Labour failing to get a grip on bins and litter

Litter is piling up in the city – a depressing visual reminder that the Labour Council has failed to get a grip on waste


Councillor Leo Littman

We can all do our bit to reduce litter: take our rubbish home, or even better, don’t take rubbish with us in the first place. However, it is the Council’s responsibility to keep our green spaces clean and tidy, and this early May bank holiday they failed horribly.

weekend litter chaos Argus

From The Argus Newspaper,  May 11th 2018

30,000 visitors flocked to the city and tourists and residents were drawn into parks and open spaces by the sunshine. Yet instead of being a reminder of the Brighton Fringe & Festival’s fantastic cultural and arts offer, the bank holiday also became a reminder of the Council’s failure to deal with waste. 20 tonnes of it was left behind on Brighton beach alone.

Any influx of visitors in Brighton and Hove can cause a surge in litter. With good weather forecast at the start of May, it should have been clear that extra resources to manage waste collection would be needed.

Yet Councillor Gill Mitchell, the Labour lead on Environment, said that ‘extra staff resources would be in place by the end of May and beginning of June.’ Talk about shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted!

The bank holiday litter issue belies a much bigger problem. This is not the fault of City Clean and City Parks workers, who spend hours painstakingly picking up rubbish overflowing from inadequate bins; it’s the Council’s Labour administration who cut their budgets too hard.

Complaints from residents about litter, bins and fly tipping problems now appear in my inbox on almost a daily basis. They eclipse practically all other complaints received by myself and my fellow Green Councillors.

collage bin May

A snapshot of Brighton and Hove in recent months. Labour Council leader Dan Yates said recently that after the last bank holiday, the ‘city was looking great.’

Residents are clearly frustrated with overflowing bins and months of delayed bin collections. They have raised concerns about the impact of rubbish on our environment and our tourist economy. On top of the rising number of unsightly graffiti ‘tags’ that now cover buildings across the city, it is easy to see why residents and conservation societies are increasingly fed up.

tagging question

Green Councillors have been asking repeated questions about graffiti tagging

There is no doubt that hardworking and committed staff – like so many public service workers hit hard by ruthless austerity cuts – are being asked to do more with fewer resources. Last autumn we heard that refuse collection trucks were available in the depot but with no staff to drive them. Cuts to the dedicated City Clean team by the Labour Council have gone too far, too fast and the service is struggling to keep up with demand.

Rubbish recycling figures

The solution to some of this does not rest solely on providing more bins. Councils in England spend around £852m per year on waste collection. As recent documentary Blue Planet made clear, we all need to reduce our waste at the source, dispose of it responsibly – and be helped to recycle. 35% of fish caught off the British coast have plastic in their gut and 80% of the ocean plastic comes from the land.

come clean over plastic recycling

No wonder Brighton and Hove’s recycling figures are so rubbish, when the Council’s own recycling contract doesn’t include collecting most plastics. Image from Brighton and Hove Independent, 30th March 2018

Yet despite being a coastal city, in Brighton and Hove only a small amount of plastic can be collected for recycling – not pots, tubs or trays, whereas other Councils manage to recycle so much more. These restrictions are the result of a 25-year long contract struck under a previous Labour administration with the waste company Veolia.

Residents want to recycle more – but Labour have failed to challenge this contract. With 17 years of it to go, their inaction means the city will continue to lag behind on recycling. Just this week the Environmental Services Association said that the UK will struggle to meet targets for household recycling ‘due to a historic lack of funding and policy support in England.’ We can’t afford waste – and we can’t afford to waste time.

Under the previous administration, recycling levels dropped due to missed collections during a strike sparked by the equalisation of gender pay. Five years on, recycling figures are still appalling. What is the current administration’s excuse?

