Tag Archives: Fairness Commission

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)

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The power to make a change

VictoryA year ago Labour won the largest number of seats on Brighton and Hove City Council for the first time since 2003, and took office bringing to an end four years of Green Party leadership in the city.

We immediately set about restoring faith in the council, focusing on delivering the basics and tackling the big challenges the city faces: housing and jobs, poverty and inequality, growth and infrastructure.

Within a hundred days I was pleased to report some excellent progress. This has continued at a pace. New council homes are under construction, our Employment and Skills Taskforce has issued it’s recommendations, and our Fairness Commission is about to do the same, bringing together everything we have at our disposal to tackle poverty and inequality. We have delivered new strategies for dealing with rough sleeping and refuse collection, and we’ve pledged to do more on mental health and ethical social care.

We are bringing in a billion pounds worth of investment into our city’s seafront, we have put in place our City Plan to manage growth over the next two decades. We are working on major projects and new schemes which will deliver thousands of new homes, including truly affordable “Living Wage” flats for rent, to make some progress towards putting a home within reach of those who currently cannot afford one.

On the first anniversary of taking office, my Labour administration will set out an ambitious program of work for our second year, building on the foundations of the past twelve months. The challenges remain immense.

As the Government cuts £168 million from our Budget, as it threatens us with further measures that mean we may have to sell £28 million worth of our local homes each year, and our schools remain under threat from an ideological academisation project that the Government has not fully withdrawn from, we cannot simply retreat into empty protest as the Greens would have us do. We have to act to support our residents and deliver the jobs, homes and services they need in whatever way we can. Innovation and co-operation based on Labour values will continue to be at the heart of what we do.

On Thursday the city voted in the only citywide elections for two years, and the results were good for Labour. In cities around the country, from Liverpool to London to Bristol, Labour took office or strengthened it’s position, with mayors and councillors winning power on the back of innovative, pragmatic policies with broad appeal. Labour now controls almost every major city in England and Wales, and it is from the cities that the Labour revival will come as we show we are competent and trusted to govern.

Unlike those cities, we here in Brighton and Hove have no majority, and no Leader and Cabinet system to drive through our policy agenda. That makes it harder but also fuels our determination to succeed, not just to secure that majority for Labour in three years time but to deliver the better lives our residents need and the future our city deserves.

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.

 

 

 

Ambition, Innovation and Investment

FROM_PEIR_TO_WEST_07There’s no escaping the very challenging funding situation for our day-to day services presented in our council budget today, but there is another story, one of ambition, innovation and investment.

We promised to deliver major projects on time and in budget. This week we revealed plans for a new £40 million leisure centre on the site of the King Alfred in Hove, with three swimming pools, space for badminton and bowls, martial arts and dance, spinning and gym equipment and much, much more. The £8m the council will invest in it will come from money we are saving on maintaining the old centre, with the rest coming from new housing including affordable homes for rent through a social housing provider.

We promised to invest in preserving our city’s heritage. Work has begun on the £9 million scheme on the seafront at West Street to replace the crumbling Shelter Hall with a new one, and ensure our highways infrastructure then can withstand the pressures of modern traffic. That’s funded with a Government grant. Last week we secured £5 million of Heritage Lottery Funding to restore and improve the Royal Pavilion estate for future generations to enjoy, securing its future at the heart of our arts and tourism offer to visitors vital to our economy.

We pledged to build 500 new council homes in our first term; this week we announced that 240 of those council homes will have started construction in our first year. Next month we will bring forward our plans for over a thousand truly affordable rented homes for key workers.

We promised to focus on the basics like street cleaning and refuse collection. This week we began the replacement and refurbishment of communal bins across the city, and this month our new fly tipping enforcement team gets to work cracking down on people who dump rubbish in our streets.

We said we would boost jobs, skills and training. We have launched our Employment and Skills Task force and we are working on setting up an apprenticeship company to help small companies take on new trainees. We are working closely with our creative digital sector, City College and the universities on accelerating this work. The major projects in the pipeline will generate thousands of new jobs.

We said we would do everything we can to tackle poverty and rough sleeping. Our Fairness Commission is doing incredible work in bringing together the work to reduce inequality being done in the city and how we can take it to the next level, and our Rough Sleeping Summit last month brought a new focus and co-ordination to that urgent work.

We are working on new ideas to defend, grow and improve the services your council provides, despite the cuts. There is still time to enter our City Innovation Challenge if you have an idea that might help us do that. We are modernising our council to make it fit for the digital age, able to adapt to change and to better deliver what residents want.

