At a recent meeting of the Full Council, Conservative councillors tabled a motion calling for Government ministers to ensure that any resident of Brighton and Hove transitioning from the complexity of six separate state benefits onto Universal Credit will have the financial assistance necessary to make the switch as seamless as possible.
Green councillors, sensing that local Conservatives making demands of their own Government was not an easy call to make, courageously supported the motion. Like the Conservatives, they wanted to do the right thing. Sadly, not all Labour councillors felt the same, and let their residents down by voting against it.
It was therefore reassuring to read, as Universal Credit began its roll-out in October, encouraging words from a local Labour MP. Writing on Facebook, he said: “My whole team braced itself for a deluge of casework, but that hasn’t been the case.”
He went on to explain: “Some have been given an advance on their payment to get them by. I spoke to frontline staff to ensure that this is done fairly and swiftly.”
Conservative councillors also called for an end to public sector pay constraint for workers currently earning less than £45,000, while demanding that any increases are funded from new money, and not from existing budgets. We believed that any fair pay settlement should be achieved without impacting services or jobs, including the frontline staff processing the transition to Universal Credit across the city. Yet again the Labour Group did not support our move.
With little obviously linking these events, it is becoming clearer by the day that the local Labour Party is split, with the Jeremy Corbyn shock-troop organisation Momentum vying for control of the local party from the moderate wing of Labour MPs and councillors.
This makes any attempt to reason with ‘local Labour’ almost impossible, but as the leader of the Conservatives locally, I would like to reassure residents that I am always available to meet and discuss any issues of common ground with any local politician that wishes to do so. I am afraid to report that this is becoming more difficult as each day passes.
Tony Janio is the leader of the Conservatives on Brighton & Hove City Council.