value in the city is protected from the Government’s assault on local councils, local services and local democracy.

We have said we will oppose Government plans to force all schools to become academies, as will many Conservative-led councils. We believe schools should have the choice, and that parents play a valuable role in running the schools their children attend as governors. Should the Government force through their plans, as a second line of defence we will protect our schools by setting up a co-operative trust to run them with full parental involvement. This should send a message to Government, as councils like Liverpool and Camden are also doing, that we will not stand by and watch our schools being cherry-picked by multi-academy trusts.

We will not allow our libraries and museums to be lost to Government cuts. We will, at our Policy and Resources Committee on April 28th bring forward plans to place the Royal Pavilion, the jewel in the city’s crown, in trust alongside our museums so that they are preserved for future generations, not sold off to private owners. Under trust status more money can be raised via charitable donation to invest in them. Culture and the arts is a vital sector of our economy and although we will in future be able to provide less funding, we will continue to give the sector our total support.

With the full business case for Hove Library re-provision coming forward to the same meeting, we can ensure that a library service continues in every community where we currently run one by significantly reducing running costs. Despite the cuts to our funding, Brighton and Hove’s libraries will be open longer, becoming neighbourhood hubs where public services, community advice and activities can flourish.

Now that the City Plan is in place, we want to accelerate the progress on major projects that will bring enormous benefits in terms of jobs, homes, business rate income and tourism to the city. The major extension to Churchill Square and the building of a new 10,000 seat arena and conference venue will move a step closer on April 28th, as will a new outdoor swimming complex. Progress on other sites such as Preston Barracks and Toads Hole Valley cannot be delayed any further, and we need to ensure that the hospital redevelopment, the West Street Shelter Hall works, the British Airways i360, the King Alfred and Valley Gardens projects are brought forward in a co-ordinated way so that the city keeps moving.

That’s why I am establishing a Strategic Delivery Board of senior councillors, reporting directly to a re-named and re-focused Policy, Resources and Growth Committee, to drive forward economic activity in Brighton and Hove for the benefit of all residents and all parts of our economy; retail, tourism, arts, digital, financial and more. We will ensure that the council’s planning service is fit for purpose, with reform overseen by the re-named Environment, Transport and Planning Strategy Committee.

This is part of a dynamic package of council reforms aimed at meeting the challenge of a future without funding from the Government, a package I hope the Opposition Groups on the Council will get behind.

The future of Brighton and Hove is in our hands; we have to seize it.

A Budget for Brighton and Hove

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Madam Mayor it is an honour and a privilege to propose the first Budget of this administration, the first Labour budget in nine years, and one that sets a course for this city in the most challenging of financial conditions.

We face unprecedented reductions in our funding, unprecedented demands on housing and infrastructure, an unprecedented need for new and imaginative answers to the challenges we face, and unprecedented opportunities to build a better Brighton and Hove for the future.

There is no hiding the scale and extent of the cuts we face this year and in the next three. Let there be no doubt that jobs will be lost and services will be hit. We will no longer be able to do what we did in 2010 in 2019. However we do not, as a local authority, stand alone in this crisis.

The crisis in local government funding stretches far beyond our boundaries. The policies of the current Government on council funding seem to many incoherent and unfair, let alone sustainable.

The head of Solace, the organisation of local government chief executives said of the Local Government settlement: “Many of these measures do not make local services sustainable in the long term. Without more fundamental change to how local services are paid for and provided, the support individuals and communities receive will be drastically curtailed.”

Conservative peer Lord Porter, Chair of the Local Government Association, said last Summer: “Even if councils stopped filling in potholes, maintaining parks, closed all children’s centres, libraries, museums, leisure centres and turned off every street light they will not have saved enough money to plug the financial black hole they face by 2020.”

No private business can absorb £25 million in cuts and increased costs year on year, as we are in this council. Few businesses of comparable scale can add £25 million to their profits each year, every year. It is not a sustainable or viable situation.

The Government challenging all councils to be financially self-sustaining goes to the heart of who we are and what we do. Are we a public service or are we a private business whose primary function is to generate revenue?

Any private business that charges its customers more can expect demands from them for better services in return. We, like other councils, face charging our residents more in council tax, fees and charges, in return for less.

We will no doubt hear from the Conservative Group today about inefficiencies, about trades unions, about managers and about waste. We will hear from them about the need to be self-sufficient financially and about how we should achieve that, somehow without increasing council tax, fees and parking charges on local residents.

We will hear them say that what is happening beyond Brighton and Hove, about what their fellow Conservative councillors are doing with their council tax levels, is none of our concern. But it should be.

The Conservative led Local Government Association said in September that Councils have withstood a fall in core central government funding of 40 per cent over the past five years.

