A more ambitious future for East Brighton: Guest blog by Green candidate Ed Baker

Ed Baker lives in East Brighton and is the Green candidate in the upcoming East Brighton by-election on 8th February.

On 27th December Lloyd Russell-Moyle resigned his council seat representing East Brighton. With the election date set for 8th February, the four main party candidates are on the campaign trail.

I’m very proud to have been selected as the Green Party candidate. I’m doubly proud that the Greens have been the only party to field a candidate who lives in the ward.

I’ve lived in Brighton for more than 12 years. In that time I’ve fallen in love with our city. I’ve also been increasingly dismayed by the very visible damage wrought by national austerity policies from a cruel and complacent Tory government.

In 2016, rough sleeping in Brighton doubled. In 2017 it increased by nearly another quarter. This gives Brighton the grim accolade of the largest homeless population outside London. But this crisis is an iceberg – we know there are far more ‘hidden homeless’ sleeping on sofas or in their cars, who aren’t counted among the rough sleepers.

These numbers are greatly upsetting, and should be treated by the Labour-run council as an ongoing emergency. Again, the Greens are leading the way, spearheading an initiative to open council buildings as night shelters.

But to properly resolve our housing crisis, we need more genuinely affordable homes. Pressure from Green councillors has led to new flats in Hollingdean set at affordable rents, linked to a percentage of income rather than market rates. I strongly support this and want to see similar rents applied to more new homes.

The pain caused of austerity politics is felt really sharply in East Brighton, which encompasses some of the most neglected areas of the city. Since 2011 the ward has been represented by six Labour councillors, and now a Labour MP, and still we see cuts to vital services and record numbers referred to food banks. All this while Labour claim to have been focusing on ‘getting the basics right’. This displays a spectacular lack of ambition for our city, with even this low bar missed by a mile. On the doorsteps, residents tell me about their dissatisfaction, and how Labour have taken their votes for granted.

I’m excited to represent East Brighton. Only the Green party have the political courage to properly stand up to Tory cuts, and hold Labour to account for standing by and watching it happen.

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With Green Party MP Caroline Lucas

But the Green vision doesn’t stop at opposition to austerity. Our ambitions for Brighton see the city leading the way as a modern and sustainable place to live and work.

We applaud the more than 50 companies locally who’ve taken the Plastic Free Pledge to abandon the ecological disaster of single-use plastics, and call on the council to do the same.

Air pollution is hugely damaging to our children’s health, and costs the national economy £16bn a year. We imagine a cleaner, healthier Brighton served by an entirely zero-emissions public transport network.

A Green vote in the by-election on the 8th of February is a vote for your local community. A vote for a cleaner, greener, fairer and more affordable East Brighton. It’s a vote for a more ambitious future, because Brighton deserves better than the basics.

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Brexit: What it truly means to ‘Let the People Decide.’

Brighton and Hove City Council has become the first to support a Green proposal for a public say on the terms of any Brexit deal (a so-called ‘Ratification referendum’).
Green Councillor Leo Littman questions whether a ‘hard Brexit’ really is ‘the will of the people.’ 

Who said: “In a 52-48 Referendum this would be unfinished business by a long way,”?

The answer – Nigel Farage.

Farage has now said “maybe – just maybe – I’m reaching the point of thinking that we should have a second referendum on EU membership.”

It’s ironic that just as the ex-UKIP Leader concedes that the British people may deserve to be consulted on their future, the Leader of the official opposition who campaigned (albeit half-heartedly) for the UK to remain in the EU, has set his face squarely against both such a Ratification Referendum and against an amendment supported by the other Opposition Party leaders (e.g the Greens’ own Caroline Lucas MP) to ensure Parliament would have to be consulted before the UK could leave the Single Market or Customs Union.

What this means in effect is that the core of the Labour leadership is refusing to oppose the will of the Tory Brexiteers.

Meanwhile, some of his Labour Party colleagues are highlighting the dangers of Brexit. The Mayor of London, on discovering that the Tory Government has no idea how damaging Brexit would be, commissioned a report showing the billions of pounds that it would cost the British economy.

