Tag Archives: Housing

A Dynamic And Ambitious City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.CentreForCities.org

Photo credit: @CoopInnovation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Getting the basics right, protecting the most vulnerable, and growing an economy that benefits all.

 

WM portrait

Our draft Budget for 2017/18 is now out. My Labour & Co-operative Administration is facing up to the harshest ever financial circumstances the city council has faced. We are making a stand, drawing a line in face of the biggest ever cuts imposed by the Conservative Government.

We are protecting:

  • Early years services including nurseries and childrens centres, child protection is our legal duty and top priority
  • Libraries, not just as a place to borrow books but as community advice hubs and assets, the heart of our neighbourhoods approach
  • Refuse, recycling and street cleaning, the basic service your council tax pays for, with £400k coming in from commercial waste collection. Investment in big belly bins, new street cleaning vehicles, garden waste are new service innovations.
  • Public toilets no more cuts proposed, none added in the current year, no additions to the closures chosen by the previous Green Administration
  • Domestic violence we are pushing back against to cuts to this vital preventative service
  • Rough sleeping we are succeeding working to prevent hundreds of families entering homelessness, and are resisting pressure from benefit cuts that put more at risk
  • Poverty proofing the school day was a key recommendation from the Fairness Commission, giving pupils a fair start at school
  • Living Wage protected at local level not the national rebranded minimum wage
  • Social care: we are reviewing and redesigning services to focus on effective signposting, build stronger communities through increased partnership working, provide preventative services and ensure people get the safe, high quality, personalised, accessible and sustainable support they need.

This is our plan, our positive way forward, building a co-operative council and city to keep vital services going:

  • Investing millions in digital customer services
  • Saving millions through managing assets better, like our move from Kings House which will save £2m a year
  • Designing neighbourhood services and partnering with other organisations to keep services going locally through local hubs, volunteer-run parks
  • Saving half a million through our new housing allocations policy
  • A £7m investment in better street lighting that will deliver a £500k saving each year
  • Placing the Royal Pavilion into a trust to protect it and enable it to raise more money
  • Joining the Orbis partnership with neighbouring councils sharing support services to protect jobs and grow capacity
  • Housing investment in new council houses and truly affordable homes to tackle poverty and homelessness, and bring in new council tax
  • Major projects – new infrastructure, economic activity, more business rates/rents
  • Revenue generation from services like commercial waste, vehicle workshops

All this in the face of enormous pressures:

  • Government grant is down by another £11 million this year. It is shrinking from £140m to £6m over an 8 year period, a 40% funding reduction in real terms
  • We have already saved £70 million in last 4 years, £20 million in current year, leaving no easy cuts, no simple solutions, no savings that are pain-free
  • We still have to make £51 million savings over next three years, £24 million in the coming year
  • We are still £3m off balancing the Budget for 2017/18 – more savings need to be found
  • The £125m income from council tax is now smaller that £150m costs of care, increasing by £7m in the coming year
  • We are putting £1.5m more into supporting council tax payments for people on low incomes as Government funding for that scheme is cut
  • We are putting £300k more into free bus passes for older people, from the £562k additional parking revenue – the total cost of free bus travel is now more than £11m
  • We are making a further £2m of management savings

Cuts include:

  • £750k from youth services, however £250k remains for advocacy, services and support for young people vulnerable to exploitation, involved in substance misuse, entering the criminal justice system or requiring emotional and mental health support. We also continue to fund Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) work, the Youth Employability Service, the Youth Offending Service, and services for adolescents.
  • £600k from parks covered in our Big Conversation, and £100k from sports club subsidies
  • £290k from supported bus routes – still leaving a £900k subsidy

We are not alone. This is all in a national context:

An additional 2% social care “precept” on council tax, above what was allowed in the last financial year, has been asked for by most councils responsible for for social care, but this was not announced in the Government’s Autumn Statement. Even if it is, it won’t be Government that pays it will be us, with them transferring the financial burden of social care on to local taxation.

LGA Chair Lord Porter (Conservative) warns that councils will face an ‘extremely challenging’ situation over the next few years to tackle the £5.8bn funding gap by 2020: ‘Many councils are faced with difficult decisions about which services are scaled back or stopped altogether.’ He said the government must take urgent action to fund social care properly, if councils are to stand any chance of protecting care services for elderly and vulnerable people. Porter said that extra council tax-raising powers would not bring in enough money to alleviate the pressure on social care services for elderly and vulnerable, and that people are at breaking point now.

So far 24 top tier councils both Labour and Conservative-led are taking up full increase in council tax allowed at just under 4%. The days of council tax “freezes” are over.

Other councils have it even worse. In Liverpool all council-run services, including libraries, sports centres, maintenance of parks, highway repairs, street cleaning and rubbish collections, would have to be cut by 50% to balance the books, with Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson warning there will soon be no funds left, even for basic services.

There is a nationwide crisis in social care:  77 of the 152 local authorities responsible for providing care for the elderly have seen at least one residential and nursing care provider close in the last six months, because cuts to council budgets meant there were insufficient funds to run adequate services. In 48 councils, at least one company that provides care for the elderly in their own homes has ceased trading.

Is the Government getting it’s priorities right? No.

