OPINION

Greenwashing, fake facts and meaningless marketing speak are holding back our city, says Independent councillor

Posted On 09 Jan 2022 at 12:05 am

Since my election in May 2019 as Brighton and Hove’s only elected independent councillor, I’ve witnessed first-hand how continued and consistent poor decisions by councillors and officials are holding back our city.

Most recently, Christmas Day showed once again how out of touch Brighton and Hove City Council is with the people who live and work here.

Despite the forecast of a mild day and calm seas, rather than providing lifeguards and organising a drinks cart, the council decided to close beaches and advise people not to go in the sea.

The hundreds of joyful people who turned up for a dip – and to watch – voted with their feet.

Meanwhile, locals working on the pier were horrified to see dodgems, bumper cars and other rides arrive just yards from their doorstep in the form of a rival funfair. And people living nearby had to don earmuffs.

I was left scratching my head not only at this, but why the council would sanction the arrival of a big wheel when it should be doing everything possible to encourage use of the i360 (a big stick of debt effectively owned by us, the people).

These were just two really bad decisions made by council officers and supported by councillors, both groups largely lacking any meaningful commercial experience.

And so, I thought I’d jot down my wish list for the council in 2022 and offer what I hope are constructive suggestions to help Brighton and Hove City Council get out of the Big Hole it’s in.

Enough of the meaningless marketing speak

A fairer city. A sustainable city. A city of sanctuary.  A liveable city. A car-free city. Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. Pocket Parks. All emotive phrases trotted out time and again. Please, enough of the policy by slogan. Focus on the basics. We know that only 29.7 per cent of the rubbish that is collected as recycling is actually recycled.

Greenwashing and fake facts

These do no good to anyone. It’s unhelpful and duplicitous to massage and promote fake figures.

The council claims that it is only responsible for 2.5 per cent of carbon emissions in the city. This is misleading because it fails to include the many schemes that it awards to contractors and the carbon from the traffic congestion it causes.

Brighton and Hove Buses stopped calling its new buses “electric” and “zero emissions” when warned by the Department for Transport. But the council still deceptively calls them “electric” and “zero emissions”.

For clarification, these diesel hybrid buses, like the hybrid cars banned from 2035, charge a battery from fossil fuel in order to travel a short distance without poisoning the air.

However, they have higher carbon emissions than buses without this “zero emissions” feature.

Constant mistakes

BHCC seems to go from one self-made disaster to another.

From the home to school transport scandal to RISE’s loss of its domestic violence service contract, from the bike lanes to the bin strike and the parking permit debacle. From the narrowing of North Street to the looming disaster of Valley Gardens Phase 3 soon to follow.

Put simply, the time, money and energy taken to defend and/or fix these avoidable problems would be better spent on planning and proper consultation in the first place.

Messages to my fellow councillors

To the Greens:  Plan. Plan. Plan. Test. Test. Test. Before you do any more fiddling with any of the city’s infrastructure.  It’s bewildering how Green councillors continue to pursue “grand designs” and “vanity projects”. Your projects have a financial budget, so why don’t they have a carbon budget?

And please stop saying you care about our climate emergency when you haven’t asked why the city has missed its transport emissions targets for the past 15 years.

To Labour councillors: We haven’t forgotten that Labour was in charge of our city from 2015 to 2020. We know that you support the Greens on most issues.

To Conservative councillors: I appreciate your attempts to focus on local issues though of course we know that this strategy is partly to deflect from the various scandals in Westminster and the government’s funding cuts to local councils. Also, we haven’t forgotten that councillors from your party voted for the i360 too. You can’t completely blame the Greens.

Message to the three MPs for our city: I appreciate that you represent the city on the national and international stages. But we need your help tackling a myriad of problems in our city from AirBnBs to creating quality jobs. Where are you and what are you doing to help our city improve and grow? And are you really powerless to rein in some of the bad ideas of your councillor colleagues? Might you consider spending more time in 2022 looking inwards at our city which needs your help rather than globally?

May 2023

The political parties have already started planning for the next local elections in May 2023.

