Are plans for recycling in Brighton and Hove simply going up in smoke?

Leo Littman, Preston Park Ward Councillor

News that cardboard meant for recycling may have instead been sent to the incinerator by the company in charge, Veolia, is scandalous if true.  Residents in this city pay the Council a considerable amount every month to have their refuse collected, and many residents spend time sorting their rubbish to ensure as much of it as possible is recycled. If they now learn that the people they rely on to process that recycling are simply burning it because they don’t have the staff needed to do the job properly, they are entitled to be furious.  Both Veolia and the Council need to be open about what is going on – the Council’s statement, which placidly accepts Veolia’s ‘assurances’, will put no-one’s mind at rest.

Local Labour are once again failing to get even the basics right.  The city is becoming dirty and run down and recycling rates are still in the doldrums. Let’s not forget: it was Labour who landed the city with this regressive 25-year waste PFI (Private Finance Initiative) deal in the first place, a deal which pays us not to recycle effectively, or even to reduce our waste. The Tories then extended the agony for another five years. Neither Party can be trusted on this issue. If the investigation finds a breach of contract has occurred, the Labour group must commit to serious review of the terms of the contract.
Residents deserve better.

Original article on the claims that cardboard recycling in Brighton and Hove is being incinerated available here: http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/15522573.Cardboard_collected_for_recycling_is_being_incinerated_claims_whistleblower/

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Comment on school places in Brighton and Hove

Councillor Alex Phillips, Green spokesperson for Children, Young People and Skills Committee has commented on the state of school places for young people in Brighton and Hove:

“Whilst we recognise that catchment area plans are often difficult to resolve, families are continuing to pay the price for the Labour Council’s lack of leadership over plans for a new school in our city. The Labour group on Brighton and Hove City Council have tried to avoid responsibility for the current debacle but the fact is, since the previous Green administration handed over plans for a new school more than two years ago they will have been well aware of rising student numbers and the urgent need for more school places.

The Labour group have sat on their hands. Their inaction has resulted in an impossibly complicated situation that will surely create even more confusion for parents and upset for students. Essentially, families will suffer because the local Labour group dropped the ball that was handed to them so carefully.”

Greens call for transparency as Council announces fresh wave of youth service cuts

The Green group have condemned the Labour Council for continuing to make cuts to the city’s youth service despite a city-wide campaign to save it that saw the budget for the work largely restored in February.

Councillor Alex Phillips, spokesperson for Children, Young People and Skills has called for greater transparency as information about recent cuts to the service appeared as a small note on the internal council information network, ‘the Wave.’ [1] You can read the notice below.

Councillor Phillips has made a statement, commenting:

“At the last full council meeting in July I directly challenged the local Labour group about the current state of youth services and was told that the youth service information bus would be retained for a further year. Now we learn – from a notice quietly ushered out on an internal council network – that the entire dedicated detached youth work team is to be lost.

“The young people who campaigned to save the youth service repeatedly made clear that access to support where they lived made a huge difference. A few in-house services in the city centre mean little to young people unable to shore up the bus fare in and out of town. Detached youth work and services like the youth mobile information bus meant that help and support came to them, where they live, with advice and activities.

“After the Labour Council attempted to axe all council youth work last February, Greens launched a series of successful budget proposals that together with amendments from the Conservatives saw the youth service funding almost entirely reinstated. The disgraceful reality is that despite this, key elements of youth work are still being axed behind the scenes. Getting rid of detached youth work flies in the face of everything we and these young people campaigned to protect.”

1] The information published on Brighton and Hove City Council intranet, ‘The Wave’:

Youth service changes

From 1 August our Youth Service is changing. 

We will no longer have an in-house detached team working from the youth bus. You will still see the bus from time to time but there will no longer be a dedicated team.

Over the years the city has been lucky enough to have a bus which has had a positive impact on thousands of young people since 2003. The team want to thank everyone for their support in helping with the delivery of the bus.

The council will still fund a Participation & Advocacy team and Youth Arts and Duke of Edinburgh programmes will continue to be delivered but now externally funded.

 

2] Question from Councillor Alex Phillips, to the Chair of Children, Young People and Skills Committee Councillor Daniel Chapman at the meeting of full council, 20th July, Hove Town Hall
Question from Councillor Phillips – Youth Services

“Could the Chair of the Children, Young People and Skills please clarify how the plans to move Brighton & Hove City Council youth service staff into the Integrated Team for Parents and Families is in the spirit of the amendments made at budget council which aims to protect not only our youth service i.e children and families work but also the provision of detached youth workers?”

