Brighton and Hove’s leading Green councillor explained why his party would prop up the minority Labour administration until the local elections in May.
At an extraordinary meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council at Hove Town Hall this afternoon (Tuesday 5 March) Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty said: “This meeting is proof that the divided Labour Party has hit the buffers.
“A fortnight ago, Kemptown’s Labour MP, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, in a rather waspish outburst said: ‘Unless something changes in the next few weeks, I believe we are on course to lose seats at the local election to both the Greens and Tories.’
“With one councillor defecting to the Conservative Party and their former leader cutting ties with the group, we are here today because the Labour council has put its internal divisions before the good of the city.
“With Labour in disarray, it falls to the Greens to mop up Labour’s mess and stop the Tory takeover.
“But first, let’s roll back four years and compare behaviours. Virtually every nasty trick in the book was deployed by Labour in opposition.
“They clubbed together with the Tories to cut the sustainability budget. The former Labour leader who, on the one hand, wasted council time and officer money with his no confidence vote but at the same time hilariously said: ‘You cannot use the people of this city to play political games.’ A no confidence vote that incidentally, had no meaning.
“Roll forward four years and I can tell you it would be tempting this evening to stand here and tell you that revenge is a dish best served cold. But I won’t. Why?
“Because the Green group of councillors are clear: our focus remains on delivering for the city and residents. City above politics.
“We asserted this just last week in reversing some of the worst cuts and in injecting an additional £12.5 million to help our city deal with homelessness and climate change.
“Last week’s budget was further evidence that the gruesome Tory austerity experiment is failing.
“We will not allow the architects of Conservative government austerity to take control of the council but neither are we here to prop up a failing Labour administration.
“Neither party is fit to steer our city through the challenges ahead. Greens will support Labour’s amendment because we are concerned that the Tories’ ‘takeover’ bid is about nothing more than derailing safety improvements at our city’s accident blackspot, Valley Gardens – a project that Labour has delayed and taken four years to deliver.
“We cannot allow this to fail and we desperately need this for our residents’ safety.
“And while I might vote to keep out a Conservative administration, I have no confidence left in this Labour administration either.
“Residents are right to feel deeply let down by the Labour Party. From overflowing bins, school catchment chaos, slow action on homelessness, division over Brexit and paper-thin commitments to sustainable transport which has been asserted in not a single square metre of cycle path having been built under their watch, they have failed Brighton and Hove.
“While Labour and the Tories seek to embroil the city in further chaos, weeks away from council elections, we know our residents need confidence in council services.
“At a point in time when our City Tracker survey tell us our residents are losing faith in council services, we don’t think our council should be dragged through this crisis because one councillor has had enough and another councillor has defected.
“In just eight weeks, residents will have their opportunity to tell us who they want to run the council at the local elections.
“Quite frankly, given the mess on both sides of the council chamber, there’s never been a better time to vote Green.”
His fellow Green councillor Leo Littman said: “We find ourselves facing a choice. On the one hand there are the authors of austerity, the plunderers of public service funding, the creators of cuts, the government’s little cheerleaders, our local Tories, desperate to take back control, despite the fact the public never voted to let them have it.
“On the other hand, the hopeless, hapless, headless and heartless remains of what was once a Labour administration, clinging on to power but no longer remembering why.
“Two totally unedifying options: atrophication or disruption. Leave the tiller of the city under the dead hand of Labour, or hand the wheel to those who’ve been trying to sink the ship for the last ten years.
“Genuinely, a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. But … here’s a stroke of luck. The vagaries of electoral numerics have handed this distasteful decision to us – the Green group.
“So, unpleasant as the choice is, at least it’s being made by those among us who have the good of the city at heart.
“We won’t choose the option which suits us best, out of a desire for short-term political gain. We will vote for the option we think does the least harm to the city we love.
“Have no doubt, the Greens are the grown-ups in this room and we will not let the current childishness in the chamber prevent us from doing the right thing for the residents of Brighton and Hove.
“We believe we are making the right decision for the city now – and trust that the city will make the right decision in May.”