Having already made £20 billion worth of savings since 2010, there is limited scope to keep protecting services through making further efficiency savings. If spending reductions follow a similar pattern over the next five years, councils will be facing a £12.4bn funding gap by the end of the decade.

Despite finding over £300 million in “transitional funding” for mostly Conservative-run shire counties, not that we are not grateful for our £30 thousand share of that, the LGA says “most councils will continue to have serious funding gaps”.

Why did Brighton and Hove receive just £30 thousand in so-called transitional funding last month, when Surrey County Council got £11 million? Yes, they have four times the population as Brighton and Hove, but why get three hundred times the funding?

I’m sure the letters of protest from Tory leaders and threats of rebellion from Tory backbenchers played no part in that decision at all, or indeed the petitioning by Mr Cameron’s mum and aunt against closures in his own constituency.

Madam Mayor, why does the Chancellor not use some of the £20 billion windfall from lower inflation and falling borrowing costs he will announce in his budget next month, for local government? Just a fraction of the unpaid corporation taxes from highly profitable multinationals, with whom the Chancellor has frequent meetings, would go a long way to address the financial crisis councils face.

Local government of every political stripe is feeling the pain, paying the costs of austerity at a point when the Government says austerity measures are coming to an end. No let up, no reprieve. And it is residents, till now shielded by the remarkable efficiencies of local government, who will feel the pain most. In their parks and streets, in their schools and children’s centres, in their care homes and day centres.

The Tory government can, as they did last week, find £80 thousand for printing laws on vellum, but they can’t find money to fund our essential front line services.

Madam Mayor I’d argue, and I’m not alone, that this is local government reorganization by the back door, slash and burn reform, survival of the fittest, a bonfire of the civic values that have made Britain’s towns and cities great over the last two centuries.

The 2016 State of Local Government Finance survey, conducted by think tank the Local Government Information Unit and published last week, found that 89% of the 132 councils surveyed say they will have to increase charging in 2016-17. Nine out of ten councils are increasing car parking charges.

The number saying they will have to dip into their reserves has risen sharply, from 55% in 2012 to 82% this year. And nearly 40% say cuts in their frontline services will be evident to the public.

At the very least, as called for by LGA Vice Chair Nick Forbes, the planned £700 million of new funding from the Better Care Fund should be brought forward to 2016/17 in order to help alleviate growing social care pressures.

The full retention of business rates is held out as an answer, but it won’t come until 2020, long after our Revenue Grant has gone, and after a revaluation that could see revenues fall. Whether we will actually benefit from an additional £50 million, after appeals, remains to be seen. However it will only go part way to offset the loss of almost £150 million from this councils funding in the decade that precedes it.

Madam Mayor, with no freeze grant on offer, nine out of ten of England’s unitary and county councils are increasing their council tax by 3.99%, including the 2% social care precept, as we are proposing, yet three-quarters of them say that the money raised from residents will not be enough to keep pace with increased costs.

Even our neighbours in Conservative-led West Sussex, who have frozen council tax increases for the past six years, are putting up their bills by the same amount as we are in their 2016 Budget. So we will take no lectures from the Group opposite about the council tax increases we propose today.

Madam Mayor I would have respect for those members opposite seeking to reverse cuts in their communities if they, like their Conservative colleagues elsewhere in this county, acknowledged just once that it is their Government that is removing the funding for essential local services. We are after all, Madam Mayor, all in this together.

Madam Mayor, we will hear from the Green Group about the past, about what could and should have happened and how if only we had, then that would have prevented the cuts we face today. They will say that if only we’d had a referendum on bigger tax increases, if only we had fought outsourcing and privatisation alongside them, then none of this would be happening. It is empty rhetoric.

In harking back to the budgets of the past there will however be no mention of the failed Green Administration Budgets of the last two years, where Green councillors voted against Green budgets because they could not cope with even the limited responsibility they took in office for the challenges we face. It’s an empty promise of a failed alternative.

I’m not surprised by Councillor McCafferty’s attacks on the Labour budget; they are little different to the attacks on Green budgets over the past four years. He and his colleagues have but one function setting, opposition, and they seem much happier there than in office this time last year. Empty words are easy in guilt free opposition.

Where are their answers? Not implementing cuts would mean setting an unlawful budget, and handing the running of our city over to Government-appointed bureaucrats. Putting up council tax to offset the cuts and cost pressures would mean increases of 20 to 30% on residents bills, not something they will back in a referendum, and not something I’d impose on the city’s lowest income households. But even those empty gestures remain words rather than actions, with neither proffered as an alternative here today.

Last week half a dozen Green Party members were outside an empty Treasury building, protesting against officials and ministers and a Chancellor who were not there to hear it. An empty noise outside an empty building, an empty gesture from a party that failed to deliver on empty promises when in office, one that is empty of ideas in opposition, as we can see from their lack of any amendments today.

