Greens to speak out for public services at weekend anti-cuts rally

Fight against cuts to NHS and other services ‘a matter of life and death’

Green Councillors will march in solidarity with communities defending public services at a public rally organised for this Saturday, October 13th.

Coordinated by Sussex Defend the NHS and the Brighton and Hove Trades Council, the ‘Matter of Life and Death’ march will highlight the devastating impact of cuts on public services, with a particular focus on the NHS. A rally starting at the Level at 11.30am will be followed by a public march to Regency Square.

Organisers have also asked attendees to consider wearing something black, as a symbol to commemorate the hundreds of people who are estimated to have died as a result of cuts to public services.

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, Convenor of the Green Group of Councillors will speak at the event, as will Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion.

Councillor Dick Page, Green Spokesperson for Health and Wellbeing, commented:

“With the Brexit shambles taking up the headlines, we Greens stand alongside all the communities protesting that if austerity is over, why in our city are health treatments being restricted, care support is harder to access, and with less & less GPs, more people are waiting longer for an appointment?

“All local leaders do is issue bland, complacent strategies & action plans. What we need is enough funding for people’s needs, and secure, publicly-provided services.”

Councillor Mac Cafferty, who will address the rally at Regency Square, added:

“Years of brutal cuts have pushed key services to breaking point. Under the guise of ‘savings’, and ‘integration’ our NHS is at risk of being dismantled and sold off to the highest bidder. A third of NHS contracts awarded since Hunt’s 2013 Health Act have gone to the private sector.

“Sadly, the impact of this attack on public services is all too clear. This year, health chiefs at the Royal Sussex County Hospital said staff shortages and high demand led to “the toughest winter” on record. The city now has just one GP to every 2,500 patients. 33,000 nurses left the NHS last year, combined with a 96% drop in applications from the EU as Brexit looms.

“This Saturday I will stand shoulder to shoulder with all of those marching to defend our public services. Whether it’s councils, hospitals or adult social care, so many of the services struggling to meet rising demand are being brought to their knees by a cuts and privatisation agenda. Scandalously, it is residents reliant on local services who will pay the price.”

Saturday’s march will leave from the Level at 12.30 after hearing from local speakers. A rally in Regency Square with further speakers will start at 1.30pm.

http://defendthenhssussex.weebly.com/

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With just 12 years left to limit climate change, Council must oppose new fracking laws say Greens

Council can and must act now say Greens as climate scientists give 12 year ultimatum

The Green Group of Councillors have reaffirmed their call for an end to fracking and called for ‘immediate action’ on climate change following a damning report from the UN on global warming.

DRILL-articleLarge

Leading scientists have warned the worst effects of climate change could be felt as soon as 2030 if no action is taken to limit global warming

A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was published this week, with 91 scientists warning that the planet will reach climate disaster as early as 2030 if no action is taken to curb increases in global warming. According to the report, a rise in global temperature will lead to extreme droughts, food shortages and increased poverty,  with the IPCC calling for ‘unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,’ to minimise climate disaster.

Green Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty commented:

“This report should serve as a painful wake up call. The effects of climate change are already being felt. However the IPCC has concluded that a rise of even half a degree above current global temperatures will herald a climate disaster as soon as 2030. Increases in global temperatures of half a degree could lead to millions exposed to severe drought and plunge us into a food shortage.

“Yet the IPCC have reminded us that we can reverse some of these changes if we take serious action now. That’s exactly why Greens will call for an unequivocal rejection of hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’ at the next meeting of Full Council. It’s never been clearer that our reliance on fossil fuels has to end. With unprecedented levels of change needed, we also repeat our concerns that limited actions by the Labour Council on air pollution and sustainable transport do not go far enough, and call for a serious commitment from this Council to play its full part in curbing global warming.”

 

 

More information:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the leading international body on climate change, and the source of scientific information and technical guidance on the subject to the United Nations. The IPCC published a report on Monday, 8th October, detailing the findings of climate scientists investigating levels of global warming and climate change. The Panel concluded that allowing the global temperature to exceed 1.5 degrees celsius would create a ‘climate disaster,’ causing severe impacts on ecosystems, human health and well-being, and concluded that the worst effects could be felt as soon as 2030 if activities exacerbating climate change continue at their current rate.

It is estimated that a rise in global temperatures to 2°c would lead to an increase in the severity of climate change. At 2°c, insects would be twice as likely to lose half of their habitat; 99% of corals would be lost and flooding would become more common and far-reaching. 

Greens will present a notice of motion on hydraulic fracturing (or ‘fracking’) to the next meeting of Full Council in Brighton and Hove on 18th October. #LetCommunitiesDecide

 

40 years of the rainbow flag: why we still need to wear the symbol with pride

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty

Next weekend marks one of the biggest in the city’s calendar as we come together to celebrate our LGBT community for Pride. As we did for Trans Pride on 21st July, Greens will once again march with all those who stand together for equality and liberation.

This year is also the 40th anniversary of the iconic rainbow flag. Designed by artist Gilbert Baker, the flag was first flown at San Francisco’s Pride march in 1978. Now a celebrated symbol of the LGBT community, it is rooted in activism. Following the tragic assassination of the first openly gay US politician Harvey Milk, demand for the flags soared. Today we wear the symbol with pride – but despite progress, we know that our activism must continue, as 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 partnership between the Conservative Party and the stridently homophobic Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), who have blocked equal marriage in Northern Ireland. The noisy march for equality goes on beyond Pride weekend.

Gilbert Baker with original rainbow flag

Designer of the rainbow flag, Gilbert Baker. The original flag (as reproduced in the image) had 8 colours, including pink.

And this is why: Theresa May’s Government’s continued policy of creating a ‘hostile environment’ for migrants has exacerbated LGBT persecution. Data published by the UK Government last November revealed that thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans asylum seekers have been refused entry into the UK from countries where they will face prison, violence or even death. Not a single applicant from India or Sri Lanka, where homosexuality is illegal, were accepted by the Home Office.

Worse still, asylum seekers have described facing intense discrimination in the process of making their claims, including being asked for explicit pictures to ‘prove’ their sexuality. People whose claims are rejected are then subject to detention centres, places that national charity Stonewall found were “little sanctuary from homophobic, biphobic and transphobic abuse.” In a country where homosexuality has been ‘decriminalised’ we are still locking people up for being LGBT.

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. As we celebrate the progress made in the fight for LGBT equality, we are reminded by the rainbow flag in its 40th year that it is the dedication of campaigners and courage of communities, refusing to be silent, that has made progress on LGBT rights possible.

Greens will continue to campaign for an end to the brutal ‘hostile environment’ policy of this Conservative Government that punishes those already vulnerable for who they love. We will campaign until we have lasting equality both here and abroad.

BHGP Pride 2017 with flag

Marching for equality at Brighton and Hove Pride last year

I wish everyone a safe, happy and sustainable Pride.

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.

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.