Conservatives won six seats at last week’s Brighton and Hove City Council elections – seats that will be vital in holding the majority Labour administration to account for the next four years.
Personally, I would like to thank the residents of Westdene and Hove Park for putting their faith in our Conservative team of myself, Emma Hogan and Ivan Lyons.
This is a new ward, created following the Boundary Commission’s review over the past two years – and also represents a Conservative gain of one seat from the Greens in this area.
Having been the Councillor for Hove Park over the past four years, I was pleased to stand in the new three-member ward which joined the Westdene and Withdean neighbourhoods with Hove Park.
It is a truly “Brighton and Hove” ward, crossing the historic boundary between the localities, reflecting how interconnected our city has become.
Labour are now the majority party on the council, with 38 seats, elected on a manifesto full of big promises to “fix basic services”.
Their blame game with the Greens must now end – and they have responsibility for carrying out their promises in full.
The Argus published an article last week headed “Brighton election: Nine promises made by the new Labour council”.
The first two items on this list were the “war on weeds” and “reliable rubbish collection”. Weeds are a good place to start in holding this administration to account.
The weeds became a symbol of the state of the city in recent years and was an issue that resonated and came up with voters on the doorstep.
It will then also be a symbol as to whether the Labour majority administration is delivering on its promises.
During the election campaign Labour promised to “safely wage war on weeds that have been allowed to grow”. This, Labour have said they will do, without returning to the use of glyphosates (weedkiller).
During the election campaign, Labour election leaflets in Westdene and Hove Park misled residents about why these weeds “have been allowed to grow” and how easily this problem could be fixed.
The leaflet misled on two fronts. First, it sought to blame “Tories and Greens” for weeds on the pavement.
But the “root cause” of Brighton’s weeds problem was the Labour administration’s policy decision in 2019 to ban glyphosate use with immediate effect, with no back-up plan or contingency in place.
Labour’s responsibility for the past and current weeds problem on our pavements was confirmed by former Labour councillor Nancy Platts last September when she said that the policy was brought in on her watch as leader of the council.
Back in 2019, Labour was warned repeatedly by then Conservative councillors Lee Wares and Vanessa Brown not to proceed with an overnight weedkiller ban – but they did so anyway.
On the doorstep, we came across many who had been told by Labour candidates that the weeds were “the Greens’ fault”. They were surprised to learn the truth – that the party that had actually banned weedkiller was in fact Labour.
Labour’s leaflet misled further by claiming that the weeds on the pavement problem could be resolved “with £70,000” that was “set aside by the Labour administration” of the time to find environmentally friendly and cost-effective removal methods.
This, too, was not true. The weeds problem will not be solved by such a mere cash injection – did we have any left? – as extensive trials by neighbouring East Sussex County Council found alternative measures cost 16 times more than an annual spray as Brighton and Hove used to do.
As is the way in democracy, such misleading comments may come back to bite Labour as they must now find a way to deliver on their promises.
By ruling out a return to glyphosate, they have put themselves in a policy straitjacket for the next four years.
With the huge cost of alternatives to glyphosate, including staff costs of manual weeding, with the need for multiple weedings a year, what will Labour’s “war on weeds” cost residents? What will be cut to meet this spend?
Labour’s attempts during the election campaign to deflect blame and avoid responsibility for their decision on this must now be acknowledged by the new Labour administration as it attempts to right this wrong.
Labour must now do better and provide the plan for sorting the weeds issues this spring once and for all and before it becomes uncontrollable as was the case last summer.
We all want our pavements to be safe and we all want our bus stops to be accessible. We’re all looking to the new administration to tell how it will do this.
Councillor Samer Bagaeen is a Conservative member of Brighton ad Hove City Council.
It’s not all doom and gloom!
Conveniently, cllr Davis – now ‘leader’ of the Greens – managed to retain a seat ( even though he was forced to relocate for a safe seat).
This means that the chief architect of all the Transport infrastructure mayhem can still be held accountable for the disasters he forced upon the city.
Sadly, cllr Lloyd – he of ‘re-wilding’ fame is gone.
It’s not even worth mentioning cllr Neild – who famously lied to Full Council.
A sad but karmic end to ‘The Withdean Greens’
I guess it’s easy when in opposition to point the finger and maybe to blur the facts.
But as residents we want our streets clear of weeds, and to have them regularly swept with the gutters also scraped. In our road in Hove this did not happen at all for two or three years – and the spreading weeds have lifted paving slabs and the unswept autumn leaves blocked our drains, causing flooding. The drain sumps themselves were not cleared each year, as they had been in the past.
The Greens constantly claimed the lack of budget for these failing services, blaming Tory cuts to the council’s income, but some Greens actually claimed the ‘re-wilding’ of Hove was ‘good’ to see.
