£2m to prevent homelessness in Green budget proposals

Grn Cllrs with petitioner John Hadman homeless buildings

Green Cllrs David Gibson, Tom Druitt and Alex Phillips (r-l) successfully campaigned for new homeless shelter with local petitioner John Hadman. Now budget proposals will put £2m of investment into preventing homelessness

The council can bring costly emergency accommodation services ‘in-house’ and reduce rough sleeping, say Greens.

The Green Group of Councillors have revealed budget proposals that fund solutions to the homelessness crisis gripping the city.

Greens are calling on the council to use funding found by their budget proposals to purchase emergency accommodation for people at risk of rough sleeping, an issue currently costing the council up to £4.1m each year in payments to private landlords.

Green amendments in this year’s budget take action to prevent homelessness, provide adequate emergency accommodation, increase Council resources for housing and support for vulnerable people. With costs of such accommodation continuing to rise, Greens want to see public money used to provide services to those at risk of rough sleeping rather than given to private companies.

Proposals also include extra funding to boost the council’s delivery of Housing First, a scheme proven to reduce rough sleeping amongst people who are repeatedly homeless.  With the cost of managing rough sleeping estimated to amount to up to £26,000 per year, studies show that support provided to people through ‘Housing First’ can be up to five times more effective than other approaches.

Greens have challenged the Labour Council’s budget plans for failing to make the most use of resources it has available to expand the supply of housing, as rough sleeping continues to rise and more than 17,000 people are on the waiting lists for council homes.
 

Councillor David Gibson, Green housing spokesperson, commented:

“Too many people in our city are battling rising housing costs, poor quality homes and the risk of homelessness. As Conservative cuts and punitive welfare benefit changes show no sign of abating, housing is an issue the Council quite literally cannot afford to ignore. Currently millions of pounds are spent on paying private landlords to provide emergency accommodation. Previously all parties backed our call to bring this service in-house, a no brainer, as any rental income could be used to provide more support for homeless households at a time of crisis.

 
“On top of this, Greens have identified a budget to support ‘Housing First,’ an approach already proven to end the cycle of rough sleeping for people who find themselves repeatedly homeless. Under the scheme other costs to the police and health services are avoided, making it cost effective too. We are also putting resources into reducing cuts to council estate budgets and into providing Wi-Fi for elderly tenants at risk of digital exclusion.
“If supported, these proposals will have a genuine impact on the housing crisis gripping our city and save money for the future. With rough sleeping having more than doubled under the Labour Council’s watch in the last two years, Greens want to see serious action taken on housing. Our amendments provide a budget to make this a reality.”

 

Greens will be the only party to put forward several amendments to the Council’s budget this year. Councillors vote on the city’s budget at a meeting tomorrow, Thursday 22nd February.

 

ENDS

 

[1] Recent reports from the council’s housing statistical bulletin (quarter 3) show there were 1,666 households in temporary accommodation as of 31st December last year, with 3% placed in costly bed and breakfast (B&B) accommodation.

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Councillors should give up parking perks to plug cut in home-to-school transport, say Greens

Photo credit: the Local Data Company
Green amendments identify £30k from scrapping Councillors’ free car parking spaces across the city

Greens are calling on Councillors from all parties to give up their free parking spaces, saying the money saved could be used to protect home-to-school transport for disabled children.

An amendment from the Greens to the budget meeting on Thursday (22nd Feb) will call on the Council to stop providing free parking to Councillors, who are currently able to use spaces in a city centre and Hove car park at no cost. The Council could stand to save £30k a year if Councillors were prepared to take alternative forms of transport, money Greens say should go back into public services.

The Green amendment proposes this money be used to lessen a planned cut to school transport, a service provided for children who need assistance getting to school.

Councillor Pete West commented:

“It is a highly inappropriate use of public funds to offer free premium parking in commercial car parks to Councillors. The hard pressed working families Councillors are elected to serve will be dismayed. Both town hall car parks are in city central areas, where air quality from traffic pollution is poor. Yet both town halls are well served by public transport and easily accessible by bike and on foot. Free car parking for Councillors is a snub to staff and residents who are already travelling sustainably and are concerned by the health impact of air pollution. It does nothing for staff morale to see Councillors treated with arcane privilege.

“Councillors are rightly entitled to claim for travel expenses they incur as part of their work. Their work requires travel to many places across the city, not just to the two town halls. The option of a bus pass is more than adequate, both in supporting sustainable travel and in sensibly cutting down on the administrative cost of processing travel expense claims. This is not a huge change for Councillors yet will produce a genuine result for communities, and it’s hugely hypocritical of Labour that we’re looking at cutting services for the many and keeping these perks for the few.”

The Council’s own assessment on the impact of home-to-school transport stated that any cuts “may result in some pupils no longer being identified as eligible – or required to provide a contribution to the cost of providing assistance.”  [1]

Greens are also hoping the proposals will encourage Councillors to favour alternatives to car use such as cycling or taking public transport. An additional amendment from the Greens will see a boost to the city’s cycle parking facilities in a bid to encourage a greater use of sustainable transport and minimise poor air quality in the city.

Councillor Alex Phillips added:

“With the Labour Council looking to find £15m of cuts in their budget this year yet again the axe will fall on services that assist those on the lowest incomes or who are in need of extra support. I was shocked to learn that the budget for keeping car parking free for Councillors amounts to £30k when there are other transport options available. That money could be used to lessen the impact of budget cuts – not to support Councillors to drive to work in a city blighted by air pollution and well served by public transport.