Proposals put forward for a plastic-free city by the Greens last November are moving at a snail’s pace under Labour. The city will wait until at least July before news on important changes, such as prohibiting the use of single-use plastics at city events, or ending the practice of purchasing unnecessary plastics in the Council’s supply chain. Although 30% or more of the refuse collected and sent for incineration in Newhaven is food, Labour voted against using money Greens put back in to the budget to kick-start a food waste collection service.

greens plastic free city

Greens set out a budget plan for a cleaner, greener city that also included weekend, year-round emptying of bins in city centre parks. Again, Labour voted against these proposals in coalition with the Conservatives. Their other attempts to tackle the problem – such as the 3GS littering enforcement agents – have proven to be deeply unpopular, fining people for putting things in the wrong bin; and with no remit to deal with the vast amount of litter left on the beach.

A rubbish litter strategy

Help certainly won’t come from the Conservative Government – who published a ‘litter strategy’ that ultimately puts the responsibility for clean streets on seemingly endless volunteers, instead of using available powers to encourage big companies to stop creating useless packaging, or reversing years of cuts to Council budgets.

The city needs a stronger strategy for reducing waste. Greens have led the way on banning single-use plastics. We are calling for an Environmental Impact Charge – so that huge events pay back to our city and contribute to clear up the mess that the extra footfall often leaves behind. We want to see a timetable for action that sets out the options for retro-fitting our recycling facilities to take more plastics, something that other local councils and local companies have been doing for many years.

We live in a city full of people already taking the lead on this – our fantastic small businesses and local trailblazers – like the Food Partnership, Claire Potter Design, HiSbE, Surfers Against Sewage, the Tempest Inn and other local groups are already pioneering new and innovative ways to deal with waste.

beach clean greens 2

Green Party Members on a beach clean

It was a Labour Council which tied the city into a 25-year contract which handed control of what we as a city are allowed to recycle to a private multi-national company. It was another Labour Council which cut the budgets of CityClean and CityParks to the point where they can no longer keep the city or our parks clean. In between, Labour prevented the Greens from trialling food waste collection schemes.

Dan Yates, the new Labour Leader of the Council recently wrote: “Unfortunately it appears beaches do not keep themselves clean, nor do parks, or even our streets.” No, Dan; they don’t. That, as a basic public service, is your job, and you’ve failed.

One thing is clear; whether it’s allowing residents to recycle what they want to recycle (be that plastic not shaped into bottles; or their food waste), or keeping our streets and public spaces clean and tidy, Labour are simply not up to the job.

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Come clean on why city’s residents are stopped from recycling plastics, say Greens

Come clean on why city’s residents are stopped from recycling plastics, say Greens

FOI reveals Veolia ‘not willing’ to adapt £1bn contract to include plastics recycling

28/3/18

Greens have called on the Labour Council to come clean about plastics recycling in the city after a Freedom of Information Request from Materials Recycling World magazine revealed the waste disposal company Veolia are ‘not willing to change their position’ on plastic waste. The call was featured in a comment piece in local government trade journal Materials Recycling World[1] from Convenor of the Green Group of Councillors,  Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty.

The contents of a letter responding to a Government query on recycling rates states that “Whilst other Councils can and do recycle these kinds of materials, the B&HCC is contractually obliged under the terms of the PFI agreement to provide all waste materials, whether residual or recyclable to Veolia. We have raised this anomaly with Veolia on a number of occasions, but they are not willing to change their position on this.”

However Greens have criticised Labour for contradictory messages to the public about plastic waste recycling, given that previous statements on the issue talked of ‘working with Veolia’ to address plastic recycling. The comment is the latest in many calls Greens have made for the Private Finance Initiative deal with Veolia to be re-drawn.

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty reacted to the FOI, writing in the Materials Recycling World Magazine on 15th March:

“I read with interest the letter from the Labour Council to Government ministers stating that massive waste company Veolia, which holds the local contract for recycling, has rejected calls to renegotiate their waste service to take more plastics. Given Veolia has a giant 25 year, £1bn ‘Private Finance Initiative’ deal, (PFI), it’s hardly a surprise they are in no rush to adapt to meet the city’s recycling needs.

“Labour now needs to come clean about how toxic these PFI deals are, something they’ve been unwilling to tell the public. Presumably they have been reluctant to do this as the waste deal was struck under Labour leadership of the council and like so many PFI deals, under the last Labour government. The reality is that through the complex arrangements of PFI, private companies have been able to hold councils to ransom.