It was indeed originally a Labour councillor who proposed the ban on the use of Glyphosate weedkillers in the city, and without any plan in place for a weeding alternative. But Labour councillors later voted against the Green party wishes to do nothing, and asked for a budget for manual weeding to take place.
That extra weeding budget was passed in a vote, but the money was not spent with the Greens later claiming they had not been able to find any weeding staff, ‘due to Brexit’.
The council seemed unable to respond to basic residents’ concerns, and it was no doubt this issue and several other basic service failures that led to the Greens being voted out.
But this is not a simple issue for the incoming administration because they will have to find some money for extra staff to keep our streets clean. Glyphosate as a weedkiller is still legal in the UK and indeed across Europe, and is sold under brand names like Roundup. It acts on the leaves of a plant and then seeps down to kill the plant roots – but there is evidence that the process then allows the weedkiller to seep into the soil, continually poisoning the earth. Several other councils have banned its use, including Westminster.
Other weeding options include the gardeners manual approach – pulling the weeds out – which is very time consuming. You can also spray streets with less harmful products like diluted vinegar. Or you can use a blowtorch to burn the growth away.
Either way, I’m guessing that most residents would like to see some action from the incoming council in restoring basic services – and with less money spent on untried schemes which aren’t really necessary in these cash-strapped times.
I saw manual weeding happening in Goldsmid near Seven Dials.
Perhaps if the Tories hadn’t got into bed with the Greens over the i360, saddling residents with a massive debt in the process, the money would be available to deal with the weeds much more quickly.
But, hey ho.
Oh, Samer, if you haven’t worked it out by now: NIMBY Tory voters always switch to the Greens when they lose confidence in the Conservatives.
You OK that it was Labour in 2006 that gave i360 planning consent? And declared it implemented in 2009 when it should have expired? You ok with their vote sgreeing the first loan of £14 million to help i360 get erected? Labour only abstained on the top up vote!
I’ve already seen weeding happening on scale round Lewes road area so I think it’s fair to say the issue was not Brexit related as the green liked to bang on about. If there was such a labour shortage surly the council could have asked central government to have the community service bunch dig up weeds.
Biggest issue in B&H was the council was never a majority so nothing meaningful ever got passed other than very wasteful budgets trying to appease all, serving no one.
Tory or labour voter, I’m sure there will be a big improvement in services now the incompetent busy body greens have been shown the door and the vile Corbyn crowd were crowbarred out from labour.
There will be an election soon and hopefully councils will get some better central funding.
I spent over four hours weeding and tidying up at my allotment this afternoon and evening, and I can say that the weeding is time consuming but it is also rewarding. It connects you with reality.
I don’t know how much our street cleaners and weeders would get paid per week, but it is a rewarding job which must be worth more than the minimum wage. Working in the fresh air, must be another plus.
Indeed, if you are genuinely Green, then I’d suggest growing stuff and managing the land, and contributing to your local community, is way better than say, installing duplicated cycle lanes with plastic signs and plastic posts. (Or way better than imposing an LTN scheme in an area which is already an LTN and already a fifteen minute neighbourhood. Or way more ethical than flying to a Climate Change conference…)
So maybe there are some ex-councillors, currently looking for work?
Cllr Bageen is being very selectively disingenuous in his statements. He is fully aware why the Council voted against organophosphorus chemical usage, hopefully his memory hasn’t failed him.
There are alternatives that are just as cost effective, the good councillor appears to be choosing to ignore them to have a quick pop at the expense of the incoming council.
Pretty lacking in grace, if you ask me.
I don’t believe it is true there are any viable weedkillers available currently which don’t include glyphosate.
Pesticide Action Network lists manual or machine weeding as alternatives to chemical glyphosate weedkiller. So it is fair to say, that the article is correct in its assumption that the council wish to manually remove weeds by hand or by machine.
Sounds good but how much is it going to cost?
Our council tax is already crippling to be honest, if it goes up even further, our household will be selling up and moving as it is fast becoming unaffordable to live in Brighton what with the rise of gas and electricity and food.
That is the bottom line.
Nina. Vinegar. Thanks for coming to my TED talk.
Fortunately, nobody asked you
As a resident, it has everything to do with me.
Our council tax is now just under £2,300 per year. That is a lot of money to pay for basic services which aren’t and haven’t been delivered because of ineptitude by those supposedly in charge.
And that’s part of the problem, those who make decisions don’t consult with the paying customers and that would be us.
I’d like to know what non-manual system works as well as glyphosate, The weeds I’ve sprayed with various strengths of acetic acid or other home-brewed solutions just keep on growing or regrow from the root quite quickly. An annual spray with glyphosate stopped them.