Response from Councillor Chapman, Chair of Children, Young People and Skills Committee

“As you know we are going through a restructure of the in-house services to provide services in the greatest area of need and to continue to work in partnership with voluntary sector and I’m happy to discuss with Councillor Phillips as well on another occasion in more depth about what’s going on with the youth service.”

Supplementary Question

“I’ll take that to mean they’ll be no more Brighton & Hove City Council youth service that technically the council will stop prioritising open access in house youth service and I think it is awful that that may well stop.

“The youth service bus came up as a much-loved resource through the consultation. Can the Chair of the Children, Young People and Skills Committee please confirm that this bus, which amongst other things provides sexual health and education outreach to young people, will remain as is?”

Response

“The bus will be retained for a further year and resources will be available for the wider youth teams and the voluntary sector.”

We won’t wait another 50 years for lasting equality

This weekend tens of thousands will take to the city’s streets celebrating our LGBT community. Our special city which has provided refuge for thousands of LGBT people will remind the world of our values of hope and solidarity. The Green Party has been a longstanding advocate of LGBT rights and this weekend we will, once again, be proud to march for equality.

This year’s Pride celebrations mark 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the United Kingdom- Scotland had to wait until 1980, Northern Ireland, 1982. While apologies have been issued to those whose love was labelled a ‘crime,’ no apology will erase the years of discrimination people living with a criminal record have had to endure. We follow in the footsteps of ordinary LGBT people and community organisations whose unwavering voices have, 50 years later, made mainstream the right to live without prejudice. As the city becomes a show of colour and celebration we should take the time to remember that LGBT people at home and abroad still face bigotry and violence. On Saturday we must march for them.

In the aftermath of the Brexit referendum only a year ago hate crimes against LGBT people increased by 147%. One in four LGBT people have experienced violent hate crime. Four in ten British people believe gay sex is unnatural. Homophobia is legitimised in government with the stridently homophobic DUP, who have blocked equal marriage in Northern Ireland.

Being gay is still illegal in 72 countries around the world. Horrific accounts of the torture of gay men in Chechnya remind us why it is so important to recognise LGBT rights. As important is the work to highlight that LGBT people- often from former British colonies- flee here to escape torture and persecution. Theresa May’s lukewarm words about ending discrimination must apply to them too.

There is no question we have come a long way in 50 years, but on Saturday our voices must ring out to say we won’t wait another 50 to have lasting equality here and abroad. I wish everyone a safe, happy and sustainable Pride.

Let’s keep our democratic system

Our arguments against a cabinet system remain the same now as they were in October 2015 (see article below: ‘Let’s keep our democratic system,’ Brighton and Hove Independent, first published 2015).
Without scrutiny from other parties the Labour leadership would have had no qualms in selling off Hove Library, flogging off our precious Downland and ending the city’s youth service. Opposition from elected representatives is a crucial part of democracy and has prevented deeply unpopular Labour Council plans from coming to fruition – a fact no doubt frustrating for their leader, Councillor Warren Morgan, who wishes for a return to decision making behind closed doors and who imagines he has overall control of the council.


Let’s keep our democratic system

This week I read with concern that the Labour Leader of the Council is thinking about reviving the ‘cabinet’ model for the council. This is where 10 people make all of the council’s decisions and those decisions come in front of the other Councillors for rubber-stamping.

The cabinet model would allow Councillors not to answer for the “difficult decisions” they are making, allowing them to hide the impacts of decisions from the public until it’s far too late. It is anti-democratic. It’s why Greens abolished it and revived the committee system which places decision making powers with all councillors. Whether you’re a backbench Councillor for the largest group or an opposition councillor you and your community are proportionately enfranchised, and, crucially, decisions are made by all.

Accountability for decisions is incredibly important in a city which in 12 years has not given any one party an outright majority. Currently the largest group is 22, but out of 54 Councillors they should not have divine right to rule.

The Deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor Mitchell was right to describe the cabinet model as a “one party state” in November 2011. Isn’t it interesting that the tune seems to be changing now that Labour are in power?

It is important to remember Labour has form here: a Labour Government introduced the ‘cabinet’ model and a Labour Council wanted the deeply unpopular directly elected Mayor which was rejected in 2001.

The potential revival of the cabinet system has come in the same week we’ve had cross-party meetings cancelled, reports with potentially serious proposals being withheld and Labour Councillors voting to close Full Council meetings early. We have to ask: why the attempts to reduce transparency? Are these are the early warning shots being fired in a campaign by the Labour Councillors intent on reducing accountability for the cuts they have planned?