This report echoes that of Green Party MEP for London, Jean Lambert, which shows the amount London would lose through Brexit.

It’s not only in Parliament or in London that Labour are split on their approach to Brexit. Just before Christmas, Brighton and Hove’s Green Group of Councillors secured a hugely significant victory for democracy, pushing our Council to become the first in the country to formally request a Ratification Referendum. (You can read the terms of what was agreed below).

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Following proposals from the Green Party, Brighton and Hove City Council has become one of the first in the country to back ratification referendum calls

Unsurprisingly, as with all things Brexit, the vote itself was met with confusion and division. Despite an overwhelming majority of Brighton and Hove’s electorate voting to ‘remain’ in the European Union back in June 2016, their local Labour and Conservative representatives still struggle to take on the responsibility of presenting any serious scrutiny or opposition to the Conservative Government’s Brexit farce. Our proposals, called ‘Brighton and Hove and Brexit’ passed 26-25. All the Greens and the Independent voted for; all the Tories voted against; Labour voted 16-5 in favour.

Somewhat bafflingly, one of the Labour Group in the vote ‘leave’ camp called the idea of a referendum on the terms of any Brexit deal negotiated by the Conservative Government ‘anti-democratic.’ He argued during the meeting that those opting to Remain were ‘ruled by fear.’ As I said at the time:

Whilst I agree that we shouldn’t we ruled by fear, fear can also be an intelligent response. That’s why most people don’t run into burning buildings. More and more, as time goes by, we come up against the fact that the vote of 37% of the eligible electorate at last summer’s EU ballot is being taken as Holy Writ by the Conservative Party and, to a very slightly lesser extent, the Labour Party.

The statistics on how damaging our current perilous position is are becoming ever firmer, and, somewhere in the bowels of Whitehall there may exist ‘Impact Assessment Studies’ which show how much worse it would get were we ever to be foolhardy enough to press the ejector-seat button and fire ourselves out of Europe, without so much as a parachute. Or maybe they don’t exist. Or maybe, they do and David Davis is just calling them something different this week. Perhaps, like Humpty Dumpty in Alice Through the Looking Glass: ‘When he uses a word, it means just what he chooses it to mean — neither more nor less’. Who knows? What is certain is that either the Government knows how bad Brexit would be and won’t tell us, or they haven’t even bothered to find out just how much damage it would do. Either way, it makes the work of those of us struggling to cope in the world of Local Government, along with everyone else in the country, increasingly difficult.

Brighton and Hove for Europe outside town hall

Residents form a circle around Hove Town Hall to highlight ‘Brighton and Hove For Europe.’

Clearly, on this issue, neither of the current major political Parties in this country can be trusted with deciding what is in the Nation’s best interests. So, once whichever of them is in charge by March 2019 has cobbled together whatever sort of ‘deal or no deal’ they can; the decision on whether to press that button must lie with the British People.

A ratification referendum is essential once the present lack of clarity and downright obfuscation is over and we know the full impact Brexit would have on Brighton and Hove and the country as a whole.

Even if we, as a Nation, are torn out of the EU; we as a city have made it abundantly clear that we wish to remain part of the European project. We need clarity of our position within the sorority of European cities (known as the Eurocities network) so, we are also asking that our Chief Executive makes this clear to our sister cities in mainland Europe.

Regardless of whether you think Brexit would be good, bad, or indifferent, we all need to recognise that it should only happen if the form it takes reflects the will of the British People.

Democracy doesn’t stop with a vote, it starts with one. Regardless of party position we should be voting to allow the people of this city and this country to determine their own future. Let’s give back control. Let’s let the people decide.

Leo Littman is a Green Party Councillor for Preston Park ward in Brighton and Hove
@prestonparkgrns 

 

Brighton and Hove City Council adopted the following proposals (Notice of Motion) put forward by the Green Group of Councillors::

This Council notes the mounting evidence of damage that ‘Brexit’ would cause to the national economy and trans-European relationships, and the mismanagement of Brexit by the Government.