“Of course where Councillors have additional needs they should be supported with their own transport but for those who don’t – our proposal is that they give up an unnecessary parking perk to boost the budget for home-to-school transport for some of our city’s most disadvantaged children. 354 children use this service. It will be revealing to see who protests against this amendment after words from both the Labour and Conservative Councillors about ‘putting the city first.”

Greens will put forward a series of amendments to this year’s budget with over £2m found through their proposals, with a vote due at budget council tomorrow Thursday 22nd Feb.

Plea to support Fabrica gallery as fundraiser begins to plug council cuts

Convenor of the Green Group Phélim Mac Cafferty has responded to news that local arts hub and charity Fabrica could face closure as a result of council cuts.

The contemporary arts gallery on Duke Street, which has been in receipt of a regular grant from Brighton and Hove City Council, has now launched a fundraising campaign to plug a £20,000 loss in its funding following council cuts. Despite efforts by the charity to introduce cost reduction measures across the last year, Fabrica now need to fill a gap in finances by the end of March 2018.
#KeepFabrica
The gallery has featured artists such as Anish Kapoor and Brian Eno and also runs a range of community outreach activities and programmes designed to make arts more accessible, including running workshops for children and young people.

Councillor Mac Cafferty has called for support for ‘a cornerstone of art in our city,’ commenting:

“A former dissenter church, where the act of disagreeing through faith has been replaced with bold questions about art, Fabrica is a powerhouse of the local visual arts scene.

“Fabrica’s bold exhibitions has brought us challenging, visually exciting art work. Some of my highlights over the last few years have included: Kaarina Kaikkonen with her shirt sculpture and Janet Cardiff’s magical re-take on the music of Thomas Tallis.

“But Fabrica repeatedly asserts that art is for all too. They helped found Men In Sheds- a project preventing isolation in older men. Fabrica’s outreach work in schools ensures our city’s kids experience art as it is created. Only a matter of weeks ago, Fabrica hosted children from Middle Street Primary School who performed with dancer, Rosaria Gracia.

“22 years after opening its doors, it would be awful to lose Fabrica. This cornerstone of art in our city must survive whatever the perverseness of political austerity. The cultural industries contribute almost £77bn to the UK economy and for every £1 spent on the arts in Brighton and Hove an additional £2 is generated for the wider economy.”

The campaign to keep the gallery open includes a range of local fundraising events, with Fabrica offering a series of incentives in return for a donation such as a film pass or an opportunity to use the gallery space for a day’s event or exhibition.

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/keep-fabrica/

Labour’s Council Tax rises will hit the poorest hard

Green Finance Lead Councillor Ollie Sykes

So it looks like our Labour Council administration will propose a council tax rise of just under 6% for the next financial year. These new bigger bills will land on our doorsteps in March.

Was it really only three years ago that Labour responded to the Greens’ proposals to ask the city for their thoughts on a 5.9% council tax rise, branding the suggestion ‘unaffordable for the hard working residents of Brighton and Hove?’ This new proposal from Labour now brings the total council tax rise imposed under their leadership to around 16%. So much for those hard working residents.

As an aside, in 2015 Labour also promised a freeze in parking charges. Fast forward to 2018 and some parking charges are set to rise by 30% or more in some areas. How things change when you’re in power.

Given the punitive cuts in council funding from central government – almost 40% since 2010 – the fact is that local councils nationwide are finding themselves in the unenviable position of looking at raising Council Tax. Instead of providing a nationally planned, realistic level of funding to under pressure services such as adult social care, the Conservative Government has repeatedly passed the buck to local councils, expecting them to meet rising demand with smaller and smaller budgets.

However, what’s particularly disappointing about Labour’s planned council tax increase is the undoubted impact it will have on poor and vulnerable residents. Brighton and Hove City Council operates a ‘Council Tax Reduction Scheme’ to provide some support to those that have difficulty paying this bill. We know that this is a problem for many residents – council tax arrears have driven more people to seek advice from Citizens Advice Bureaux than any other form of debt.

Greens fought hard to protect the levels of support provided under the Council Tax Reduction Scheme so that poorer residents would not bear the brunt of any increases. Yet throughout their time running Brighton and Hove City Council, this Labour administration have repeatedly increased the amount those on the lowest incomes are expected to pay in council tax by reducing the amount of relief offered under the scheme. Just last summer Labour once again prevented any possible change to the levels of council tax support by blocking consultation on the scheme.

No consultation, no change allowed – that’s the law. People in the city faced with the double whammy of universal credit, high costs of living and rising rent have been frozen out of a discussion on what level of support they might need. Instead, with the same scheme as last year, but a higher level of council tax, people clinging on to their accommodation by their fingertips might be pushed over the edge.

Greens think that council tax is a completely inappropriate way to pay for social care and for many of the other responsibilities of local government, which should be funded from progressive national taxation – such as income tax, or a more equitable local taxation system. Council tax is a regressive tax and is the deeply flawed, hastily implemented fudge resulting from the Margaret Thatcher’s failed Poll Tax experiment, which neither Labour, Conservatives nor Lib Dems have had the courage to address in the 27 years since it was introduced.

Of course we must find a way to prevent further devastating cuts to public services. The bulk of the blame here lies with the Tories – both for relentless cutting of funding for local government and also for passing the buck on basic funding for services to councils. But council tax rises can only go so far in meeting the gap. Our Labour administration should not blithely raise it without considering the impact on the poorest in our city.

Councillor Ollie Sykes is the Green Finance Spokesperson
@Brunswick_Green

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.

EdCarolineVoteGreen (1).jpg

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.

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).

BrightonandHoveBrexitNoM

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