Greens say Brighton & Hove must shine brighter in face of division

Greens vow to fight for workers and the environment after Brexit win

June 24th, 2016

Green Councillors in Brighton and Hove have vowed to fight against a “bonfire of regulations” which could be seen following the EU referendum result to leave the EU.  Greens say they will oppose any weakening of environmental protection or worker’s rights which may follow Brexit.

The Green Councillors have expressed their concerns about the expected impact of Brexit on local government, but say Brighton & Hove is determined to continue to act as a beacon of hope, tolerance and equality in an increasingly divisive world.

Greens have called the Leave vote a “wake up call” as to the level of anger and disillusionment many UK residents have with the political status quo.  Greens are calling for a period of reflection at national level, to explore how the political system and how the media choose to communicate it, can better reflect people’s concerns, and allow the country to come together around shared values of equality, fairness and public service.

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Deputy Convener of the Green Group of councillors, Councillor Alex Phillips, said:

“We are naturally disappointed by the result of the referendum, which was extremely close.  I’m pleased to see that Brighton and Hove spoke decisively against leaving the EU but sadly this was not reflected elsewhere in the country.

“We must now work harder than ever to oppose any weakening of environmental protection or worker’s rights that may follow Brexit.  That means working together with other progressive voices to protect hard-won rights and freedoms which could now be under threat.

“At a local level, the council has used EU funding successfully to tackle addiction and support economic regeneration.  Without this support, it is more important than ever that Government commits to greater investment in local government, and measures to give residents real power and resources over the future direction of their communities, that go substantially further than the devolution-lite proposals currently on offer.  Brighton & Hove has spoken out clearly in favour of a more tolerant, inclusive society and that’s what we must be empowered to deliver.

“We are concerned with the long-term impact of an increasingly divisive and hostile referendum campaign which has pitted neighbour against neighbour.  It’s clear we cannot ignore the concerns of people across the country and must work harder to connect with our neighbours to convey a more positive message.  As a city, Brighton & Hove is a shining example of a more tolerant and inclusive city, and we must ensure we shine brighter in an increasingly divided world.  We all have a role to play in spreading that message of hope”.

 

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Saving Hove Library is a Victory for Residents

BY CLLR PHÉLIM MAC CAFFERTY & CLLR OLLIE SYKES

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Hove Library is saved!  Earlier today, Greens secured the future of Hove Library in its present home, while committing the Council to keep ALL of its libraries open for the foreseeable future.

Following a joint amendment submitted by the Greens and the Conservative Group (Addendum Two Pack 09.06.16), the city’s libraries were preserved with a £100,000 investment from an unexpected underspend in Council finances this year.

In their report to today’s Policy, Resources and Growth Committee, Labour proposed to axe the Hove Carnegie Library and we have stopped it. This report was scandalously and mysteriously withheld and we had just over 24 hours to absorb its findings before today’s committee.  It follows a weekend where Labour Councillors delivered leaflets across the city which tried to lay the blame for library cuts on the Green Party. Greens were the only party to vote against Labour’s budget in February that proposed cutting the libraries budget and closing the Carnegie.

This morning Labour made a last-ditch effort to amend their own report, after seeing which way the wind was blowing, yet made no effort to tell us they had abandoned their plans to cut Hove Library. We listened to their arguments today, but on consideration at committee, we chose to stick with our joint amendment which specifically pledged to keep all libraries open in the city.

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Green Councillors Ollie Sykes and Phélim Mac Cafferty

The irony of working with the Conservatives is not lost on us.  This is a party whose national austerity agenda has created the local government finance crisis in the first place, and who are directly responsible for the threat to libraries and a host of other services.  Yet Hove Library was an issue where rising above our political differences was necessary to secure the best outcome for the city.

It’s disappointing that we have now come to a position where the only threat to the city’s libraries is the local Labour Council.  We’ve pushed from day one to get Labour to stop and listen, to consider alternatives and to get real about the true costs and risks of their plan.  Yet we’ve been constantly rebuffed.

In November, Labour presented their ideas for transforming libraries.  They had some innovative ideas we could get behind, but proposed to move Hove Library to Hove Museum, a questionable plan which from the start was riddled with inaccuracies and misleading figures.

Greens were the only party to oppose the plan at this point, and launched a petition to Save Hove Library, maintaining a much-loved community resource in its current location, the prestigious Carnegie building.

