Our political rivals talk the talk on the environment but their inaction speaks louder than words

Posted On 31 Oct 2019 at 9:53 am

We all want to do more to protect the environment: as individuals, as part of the organisation we work for, or for our community.

So when Greens found £190,000 to pay for more council capacity to work on reducing emissions, protecting and enhancing wildlife and wider sustainability work, we expected that this would be welcomed and swiftly acted upon by the Labour council administration.

Especially as Labour supported our budget amendment that provided the extra cash in February this year.

Unfortunately, despite the council having unanimously agreed to declare climate and biodiversity emergencies not long ago, following a lead by the Greens, very little seems to have done with this extra money in the intervening eight months.

As the author of the budget amendment, I was naturally interested in progress in recruiting the promised new staff and developing projects.

So I asked a question about this at a meeting of the full council on Thursday 24 October.

The answer from the chair of the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee frankly shocked me.

I had to check the webcast recording to confirm that what I was hearing was the same or very similar to discussion papers in March 2019 on the possible use of extra funds towards sustainability work.

So eight months on and no progress. No new staff were in place or projects started.

Meanwhile, our council ranks 252nd out of 339 councils in a list of climate-friendly councils, according to Friends of the Earth.

And our council’s published Sustainability Action Plan covers the period from 2015 to 2017.

In the context of the environmental challenges we face, that’s unacceptable.

The money is there as agreed by council eight months ago. The need for urgent action is clear to all of us.

Ollie Sykes

The need for staff resource is evident, after Labour and Conservatives in opposition slashed the sustainability team by £150,000 when Greens were in power.

There is absolutely no excuse for sitting on this money and doing nothing.

Nationally, Labour and Conservatives talk the talk on the environment. Locally, their action – or in this case inaction – speaks louder.

Ollie Sykes is a former member of Brighton and Hove City Council and the Greens’ parliamentary candidate for Hove.

  1. Rolivan Reply

    I thought Ollie Sykes stood down from being a Councillor because he was going to be working out of the area.Yet he is prepared to stand as an M.P.How did he vote on the funding for the doomed i360 as I think he was on the Committee at the time?

    • Karen Jones Reply

      The i360 has turned a shabby, derelict area into a thriving, attractive zone for tourists and families. It has also helped regenerate Preston Street which has transformed in the last two years which was one of the objectives of the project. Frankly, Ollie would be a far better MP than Peter Kyle as at least he isn’t standing for the anti-semitic nasty party. He was also hard-working as a councillor. Who cares whether he voted for the i360 or not.

      • rolivan Reply

        Equally if 36million had been put into The Madeira Terraces which the Council own and are responsible for then that area would have had a boost especially with up to 10,000 visitors using the soon to be built Entertainment and Conference Centre.
        As for the regeneration of Preston St I would think most of it is in Private hands so why should Council Taxpayers be subsidising it.
        I had the opportunity to speak to David Marks R.I.P. and Julia Barfield and they were adamant it would be able to have enough visitors to pay the loan back.Strangely enough She said Kings House should never have been sold.

        • Christopher Hawtree Reply

          The money was made available nationally for the i360 (which I think should have a snappier name, there is too much use of i, it’s stale); and so reference to the Terraces does not bear on it (good as it would be to address these).

          • Rolivan

            I realise it was funded by a Government loan,my point is that if the Council were able to put forward a business case for the i360 then why not for the redevelopment of the Madeira Terraces.The Council hopefully are receiving Business Rates from Brighton i360 Holdings things have gone very quiet at The West Pier Trust also.

  2. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    Similarly, with £121,000 returned to Libraries at February’s Budget, cllr Robins was evasive when I asked a Question about it at the same Meeting. Previously, cllr Knight had told me that this would be a discussed at a Committee but nothing happened. And now cllr Robins trotted out a list of things, but dodged the Committee aspect. When I followed this with a Supplementary Question about cllr Knight’s having said that a possible use of some of that money would be to fund a suvey of readers for the Libraries Plan, cllr Robins ignored this and by way of Reply merely told the other Councillors that there is a meeting for them this month if they want to go. As we have seen before, he is simply not on top of his subject, he does not take a meaningful interest in it. Cllr Knight’s reply three months gave one hope, but with Libraries now returned to cllr Robins I fear that we are back in the dark days – as Ollie Sykes has shown with regard to environmental matters.

  3. Rob Heale Reply

    The “Green” Party on this Council have a poor record on environmental issues. Recycling rates FELL under the “Green” Party. Traffic congestion has INCREASED. The “Greens” opposed Park and Ride Schemes. The Greens wasted huge amounts of resources on the LOSS-MAKING i360.

    • Christopher Hawtree Reply

      I think you are a LibDem in the habit of writing to the Argus?

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