OPINION

Championing our city so we thrive into the future

I often champion our city’s unique sense of community, diversity and creativity – but don’t take it from me.

The UK Tech Cluster Group – a national organisation representing UK tech businesses – has described Brighton and Hove as a place “where tomorrow’s ground-breaking creative technology ideas are being nurtured today”.

Their report identifies the city as a welcoming and diverse place where ideas thrive – an approach that is powering new start-up companies, driving a passion for learning and creating jobs and opportunities.

We can also be proud that the Royal Pavilion was recently voted one of the best value tourist attractions in the UK, with the city also put on yet another “must visit” list – this time by the AA.

I’m focused on how we can build on our strengths and succeed.

A few weeks ago, the Book Makers – a community project supporting local writers – was granted a tenancy for six months in a formerly vacant council property, without the hefty deposit. We are now offering training and support to ensure more businesses like this flourish.

We will be spending £100,000 on our local high streets and street markets as well as planting and seating areas. New art and culture trails, exhibitions and art commissions will not only attract people to less visited areas but help showcase our city’s renowned creativity and diversity.

Our work to support our city also goes hand in hand with our focus on the essentials. That’s why we’re continuing our anti-graffiti work in conjunction with the police, including a recent blitz near London Road.

Preparations are under way to hold yet another tidy up week in September, building on the repeat deep cleans of high-footfall areas already completed this year.

As we are far from out of the pandemic, all of this is driven by a focus on public health – because our communities and jobs are hit hardest when people are sick.

From new investment in hand sanitiser stations and encouraging mask wearing, financial support for people who can’t afford not to work and our own contact tracing service, this remains a top priority.

I continue to meet with local businesses to understand and respond to their needs while putting extra support in place.

I’m focused on our city’s recovery – and that includes continued support for vaccination to stop covid-19 infection and hospitalisation. I welcome the u-turn that vaccines will be offered to 16 and 17-year-olds but this should have been done to prepare for the return to school in September.

To prevent long covid in schools, vaccination should be offered to all 12 to 15-year-olds too. Some countries have been offering young people the vaccine for months, using UK research that indicated its safety.

Picture by David McHugh / Brighton Pictures

After almost two years of chaos for our young people and teaching staff, the government is once again failing to adequately prepare for the return to school, placing a huge burden on already overstretched teachers, families and students.

In the coming weeks we will raise our concerns about support for schools, including what plans the government has for adequate ventilation, particularly heading into the winter months.

The Scottish government has announced £10 million for improved ventilation in schools, as well as continued facemask wearing and social distancing to protect pupils and teachers. Why can’t we have similar clarity and reassurance in England?

We have been reminded of the strain that public sector workers like our teaching staff are under as the government continues to fail our essential services. NHS, school and public sector workers are exhausted from the pandemic.

Like many we’ve been appalled to see the government’s response – a measly 1.5 per cent pay “rise” that doesn’t reflect an inflation rate of 2.5 per cent. We join calls from trade unions, arguing that government should fund a meaningful pay award for NHS, school and public sector workers.

This is about the government recognising and thanking the very people who battle the pandemic. After years of cuts to local budgets, it’s vital government fully funds a proper pay increase rather than pushing this on to local councils already under huge strain.

Supporting our city is also about recognising those who have kept – and continue to keep – us all safe during the worst of the pandemic and who face yet more disruption as the pandemic continues.

The Pride Parade in Brighton on Saturday 3 August 2019 – Picture courtesy of Sara-Louise Bowrey Photography

So many are working terrifically hard to ensure we stay on track to a positive recovery and I want to keep our city safe, thriving and punching above its weight.

Finally, although it’s far from a normal Pride, it is so encouraging to see the city putting its best foot forward and preparing for more visitors.

I would ask everyone to remember to make it a covid-safe Pride weekend. Wear masks in crowded places, meet friends outdoors or in well-ventilated places, get tested and vaccinated.

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty is the Green leader of Brighton and Hove City Council.

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