A call for the council to support a forthcoming event for small businesses prompted a nostalgic look back at life in Portslade.
Councillor Alan Robins conjured up a picture of the past as he called for Brighton and Hove City Council to participate fully in Small Business Saturday.
He was seconding a motion proposed by the opposition Labour group leader Councillor Warren Morgan during a meeting at Hove Town Hall last night (Thursday 24 October).
And Councillor Robins backed an amendment by Conservative councillor Graham Cox proposing free parking in five of the council’s less well-used car parks in the run up to Christmas.
The motion was passed.
He referred to a recent advert by the campaign group Unchain the Brighton Motorist picturing Councillor Cox with a green face for voting with the Greens on parking enforcement in Elm Grove, Brighton.
In his nostalgic speech Councillor Robins said: “As Dylan Thomas said, I like very much people telling me about their childhood but they’ll have to be quick or else I’ll be telling them about mine.
“Where I was born in Portslade we were the next street down from North Street.
“North Street at that time was full of small independent shops – Goble’s the greengrocers, owned by Mr Goble, Rio’s café, Mrs Masters’ wool shop, Snowie’s, where my mum would send me to buy a block of ice cream that Mr Snow would wrap in a sheet of old newspaper and where he would put our jelly in his fridge to set because we didn’t have a fridge at home, Mary Whittaker’s sweet shopwhere you could buy a quarter (pound) of sweets, a Jamboree bag or a Wagon Wheel.
“This is all over 50 years ago but if I close my eyes I can still see Mr Whittaker behind her high counter.
“I can hardly remember my last visit to Sainsbury’s or Tesco although it was only a couple of days ago.
“Any one of us could tell the same story and remember the small independent businesses we know.
“Some of you would belong to families that own those businesses.
“Small business owners work incredibly hard to keep their businesses going yet as a nation we do not celebrate what small businesses do.
“As Councillor Morgan says, small businesses in this country provide almost two thirds of the private sector jobs and almost half of private sector turnover.
“But we do not cherish them in the same way they do in France or Italy or the USA where the idea of Small Business Saturday began.
“On its own, Small Business Saturday will not change this or transform the fortunes of our small businesses.
“But it gives us all the opportunity to show our appreciation to those who take a risk, set up shop and provide employment in our local community and make sure they get some of the recognition they deserve.
“I would urge you all to support this notice of motion and maybe on (Saturday) 7 December take the time to visit some of the small businesses in our city, be it in the North Laine, Kemp Town, Hove or Portslade.
“And I welcome and support the Tory amendment for free parking on 7 December and a number of Sundays after that.
“In fact, I called for it last year when I asked (Green councillor) Ian Davey almost an identical question as Graham Cox.
“And no one had painted my head green before I did it!”
It’s not the first time that Councillor Robins, one of the youngest opposition councillors, has painted a picture of the past to try to shape the future of local policy.
Small Business Saturday is due to take place on Saturday 7 December.
More memories of North Street from the same era can be found on the My Brighton and Hove website. The web page includes an old postcard view of North Street from the collection of another Labour councillor, Bob Carden.
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