Council also notes with concern the potential impact of Brexit both on our local economy and on established mutually beneficial partnerships and links with European cities such the Eurocities network.

The Council requests:

  • That the Chief Executive write to the President of the Eurocities Network, Mayor of Ghent Daniel Termont, expressing our desire to continue working with sister cities at this time of uncertainty for the UK, and exploring the status of Brighton and Hove’s membership of Eurocities following any ‘Brexit’;
  • That the Chief Executive writes to Sajid David, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, expressing this Council’s and this city’s strong desire for a referendum on the final terms of a Brexit deal, including the option to maintain full EU membership;
  • That the Chief Executive writes to Hilary Benn MP, chair of the Brexit Select Committee, requesting that he share the full Brexit Impact Assessment Studies with particular relevance to the economy of our city.

Greens react as Labour Council pursues controversial Royal Pavilion and Museums proposals

 

Controversial new arrangements for the Royal Pavilion and Museums Trust have been voted through by the Labour Council despite staff concerns. (See report, below).


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

“As far back as 2015 Greens raised that transferring staff from the Royal Pavilion and Museums into a new arrangement with Brighton Dome and Festival Trust would need to be handled sensitively and through proper, extensive consultation. We said staff would need assurances on the process involved, the living wage, pensions and their terms and conditions. In the last few weeks staff and unions have made it painfully clear that instead of addressing these issues, the Labour leadership of the Council has been asleep at the wheel.

“Coming to committee today, the Leader of the Council claimed to want to ‘take account’ of staff views. But in fact his actions betray that he has dismissed the legitimate concerns of the dedicated and passionate workforce of the Royal Pavilion and Museums who have asked for the process to be halted. Labour has had time to adjust their proposals, but has chosen to plough ahead – a decision that can only see the relationship with staff significantly worsen.

“Failing to engage with staff is far from the Labour Council’s mantra of ‘getting the basics right’ – in fact, it is nothing short of repeat and abject failure to take political responsibility for their decisions.”

1] Report on Royal Pavilion Trust Arrangements as submitted to Policy, Resources and Growth Committee, 25th January:

http://phantom.brighton-hove.gov.uk/Published/C00000912/M00006706/AI00064683/$20180117094648_015870_0055185_FINALRoyalPavilionandMuseumsTrustArrangementsv21.docxA.ps.pdf

Catchment chaos: Greens condemn stress for families as Labour Council u-turn

Greens have welcomed news that the secondary school catchment areas for the city will remain unchanged, following months of lobbying from local parents and students concerned about the negative impact of new proposals.

Local Green Councillors have slammed the Labour Council for failing to adequately manage a ‘chaotic’ schools allocations process, after proposals to change school catchment areas drew intense criticism from parents across the city.

Green Councillor Alex Phillips, spokesperson for Children, Young People and Skills Committee, has criticised Labour for making such a late u-turn and for failing to respond to widespread concerns from parents earlier on in the process.

hertford infants petition

The Green Group of Councillors have supported petitions from parents opposed to planned reductions of form sizes in local primary schools, calling for a proper investigation into the impact of these changes.

Councillor Phillips said:

“After defending their unworkable proposals for school catchments for months, against the repeated concerns of parents, students and Councillors alike, the Labour Council has now done a complete u-turn on their failed school admissions plans. These included deeply unpopular proposals to cripple two of our best performing primary schools, Hertford and Benfield, by reducing them to just one class – hardly a sustainable position; and the pursuit of a deeply flawed set of catchment changes, with seemingly little engagement with the city’s existing secondary schools, who have since offered to extend their intake.

“Whilst the information from the secondary school heads that they were willing to expand their classes is to be welcomed, parents and students in their droves have come time and time again to the Labour Council explaining that their proposed catchment plans were untenable for local communities. It has taken months of banging this drum for Labour to finally listen. Parents will be breathing a sigh of relief, but after months of campaigning, the Labour Council’s belated thanks for their input will not erase the stress this has caused our city’s parents and young people, who have been left in limbo for months.”