“The letter suggests we are stuck with current recycling issues because Veolia won’t take products that lack an ‘end market’ for recycling. But other local recycling companies in the city, and indeed other councils, collect a greater range of materials than are covered through the Veolia contract. Sheffield Council has recently renegotiated their waste PFI deal, saving council tax payers thousands in the process. 

Councillor Mac Cafferty concluded his comment: “We cannot wait for the Conservative Government to act when their woeful 25-year long environment plan will hardly make a dent in our waste recycling. The Labour Council is in a position to renegotiate existing contracts so they represent better value for the taxpayer and respond to local needs and environmental concerns. It’s high time they did, not least because at a time of massive public sector cuts the millions that have been wasted could have been spent improving public services.”

–Notes for Editors

[1] https://www.mrw.co.uk/knowledge-centre/labour-needs-to-come-clean-over-toxic-pfis/10029181.article?blocktitle=Comment&contentID=13703

Excerpt of written question and answer from Full Council 2nd November 2017 (f) Range of Plastics Collected by BHCC for Recycling http://present.brighton-hove.gov.uk/Published/C00000117/M00006616/$$$Minutes.doc.pdf (p22)

34.23 Councillor Littman asked the following question, “Given that recycling rates in the city are so woeful having been below 30% every year for the last 11 years, a time period covered by administrations of all three colours. Can the Chair of ETS please tell us why, as a waste collection authority, the only type of plastics we collect are plastic bottles?”

34.24 Councillor Mitchell replied,

“I am pretty proud to have raised our recycling levels to the highest rate ever from the 24% under your administration to the 29.1% now and we would certainly like to see more types of plastic being able to be collected by the Council for recycling and City Clean officers are actively looking for future solutions to enable this to happen in partnership with East Sussex County Council and Veolia.

However the extent to which different types of plastic can be collected depends on technical, economic and logistical factors. At present the Council can only recycle plastic bottles that are made of a certain type of soft plastic; drinks, water, milk and detergent bottles for example. There is a very good market for this product that provides income with an optimum recovery root meaning it can be processed and recycled many times over.

Currently the Hollingdean material recycling facility is not designed to take plastic pots, tubs and trays. Veolia are assessing the feasibility of retrofitting this facility but this will also need to assess the space required for the additional equipment and the materials. Another key consideration is the need for there to be a sustainable end market for the volume of this material and present indications are that there is a lack of demand from the industry for these recycled materials due to the fierce competition from virgin plastics thanks to low oil prices and recent developments in china that are restricting the input of recycling however we are keeping all options under review.”

34.25 Councillor Littman asked the following supplementary question,

“Councillor Mitchell what work is ongoing in regards to collaboration with other agencies in the city which collects a greater range of matters than we do for example the Magpie Waste Show Operative or the Green Centre and also with other Local Authorities apart from East Sussex to increase the range of plastics we collect even if we are not able to dispose them ourselves?”

34.26 Councillor Mitchell replied, “We do point residents to other waste collection organisations so that they can dispose of a greater range of materials. I am very hopeful that in future we as a Council will be able to expand our range too.

[2] FOI letter MRW_brighton_response_Redacted: as attached

Labour Council’s plastic waste measures don’t go far enough, say Greens

Labour Council’s plastic waste measures don’t go far enough, say Greens

Response to campaign for plastic free city a step in the right direction but slow progress holds city back

28/3/18

Greens have called for stronger action on plastic waste, urging the Labour Council to act swiftly to prevent more plastic pollution. A successful proposal from the Greens in November last year called on the Council to introduce a range of measures to end the use of single-use plastics (SUPs) in Brighton and Hove, including introducing new criteria to ensure events in the city go ‘plastic free.’ [1]

A report coming to Policy, Resources and Growth Committee this week (Thursday, March 29th) details the initial response of the Labour Council but largely includes updates on plans to address single-use plastics waste in council buildings. [2]

Greens called the measures a step in the right direction but have criticised the Labour Council for slow progress on the issue, arguing that current measures, focused mainly on Council buildings, ‘do not go far enough.’

