OPINION

Stand up for local democracy on Thursday 6 May

Posted On 03 May 2021 at 12:50 am

Our Conservative group of councillors is alarmed at the erosion of democracy in the city we have seen over the last two years under the Labour-Green council.

Residents’ petitions and deputations have been refused to be heard by the council for the first time any of our Conservatives have seen – and some of our councillors go as far back as having served on Hove Borough Council.

Full council meetings are no longer debating local issues, with Labour and the Greens using 76 per cent of their allotted council time to debate national issues of no relevance to council functions.

A series of damaging decisions have been made by this council where the public and community groups were not consulted or completely ignored by their local Labour and Green ward councillors.

Decisions have been made which local groups have alleged have broken equalities and environmental laws.

We have seen a cover-up culture at the council, with a committee refusing to release a report the council had previously promised would be made available to families of disabled children, as reported first in Brighton and Hove News.

And now there appear to be new threats to local democracy on the horizon, with the leader of the council having announced that he wants to change the Brighton and Hove City Council constitution after these upcoming elections.

Drafts of these changes seen by the Conservative group look anti-democratic. It is an alarming trend. So how has it all gone wrong in such a short space of time?

An undemocratic ‘coalition’ arrangement

The basis of all these problems for local democracy in the city can be found it what occurred shortly after the 2019 local elections.

Labour and the Greens signed a coalition-style agreement in the weeks following that election, covering a broad range of council portfolio areas. The content of this agreement was kept secret from the public by these parties, which refused to release it when asked questions.

Nevertheless, the agreement was revealed in December last year in an exclusive report on this website. It spells out, in some detail, how council decisions are now effectively being made in confidential pre-meetings held between Labour and the Greens, before residents are able be heard at council meetings.

This explains why Labour, although designated the “city’s official opposition”, has been failing to fulfil the important duty of listening to and standing up for residents who may be unhappy with council decisions.

How can Labour be the opposition when they are part of a coalition agreement?  You can’t have it both ways.

On rare occasions when Labour tell residents that they disagree with Green schemes – for example, raising residents’ parking permit charges, keeping Old Shoreham Road cycle lane in place and introducing a city-wide Homeless Bill of Rights – the most that any Labour councillors have done at the council meetings is “abstain” from voting, allowing these schemes to all to go through anyway.

What’s the point in voting Labour?

A chance to send the council a message

This council is now half-way through its four-year term, with the next full council elections in 2023.

On Thursday (6 May) residents in two wards will have the first opportunity to cast their judgment on the performance of Brighton and Hove City Council since the May 2019 local elections when they vote to fill two councillor vacancies.

Residents in these wards have seen first-hand the impact on local democracy that Labour and the Greens have caused over the past two years.

In Hollingdean and Stanmer ward, the Coldean Residents’ Association and Stanmer Preservation Society had their democratic rights denied when the council refused to hear their deputations on the urban fringe development at a full council meeting in October.

Coldean residents put in a big effort to get 1,002 signatures on their petition. To then be denied the right to be heard by their council was appalling.

Patcham ward residents had their petition against building on the land at Horsdean Recreation Ground and Ladies Mile, signed by more than 1,600 residents, rejected for the full council meeting.

Residents of Whitehawk Hill and Bevendean gained 1,620 signatures for their petition and residents at Benfield Valley gained 1,905 signatures – the council would not hear these petitions either.

These are residents’ voices wanting to be heard that have been denied their democratic right by this council.

Our Conservative councillors stand up for local democracy and put our city’s residents first. For two years, Labour and the Greens have put their coalition deal before the residents.

I hope residents will take the opportunity to have their say next Thursday at the ballot box and send this council a message that ignoring residents is not on – and that it cannot continue in this way without electoral consequences.

Only then might Labour and the Greens be forced to rethink their anti-democratic coalition agreement that has caused such damage to Brighton and Hove.