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The stunning Hove Library

Labour and Conservatives passed the plan to consult on the proposals, and there began a misleading exercise in spin where residents were presented with a host of leading questions designed to garner support for Labour’s plan.

Greens continued to campaign actively against the plans, submitting a formal question to Council in January (Council minutes, p11) asking why the results from the libraries consultation would only be revealed after the libraries budget was set. There was no satisfactory answer from Labour.

At a Council meeting in March (minutes, p24) where the libraries plan was discussed, the Conservatives began to see what we had been saying all along – there was no case for selling Hove Library and opening a reduced service in Hove Museum.  Our analysis indicated that repair costs for the library had been exaggerated while those of Hove Museum were played down.  The council’s own analysis of the proposals (p36) considered it highly likely that construction costs for a Hove Museum extension would exceed estimates and lead to delays and additional costs.

Labour continued to plough on, refusing to listen to the now 4,500 strong petition or massive amounts of community correspondence to save the library.  We thought we had finally made some headway when the report was withdrawn in April, but Labour returned to today’s committee meeting still peddling the same proposal, with the same inaccurate information.  The only way to stop these plans was to work across party lines.

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Andrew Carnegie, the philanthropist who funded the building of Hove library in 1908

Our amendment will keep all libraries open in the city, and uses an unexpected underspend to do so, rather than taking it from other vital services.  This is a huge victory for the city.

We appreciate we may take some flak for cooperating with the Conservative Party.  Yet it truly shows how poor Labour’s proposal is when two ideologically opposed parties agree it’s not something they are willing to support.

The main story here is not a political one, it’s about a victory for residents, and it’s a credit to the thousands of people who signed the petition or wrote to their local councillor opposing the move. We know the people of Hove love the Carnegie library: so do we. Libraries are like communities around the city. It’s why we have fought to secure a deal that keeps every single library open in the city.  It’s just a crying shame that Labour wouldn’t listen in the first place.

Greens urge parents to reject dangerous Council school trust plan

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Greens say formal partnership could open up schools to academy takeover

June 7th, 2016

 

Greens have expressed deep concerns following a Council decision to consult on creating a limited company or trust to improve the city’s schools.  Greens say this is a first, dangerous step towards setting up a Brighton and Hove multi-academy trust and removing democratic oversight and parental involvement from school management.

The decision has also been criticised by the Hands Off Our Schools campaign, led by parents, teachers and unions. Campaigners have argued that the council’s proposal is intended to prepare schools for academisation, and are urging people to join their campaign for “locally accountable, creative & fully inclusive schools with qualified teachers for ALL our children” [1].

The decision by the Council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee yesterday (Monday 6 June) comes after Labour Councillor Warren Morgan said in March that the Council leadership would “seek to create a co-operative trust to run our schools”, in response to the Government’s statement that it wants to see all schools become academies [2].

 

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

“Greens wholeheartedly support good partnership working between schools, it’s why in administration we enhanced that working. It has worked well over the last few years as it provides a flexible arrangement tailored to the needs of individual schools.  Although there is always room for improvement, we believe this is best achieved by focusing Council resources on driving up standards rather than devising an entirely new structure for school governance.

“There is no need and certainly no demand from parents for a limited company or other such entity. Should this new structure go through, we are concerned that ultimately, parents may have less say in their children’s education.

“Council officers have stated that these are rapidly changing times, yet the council is now committed to a costly consultation on options that could substantially change before any decision is made.  This is wholly premature and will waste precious Council resources which should be focused on improving attainment gaps and school performance.  Tinkering with school structure is an unnecessary distraction which could be highly damaging to educational outcomes.

“We must continue to work as a city to keep our schools under the management of the local authority.  Campaigns to save schools across the country have already started to have an impact, and will continue to do so. In the city in the recent past at Hove Park and at Varndean, parents, pupils and governors have roundly rejected Academy proposals. Will Labour allow them, and the parents of other schools, to make their own decisions?

“That’s why we are encouraging parents and teachers to oppose the creation of a limited company, co-operative trust or similar structure that will move schools further away from local control.”

 

 

Notes

 

[1]https://handsoffourschoolsbrighton.tumblr.com/post/145196675739/brighton-hove-council-consider-embracing-nicky

[2]http://www.brightonhovelabour.com/labour_propose_cooperative_solution_to_government_s_forced_academies_plan

 

ENDS