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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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.

Greens taking action to halt Downland sales – now let’s push to stop sales altogether

Earlier today, following our amendment that was submitted to Policy and Resources Committee, we have successfully called for a halt to the fast-moving sales of parcels of land in the Downland Estate. We put forward both a letter, setting out clearly why the Downland must be protected, but also two concrete proposals which, supported by the Conservatives, demand that the council look into alternative options to these sales and suspends the disposal process as it stands. (Amendment here, you can also read our letter)

 

We are relieved and energised that our requests to put the brakes on the sales have been accepted by all. We have fought hard to stop these plans despite how far ahead they were in the process. For now, this means that the plans to dispose of two parcels of land of the Downland Estate totalling more than 91.5 acres will not go ahead. But a halt is not enough. What is a fact now is that momentum and support is still needed to ensure we can finish what we have started and reverse the sales altogether.

Like many residents of Brighton and Hove and the surrounding area, we consider the Downland to be a special place that should be treated differently to other council ‘assets.’ It is a stunning area, a habitat for wildlife to flourish and for us to experience the local natural environment. It’s beautiful to look at, and an amazing part of our local environment both for flora and fauna, but it also secretly sustains us in more ways than we realise. Underneath our toes, the Downland also encompasses the ‘chalk aquifer’; – nothing short of a giant natural ‘sponge’ that forms a reservoir providing all the natural drinking water for Brighton and Hove. It is no surprise then that previous civic leaders had the foresight to purchase the Downland and protect it.

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Questions have therefore been rightfully asked about how these sales were made possible in the first place. We recognise that Councillors from all our local political parties sat on the committees that oversaw the original disposal plans and had the opportunity then to oppose them. In the original committees of July 2014 and Feb 2016, where these sales were agreed, the land was identified, not as part of the ‘Downland Estate’ but as a ‘non-core asset’ available for disposal to fund the Stanmer Park restoration and development.

Now we know that the details of the programme of land disposals would have benefitted from greater scrutiny. The Green group of Councillors have always valued the strength and importance of learning how to do things differently and to adapt when new information comes to light. As soon as details about the true nature of these sales became clear, we moved swiftly to act. Most importantly, we have also demanded significant changes to council policy and procedure that will ensure Downland is never again identified as an area suitable for sale.

We will be working with Councillors across all parties to increase protection of our estate which not only provides our water but is also unique for its biodiversity, heritage and landscape. We appreciate the irony that it is the Conservatives who have seconded our proposals, knowing as we do that it is the cuts and austerity policies of their colleagues in central government that force local councils to consider such drastic measures as selling the natural environment. Yet working together is essential if we are to reverse the sales. We believe protecting the natural environment is a task for all of us.

No matter the value, elected Councillors should always be clearly notified of any proposals to sell the Downland.  That’s because the ‘value’ of the Downland is about so much more than ‘money.’ You cannot put a price on nature.

Here is our opportunity to implement positive changes to council policy. I also hope we will lead the way to a change in the ‘culture’ in local government that all too quickly ignores the bounty of our natural environment.

Cuts to youth services

Guest blog by Sue Shanks, co-Chair of the Green Party

The cuts to youth services in Brighton and Hove just announced will mean the end of the local authority youth service and a loss of financial support for several voluntary youth projects. As lead member for children’s services in the last administration I was proud that, under the Greens, we had protected this important service.

I have worked as a youth worker, youth work manager and latterly a tutor on university qualifying courses for youth and community workers. I have published articles and a book on youth work (as Sue Robertson) and  I am still involved in the field as a trustee of youth organisations and an external examiner.

All around the country, local authorities are cutting youth services as they are ‘non statutory.’ Although the local authority is supposed to provide some services, there is nothing laid down as to ‘how much.’

Youth work is a vital service to young people. It provides space for young people, somewhere to go, a friendly adult to build a relationship with, someone to talk to. Plus, it provides activities – something to do. Most of this will be accessible precisely to those who can’t take ‘something to do’ for granted; they may not have the family income to access it.

In the 1960s the Albemarle report led to the building of local authority run youth centres across the country. These were built on the council estates; Hangleton, Moulsecombe, Whitehawk .  I have recently been interviewing past users of the 67 Centre in Moulsecombe for a celebration of its 50 years, and men in their 50s look back on the times they spent at the centre and the trips they went on with real joy.

In the 1980s I ran a youth centre and took young people to the mountains and on trips abroad – these are things their families could not do. Their eyes were opened to ideas and activities they had never experienced. Surely this should not be confined to those young people with parents who can afford it? Parents who can afford it spend large amounts on ferrying young people to clubs, is there to be nothing for our more deprived young people?

The council spends a huge amount on targeted social work services but intervention often comes too late. The impact of youth work was recognised by the council’s own review in 2011: ‘the evidence base clearly shows that youth work can have a positive impact —– reduces destructive behaviours.’ Youth workers help young people through difficult times, signpost them to services, accompany them to court, support them in finding employment or housing and crucially, young people trust the worker because of the relationship they have built up with them – whether on a rock climbing trip or simply over a game of pool.

Open access work means that young people are not stigmatised and can enjoy their leisure time in a safe space with their peers. I feel the council has a duty to support young people who are not necessarily in ‘trouble’, though they may be having difficulties at home or in school. Research by the Youth Collective in August 2015 found that for every pound spent, over £6 is created in social value.

Last November the council proposed that it would no longer provide open access work but that this would be commissioned from the voluntary sector. Following this a decision was taken to set up a Youth Trust, and money was given by the Government under the Delivering Differently programmes to produce a report: its recommendations were never acted upon, which means £35,000 thrown away. The commissioning process was started and was due to end on December 7th. Local voluntary organisations have spent a great deal of time, as have council officers on these processes. This is a huge cost when budgets are tight.

This cut is being made at the worst possible time. Young people are expected to work hard at school, are put under immense pressure and as we know, many end up with mental health issues. Youth work can be a vital lifeline for them. As it is a voluntary service that young people can choose to engage with, they are often more likely to seek help. Youth work provides a safe space for young people; something we all surely deserve.

Joining a youth club, activity or taking part in discussion groups or activities helps young people to make friends and have good relationships with their peers and adults, a vital part of growing up.  Yet again young people in their teenage years and those who work with them are losing resources. Although it may be easier to get protests going about ‘cuter’ causes, we must defend this service.