Convenor of the Green Group of Councillors, Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty commented:

“Measures focused on single-use plastic circulation inside Council buildings are welcome. However more than five months after Greens were successful in calling for a plastic-free city, we are concerned to see the city will wait until at least July before news on a whole range of other crucial proposals, such as preventing single-use plastics from being used at city events and ending the purchase of SUPs in the supply chain. There are plenty of businesses and organisations in our city already leading the way.

“With summer fast approaching, we urgently need decisive action, particularly if we are to curb the use of plastics at events. The recent Brighton Marathon led to complaints about plastic water bottles polluting the sea. Greens are reaching out to organisers of major events like Pride – and urging the Labour Council to go further. We also repeat our call for Labour to do more to tackle the restrictive contract with waste company Veolia that prevents recycling of these items. The city and our environment will pay a huge price for each day that passes without significant progress on Single Use Plastics.” [3]motion plastics

–ENDS–

Notes for Editors:

[1] Wording of the Green Group Notice of Motion, passed unanimously in full Council November 2017 http://present.brighton-hove.gov.uk/Published/C00000117/M00006616/AI00064171/$Item42cGrnGrpSingleUsePlasticsv5Final.docxA.ps.pdf

This Council resolves to:

Request that a report be brought to Policy, Resources and Growth Committee on the options for bringing an end to the use of unnecessary Single Use Plastics (SUP) in Brighton and Hove, taking account of the following measures to:

  1. a) enable Brighton and Hove City Council to become a full signatory of the ‘Plastic Free Pledge’, by phasing out the use of unnecessary SUPs in all City Council buildings, and working with commissioning partners to end the purchase and procurement of SUPs through the BHCC supply chain;
  2. b) encourage the city’s businesses, organisations and residents to go ‘plastic free,’ working with best practice partners in the city to explore the creation of a ‘plastic free network,’ that could provide business support, practical guidelines and advice to help local businesses transition from SUPs to sustainable alternatives; 
  3. c) to incentivise traders on Council land to sell re-usable containers and invite customers to bring their own, with the aim of phasing  out SUPs; including investigating the possibility of requiring food and drink vendors to avoid SUPs as a condition of their event permission, strengthening the existing Sustainable Event Commitment Form and guidance circulated to exhibitors and traders

[2] Policy, Resources and Growth Committee report 29th March 2018: ‘Phasing Out Single Use Plastics.’ http://present.brighton-hove.gov.uk/Published/C00000912/M00006708/$$ADocPackPublic.pdf

[3] Unnecessary (i.e. excluding medical items) Single-Use Plastics (SUP) used once before disposal e.g. bottles, cups and straws, are not widely recycled. Studies from Columbia University show SUPs can take up to 600 years to degrade, breaking into fragments that cause damage to the environment and permeate the food chain. Recent studies found that 72% of U.K tap water samples were contaminated with plastic fibres, and a third of all fish caught off the British coast contained plastic.

Don’t forget the homeless, say Greens as council-run night shelter closes

Grn Cllrs with petitioner John Hadman homeless buildings

Green Councillors with local petitioner John Hadman calling for empty buildings to become homeless shelters

Greens call for good work on night shelter to continue year-round

Green Party Councillors in Brighton and Hove are calling for year round support to end rough sleeping as the Brighton Centre Night Shelter closes its doors.

Last January Green Councillors successfully called on the council to use its empty buildings to accommodate rough sleepers. The temporary shelter, which has supported 102 people since opening in December last year was a direct result of that call.

A recent public petition signed by over 5,000 people calling for 365 day provision for rough sleepers gained backing from all parties. However Green Councillors have raised concerns that news on longer term provision for rough sleepers has fallen quiet. Along with the decision of the Council to continue funding for homeless provision from April, Green Councillors are calling for the Council to act with greater urgency to end rough sleeping and to put plans in place for a year-round resource.

Green Party Housing Spokesperson David Gibson commented:

“Almost a year after the original proposal from the Greens to open up empty buildings for use as shelters, we heard from the manager of the Brighton Centre shelter at the weekend that ‘it is possible that we have saved lives this winter.’