This isn’t fighting the cuts. It’s walking away, hands in the air, leaving others to deal with things they simply can’t or won’t face up to. It is a shameful abdication of the job the voters of their wards elected them to do.

Last May the residents of this city saw through the Green Party’s empty record and their empty manifesto with its empty promises and realized there was nothing there worth supporting. With nothing but empty protest the Green Party’s utter and abject failure to propose an alternative today proves those voters right.

Instead, Madam Mayor, the people of Brighton and Hove chose substance, chose imagination and chose hope. They chose leadership that meets challenges with innovation: that meets inequality with fairness; that meets competition with co-operation. These are the values of the Labour administration I lead and these are the values that our four year Budget plan will deliver, giving clarity and certainty to residents and staff in very difficult times.

My colleagues with through the course of this debate focus on the positive work we are doing in protecting our services wherever we can, building new services where we are able, redesigning services where we can do better for less, and joining in new partnerships with the voluntary sector, communities, neighbourhoods and residents, local businesses and not-for-profit trusts, to find new ways of designing services fit for the future and fit for our local need.

Madam Mayor, I want to pay tribute to the work of my lead councillors, and the officers of this council, in bringing forward these final budget proposals today. We have listened and we have acted, we have worked hard to put funding where it is needed most.

More money for park rangers and animal welfare. More funding to tackle domestic violence and poor standards in private rented accommodation. More resources to enable change in the Playbus service and in the Brighton Centre. More money for public toilets than planned under the Greens, and funding for community groups at the heart of our neighbourhoods strategy protected.

We’ve made investments in modern customer service and online systems, in revenue-generating services within Cityclean, ever better use of our buildings and property, all aimed at bringing in funds to pay for public services.

We’ve taken tough decisions to get the £9 million overspend we faced when taking over last summer under control. We must live within our means, despite the pressures we face.

We’ve asked for our city, one of the best educated, innovative and creative cities in the UK, to put their minds to new solutions via our City Innovation Challenge. We’ve asked some of the best experts we could find to bring together and build on the work being done to tackle poverty and inequality in the city via our Fairness Commission. And we have asked some of the best business minds in the city to look at how we can unlock the talent and potential of our young people via our Employment and Skills Task Force.

We will deliver on our pledge to build 500 new council homes by 2019 – indeed we may exceed it with construction beginning on almost half by May. In the next few weeks we will seek approval for our Living Wage Housing joint venture that will deliver over a thousand homes to rent at 60% of market rates. With work to tackle an unfair and unaffordable rented market, we will meet the housing crisis in this city head on.

We will within weeks present a new strategy to tackle rough sleeping, and next month will see the start of a new service to crack down on the littering and fly tipping that blights our streets. We said we’d get the basics right and we will.

We will work with our service users, our vulnerable residents and their families, to design support that meets their needs. We’ve acted to ensure better pay for staff in the social care sector though the Unison Ethical Care Charter. We will work with health partners to ensure GP provision meets demand, and that mental health provision sits alongside on an equal footing.

We will work to provide school places and the highest standards in education, in the coming months begin consultation on new school catchment areas and to raise aspiration amongst our young people so that no talent in our city is wasted, no opportunities missed.

We will continue to support the arts, tourism and creative digital industries so vital to our economy, and draw in new businesses like John Lewis so we become ever more resilient, attractive and prosperous on a local, regional and international stage.

We will continue to attract and invest hundreds of millions in our city’s infrastructure over the next four years; a new arena at Black Rock, a new shopping centre next to the Grand, a new leisure centre at the King Alfred, new homes, facilities and business space at Circus Street and Preston Barracks, new seafront infrastructure at West Street, investment in our heritage at the Madeira Terraces and Royal Pavilion estate.

We will cut our own cloth as a council to fit our budget.  Almost two million pounds in savings from management costs. Tens of thousands less on councillor allowances this year compared to last. An independent review of the number of councillors to be elected in 2019.

We will win new devolved powers from Government and we will devolve power down to local residents in every community, becoming a new co-operative council that works with residents designing and building solutions to their local issues. Cuts to our funding mean we may no longer be a provider and a funder, but we will be an enabler, a partnership-builder and a leader our city’s diverse neighbourhoods.

As the leader of this council and the Labour Group I am proud to move the General Revenue Fund, Capital Resources and Housing Revenue Account Budgets for 2016/17. As a whole this Budget reflects our priorities for this council and for Brighton and Hove, our principles as a Labour and Co-operative administration, our determination to act and not just protest in the face of cuts, our determination to deliver for our residents.

These are the values, these are the actions, these are the ambitions that underpin our Budget and our plan for this council and this city for the year ahead and the years to come. This is what having a Labour Administration means for this city. We are delivering on our contract, we are delivering a council that works for you, we will deliver a better Brighton and Hove.