How a tumultuous Labour administration failed Brighton and Hove and brought shame to our city

Posted On 30 Aug 2020 at 12:05 am

Councillor Steve Bell

Last month’s collapse marked a shameful end for a Labour administration that destabilised the city, brought Brighton and Hove into disrepute and consistently let its residents down.

Labour ultimately fell after failing to live up to its promise to be an anti-racist council and amid the council leader facing a call to resign from the spokesperson for Labour Against Anti-Semitism.

This tumultuous administration, which lasted little more than a year after the local elections on Thursday 2 May 2019, was characterised by resignations, apologies, broken promises, financial mismanagement and weak leadership from start to finish.

Broken promises

Labour repeatedly broke its trust with the people who elected it, with its broken promises hurting our city’s most vulnerable time and again.

Its decisions led to a collapse of the home to school transport service, putting children with a disability at risk and culminating in Labour facing an independent investigation from the Local Government Association.

Another such investigation may well be on the cards after reports that disabled groups were not adequately consulted by Labour on the discriminatory road and cycle lane changes recently introduced that reduced disability access to the beach front.

And in the process, while Labour said in its manifesto it would “protect and support the many small businesses that ensure the strength of our city during times of economic uncertainty”, Labour instead left traders in Madeira Drive struggling to pay their council tax and make ends meet with Brighton and Hove languishing as a “below average” resort a tourism survey of Britain’s seaside towns.

Labour let down council house tenants by rediverting millions of pounds in the housing repairs budget on administrative changes to bring the service in house, and then added insult to injury by abandoning its promise to build 500 council houses.

And while Labour promised voters in its manifesto that it would provide more public open space in the city for residents, presumably including those without gardens, it instead pushed through plans to build on 16 ecological sites in the urban fringe despite there being no need, with the council leader breaking her own promise to her constituents to oppose any proposals for the development of urban fringe land at Whitehawk Hill along the way.

Resignations and apologies

Labour’s constant failure to deliver for the city resulted in eight public apologies in a little over 12 months, culminating in Labour’s finance spokesperson saying he was ashamed of being a Labour councillor.

The series of resignations included Labour’s deputy leader, who stepped down following public scrutiny of his comments on education, and of course the three Labour councillors who resigned because of alleged anti-semitism.

Labour’s mismanagement of the city’s finances meant it had to put council tax up by the maximum amount possible at the budget, hitting taxpayers hard.

The scale of taxpayers’ money lost on failed schemes was staggering

  • £1 million lost on the home to school transport service
  • further millions wasted bringing the council’s housing repair service for tenants and leaseholders in house, which is now subject to strike action
  • a £3 million total overspend at Cityclean in the two years to the end of March, including an £11,000 a week bill to fix Labour’s mismanagement which led to rubbish piling up the streets over the new year

And the city is still paying £1,200 a day for Labour’s interim housing director brought in following officer resignations.

Weak leadership

Most damagingly for our city, while Labour claimed in its manifesto to be a party that sustained a reputation for Brighton and Hove as being the most inclusive city in the world, it left office having blatantly and unforgivably failed to meet its pledge to be an anti-racist council.

Labour’s council leader did not properly stand up to anti-semitism when it occurred in her administration, appearing to put power before anti-racism, with councillors suspended and under investigation for anti-semitism remaining in her group.

In doing so, the council leader failed to back up her own words at the budget – that Brighton and Hove is a city that is “inclusive and welcoming to all”.

Politically, the council leader failed to provide leadership in her own party, not commenting or providing clarification when the press reported on a document outlining infighting and bullying in the Labour Party in which she was mentioned many times – and attracting anger for apparently not listening to democratic motions of over 50 per cent of Labour branches opposing the development of Whitehawk Hill.

The fact that Labour collapsed over alleged anti-semitic racism and ended with the shame of the leader of our city council being called upon to resign by the spokesperson for Labour Against Anti-semitism is a stain on our city.

It has attracted national attention and damaged the reputation of Brighton and Hove to an extent that will be hard to recover from.

The final blow

In the end, seven Labour councillors rebelled when the council leader tried to desperately hold on to power through a power-sharing agreement with the Greens.

These councillors knew the game was up and the dysfunction had to come to an end.

This council needs a leader and councillors with the strength and integrity to stand up to racism of all kinds.

It will be a long time before the people of this city put their trust in Labour to run their city council again.

Councillor Steve Bell is the leader of the Conservative group on Brighton and Hove City Council.

