Phelim Mac Cafferty

On July 23, the Green Party took control of Brighton & Hove City Council. This followed two Labour councillors resigning from their party, making the Greens the largest group on the council. Green councillor Phelim Mac Cafferty is now the leader of Brighton & Hove City Council. Bright Green publishes the text of his first speech as leader in full:

I want to start by remembering the 159 people who have died in the city as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. We owe it to the memory of each of them to use the coming period to work in as unified a fashion as possible.

Right now residents need a council that will focus on getting us out of the crisis. And right now we are concerned about people’s livelihoods and their health.

Greens come into administration when the council’s finances are the worst we have ever known them. Around the country the outlook for local government has never been bleaker with several councils now on the verge of bankruptcy. The pandemic comes on top of almost an entire decade of government cuts.

As a council we have been buying protective equipment and trying to shield some of our most vulnerable residents. We’ve done this at the same time our income from parking, council tax and business rates is considerably down. This means there is a massive hole in the budget. The estimates of loss to our city currently range from £17M to £39M. This is considerably more than the savings the council has had to make in even the worst year of austerity.

I remain deeply concerned about a second wave and the impact on our residents’ health. Most economists are now talking about an historically massive recession. The end of the government furlough scheme will have a huge impact on the city- from people becoming unemployed to businesses struggling. In a city that has thriving culture, hospitality and tourism sectors, we must ensure we weather the storm.

Meanwhile only the least observant would have failed to notice the climate crisis worsening. As we have argued for the last few months of the Covid crisis, now is the time for a green recovery and we stand fully behind initiatives such as the mass insulation of homes, that will do three things: create jobs, reduce our toxic emissions and warm our draughty homes. We will unveil more details of our plans in the weeks ahead. And look to the most inspiring communities around the country to help guide the city out of the worst crisis it has faced since World War II, and give the city the sustainable recovery we so desperately need.

But if there is one thing I know about the special place we all call home, it is the city’s creativity, ingenuity and flair. If there is a place that can respond to this crisis it’s Brighton and Hove. I look to countless examples of when our city has faced its biggest challenges- from the 1987 hurricane, the Dutch elm disease outbreak, to the 2008 crash and know that our resilience and imagination will see us through.

Residents at this time expect all of us to play our part for the city and we will work cross party where possible when it is in our city’s best interests to do so. Greens are united in our determination to see the city through our many current challenges and will work with all parties in order to get this achieved.

I also want to thank Cllr Platts and the Labour group of councillors, for their approach to recent events.

In 2019, in the aftermath of the council elections the city elected many Green and Labour voices. Both parties agreed our shared intent: in areas of the climate crisis, housing and homelessness, the impact of austerity and commitment to equality, we must try to do politics differently, to deliver change for our residents. We have over the past year seen the council’s corporate plan reflect these values, and through joint working the city will soon have a climate assembly and an ambitious programme to provide more affordable homes. From the City Plan to the budget we have endeavoured to put the city first.

We want to continue the dialogue with the Labour Party and work together, constructively, to solve our city’s problems. I also welcome that Cllr Bell has also expressed a desire for all of us to work together in the city’s best interests.

As we have said publicly this week: it is clear neither party can claim a majority to lead our city alone. All councillors – in political parties and not – need to play our part. What’s more, politicians are not the only voices: and this is about fostering a spirit of collaboration across our city.

I want our city to be successful – pandemic or none – and I can give a guarantee this evening that I will leave no stone unturned in the quest to do the right thing for our citizens, our environment and our city. We stand ready to serve the city.

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