With all this, the arrival of John Lewis, the Circus Street development, Preston Barracks regeneration and plans to build a new shopping centre, conference centre and arena, Brighton and Hove is under our leadership once again a place of ambition, innovation and investment.

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.

Together

InterfaithInter Faith Week highlights the importance of faith in our communities, and places a requirement on us all to bridge gaps in understanding and encourage dialogue between people of different faiths.

If there was ever a time when that was needed it is now, following the tragic events in Paris last week – the need to stand united is even more important than ever. I planned to come here today to speak about working together to help the disadvantaged in society; to speak on working together for understanding, but the events of the past six days have changed that. It should not, in that the conflicts from which those actions sprang have been underway for years, with thousands of deaths. Once again, those conflicts have arrived on our doorstep and we have a duty, collectively, to confront the challenges and fears they engender.

Yet those two themes are complementary and inextricably linked. If by the smallest action towards a neighbour we promote understanding, co-existence, a sense of shared values and community, then one leads to the other. As is written in the Quran “Whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it, and whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.” “Verily, Allah is with those who do good deeds.”

Nelson Mandela said: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

The council I am so fortunate to lead welcomes this event during Interfaith Week bringing together people of faith and of none, in getting to know each other and working together for the benefit of local people.

We recognise and celebrate the immense work of faith groups in the city and we are grateful for the support faith groups provide, often to some of our most isolated, vulnerable and deprived residents in these difficult economic, political and cultural times. I pay tribute to all those who feed those in the city without the means to feed themselves; surely in this wealthy city in this wealthy country, that such a service is needed at all is a moral outrage, a disgrace to our values as a society, and an injustice we all should challenge.

With increasing pressures on council budgets, on public sector spending and significant vulnerabilities in our local population, it is vital we work together as much as we can.  Public services and faith based projects may have different drivers and operate within different cultural frameworks and understandings, and it is likely we will always find things to disagree on.  But through dialogue and focusing on our common interests and shared goals, by the strengths of our common endeavour, we achieve so much more than we do alone,  and as President Kennedy said “if we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.”

We want to bring communities together, faith communities, neighbourhoods, people with shared identities, common interests and needs, and those who struggle with alcohol, with loneliness, with poverty or with poor mental health.

We must stand together in the face of a modern world that seems driven by the needs of the wealthy, and riven by seemingly intractable conflicts that destroy the lives of thousands and displace millions across continents from the place they call home. I’m proud to say this city, the place I have called home all my life, is a City of Sanctuary, and that refugees are welcome here.

As the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King said, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” He appealed to our better nature: “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.”

Please contribute to the work of our Fairness Commission in tackling poverty and inequality, which you will hear more on shortly, and ask what you, your organisation and your community can do to help us build resilience, co-operation and sustainability into everything we as your local council do. We will do less, but we will co-ordinate, enable, unite and lead more.

Join with us in the work of building stronger communities, helping people lead healthier, happier lives here in our wonderful city. In the words of Mahatma Ghandi; “be the change you wish to see in the world.”

(Speech to CommunityWorks Interfaith Week event, Brighton Centre 18th November.)

Six months in – our manifesto delivery so far

10401556_922575384454226_2322285707133409745_n It has been six months since Labour were elected to run Brighton and Hove  on our manifesto “A City That Works For You”. Here’s what we have done so far to deliver on that manifesto:

  • Sign the Time To Change Pledge to tackle mental health stigma and have a Lead Councillor For Mental Health: approved by Heath and Wellbeing Board, the Charter will be signed in the New Year, and our Lead Councillor has been appointed and has got to work.

Much more is in development, including work on making the private rented sector fairer. We face huge financial challenges in the Budget process ahead, but we are determined to deliver on as many of our manifesto pledges as we can.

Labour’s first 100 days in office – and what’s next

WHATS%~1The Labour Administration on the City Council has come into office at the most challenging time for local councils for decades, and we have made clear from the start that we will not shy away from tackling the issues of funding, infrastructure, jobs, homes and schools that face us as a city. We have in our first 100 days laid the foundations for the next four years, alongside some practical actions that we hope will see benefiting residents and neighbourhoods straight away.

Getting the basics right; cleaning up our city: We’ve begun or Big Summer Cleanup to get the city and our neighbourhoods looking cleaner: http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/council-spearheads-big-summer-clean In addition we have set out in our CityClean strategy how we are going to improve refuse and recycling services, bring in income to support the service, and take action on fly-tipping.