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

  1. Jon Reply

    You don’t need a fact checker to see that Councillor Bell is just making most of this up.
    ” Full council meetings are no longer debating local issues ”

    He then lists lots of stuff that was debated at full council meetings

    • beanie Reply

      I think he’s talking about the Notices of Motion, when all Labour and the Greens do is go on about stuff that’s nothing to do with the council. It’s almost always pointless, and it suggests to me they’re focused on national politics instead of sorting out local problems, many of which they actually seem to have created. Trouble is, the Greens talk Green, but they destroy wildlife on the seafront and the urban fringe, and the air pollution along the Old Shoreham Road is worse now there’s the barely-used cycle lane.

  2. Anne Reply

    In 2013, Who was Brighton councillor has been suspended by the her Party during an internal investigation into what has been described as “a serious matter”?

    • Chris Reply

      After Anne was mayor she was subject to an unfounded allegation that she’d kept a gift when she shouldn’t have. There was no evidence for this, and it showed the sort of spite and pettiness that became much more evident during the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and with the advent of Momentum.

      • Chealsea Reply

        Kept a gift, right. Thete you have it. Please tell us more. Was Corbyn leader in 2013?

        • rob Reply

          That was the allegation, and it was false. She was cleared. For what it’s worth, Ed Miliband was leader at the time, and there were some very unpleasant people in the local party then (and there are still are). Some of them make unfounded spiteful claims, like the one here.

  3. Molly Reply

    Completely agree with the person above . Most is made up by a group of councillors using all they can to try and grab a bit more power. Deeply Tory. Like the current government …lies lies and more lies fir there own gain
    What a sad thing to do.

  4. Rose Reply

    Nowadays there is sufficient information in the public domain about politicians for us to be able to see which politicians are in it for themselves and which are motivated by a wish to improve life for the residents.

  5. Al Reply

    Steve Bell knows that the Conservatives in the city are a busted flush. So in a last, desperate bid at hoping to salvage almost all of their lost pride and relevance, he does what Tories do best. They lie.

    With a simple look at the Council website, it’s easy to ascertain that Mr Bell is the Boris Johnson of this otherwise brilliant city. He cannot back up ny of his claims with any evidence.

    Perhaps if he spent a little more time on the truth while properly representing his constituents, rather than using transference to hide his own party’s failings, they might not be the irrelevance they are now.

  6. Nathan Adler Reply

    Firstly let me state that Boris Johnson is a clown and one of the worst Prime Ministers in living memory. However at local level the Tories seem to be the only option. I do not want the Green Administration and if I vote for the Labour momentum candidate in H&S I will just be propping up that coalition we so clearly see, (I of course will not vote Green). There is not a credible independent candidate standing so I may for the first time vote Tory. Unlikely she will win but if she did it would really show the hard left in the city, (both red and green), this coalition is not working and the city want’s a total change of direction.

    • Resident 2 Reply

      Agree totally, time for change, even if we have to wait another two years to actually get this unelected council out, the more legitimate opposition we can foster in the mean-time the better. Call their decisions and motives into question at every turn, they certainly are not acting on the majority’s behalf or listening in any form and should not have the right to make the decisions they are making without consultation/recourse.

  7. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    I have been going around Patcham – as I did, crucially, for Caroline Lucas in 2010 -, and I have not seen cllr Bell’s lot along the way. Of course, there is always the possibility that his voters lie low (like Russian spies). Everything is now speculation, but Friday’s Count could be a dramatic day (locally speaking).

  8. Brad Reply

    On TTEC, The Tories cut a deal with the Labour to ditch an officer report about Beach Chalets and plan to evict long term tenants but legal officers stopped it. Only the Greens respected the original leases. Red and Blue make SHIT.

    • Nathan Adler Reply

      Greens are as bad as the rest who voted to make ‘private’ the barristers response on the Home to school Transport fiasco. Greens and Labour voted too keep confidential Tories voted to make public, (as was promised). What is in that report that Greens and Labour do not want us too see?

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