When I spoke at the budget council meeting last week, one point I made in relation to Conservative amendments was about the seeming “disconnect” between the vocal complaints of the local Tories about everything from street lighting to a lack of funding for a statue of the Queen, and the actions of successive national Conservative governments, who have cut no less than £110 million a year from the council’s funding since 2010.
I’ve been thinking about “disconnects” in other ways, too. For example, while the Labour council group rejects the constant, frankly childish accusation from the Tories of a Labour-Green “coalition” in the city, we are genuinely happy to work with other parties in any areas we can agree on, for the good of residents.
In practice, the council’s “corporate plan”, which the current administration is working to, was set by Labour in 2019 – and agreed by all three parties – so obviously there are many areas that we continue to work closely on, since it was our plan!
One important area of agreement is our commitment to carbon neutrality by 2030, and it is here that I always struggle with what seems a “disconnect” with the Greens, too.
There is much being done that is positive, from low-traffic and 20-minute neighbourhood schemes, to walking and cycling infrastructure improvements.
But the missing piece of the puzzle for me is any real engagement with the cost of our horribly expensive public transport networks.
This was brought home to me again this week, when I read that (regulated) rail fares had gone up by a minimum of 3.8 per cent (some of the unregulated fare increases will be even steeper). This was the highest rise for nine years.
Our local bus services, while they provide good coverage in most (not all) areas, are also very pricey.
Of course, much of this is again a national government issue, not something any local administration can control.
However, it seems obvious to me that not everyone is fit enough to walk or cycle, particularly in outlying or hilly areas, and that you will never persuade many people to leave the car at home more often unless public transport options are both plentiful and cheap.
If we want to meet our ambitious targets, we need to be lobbying strongly for fare reductions both locally and nationally – and looking closely at the new legislation on bus franchising too.
Councillor Amanda Evans is the deputy leader of the Labour opposition on Brighton and Hove City Council.
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