  • The Autumn Statement gave £240m for Grammar Schools whilst failing to help councils with social care and basic service funding.
  • Over the course of the Conservative’s decade in power they will give away £21 billion in tax cuts for higher earners, and another £1 billion in inheritance tax.
  • In the same period they are handing over £12 billion in corporation tax cuts for big businesses.
  • All this while £7.6 billion is cut from local government. That’s councils like ours.

Find out more about our Budget and watch my Budget message here.

Sign my petition calling on the Government to reverse their tax cuts and restore council funding: https://www.change.org/p/theresa-may-mp-save-our-services

 

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)

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.

Ten ways the Government is cutting council funding

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Photo: HM Treasury open media

Council finances are in crisis. Local Government has taken a bigger hit than any other part of the public sector since 2010, with the recent Budget making even deeper cuts than anticipated to the funds councils spend on local services. Here are ten ways that George Osborne and David Cameron have hit local government since 2010, and what the impact of those cuts have been in my own council of Brighton and Hove.

1) Revenue Grant: accounting for a third of expenditure on local services, this general grant will be abolished entirely by 2019. Here in Brighton and Hove that means the loss of over £140 million that the council was spending on street cleaning, libraries, street lighting and dozens of other services in 2010.

2) Council Tax benefit: this is the discount given to those who can’t afford to pay council tax. The Government is passing responsibility for paying for this to local councils, and funding an 80% discount will cost Brighton and Hove around £3 million in the coming financial year.

3) Bus Passes for Older People: introduced by the Labour Government, this keeps older people active and healthy. Again the Government has passed the cost to councils, meaning Brighton and Hove has to use almost all of the surplus from parking revenue to fund it, around £9 million. This money would otherwise be spent on subsidised bus routes, road safety, pedestrian crossings and more.

4) Benefit Changes and the NHS: cuts to benefits and healthcare mean councils have to deal with the costs of people made homeless, discharged from hospital early or thrown into debt. The introduction of Universal Credit alone is estimated to cost councils £1 billion.

5) Cuts to Social Rents: the reduction of 1% in rents for council and housing association tenants is moderately good news for the, though the main beneficiary will be the Treasury in Housing Benefit savings. However the impact on councils will be severe. Brighton and Hove will lose £16 million, money earmarked for building much-needed additional council housing.

6) Introduction of the National Living Wage: another welcome but limited boost to people on lower incomes, but one which will increase council wage bills by an estimated £834 million nationally by 2019/20. There is also the Apprenticeship Levy, which councils will have to pay at a cost of £600 million.

7) Starter Homes: the Government is requiring councils to build new housing on offer at 80% of market rates, well beyond what is affordable to most here in Brighton and Hove. However it is exempting those homes from the Section 106 and Community Interest Levy payments that developers normally pay towards new infrastructure to support additional housing. Councils will have to meet those costs, around £3 billion nationally, themselves.

8) Pensions: within five years, 34p in every pound paid in council tax will have to be spent on funding local government pension payments, and the Budget made that worse to an as yet uncosted amount. As council tax increases by 2 – 4% each year, including the levy to fund Osborne’s “extra money” for rising social care costs and to make up for cuts to grant funding, more and more pension costs will be met by councils. We don’t yet know the impact here.

9) Schools: as the Government increasingly strips councils and local parents of the powers to run schools, so funding will go too. Here in Brighton and Hove that is around £150 million a year.

10) Business Rates: the final nail in the coffin of local government. Osborne said again in his Budget speech that councils will be fully financially self-sufficient by 2020, when they can retain all of their local business rates. At present the Treasury takes half. This was already at risk from a revaluation exersise next year, and from a growing number of appeals by businesses against what they are required to pay. Yet moments after saying this, the Chancellor said that almost all small and medium sized businesses would be exempt from paying business rates from 2017. Almost all of the businesses in Brighton and Hove have fewer than 200 employees, meaning that a very significant proportion of the £100 million we might have got in 2020 will now vanish. Good new for local shopkeepers  accounting, but more bad news for councils who clean and maintain the streets in which they trade. The Government have said they will compensate councils for the loss of some £1.7 billion in revenue. I very much doubt it.

The Local Government Association estimated that even before changes announced in the Local Government Settlement and the Budget, councils would be around £10 billion worse off.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said after the Budget: “Every library that’s been closed, every elderly person left without proper care, every swimming pool with reduced opening hours or closed altogether is a direct result of government underfunding our local authorities and councils.”

People will be paying more in council tax, but in many cases seeing a reduction in services as a result. Osborne expects most residents to blame local councils, and not the Government, making his task of shrinking down local government via the back door easier.

Brighton and Hove has huge challenges in delivering affordable housing, in funding social care, and in maintaining basic services. We are probably looking at a cut of around 40% in our funding over a ten year period, somewhere in the region of £200 to £250 million when all of the above is factored in. Yet we are probably mid-table in the rankings of councils worst affected. Conservative councillors have had the hypocrisy to complain this week about grass verges being unmaintained, and a library building being sold, without taking any responsibility for their own Government’s actions.

We want a fair deal on council funding and we want local Tories to join with their colleagues elsewhere in saying so.

We will innovate. Our joint housing venture, City Innovation Challenge and cooperative schools proposal are just three of the ideas we are putting forward to challenge Tory cuts. We can’t escape the impacts, however, and in common with many councils across the country, the days of easy choices and pain-free savings are long since gone.

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.

 

 

 

We need to build affordable homes now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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