  1. Jon Reply

    Another miserable Tory councillor ranting with nothing constructive or positive to say.
    There are hundreds of volunteers in Brighton who have tried to support others during a difficult time. He could have written a column about some of them to give a group some publicity. Couldn’t be bothered

    • Robin Hislop Reply

      Yes, it’s a bit rich to have a Tory councillor taking Labour to task for not building enough council houses.

      • Rolivan Reply

        Just think how many could have been built with the 10s of millions ‘lost,squandered or stolen’ in the last 10 years.

    • MYSELF Reply

      We’re not in am election cycle( mores the shame) so is there a reason why you’ve suddenly become a political platform distribution node for all and sundry all of a sudden?

      • Rolivan Reply

        I do not know how long you have been reading on here but as far as I am aware there has always been a place for Politicians to air their opinions almost on a weekly basis.

  2. Paul Hove Reply

    Three councillors resigned one anti semitism, and so they should have done. However NO councillors (Labour and Greens) have resigned over their continued persecution of disabled people.
    Disabled lives matter too. The council’s actions fall foul of the Disability Discrimination Act, but I bet no-one is prosecuted.

  3. John Reply

    Has there been a command from Tory central office ( Cummings) for Tory councillors to write whinging columns every week but don’t mention: Covid, death rates, the imminent recession, PPE contracts or crashing out of the EU.
    Stick to bins, bikelanes and calling opposition councillors racist

  4. David spear Reply

    Let’s face it…has anybody done any arithmetic? Look at every house in your street then multiple what you pay with the others. That’s just your street. Brighton is no different to any other town or city. People are prepared to put with it.

  5. Karen edwards Reply

    I thought this was a news outlet. This is not news. This is a party political broadcast dressed up as news.
    The fact it was written by a member of a particular political party should have been made clear at the beginning not the end.
    Then I could have put it in context as I read.
    Also giving it the title ‘opinion’ should not excuse you from fact checking the ‘article’ before publishing it

    • Sal Reply

      It clearly says ‘By Steve Bell’ under the headline and ‘Opinion’ tag, and it also explains who he is at the end of the article. It’s in a section clearly marked ‘Opinion’. And I came to it from Facebook where it said, ‘In an opinion column, Conservative councillor Steve Bell spells out his take on the collapse of the council’s Labour administration.’ I’m not sure how much clearer this news and comment website could have made it!

    • Shaz Reply

      Karen, what facts need checking? In essence, Steve Bell is merely pointing out the racist attitudes towards Jewish people, highlighted in several news stories on this website, which led Labour councillors to resign or be suspended, and for 3 candidates to stand down or be suspended by the party before the local elections could take place last year. The resignations led directly to the party handing power to the Greens.
      The growing evidence of discrimination against the disabled has also been well documented on this website and I’m surprised it’s not the subject of legal action or, at the very least, a formal investigation under the Equalities Act.
      And Mr Bell sets out the case against Labour for financial mismanagement, but he doesn’t mention other examples like the parking money. I followed the story of Coin Co on this site. £3m-plus in cash was taken from parking meters and schools and effectively stolen. It hasn’t been recovered and no one has been prosecuted.
      The problems at the Hollingdean depot still haven’t been sorted out even though some details of the bullying, theft and corruption there have started coming to light.
      If anything, Mr Bell looks like he might have been pulling his punches by sticking to the most obvious and blatant examples.

  6. Nathan Adler Reply

    Labours record is shameful when it comes to both Home to School Transport and now no sort of consultation with disability groups on these ‘temporary’ covid changes. For it to really challenge in three years it needs to route out the hardcore momentum members in its party and hope the electorate keeps blaming the Greens for these initial cycle lanes.

  7. Tintin Reply

    Years ago it would have seemed inconceivable that a local council could turn a lovely city like Brighton and Hove into a dump, but, between them, both Labour and the Greens have managed to do this with breathtaking ferocity. They have managed to do more damage than Hitler did with the Luftwaffe, and the chaos is still going on.

    • Christopher Hawtree Reply

      Er, a great deal of damage was done with the crass buildings in the Sixties – when there was also a proposal to trunk through the North Laine.

      You casually mention Hitler. What you need to think about very hard is the fate of people here had he not been fended off by pilots who flew across the Downs eighty years ago (many of them dying).

      It is one thing to type into a computer keyboard; another to clamber into a small cockpit.

      What are you doing with your life? Does it have meaning?

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