However, I am now more convinced than ever that the only way to serve the genuine needs of this city and its people is to elect more independent councillors: people with no agenda other than to do the right thing for their neighbours and the city on a case-by-case basis.

If you’re interested, then please feel free to contact me at bridget@bridgetbythesea.com and I’ll be happy to brief you on what the role entails and how to navigate the electoral process.

Now, more than ever, our city needs calm and experienced hands at the helm.

It might be less of a stretch than you think. It really is possible for an independent with a record of doing good in their community to get elected – after all, I did!

Bridget Fishleigh is the only councillor to have been elected as an independent in Brighton and Hove. She represents Rottingdean Coastal ward and has never been a member of a political party.

  1. Sacha Reply

    The bar is low. We need better qualified candidates.

  2. Chris Reply

    I’ve said for a long time that, in my opinion, prospective councillors and MPs should, at the very least, have a proven track record in running a successful business before being pernitted to seek election. Local, long term, residents are also more likely to understand how a place works and what the needs are. Inexperience leads to indecision, poor decisions and vanity projects to try and make a name for oneself in order to “move up to the next level”. Just holding a degree in politics, or anything else, doesn’t mean a lot if you don’t kmow what to do. A lot more independent councillors who consider the needs of the place and its’ residents is desirable but is it achievable?

  3. Paul Temple Reply

    Thank god for Bridget – a real breath of fresh air in our current hapless local political situation.

  4. Mike Beasley Reply

    At last – a sensible councillor! There does really need to be tranche of councillors who have the interests of local taxpayers and businesses at heart. You just to have to look at the current bunch, particularly the lying, cheating and hypocritical Green fruitcakes who are only interested in rolling out their own demented dogma, and causing long term harm to Brighton. To have Phelim as leader of the council is a complete and utter travesty of justice. Something must change in 2023.

  5. Tom T Reply

    Another councillor trying to push a polarised political agenda where everything is simplified down to either “good” or “bad” with absolutely no proactive suggestions for alterntives. It’s pretty pathetic and doesn’t wash on the majority of electorate thankfully.

    For example, whilst the i360 certainly owes payments to the council, the area around it is now significantly improved with multiple thriving shops in the arches. The i360 is effectively supporting small local businesses.

    The recent London elections showed that despite all the the screaming from a very loud minority, councillors who supported cycle infrastructure and low traffic neighbourhoods did considerably better than those who didn’t.

    Stop pandering to the constantly faux-outraged social media mob and work for what real people want.

  6. Andrew Boag Reply

    To clarify, the buses referred to are extended range (ER) hybrid electric buses which run in zero emission electric mode within the City Centre low emission zone and use Euro VI diesel engines elsewhere. There is no evidence they generate higher emissions in diesel mode than buses without the ‘zero emissions’ feature. I put this claim to Martin Harris, then MD at B&H Buses, he said “if that’s all they did I wouldn’t have bought them”.

  7. Peter Challis Reply

    Hi Andrew,

    I’ve asked B&H Buses previously if they have any data about the difference in total carbon emissions of their ER buses and a normal Euro 6 one. This is the real question as we are talking about global, rather than local, CO2 levels. Have you seen any figures as part of Brighton Buswatch?

    Remember that the batteries must be charged by the Euro 6 diesel engines, and the buses are heavier due to all those batteries which must increase emissions as well.

    They may well produce less NOx and particulates in the LEZ which is a separate issue, but modern engines are very clean anyway.

    And please don’t forget Green councillor Tom Druitt’s Big Lemon Bus Company. Tom claims that his battery buses are “solar powered” and encourages punters to buy bonds to fund more of them.
    Unfortunately, Tom only has Solar PV capacity to power 2 of his 18 buses, so the remaining 16 are powered with dirty grid power which still tends to be about 50% from fossil fuels.

    He could, of course, pay to get his electricity from an energy supplier that provides fully sustainably generated electricity, but he would have to pay for that, as he gets the grid power for free as part of his rental on the old gas works site.

