Labour and Conservative councillors combined to pass a vote of no confidence in the Green Party at a meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council this evening ( Thursday 30 January).
Twenty nine councillors voted for the motion, twenty one voted against and two – the Mayor Denise Cobb and Conservative member Tony Janio – abstained.
The motion is not binding and the Greens do not intend to stand down.
The motion was proposed by Councillor Warren Morgan, the leader of the opposition Labour group.
He said: “Up until Thursday 16 January, my view was that it was voters who decided who should run this council, not politicians in back-room deals.
“And that the political group with the largest number of councillors had a mandate to run the authority until the next elections.
“However, it should not be forgotten that the Greens in 2011 won just 1 per cent more of the vote citywide than Labour.
“With the largest number of seats it was right that they be given a chance to form an administration and implement their manifesto.
“But having been elected on less than a third of the vote it is right too that they work with opposition parties on major challenges to the council, as with large-scale cuts to our funding and how we set our budget.
“Their actions, in releasing details of their above-threshold (council tax) rise and referendum plan to the national media and to Green activists around the UK before opposition councillors were consulted demonstrates clearly their intent to put party politics first and good governance second.
“They put what they thought would benefit the Green Party over what is right for this council and this city. That cannot be allowed to stand.
“Councillors, once elected, have a basic duty to set a budget and a policy direction for officers to work to.
“Until 16 January, officers and opposition groups alike were working on a budget, put forward by the Green administration, based on a 2 per cent rise.
“Clearly something changed. From the evidence we have it appears likely that the Green left councillors issued the council leader with an ultimatum: ‘referendum or resign’.
“So it was either an attempt to wrongfoot the opposition, an attempt to keep their warring factions together or an attempt to pass the buck for making cuts.
“None of these scenarios is one where the council, the city or our residents is put first.
“It was obvious from the moment the Greens took office that they would need to deal with swingeing cuts imposed by the Conservative government.
“In three years since, they have not taken steps to prepare this council and this city for those cuts.
“Many Labour councils have, even at a time of austerity, and even while forced to make cuts every bit as agonising as those in Brighton and Hove, made real progress where they can in improving the lives of their citizens.
“Faced with the unavoidable reality of cuts, Green councillors have stepped back from hard choices, chosen opposition over administration and walked away from the responsibilities that voters gave them three years ago.
“Time and time again they have shown that they cannot function as a single group and with this latest action they have shown that they cannot lead the city.
“The Greens cannot remain in office without taking the responsibility that comes with it, as they did with the Cityclean dispute last summer.
“They have framed a budget of cuts which they cannot agree on or support so have handed the decision to opposition councillors or even, should it go to referendum, the residents to vote through.
“I say to them you cannot wash your hands of your responsibilities. You cannot use the people of this city to play political games. You cannot pass the cost of Tory cuts on to residents.
“Residents of this city want this to stop. They are tired – tired of the division, tired of the games, tired of schemes they don’t support, tired of basic services not being delivered properly.
“That is why we are moving this motion today, saying to the leader of the council and his committee chairs, stand down, leave office and put your case for re-election to the voters in 450 days’ time.
“We propose a cross-party administration, set up under negotiations led by the chief executive, involving a small group of respected members from across all three parties in the chamber to run the city council until those elections are held.
“It will not be easy. It will require compromises on all sides but it is in the best interests of the city, council services and residents.
“The Green administration says, ‘let the people decide.’
“Labour members are knocking on doors across the city, from Portslade to Patcham to Rottingdean and everywhere in between, and let me tell you, the people have decided.
“Their voice is overwhelming. They want and end to the spin, an end to the political games, an end to the division and an end to this city being a laughing stock.
“They want the Greens gone. They want the Greens gone now. To borrow from Shakespeare, city residents say go, ‘Stand not upon the order of your going, but go at once.’
Responding to the debate, Councillor Morgan said: “It’s appropriate that Green members and supporters have been shouting and booing during this debate because under this Green administration the city has become a pantomime with a cast of Green politicians at odds with themselves.
“I say pantomime. I could equally say farce.
“The farce of voting to cut down a tree, then campaigning to save it.
“The farce of attempting to oust their leader, then denying it.
“The farce of calling in mediators to keep their squabbling councillors together.
“The farce of bins uncollected. The comedy of recycling falling.
“The tragedy of housebuilding rates in this city dropping.
“And all the while the Green MP (Caroline Lucas) runs on and off stage trying to associate or distance herself with whichever Green council action is in that day’s headlines.
“Pantomime, comedy or farce, they are usually funny. Well no one is laughing and no one is enjoying the show except those on the Tory benches hoping that the Green collapse will see them return to office.
“It is time for the curtain to come down on this miserable Green performance. The show’s over.”
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