A fairer and more prosperous city: We’ve set up our Fairness Commission to tackle poverty and inequality in Brighton and Hove, making sure we all work to ensure our city’s economic success is shared by all. It will launch in the coming few weeks.

Keeping the city moving: We have intervened to keep a vital local bus service going: http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/council-steps-keep-bus-route-running and we will be undertaking a strategic review of all services and transport to see how we can ensure traffic keeps flowing, people can get to work and to the services they need.

Building the homes the city needs: We have approved a £14m new 57 home council housing scheme in Whitehawk and five more in Ardingly Street, and seen the opening of over 40 Extra Care Housing flats at Brooke Mead in Albion Street.  12 new housing association family homes are starting on site in Portslade and Hangleton.

Keeping people safe from harm: We have approved a new service for domestic violence and violence against women and girls, putting trusted local services doing vital work on a more secure footing: http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/new-domestic-violence-abuse-rape-sexual-violence-abuse-service-unveiled

Changing services and planning ahead: We have set out a four year Budget strategy, ending the annual shaving of services and pledging a fundamental review that will strive to direct what we do at achieving the best results for the city with vastly reduced funding from Government. Painful decisions lie ahead but we will consult and plan ahead so that there is clarity for everyone in how things are going to change.

Giving young people a better start: We have set out plans to create an apprenticeship training company to help small businesses take on apprentices and give our young people the start on rewarding careers that they need. We have put in place an action plan to improve children’s services across the board approved, including new priorities to focus on the most vulnerable.

Getting a grip on changes to our roads: We have taken urgent action to review the major proposals for roads and public spaces in Valley Gardens scheme, which would reduce road space from St Peter’s to the Aquarium roundabout and create a new park over the next five years and at a cost of several million pounds.

Taking action to protect our open spaces: We have begun consulting on the use of new powers to better protect the city’s open spaces from repeat trespass and anti-social behaviour.

Changing the council to get the job done: We have set up the new Neighbourhoods, Communities and Equalities Committee to ensure that every street and every community is engaged and involved with what the council and our partner organisations do, and to deliver change across the board. Lead councillors have been charged with responsibilities on Mental Health, Private Rented Sector Housing and Homelessness, and we have brought together the key areas of Education and Skills under one lead councillor. We have set up a new Procurement Board to ensure value for money, social value, well managed procurement process on new contracts.

In The Next 100 Days we will:

  • Launch our Fairness Commission
  • Set about becoming a Co-operative Council to help redesign our services in an accountable and democratic way
  • Get agreement on a new King Alfred, a new arena at Black Rock and the expansion of Churchill Square, all with new housing, jobs and public amenities included.
  • Bring forward outline plans to save Madeira Terrace, and press for the restoration of the Aquarium Terraces.
  • Announce proposals from the reviews of Youth and Children’s Centre services.
  • Publish a New City Employment and Skills Plan, putting local business in the driving seat under a new task force.
  • Start work on the regulation of the Private Rented Sector, making it more accountable and giving better protection to tenants, refresh our Student Housing Strategy and develop new policies on housing allocation and temporary accommodation.
  • Hold a summit on tackling homelessness, bringing together everyone working on the issue to co-ordinate efforts.
  • Begin work to secure vital seafront infrastructure at the West St junction with Kings Road.
  • Continue work with Brighton University on setting up a new secondary school.
  • Seek to get the best deal devolution deal possible, working with neighbouring councils and putting a strong case to Government.
  • Make appointments to the council’s senior officer team to ensure stability and vision in delivering the changes needed.
  • Plans to build truly affordable homes far in excess of our 500 new council homes target are in the pipeline.

Change will take time, and we will not do it all, but we have set the foundations for a council that does all it can to challenge poverty and inequality, a council that work for every resident and every neighbourhood.

 

 

 

 

Give us a majority, give us a chance to serve

10401556_922575384454226_2322285707133409745_nBrighton and Hove needs strong leadership. After four years of bitter division amongst the Greens, four years of Tory drift and over a decade of minority control, our city needs a council with a clear vision and a majority to deliver it.

There are huge challenges ahead, one that I and the Labour team are keen to get to grips with. We need more affordable homes and more good quality council housing, and action to tackle unscrupulous landlords and rip off letting agent fees. We need to help lift families out of poverty, with 45% of kids living in poverty in my ward and thousands in the city using foodbanks, it’s a scandal no-one should ignore. We need to deliver new projects like Black Rock and the King Alfred, on time and in budget, with new jobs, homes and facilities as part of the deal. With people like Martin Perry in my team of candidates, I know we can make it happen if you give us the chance.

