If you missed Labour leader Councillor Nancy Platts’ Argus column this week rounding up the recent Full Council meeting, you can read it here:
As regular readers of my columns will know, I try to report back to residents with a summary of Full Council for those who’ve missed it, and that’s what I thought I’d use my column for this week.
One key function of these Full Council meetings is they give opposition councillors the opportunity to question, scrutinise and hold the Administration to account. Labour councillors submitted a range of questions raising concerns on behalf of residents on issues such as affordable housing, safety on Madeira Drive, the vaccination rollout, green spaces, cycle lanes, rough sleeping and waste disposal.
I used my question to raise concerns about the proposed development of the Gasworks site in the east of the City.
The developers plans include building 600-700 homes; however, they have so far, been unable or unwilling to say how many of these will be affordable. I asked what the Leader of the Council will do to ensure that any future development of the Brighton Gasworks site includes 40% housing that is genuinely affordable to local people.
Local residents are concerned that current plans show the Gasworks site will be over-developed and marketed to line the pockets of overseas investors and property speculators who will leave properties empty for much of the year, creating a monolithic and soulless environment. I asked how the Leader of the Council thinks the proposed development will benefit the local community.
Disappointingly, both my questions were delegated to another Councillor who was unable to fully answer them. I await a written response and hope the Green Administration will stand up for local people. As I’ve said time and again, new developments will do nothing to meet the desperate housing need in our city unless they include homes that local people can afford to live in.
Later in the meeting, there was cross-party support for the council’s efforts to be reaccredited with ‘City of Sanctuary’ status. Maintaining this status and advancing equalities and inclusion in the city is a central priority in Labour’s council plan, and I take pride in Brighton & Hove being a welcoming and diverse city. Whilst in administration we made the pledge to become an actively anti-racist council, and we are working cross-party towards that goal.
The next item on the agenda was an update on accommodation for rough sleepers and homeless people through the pandemic – where I was proud to vote in favour of the council formally adopting the Homeless Bill of Rights. Whilst not legally binding, the Bill of Rights ensures those driven to rough sleeping are not automatically treated as a nuisance or a criminal but are treated with dignity and respect.
The fact we are even debating a Homeless Bill of Rights is down to unforgivable policy failures on the part of the Conservative Government. Low wages and precarious work have been exacerbated by the Government actively undermining trade unions. Welfare benefits are insufficient to live on. There is a dire shortage of affordable housing, overcrowding and a lack of protections for renters in the private sector. Successive Conservative Governments have created a perfect storm which has seen homelessness skyrocket, and they need to act now.
Labour worked cross-party to ensure the council reaffirmed its commitment to the ‘Hands off Moulsecoomb Primary School’ campaign. We stand with the parents, staff, unions and community in opposing the forced academisation of the school. We are clear that there should be no academisation without community consent, and with 96% of parents voting to keep Moulsecoomb Primary within the Brighton & Hove family of schools, alongside the vibrant community campaign against academisation, it is safe to say there is no community consent. We are again calling on the Secretary of State to listen to our community and revoke the academisation order.
Labour worked collaboratively to win support for plans to lobby government to provide more welfare assistance and funding to help councils support the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children. We tasked the Administration with publishing a report outlining the impacts of Covid-19 and lockdown on children and young people across the city and what additional support can be provided. We suggested including free school meal provision through the school holidays, concessionary fares and free travel, and rebuilding youth community support networks post-Covid. The government urgently needs to provide sustainable long-term funding to provide a better safety net for the most vulnerable children.
I’ve always said we are willing to work cross-party in the best interests of the city, and we proved that again last week.
Councillor Nancy Platts
Leader of the Labour Group
Brighton & Hove City Council