“For 36 local people, the shelter was a first step towards permanent accommodation and in four cases, recovery. It is great to hear that in such a short time the shelter achieved so much, and a credit to all those working and volunteering to provide services to end homelessness. However, with the doors closing, what we need now is a clear sense of urgency from the Labour Council to provide similar services on a more permanent basis.

“We demand more action to end the city’s housing scandal. Green budget proposals that focused on ending rough sleeping, such as expanding Housing First and setting up Council-run emergency accommodation were voted against by the other two parties.

We are pleased to hear that the night shelter helped so many off the streets, but it took the Council almost a year to get even this provisional shelter in place and then it was forced to move buildings twice. Work needs to start now on setting up a long-term facility that helps rough sleepers move on to supported accommodation and we must do this in time for when the budget becomes available in April.

With homelessness rising and affordable housing out of reach, the most vulnerable in our city should not have to wait any longer for more permanent provision. The housing scandal is a crisis and it needs to be treated as one.”

Vacant buildings homeless shelters passed tweet

Proposals from the Greens calling on the council to make vacant buildings available for use as homeless shelters

 

Rough sleeping has doubled in the past two years. Council figures show that rough sleepers can wait an average of 12 weeks before some form of accommodation is provided. The official estimate for this winter is confirmed as 178 rough sleepers in Brighton & Hove, a rise of around 20 per cent from last year’s figure of 144.

Does local Government work for women? Three steps forward for a healthier democracy #PressforProgress

alex

Councillor Alex Phillips

This International Women’s Day will be my first as a mother. I have been a councillor for almost a decade but this year I have a newborn in tow too. I am neither disabled nor BAME and so have never experienced the inherent discrimination that women councillors pertaining to those two groups face, but I have found the last four months since my baby was born – and even prior to that whilst pregnant – a real challenge.

The Fawcett Society report published last year ‘Does Local Government Work for Women?’ is extremely comprehensive and timely. It not only covers women’s lack of representation, especially at the top of town halls, but also covers sexism and how these issues are compounded for women of colour and those with disabilities. This has been collated in time for this year of women, the centenary – 100 years since some women – mainly white, older and rich women – got the vote.

Photo credit Simon Dack

Cllr Alex Phillips and baby with partner Cllr Tom Druitt. Photo credit Simon Dack

From my point of view however, I have experienced a real lack of understanding from mainly – but not exclusively – male councillor colleagues as well as some officers about just how difficult being a councillor is today when combined with pregnancy and caring responsibilities. There are a plethora of actions that need to be taken by both councils and political parties to ensure equal representation.  Here I focus on just three areas which I think will make a huge difference.

1. There needs to be parental leave for councillors as standard across every council. At the moment councillors still have access to their allowance, which is positive – however without a formal parental leave in place, there is still the expectation that pregnant councillors as well as new mums and dads should carry on with their councillor work as before. This not only creates additional stress but is also unrealistic and dangerous. I was responding to council emails whilst still in hospital the day that my baby was born. I attended my first council meeting with my baby just thirteen days later.

2. The full cost of childcare for council meetings should be paid in full and directly by the council. At the moment, at least in Brighton and Hove, a proportion of childcare costs during council meetings (£7.65 per hour) is reimbursed and then capped at £1500 maximum spend per year per councillor. This is problematic because it doesn’t cover the actual hourly rate charged, which for evenings and for babies is more like £11 per hour. On top of this, councillors are having to front the costs themselves and can in some cases wait for well over a month to be reimbursed. With several council meetings each week covering training, working groups and more formal committee meetings, the actual childcare cost each week could easily run into hundreds of pounds. If we are ever to break down barriers of participation in public life, the full cost of this must be covered directly by the council and with no annual cap.

 
3. Ensuring meetings are at a range of times and not just in the afternoons and evenings; and making them accessible remotely by using technology to ‘dial in’ to meetings and even to vote from home. Harnessing technology in this way would remove barriers to attendance that are particularly prevalent for women with caring responsibilities, or those with accessibility needs.

 
Women make up just 33% of all Councillors in England. As we mark International Women’s Day and 100 years of Women’s Suffrage we must celebrate the achievements of women but also reflect on barriers to inclusion across our society. There is much to be done. Although often overlooked, in local government changes that enable greater participation in political life at the town hall level are essential. They will make a huge difference not only to representation – but also to the health of our democracy.