    And don’t forget he still has the other diesel buses, the Brighton Horizon Coaches which are his original Big Lemon coaches and the newly merged Seaford & District coaches. I wonder how many of these are Euro 6?

    BTW, and interesting fact – nasty energy companies such as Shell offer businesses and private motorists to fully offset the carbon emissions of the fuel they buy by paying an additional 0.5p per litre.

  8. Andrew Boag Reply

    Hi Peter

    I don’t have any more data and I’m certainly not an expert on emissions, the point I would make is that the 54 ER hybrids replaced a similar number of older buses that were not Euro 6 and had much higher emissions. This year B&H Buses and Brighton & Hove City Council (using Government grants) are jointly funding upgrades to Euro 6 for most buses built between 2011 and 2015. My understanding is that by the end of 2022 the aim is for all diesel buses running through the ULEZ area to be Euro 6, which should result in a significant achievement in air quality throughout the city. Compare that with Medway where the proportion of Euro 6 buses is very low and actually going down because Arriva, the main operator has moved some Euro 6 vehicles away to other parts of the country to comply with new LEZ schemes.

    Tom Druitt can answer your questions about his bus fleet better than I can. You may have some valid points but I find it odd you are so keen to criticise his efforts to create a zero emission fleet. You seem to be suggesting he shouldn’t have bothered to buy electric buses or install solar panels at all!

    • Peter Challis Reply

      Hi Andrew,

      As you state, Euro 6 bus replacements would have been sufficient, on their own, to meet emission targets. Perhaps B&H Buses got bigger grants for hybrids and they can truly claim they are zero emission in the ULEZ, but are not so elsewhere. Let’s see some real data rather than anecdotes from Martin Harris.

      We know that the strategic solution B&H Buses are looking at is Green Hydrogen to provide range and rapid recharge using a wind-farm plant in Shoreham.

      WRT Big Lemon I do criticise their buses in that they sell “solar zero emission“ but do not deliver with just 11% zero emission and the rest powered from electricity that pumps out CO2 elsewhere. The range of the buses is also very limited and restricted to local services.

      They could have true zero emission easily if they had battery buses running wind power, nuclear, or solar from commercial energy suppliers, or as I hinted, just by using Euro 6 diesel and possibly offsetting to “green wash” or they could use sustainable bio-diesel.

      Yes – I am suggesting that if Big Lemon was a proper commercial operation rather than relying on council subsidies for “community services”, and private funding from people who think they are helping the environment, they would not have “played” with battery buses that I rarely see with more than 2 passengers.

      I’ve tried communicating with Tom Druitt but he just dismisses my concerns and instead tries to make it appear that his buses help. I’d like to see audited figures to see whether they are actually better than Euro 6 in terms of total emissions and cost per passenger mile.

      • Tom Kelly Reply

        Cllr Druitt will return your emails when he is back from his winter break in the Alps ….
        It’s hard work being a Green councillor – Constantly trying to find new ways to screw up the Transport network of Brighton, whilst maintaining a self-satisfied and smug demeanour.

      • Andrew Boag Reply

        Hi Peter

        The 54 ER hybrids were financed entirely by B&H without Government grants, which is very unusual. They are not the heaviest buses in the fleet, I’ve been checking. Unladen weights are displayed on the side of every bus. The heaviest buses I found this afternoon were 2011 diesel buses as used on route 6 which weigh 12110 kg, whereas the 2020 ER hybrids on route 1 weigh 11997kg, while those on route 5 weigh slightly less. I always found Martin Harris to be a very direct and honest person, I don’t believe he would have made up a statement about emissions levels. If there is any data to the contrary I’d be as interested to see it as you are.

        Hopefully hydrogen buses will appear in Brighton soon, B&H sister company Metrobus is expecting 20 hydrogen fuel cell single deckers this year for Gatwick and Crawley, with the aid of Government grants.

        The services run by The Big Lemon in Brighton are mostly contracts for BHCC which sets the timetables. They may not carry many passengers but they provide several links not provided by other services. Its a shame Tom doesn’t want to communicate with you. Perhaps it would help if you weren’t so keen to criticise everything he does!

