OPINION

We need action, not more talk on budget night

Posted On 25 Feb 2021 at 12:53 pm

Whenever you talk to fellow residents in Brighton and Hove the issues that come up invariably relate to the poor state of the city – the litter, overflowing bins, fly tipping at green spots or road signs which have faded away.

Most cities around the country have councils that spend their time focusing on these basic issues and fixing them for its residents and taxpayers.

Here in Brighton and Hove we instead have a council that would rather talk for hours and hours about national and international issues the council has no control over – like nuclear weapons for example (twice debated now) – rather than actually do its job and work to fix these very obvious problems.

Since the council elections in May 2019 Labour and the Greens have spent over 75% of their allotted time for debating notices of motion at full council meetings discussing national and international matters. This amounts to over eight and a half hours of time wasted on matters beyond the mandate of the council. And yet residents were denied the chance to have their petitions heard on local issues which are very important to them and the place they live.

Meanwhile the state of the city declines.

Tonight, on city budget night, the Conservatives are putting forward practical proposals to refocus the council on cleaning up the city. These practical proposals include:

  • Four new mobile CCTV cameras to tackle the scourge of fly tipping by fining culprits, deter people from doing this therefore reducing costs to city clean so they can focus on cleaning up streets elsewhere – £50,000
  • Handheld speed cameras for speed watch groups to make roads safer – £10,000
  • New trees around phone masts and fixing broken play equipment in parks to improve the visual amenity of the city – £110,000
  • Upgrades to road name signage and filling of potholes – to improve the road environment in the city – £70,000
  • Replacement bins including dog waste bins in open spaces with greater capacity to end the unsightly mess of overflowing bins – £13,000
  • Additional verge cutting and de-weeding of pavements – to improve the visual appearance of the city and improve safety for residents – £20,000

The Conservatives’ proposals would be paid for by redirecting funding already in the budget away from intangible council programmes unlikely to provide any direct benefit to residents towards practical action more expected of a city council.

We see greater merit, for example, in directing money towards practical action such as grass cuttings rather than spending it on obscure council initiatives that may sound good, but often end up sucking up taxpayers money in ever more bureaucracy and not delivering tangible benefits to residents.

This will be a test for Labour and the Greens to see if they are serious about doing any sort of practical work to fix this city’s problems.

Will they meet the test? The early signs don’t look good.

Labour’s main proposal for the budget so far involves removing money from the council’s graffiti budget – that’s right, removing money – to instead create a new council officer post to be paid £56,000 and hold a talking shop ‘drug summit’ to discuss matters that are actually the job of Sussex Police. You couldn’t make it up!

This council had been neglecting the state of the city for too long and these Conservative proposals are needed to arrest the city’s decline.

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

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