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.

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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.

Brighton and Hove Labour Council Leader resigns: comment

Greens have responded to news that the Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, Warren Morgan, has resigned.

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

“Labour’s Council leader has been ousted by his own divided party. But look around the city and signs of Labour’s self-implosion are everywhere. Graffiti, grime and litter have spiralled out of control. Plans for the Royal Pavilion are in tatters. School catchments reversed after huge public outcry. Despite pledging to end rough sleeping, Labour has failed to get a grip on homelessness, as temperatures plummet.

“At last week’s budget Labour made a deal with the Tories to pass on £12m of cuts while hiking Council tax by 6%. Labour voted down Green proposals to reverse cuts and provide more emergency homeless accommodation.
Instead of opposing Conservative austerity, plots to boot out their leader have been given priority.

“Greens are focused on making Brighton and Hove a city fit for the future. Our concern, is as ever, for residents, who will continue to suffer the consequences of the Labour party’s incompetence.

“What should worry everyone is that the favourite to replace Warren, Dan Yates, as Labour’s lead on health has made no effort to oppose cuts and the privatisation of our precious NHS. Everyone who supports our health service will be alarmed to hear this. Tweedledum will be replaced by Tweedledee.”

 

In a blog post on his resignation, Warren Morgan stated he “would have wished to lead the Labour group […] However, the local Labour Party and others have made it clear they do not want me to do so.

Greens call on Labour to reconsider bins plan

March 18th, 2016

Greens have expressed their concern over a consultation currently underway to introduce communal bins into historic seafront squares in the city.

Greens say the Labour administration has made it clear their preference for communal bins, and are concerned that the consultation will be ignored if it shows a lack of support.  Greens say Labour has failed to make a compelling case for changing the current system of collecting from basement wheelie bins.

At the latest meeting of the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability committee, Greens put forward an amendment for the consultation to include the option of keeping the current system, however this was defeated by Labour and Conservative councillors.  As a result, the consultation makes the assumption that the present system will be changed, and asks residents whether they prefer to use communal bins or leave rubbish sacks out on the streets overnight for collection.

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Brunswick Square, where residents fear communal bins will detract from the heritage value of the areq

Green Councillor Ollie Sykes, of Brunswick and Adelaide ward said:

“After a protracted engagement period with residents, the Labour council has completely failed to listen to their concerns or make a compelling case for why the current system needs to be changed beyond vague health and safety concerns.  They have shown no willingness to work with residents to address any health and safety issues or improve the current system.

“Labour’s track record on consultation is very poor, with consultations on children centres and youth services showing over 87% of people opposed to cuts, but Labour continuing with its plans regardless.  We are not convinced this consultation will be any different, and are concerned that the Labour Council has already made up its mind.

“Currently Labour is living up to its reputation as the Council that doesn’t listen.  There is a better option.  As ward councillors, Greens can help Labour to engage properly with residents and come to a joint solution that works for everyone.  It’s time Labour stopped trying to work against the city”.