How the Green Party is transforming Brighton & Hove
In July, Green councillors in Brighton and Hove became the largest party on the council and the second Green administration in the city began. Despite winning the popular vote in May 2019, until this point we had been the official opposition, with one seat less than Labour’s 20. This all changed in July, when two Labour resignations made us the largest party.
Taking over in the midst of a global pandemic, when council budgets were stretched more than ever, was never going to be easy.
In less than six months since, we’ve made huge progress for the city. We’ve bought together key partners in the city to coordinate our response to the pandemic. We’ve won huge funding bids to tackle rough sleeping. And it’s only just beginning.
Below I’m highlighting just some of our achievements so far. You can read more about our achievements in our first 100 days here.
Ensuring climate action
In October, we held our first Climate Assembly, and the country’s first ever youth assembly alongside it. Bringing together 50 residents, with the support of climate campaigners and experts, we asked what transport changes we could make to reduce toxic emissions by 2030. The findings from this assembly, which will be published in January, will help inform our carbon neutral plan so we can meet our carbon neutral 2030 goal.
But while we’re waiting, we haven’t rested on our laurels. We’ve introduced new walking and cycling measures. We’ve rewilded Waterhall golf course. We’ve opened a brand new city centre park; something that started under the last green administration and has 135 new trees, 1300m2 of wildflower meadow and 560m of new segregated cycle routes. We’ve introduced road closures outside of schools. And we’ve launched a £100k community carbon reduction fund, so community groups can apply for council funding for projects that reduce carbon emissions.
Tackling rough sleeping
After the government mandated that councils bring ‘everyone in’ earlier in the pandemic, we continued to offer this support. Currently every rough sleeper in the city has been given an offer of temporary accommodation, while we work hard on securing a permanent place for them to live.
This permanent place includes the introduction of more ‘housing first’ placements – first introduced under our previous administration. This is as a result of a successful multi-million pound bid to the government and means we have surpassed our manifesto pledge to treble the number of placements available.
We’re also working on providing new affordable council homes. In the summer, 30 new council homes were finished early. And we agreed new terms to our partnership with Hyde Housing which will see cheaper rents and 350 new council homes.
Fighting for fairness
We agreed a strategy which has created our pathway to becoming an anti-racist council. This included one of our manifesto commitments – appointing a representative from a BAME community to the council’s powerful Policy & Resources Committee. We also agreed to create an anti-racist schools strategy and are currently working on this with the newly-formed Brighton and Hove Educators of Colour Collective.
We’ve campaigned for a Universal Basic Income, becoming one of many councils who’ve declared their support for a local trial. We’ve also supported the anti-harassment club, an activist group in the city who campaign on gender-based street harassment. And we’ve agreed to become the first council to sign up to the ‘Power of Youth’ charter.
Local response to the pandemic
Following the disastrous performance of private companies chosen by the government to deliver a test and trace system that isn’t working, we’ve been campaigning for the resources and support for local contract tracing.
To tackle the pandemic, we established regular partnership meetings with city leaders, MPs, NHS and universities among others to help manage the Covid-19 pandemic and ensure collaboration and sharing of information. We also pushed for the council to develop a stronger support offer and analyse the impact on arts and creative industries as well as the community and voluntary sector. Greens also requested the government conduct a review into the impact on Covid-19 on the wellbeing of citizens.
Preparing for Brexit
We’ve been at the forefront of campaigning against Brexit for a long time. Following a Green motion, we were the first council to declare support for a people’s vote. Despite our disappointment of the outcome of the referendum, we put preparation in place to ensure the council was prepared and resilient for whatever the effects of Brexit are on our city.
In opposition, we ensured the council purchased scanners to help residents with settled status applications. In administration, we’ve continued to ensure EU citizens feel welcome. All households in the city received a postcard asking any EU citizens within to apply for Settled Status.
This is just the beginning of what we hope to do for the city. We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved in our first few months. We’re looking forward to what comes next.
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Image credit: Brighton Guy – Creative Commons