How do we secure an economic future for Brighton and Hove, the city region and the South East? How do we create the environment in which businesses can grow?
How do we build enough affordable homes so that the people working in those businesses can afford to live here? And how do we ensure our local, regional and international transport infrastructure is up to the job?
This week and next I am in meetings with council leaders from across the region and at events in the city which will grapple with these huge challenges. As the voice for our city on the Economic Partnership, the Greater Brighton Economic Board, the Coast to Capital Local Economic Partnership, and in the South East 7 group of top-tier authorities, it is my job to ensure our priorities are put to Government, and to take a role in ensuring that all of these organisations are working together towards shared goals.
The Local Government Finance Settlement from the Government before Christmas gave us little help in these and other challenges. The only potential new money for local councils came in the form of allowing yet another increase to council tax, meaning even higher bills that originate from Whitehall and not town halls. Even that allowed tax increase will not cover councils’ rising social care costs, or the minimal increase in council staff pay the Government has approved but not funded.
I want our city to be a prosperous one that survives the shock of Brexit, that builds an economy where everyone can benefit from jobs that pay more than enough to cover food and housing costs. A city where we can afford to look after the vulnerable, where the healthcare system can cope, and where the council can provide the kind of decent services people expect.
There was little in the Finance Settlement or this week’s reshuffle to make me think that the Prime Minister and her Cabinet really understand the challenges we face, or have any real plans on how to solve them. Nevertheless I will, in the myriad of groups in which we participate, work hard to get the best deal for Brighton and Hove, for our economy, homes, jobs and services.
Cllr Warren Morgan is the Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council