Alex Phillips is a Green Party Councillor in Regency ward, Brighton and Hove

Read the Green Party’s ‘Gender Equality Manifesto’ here. #PressforProgress

Brighton and Hove Labour Council Leader resigns: comment

Greens have responded to news that the Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, Warren Morgan, has resigned.

Convenor of the Green Group of Councillors, Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, commented:

“Labour’s Council leader has been ousted by his own divided party. But look around the city and signs of Labour’s self-implosion are everywhere. Graffiti, grime and litter have spiralled out of control. Plans for the Royal Pavilion are in tatters. School catchments reversed after huge public outcry. Despite pledging to end rough sleeping, Labour has failed to get a grip on homelessness, as temperatures plummet.

“At last week’s budget Labour made a deal with the Tories to pass on £12m of cuts while hiking Council tax by 6%. Labour voted down Green proposals to reverse cuts and provide more emergency homeless accommodation.
Instead of opposing Conservative austerity, plots to boot out their leader have been given priority.

“Greens are focused on making Brighton and Hove a city fit for the future. Our concern, is as ever, for residents, who will continue to suffer the consequences of the Labour party’s incompetence.

“What should worry everyone is that the favourite to replace Warren, Dan Yates, as Labour’s lead on health has made no effort to oppose cuts and the privatisation of our precious NHS. Everyone who supports our health service will be alarmed to hear this. Tweedledum will be replaced by Tweedledee.”

 

In a blog post on his resignation, Warren Morgan stated he “would have wished to lead the Labour group […] However, the local Labour Party and others have made it clear they do not want me to do so.

Labour and Conservatives vote down Green proposals to reverse cuts and fund homeless prevention at Council budget setting meeting

Greens have condemned a decision by the Labour Council to vote against their budget proposals, which put forward more than £2m of funds that would have seen the Council able to protect social work services, fund more homelessness prevention work and support environmentally friendly energy options for the city.

An additional Green proposal that sought to remove free Councillor parking at a cost of £30,000 in order to reverse part of a planned cut to school transport for vulnerable children was also rejected by both parties.

Ahead of the budget setting process, Greens put forward six proposals that would have seen over £2m returned to the council’s coffers without taking money from other key services. Greens slammed the Labour administration for preparing a deal with the Conservatives in advance of the budget to ensure it would pass, a pact they labelled a ‘purple budget coalition.’

The Labour and Conservative groups rejected proposals on increasing park security, boosting litter collection and bringing costly emergency accommodation in-house. The Council spends over £4.1m paying private landlords for emergency accommodation for rough sleepers.

Green finance lead Councillor Ollie Sykes said:

“The Greens are incredibly disappointed, but after the collusion between the Labour and Conservative Councillors, not surprised to see our positive suggestions for city’s residents be rejected at budget Council. Labour tried to wriggle out of voting in favour of our ideas by saying our work to reverse their cuts were ‘too complicated.’ What is complicated about stopping cuts to learning disability services, funding home to school transport, about warmer homes, more park security or ending the practice of outsourcing our emergency accommodation to money-guzzling private companies?

“Greens engaged as early as possible with both parties as soon as our amendments were submitted; gave them all the time they needed and frankly we hoped for more from fellow Councillors for our residents. Smiles from the Labour group as Green amendments to prevent homelessness and to end fuel poverty fell were shocking. Greens improved the Labour group’s budget – but they would rather oversee over £12m of cuts than put our plans for the city first.”

 

Convenor of the Green Group Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty added:

“Gleeful cheers from the Labour Councillors as their £12m cuts budget was voted through – thanks to a deal with the Tories – is a shameful outcome. It’s our residents who lose out. Green amendments identified funds for vital services without robbing one to pay for another- but Labour would clearly rather hand down massive cuts than support this approach. At the end of the day their grubby deal with the Tories to pass a cuts budget will affect our marginalised residents the most. They will now be left to endure increased cuts for another year, with yet more to come.”

 

Green amendments are available to view here: http://bit.ly/GPBudget18