We need more apprenticeships, more secure jobs and an end to zero hour contracts. We need good schools in every neighbourhood, and neighbourhoods that have the power to make their communities stronger and safer. We need a transport network that works for everyone, and a freeze on parking charges. Most of all we need basic refuse and street cleaning services that get the job done and get us back on track to recycling more of our waste. None of this will be easy given the cuts we face, so electing a majority administration to do it is vital.

Labour topped the poll in last May’s elections in the city, and is in second place in almost every Green held-ward. We are the main challenger in most Tory-held wards too. The Greens won’t hold on to power and the city can’t afford another do-nothing Tory council, or a deadlocked three-way split between the parties.

ManifestoFrontLabour has new ideas and new approaches based on our values of co-operation and fairness. We won’t just represent the city centre like the Greens, or the suburbs and villages like the Conservatives, but every street and every community from Portslade to Patcham to Saltdean. Everyone should share in the prosperity we enjoy from our unique economic, cultural, tourist and leisure position.

Brighton and Hove needs a majority Labour council delivering decent services we all pay for, a plan for our city’s future, and hope for those struggling to afford to eat and find a home. On May 7th you can elect a council that works for you by voting for your local Labour candidates. As Labour leader John Smith said the night before he died; “A chance to serve; that’s all we ask.”

This is the full text of an article published in The Argus, 22nd April.

Why Brighton and Hove needs a Labour Council and three Labour MPs

10401556_922575384454226_2322285707133409745_nOn May 7th Brighton and Hove, the city I have called home all my life and one of the most unique places in the country, faces a choice. The city centre can continue to indulge in being different by having the UKs only Green MP, while the outskirts can quietly forget that they have two Conservative MPs propping up a government that has done so much harm to so many people in the last five years, or it can vote for change.

Brighton and Hove, and Portslade, Saltdean, Hangleton, Patcham, Woodingdean and all the other neighbourhoods that make up our city, have the opportunity on the same day to say goodbye to the Greens running the council and once again elect three Labour MPs as they did between 1997 and 2010. The three seats here are critical in deciding whether David Cameron remains in 10 Downing Street, or if Ed Miliband is elected our next Prime Minister.

Working together, our Labour MPs Purna Sen, Peter Kyle and Nancy Platts, along with a Labour council led by me, will do all we can to build a better Brighton and Hove, better for those currently on low incomes, those struggling to afford a home, those who have to use the foodbank rather than the supermarket.

We will eliminate youth unemployment and create more apprenticeships. We will wipe out street homelessness and build at least 500 new council homes. We will set up a Fairness Commission to ensure every possible step is taken to tackle poverty and inequality that blight the lives and restrict the opportunities of over twelve thousand of our city’s residents.

We will end the chaos on on our city’s roads and focus what funding we can draw in on securing and improving our city’s shop window and major transport artery, the seafront. We will get the basics right by ensuring that bins are collected, streets are kept clean and that more, not less, of our city’s waste is recycled. We will ensure that major projects like the King Alfred leisure centre and the Waterfront shopping centre and arena are delivered on time and in budget, with affordable homes secured for local residents as part of the deal. We will strive to create a local economy that benefits everyone, not just the few.

We won’t promise populist and unaffordable pledges like parking and council tax freezes like the Tories have done, and we won’t continue with the indulgent, unending and financially irresponsible schemes that the Greens, with Tory support, have pursued. We will be realistic in what we promise, responsible in how we manage the city’s finances, determined in what we do to deliver for all residents, but particularly those who need our help most.

Brighton and Hove is a fantastic place to live, and despite all the challenges we face, people who live here are proud of it. Labour wants to make it better, we want to restore it to the city it was a decade ago, provide strong leadership for the future and unlock the potential of every young person who wants to live and work here. Help us win on May 7th, and we will deliver a council that works for you, a city that has a past to be proud of and a future with of hope and opportunity for all.

Read our manifesto here.

Volunteer to help here.

Postscript: I’ve been challenged on promising to “wipe out” street homelessness whilst at the same time saying that our promises are realistic and deliverable. It is a fair point. Our manifesto says we will “reduce” street homelessness. Since then all parties in the city have been challenged by Andy Winter of BHT to go further. I want to take up that challenge, I want to do more than reduce street homelessness, I want to see it eliminated. No-one should have to sleep rough on the streets. Yes, it might be an undeliverable pledge, but I am not in politics to do what is easy, I’m in it to attempt what is hard. On this I would rather try but fail than not try at all.

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