        • Peter Challis Reply

          Hi Andrew,

          Thanks for the reply. So I ask you, a knowledgeable bus evangelist, for data about the relative emissions of ER buses to standard Euro 6 buses and then you just ask me to supply data.

          Thanks for the weight information which indicates weight may not be an issue, but this does not answer my question.

          I’m not saying Martin is making anything up – just that we may not have all the information, and the decision for ER buses could have been on economic reasons from the newer buses and the chance to try out new technology in the city. It will be interesting to see if any other bus companies choose them or prefer alternatives.

          Did he actually say that if you look at total carbon emissions then ER buses produce less per passenger mile than straight Euro 6 vehicles, or did he just say they produce less emissions in the ULEZ?

          WRT any claims by companies or councils I always maintain a skeptical attitude. Bridget talks of “Greenwashing, fake facts and meaningless marketing speak“ and I’m applying this to B&H Buses.

          I’m also applying this to Big Lemon and Tom’s, IMO, misleading marketing claims of providing a zero emission solar powered bus service and don’t just blindly accept their claims as some do.

          Big Lemon may well be performing a social service with few customers with a novel solution, but I question whether they offer the most cost effective service for the city and whether another company could supply a cheaper service with equal, or lower emissions?

          I also question whether these community bus services are the optimum solution for low passenger numbers, especially when they only offer hourly services. Perhaps other options are available?

        • Peter Challis Reply

          Hi Andrew,

          Just spotted that you said B&H, rather than B&H Buses, that funded the ER buses. Do you know how much council tax payers effectively spent on the 51 buses?

          Are there similar figures on all the financial support we provide to each bus company – I tried to search on the city council but most links seem broken.

          • Andrew Boag

            They were entirely funded by B&H Buses/Go Ahead group, apologies if that wasn’t clear. The financial support given by BHCC to bus companies is listed in budget papers each year when they go for approval.

  9. GE Keys Reply

    Brilliantly put Cllr Fishleigh. And why don’t the Greens care about heritage?
    All they want to do is build new, new new! Ugly buildings with a shelf life of less than 50 years while our iconic city heritage is left to ROT!
    I will vote for independent councillors in next election!

  10. fed-up with brighton politics Reply

    The Greens don’t really care about anything except pursuing their off-the-wall and dogmatic agenda, and they do even that with gross incompetence.

    Cllr Fishleigh actually has been brilliant. She was elected top-of-the heap in her ward because of considerable local appreciation for her community work and caring for what is a neglected part of the City. I am in her ward and didn’t vote for her last time because she didn’t have a ‘party machine’ behind her and I didn’t really know who she was or what she stood for, and I live in a bit of the ward which is not her main area of ops. In other words, she got elected against the party machine odds, despite having no funding or any other back-up in publicity terms. However, I would certainly vote for her next time because she cares, mucks in with community projects and speaks up for residents.

    The issue, though, is that all wards need to have very strong independent candidates who speak up for what they stand for and are known and get out and about in their community. There isn’t much time for that, given that we’re only just over a year away from the next local elections. I can’t offhand think of anyone truly independent who has put their hand up as a strong candidate in B&H. So, maybe next time round we get the same old stuff as before (although I would fondly hope that the Greens get wiped out, as they thoroughly deserve) and some strong local independents start making waves and come through for the elections after that. If not, B&H is total toast.

    • Christopher Hawtree Reply

      Er, it sounds as though you expect others to stand as candidates rather than yourself?

      • fed-up with brighton politics Reply

        Unfortunately, Christopher, I have considerable medical, sensory and age-related issues which preclude me from even getting about successfully, let alone standing for election. In other words, even physical standing is a problem much of the time. Otherwise, I would happily put my hand up.

