Brighton & Hove Labour For the many, not the few
At Budget Council on Thursday, Labour Councillors won support for our amendment to re-allocate £1.1million of funding, originally ear-marked for the ill-thought out Hanover & Tarner LTN project, and invest it into the refurbishment of public toilets around the city.
We have listened to our residents who have told us the LTN has been poorly consulted on and poorly conceived, and to our residents desperate for investment in basic services over vanity projects.
We campaigned with residents to force a Green u-turn on plans to close public toilets, but we want a firmer commitment to bring them up to scratch and so found £1.1million in the budget allocation process to invest in refurbishments and repairs.
The intentions of our amendment were simple; keep public toilets open, retain funding for road safety measures on boundary roads such as Elm Grove, Queens Park Road and Egremont Place, and force a rethink on the controversial LTN.
However, there’s been some myths being touted by the Green Party regarding this funding allocation, which we will clarify here…
“Weren’t public toilets already saved?”
This has been an attack line used by Green Councillors, that by u-turning following public pressure on their plans to close public toilets, investing further in them is unnecessary as they’ve “already saved” public toilets. The Labour Group disagrees. There was still not enough funding allocated to the refurbishment of public toilets in the Greens’ budget plans, and frankly the administration has lost credibility in this area, making the Green Leader’s claims that they will “try and open as many public toilets as possible from March 2023” difficult to believe. By allocating more funding to the restoration of these basic services, we are confident we can ensure more public toilets are actually re-opened for the good of equalities, public health, our local businesses and our visitor economy.
“What about the funding for Boundary Road improvements?”
Another attack line used by the Green Party is that by re-allocating £1.1million from the LTN budget to refurbishing public toilets that they tried to close, Labour are removing funding ear-marked for making boundary road improvements requested by residents in Hanover and Elm Grove. Again, this is untrue. The Hanover & Tarner LTN budget for 2023/24 in the Greens’ proposals was £2.1million. This was £2.1million to proceed with their poorly designed LTN scheme, and to address local residents’ concerns about boundary road improvements. Labour re-allocated £1.1million into public toilets, meaning £1million remains in the budget to make road safety improvements on boundary roads including Elm Grove, Queens Park Road and Egremont Place. Now, Budget Council is a resource allocation process, not a policy design process, so it will be for the Environment, Transport & Sustainability Committee to decide on the use of the remaining £1million, but Labour’s position is clear – spend it on the boundary road safety measures residents have asked for, not on ploughing ahead with the ill-thought out LTN. If the Greens try and ditch the boundary road improvements and invest all of the money into their LTN despite clear public resistance, we will challenge them at committee.
“Is that funding not ring-fenced Government grant money?”
We’ve heard many in the Green Party accuse us of jeopardising government grant funding by investing in public toilets, and suggesting that we have raided ring-fenced funds. This is untrue. The £2.1million the Greens had set aside for the Hanover & Tarner LTN and boundary road improvements in 2023/24 was all capital borrowing. This was confirmed by Council finance officers and in their own budget papers. None of this is grant funding, none of it is government money. Re-allocating a portion of this funding (which was all to be raised by capital borrowing), would then have no impact on any existing or future bids for government grants.
“Does this mean Labour are against LTNs?”
Green politicians have attacked us in recent days, saying our budget amendment shows we are against Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in general, and are not committed to combating the climate crisis. This is simply not true. We’ve been arguing in committee for two years that the council should work with residents in designing a citywide 20-minute neighbourhood strategy developed in consultation with communities that want and need them in Brighton & Hove. Instead, they have focussed on ploughing ahead with one poorly designed LTN in Hanover & Tarner. We’ve been arguing in committee for two years that the council should collate residents’ traffic-calming petitions and publish a citywide road danger reduction strategy. This has never come forward, and instead they are only now reacting to residents’ calls for road safety improvements on boundary roads. We are not against the principle of low traffic neighbourhoods – we’ve backed residents in committee time and again in various calls for traffic calming measures in different parts of the city – we just don’t support poorly designed LTNs in the wrong places where residents evidently don’t want them. The Climate Assembly we set up was clear that we must listen to and work with communities in delivering carbon reduction measures. If we as a council ignore residents and work against communities, we are doing policy to people not with them, and the climate-related intentions of said policy is totally undermined.