A week ago leader of the council, Warren Morgan spoke of a vision for the city – but his track record leaves me wondering what it is.
Labour started running Brighton and Hove City Council almost two and a half years ago but disappointingly, there’s little sign that the city’s in good hands. Visitor numbers are down and growth in the number of businesses has stalled. Perhaps this is no surprise. Walk from Brighton station as far as the Clock Tower and the empty shop fronts and grime are hard to miss. Graffiti in the city centre is out of control. As a result of Labour’s budget cuts, refuse collection trucks lie in the depot with no staff to drive them. The desperately needed green space improvements at Valley Gardens are way behind schedule.
Two years ago, Labour gave us a manifesto bereft of commitments declaring that they would “Get the basics right.” Residents are suffering from their failure to make that a reality. Labour’s budget cuts saw young people forced to campaign to keep their vital youth services. Flying in the face of public opinion, Labour councillors pursued plans to flog off our natural and cultural heritage – the Downland and Hove Library. The Greens handed over plans for a new school over two years ago but Labour’s dithering means parents are now grappling with impossibly complicated catchment area changes.
If our brilliant city is to survive the political tempests ahead, it doesn’t have to be like this. Greens stopped cuts to youth services and protected our heritage from sale. Our plans to open empty buildings for the homeless were fully supported. We have pushed the Council to offer more genuinely affordable rents, put forward proposals to curb air pollution and demanded a halt to NHS privatisation. Greens recognise that the deluge of Conservative Government cuts mean it’s challenging to run a council but why isn’t Labour fighting back? To do the best for our city, we need a council prepared to challenge cuts and defend services for residents. As cuts are set to continue, residents deserve better than a faulty vision.
Phelim Mac Cafferty is the convenor of the Green Group on Brighton & Hove City Council.