        • Christopher Hawtree Reply

          I am sorry to hear that, and hope that you bear up with it. Even in the best of circumstances, to be a Councillor is more demanding than many realize. Much of the work takes place, around the clock, out of the immediate public eye, and it covers the spread of human experience. Whatever one says about the Party system, this brings together people of different knowledge, which can be pooled – from Transport to Education and beyond. An Independent is on his/her own, and has to cover that waterfront of subjects. Of course, a number of Independents could join together, should they be elected, but there would come the paradox that they become a de facto Party. What’s more, putative Independent candidates (who cannot have copies of the Electoral Roll) assume that the very title of “Independent” is a vote winner, but this rarely resonates. Bridget Fishleigh did well because she is known for her hard, unfazed work on the Lido. Rottingdean Coastal is a very interesting ward, one I had long thought to be shifting. After all, it reaches into Kemp Town and, at the other end, includes Saltdean (to which many people have moved of late).

          • Peter Challis

            From what I’ve seen the independents are very hard working and are not encumbered by party whips and mandarins dictating policy and voting.

            That independents are directly elected by, and accountable to, residents is of direct benefit compared to the party political councillors implementing ideologies and then taking no responsibility for the results.

          • fed-up with brighton politics

            Thank you, Christopher, appreciate that.

            I do realise and understand how difficult and time-consuming it is to be a councillor, and, obviously, any other occupation or whatever that one may have has to go on hold for the duration. I do wish that I was able, at the least, to even consider standing. Sadly not, but there is a value to independent councillors who have a track record of doing things in their ward and are known to locals for it, as is Bridget.

            It would not do to have an entire council of independents, as this could well be total mayhem and nobody would have any control/agreement of any kind but, as this is never likely to happen, a sprinkling of them across the City might help to provide some balance and commonsense to what is currently chaos.

            Rottingdean Coastal is indeed a ‘peculiar’, in that much of it is more akin in nature to the slightly more rural area to the east of the City, which doesn’t feel like ‘B&H Central’,and doesn’t get that much attention from the Council, but, as you say, it does include a fair-sized lump of Kemp Town (all of which may change when the Local Government Boundary Commission comes in with its final recommendations).

            Are you ever thinking of standing for the Council again??

            At the last local elections I had read all the stuff from the candidates and Bridget was disadvantaged by the ‘system’ because she had to do everything herself. That shouldn’t happen. Every candidate, whoever they are or whatever they represent, should have the same accesseve

          • fed-up with brighton politics

            Sorry, Christopher. I was editing my reply to you and accidentally pressed the wrong button, so that the very end went wonky. The gist is all there, though.

          • Christopher Hawtree

            Yes, Mr./Ms. Fed-Up, one awaits whatever Ward changes might ensue!

            As you say, it is correct to abide by whatever voters decide.

            That said, a vital part of being a Councillor, and any politician, is that one learns along the way – as in any part of life.

            At the same time an abdiding lesson is the way in which opposition Councillors held officers to account over Hove Library in that hairy time of 2015/16.

  11. Jon Reply

    Being an independent councillor is like being a back seat driver. In this long column she’s a accountable for nothing. Doesn’t take responsibility for anything. Doesn’t acknowledge there’s been a pandemic . Complains about marketing speak and then uses terms like greenwashing. What has she achieved, anything ?
    But the f****** German village and funfair, handing over the only green space in the city centre for this miserable experience to trash it. Can she can stop it happening next year ?

    • fed-up with brighton politics Reply

      I don’t know who you are or what ward you live in, but, yes, Bridget has achieved a lot in her own ward, even before she was elected as a councillor, and continues to do so. From leading a team painting a graffitied tunnel (council provided paint but had no people to do the actual painting), helping out with food banks to assist deprived residents, much of which was pandemic-related, organising tree planting funded from her councillor’s allowance, getting involved with rubbish and fly-tipping clearance and very much more. Actions that help residents speak louder than the words ‘pandemic’ and suchlike.

      Suggest that you contact whoever the relevant councillors are about the funfair/trashing in the City Centre – this is not Bridget’s responsibility, as the site is not in her ward. Or you could even complain vociferously to whoever approved the funfair and was responsible for the result. That is not Cllr Fishleigh.

  12. Gordon Reply

    A breath of fresh air 🙂

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