The politics behind the bin strike in Brighton and Hove

Posted On 19 Oct 2021 at 12:01 pm

With Brighton and Hove residents continuing to face piles of rubbish even as the official element of the bin strike draws to an end, many residents want answers about what was behind the dispute.

It will be no surprise to residents that the Green Party is unable to communicate with those who work hard to empty our bins.

I doubt that anybody who voted Green imagined that getting on top of this long-running issue would be a possibility, especially those who remember meat-free Mondays in the Cityclean canteen.

The much more interesting topic, and worthy of investigation and debate, is the role of Labour. The entire Labour set-up locally appears to be intertwined with the workings of the GMB union, which called this strike, and the whole debacle feels orchestrated, perhaps to undermine the Labour/Green partnership.

Spacewords Brighton

In Brighton and Hove, the GMB union and Labour are joined at the hip. A look through the register of interests for councillors shows numerous Labour councillors as GMB members, with their joint leader, Councillor Carmen Appich, the latest to declare her membership in the register of interests. Another speaks for Labour on the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee which is responsible for Cityclean.

The register also shows several Labour councillors have declared gifts from the GMB, including financial contributions to elections, payment of personal legal expenses and even a bottle of blended whisky.

To underline the point, the front page of Labour’s Manifesto for Brighton and Hove at the last local government elections in 2019 carried the GMB logo on it. There is no explanation given in the manifesto as to why the logo of the GMB features on the front page of the manifesto of a party standing for local council, leaving residents to draw their own conclusions.

Through members, donations and manifesto, it is clear that the relationship between the GMB union and Brighton and Hove Labour councillors runs deep.

As councillors, many of us find that we have conflicts of interest but we usually have to withdraw from the chamber when votes take place. In the case of this strike, Labour councillors who belong to the GMB actively turned up and took part, despite the clear conflict.

The Labour-GMB-Greens dynamic seems to translate into a recurring nightmare of strikes during Labour/Green administrations in the city.

We are now in our second strike in two years after the GMB took action over the Labour/Green policy to in-source the housing repairs service, a dispute that has seen the waiting list for repairs to council tenants grow to nearly 7,000.

During the last Conservative administration in Brighton and Hove, from 2007 to 2011, the city was well-run by competent people. Services were delivered properly as they are in most councils across the country.

The lesson must surely be to vote Conservative at the next council elections to end this recurring Labour/Green nightmare of strike after strike that just ends up hurting Brighton and Hove.

Paying off the GMB now may end the current short-term problems but doing so does nothing to address the underlying issues within the council.

I would be interested to know what vital services Labour/GMB supporters feel should now be cut to fund the pay-off.

Councillor Robert Nemeth speaks for the Conservatives on Brighton and Hove City Council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee.

  • The article originally stated that there were no strikes from 2007 to 2011 but this was not the case and the reference has been removed. 
  1. Martin Farley Reply

    There were no strikes during the Conservative 2007-11 administration for 2 reasons:

    1. The Tories struck a pay deal that was later declared illegal in court. The unravelling of that deal led to the strike of 2013.

    2. There was no austerity at that time, so budgets were able to cope better with extra demands. Since then, a decade of Tory gov’t has seen the council budget slashed by £110m per year, and CityClean budget almost halved.

    Cllr Nemeth’s analysis is blind to the direct responsibility of the Tories for many of the city’s refuse and recycling woes

    • Katy Reply

      This is spot on Martin. Cllr Nemeth should be careful when talking about political donations, being a member of that well known charitable organisation ..The Conservative Party. He continues to make up his dodgy allegations about Labour but has not been able to produce one jot of evidence that the strike was orchestrated. Perhaps it is time for Steve Bell, Leader of the Tories to distance himself from the comments of the inexperienced Cllrs Nemeth and Miller. Perhaps some gardening leave would be fitting! Time to actually think up just one local Tory policy but not holding my breath.

  2. Jonathan Simons Reply

    How convenient you’ve forgotten the 2 strikes the Tories had in 2008 and 2009, right in the middle of the last tory administration. Or do those not count?

    Going to have to disagree that things were run well then. Council tax was still going up and services were being cut with mass staff redundancies despite government cuts to councils not having started yet. It was 4 years wasting money on vanity projects. When things got difficult like the bad winter in 2010 the council seemed paralysed and just left us to fend for ourselves.

    • Frank le Duc Reply

      The article originally stated that there were no strikes from 2007 to 2011 but this was not the case and the reference has been removed. 

      • Martin Farley Reply

        So they struck an illegal deal that led to women being paid less than men, and ended up with 2 strikes (And causing a 3rd) anyway?

        • Katy Reply

          About the size of it!

  3. Gareth Hall Reply

    What a hypocrite. Maybe look at Tory Party funding before you start throwing stones !!
    Anyway how does he know which councillors are GMB members unless they declare it ?

    • Chaz. Reply

      Why would they not declare it Gareth?
      Typical of socialists to hide such details huh.
      The politics of yeah but, no but.

      • Gareth Hall Reply

        That’s my point they did declare it or he wouldn’t have known they were members !!!!

      • Gareth Hall Reply

        If they didn’t declare it how did he know ?

  4. Ben Earl Reply

    They are supposed to declare any such interests by law, and last week all 4 labour members (not all of them usually members of the committee discussing the bins strike) declared their membership of the GMB

  5. Jon Reply

    I don’t know if BHCC was well run by competent people between 2007 to 2011 but if it was so great why weren’t they re-elected ?

    • Chaz. Reply

      You could ask the same question about Labour at a Scottish and UK national level.
      Or why the Greens have never had more than one MP and never a majority of the local council seats here.
      They mysteries of life keep some posting comments Jon.

  6. Bambi Reply

    I am happy that the drivers and the bin men have received a pay increase. This are hard crappy jobs involving unsocial hours very early in the morning and at weekends. We need these workers and as we can all see when the rubbish is not collected the place becomes a shithole.

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