I recognise that we face the harshest financial climate we have ever seen, thanks to the savage austerity programme imposed by the Conservative government. But lessening democracy especially at a time like this is completely inappropriate and unfair.

We need a fairer local political system including a fairer voting system for electing Councillors in the first place. But in the meantime we must have a system which allows questioning, debate and challenge for whoever is the largest group on the city council. We revert to a less democratic and accountable council at our peril.

[First published in the Brighton and Hove Independent, October 2015]

GRENFELL- OUR QUESTIONS

Green Group of Councillors

Brighton & Hove City Council

GRENFELL- OUR QUESTIONS

16th June 2017

For immediate release

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

“Seeing the heart breaking scenes in West London, we are asking 12 questions of the Executive Director Neighbourhoods, Communities and Housing, Larissa Reid and the Chair of the Housing Committee, Councillor Anne Meadows to ensure such horror doesn’t happen here in Brighton and Hove. We are asking questions about inspections, regulation of our own stock, audits and all of the measures taken by the City Council and the Fire and Rescue Service to avoid such horror. The so-called ‘red tape’ that the Conservative government has been adamant about cutting.

“Only this afternoon the government launched an urgent audit to find out details of the tower blocks councils and housing associations own- because clearly they don’t even have this basic information. We back the call from the Chief Fire Officers’ Association (CFOA) for fire sprinklers to be fitted in all new-build homes, in all tower blocks and all care homes.

“There have been repeat warnings- from tenants and Councillors. Had they been listened to some if not many of the problems could have been prevented. We would never want these scenes repeated here and will keep the pressure up so that every step is taken to ensure residents’ safety is paramount.”

Councillor David Gibson, Green Group of Councillors Spokesperson on Housing added:

“My heart goes out the many people and their families who have suffered in the horrendous fire in Kensington. It is awful to think that this may have happened because lessons from previous tragedies have not been heeded. The City Council now must reassure residents by rigorous fire safety checking, by making available comprehensive details of the materials used to clad their blocks publically available and by developing an urgent plan to rectify any deficiencies identified or deficiencies emerging in the light of learning from the Kensington tragedy.

“The government must ensure more rigorous fire safety standards and inspection as a matter of law at the earliest opportunity. Instead of forcing councils to use tenants’ rents to subsidise the housing association Right to Buy, they need to make available the necessary resources as a matter of urgency to ensure councils can make all their tower blocks fire safe.”

The Green Group of Councillors’ Questions to Executive Director Neighbourhoods, Communities and Housing, Larissa Reid and the Chair of the Housing Committee, Councillor Anne Meadows:

Dear Anne and Larissa

We first of all want to thank you and officers for the work that you have pursued with other agencies including East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service and your help with queries from anxious tenants in the last few days from the truly horrible scenes at Grenfell Tower in West London. We also would like to welcome the letter which officers have delivered to all Council tenants.

We understand that the investigation into the causes of the awful incident at Grenfell Tower will take a prolonged period but we wanted to flag a series of urgent questions now:

  • We appreciate that there is a roll-out of sprinkler systems at potentially two further high rise blocks in the city following on from Somerset Point senior housing scheme last year. What work has been done to ascertain its suitability in other lower rise blocks? Do you support the call from the Chief Fire Officers’ Association (CFOA) for fire sprinklers to be fitted not only in all tower blocks but also in all new-build homes and care homes?
  • Apart from sprinkler systems what other fire suppression systems have been considered by BHCC?
  • If the ‘stay put’ policy is adhered to in high rise blocks, it relies wholly on a fire resistant exterior of the block as well as the presence of fire doors (resistant to fire for up to half an hour). Have all blocks had the ‘stay put’ policy tested with the most up to date building methodologies and methods if necessary?
  • We are to understand that 20 out of 40 tower blocks are clad. Can we see the Fire Safety Certificates for each block reassured? 
  • In terms of routine fire risk assessments, the Fire Safety Order 2005 relates to fire safety in communal areas. In BHCC-owned blocks the duty is on BHCC to ensure that a risk assessment is carried out to identify hazards and risks, and remove and reduce these as far as possible. What is the timetable for these assessments? How often does each block have an inspection?
  • The 2010 Building Regulations Approved Document B on fire safety covers means of escape, fire alarms, fire spread, and access and facilities for fire and rescue services. As it is the responsibility of anyone carrying out building work to ensure compliance with the regulations, can you inform us if either you or contractors with yourselves directly or with Mears have had reason to believe work in blocks has not complied with the regulations? When did BHCC last have to issue an enforcement notice for failure to comply with the regulations for work on tower block housing? One of the criticisms emerging from Grenfell Tower is that emergency lighting didn’t come on- when did BHCC blocks last have emergency lighting checked? And how often are these checks undertaken?
  • More broadly, in the absence of a review of Document B (which transpired after the Lakanal House tragedy in 2009), what is custom and practice for BHCC in this area?
  • Up until clarity is assured on a regulatory review providing adequate fire provisions in all tower blocks, would you support a call for blocks to be checked weekly?
  • How often are fire alarms being checked- especially in high rise blocks? Most offices have weekly fire alarm /mitigations systems tested every week- are Brighton and Hove’s tower blocks?
  • After the 3 incidents in high rise blocks in as many years in Brighton and Hove- which sadly included a fatality- what lessons has Brighton and Hove City Council taken from any reports and discussions with East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service and Sussex Police?
  • In the absence of any standing arrangements through BHCCC are tenants clear that East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service will fit smoke alarms free of charge and assist tenants in creating an escape plan?
  • Will there be an audit of materials used for extensions and renovations on our own stock? Certain cladding materials used in Grenfell have been banned in the USA and in Europe. For any ongoing and future work on the provision of cladding, will there be a cast iron assurance on the use of fire-resistant materials only? Where Councillors make decisions relating to the refurbishment of stock for example on the Housing and Planning Committees will information regarding provision of fire-resistant materials be supplied? 

In terms of the necessary conversation between the City Council and the Department for Communities and Local Government in the days and weeks ahead, will you back our call that:

  • Government should immediately commission a regulatory review of the UKs 4,000 tower blocks to ensure the safety of residents;
  • As well as providing adequate fire provisions in all tower blocks, a regulatory review would be proportionate for blocks to be checked weekly
  • We have health, education and social care regulators. Is the tragedy of Grenfell Tower not now the time for a housing regulator?

Thank you.

Yours sincerely

We are pushing for action on toxic air pollution levels in Brighton and Hove

cleaner air nom pic

Green ‘Notice of Motion’ going to Full Council this Thursday 6th April

At the meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council this Thursday, the Greens have put forward a set of proposals aiming to challenge the rising levels of air pollution in Brighton and Hove. We hope our calls to protect public health will be backed by all parties.

Brighton and Hove is one of 40 UK cities listed by the World Health Organisation as breaching safe air pollution limits. ‘Hotspots’ in the city such as Queens Road, Western Road and Rottingdean High Street regularly exceed both U.K and E.U limits for nitrogen dioxide, a toxic gas that along with other pollutants is primarily emitted by diesel vehicles and which can cause premature deaths and lung cancer.

Greens are calling on the Council to reduce the harm of emissions and protect public health by encouraging alternatives to diesel vehicle use. The proposals also call for better enforcement of regulations on engine idling, a major contributor to both noise and air pollution. The Greens are keen that the Council push for more government assistance to help taxi drivers to replace diesel cars with low-emission vehicles. Following similar initiatives rolled out in London, Greens are also pushing for differential charges to be applied to diesel vehicles parking in areas of the city badly affected by diesel fumes.

Green Councillor Lizzie Deane is keen to stress that any changes that lead to cleaner air will benefit everyone. She said:

“The rationale of this motion is entirely health related because, although air quality in the city has improved in recent years, there is still much to be done, especially in the city centre. It is now widely accepted that diesel emissions can cause serious health conditions, including asthma and lung cancer. So this is a motion that aims to benefit everyone, including motorists who, after all, are breathing the same air. In fact, recent studies have shown it is motorists who are most affected by diesel air pollution. I am particularly concerned for babies and toddlers who, by virtue of their size, are closer and more vulnerable to vehicle pollution emissions than adults.

“I do appreciate that some motorists bought diesel vehicles in good faith at a time when Government advised diesel to be a safer option. However, the only safe option is low emission vehicles, and we must do as much as we can to encourage their use. I am also aware that some of the proposals may have ramifications for the taxi trade, and am keen that existing cabbies are assisted when making upgrades to low emission vehicles.”

Studies have estimated that diesel fumes contribute to the deaths of more than 29,000 people in the UK each year and increase the likelihood of individuals contracting lung cancer almost threefold.

Green Councillors are calling on all parties to support their call for cleaner air at a meeting of Full Council this Thursday, April 6th.