This page was reproduced from a document written by the Association of Green Councillors in November 2014.
Brighton and Hove Green councillors took over the running of this important unitary authority in May 2011. They are a minority administration, whose initiatives are frequently blocked by Conservative and Labour councillors combined. Here are some of their achievements.
Equality, fairness and saving money
The council now spends less on senior management than it has in a decade because it cut the chief executive’s salary by 40% and raised the pay of the lowest grades, bringing the ratio between the highest and lowest paid council staff to just over 10:1.
On taking office the Greens not only introduced a living wage for its staff and care home workers but also supported the Chamber of Commerce to run a Living Wage Commission to encourage private companies to adopt it. As of July 2014 the city is home to 130 of the UK’s 500 living wage paying private companies.
The Greens grasped the nettle of equal pay for male and female council staff which had been avoided by previous administrations by raising the allowances for some and lowering them for others. It triggered a bin strike but ended with equal allowances for men and women at a time when women lag men by 15 per cent.
In 2014 it became the first UK council to propose a referendum on raising council tax 4.75% to protect services for the city's most vulnerable. Labour and Conservative councillors combined to vote down the proposal.
In Oct 2013 new figures showed fewer people in the city are ending up in hospital because of alcohol, more drug users are being treated and crimes against young people had fallen for the third year in a row.
Standing up to homophobia
Stonewall put the council in first place in their 2014 Education Equality Index. Stonewall has described the council as ‘leading the way’ in celebrating difference and supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.
Brighton’s scrutiny panel was in June 2014 named joint national winner of the Centre for Public Scrutiny’s award for its work investigating Trans inclusivity issues in the city.
The number of young people entering the criminal justice system in the city fell over the three successive years to Oct 2013 as the council’s youth crime prevention team joined with police to help young people understand the impact of their behaviour and make amends.
Open budget discussion
The Green councillors publish annual budget proposals earlier and with more detail than previous administrations so that they can be scrutinised by everyone, ahead of time, and making this transparent to all – other political parties, citizens and the media.
The Greens introduced pilots for Neighbourhood Governance schemes, which support communities to take local decisions with local budgets.
Urban dereliction to community space
They transformed a large, decaying urban open space, Level Park in the centre of town with new gardens, a new water feature, a new children’s playground, new public toilets, a cycle café, better lighting and furniture, a new skate park, and more green space. It did this by securing £2.75m of outside funding and using just £250,000 of council taxpayers’ money.
Food waste to compost
They expanded community composting across the city; in ten of the city’s 26 schemes, residents can turn their food waste into free compost.
More than 500 people are now using the community compost service.
Getting recycling rates back up
Recycling rates have stabilised and are coming back up after a successful trial of a communal system for blocks of flats in one area has now been rolled out to all blocks. Rates had been falling because new Italian-made communal bins inherited from the Tory administration had proved impractical. Recycling rates were further knocked by bin strikes and lorry breakdowns. Latest figures not yet available.
Greens introduced an ethical procurement strategy to improve minimum standards for the products the council buys in. For example, the World Wildlife Fund has granted the council a Gold standard for timber purchasing.
Open-access to green space in perpetuity
They declared over 800 acres of council-owned down land and farm land as ‘open access land’, meaning residents can freely use land which was once closed to them. They added another 670 acres in July 2014, protected in perpetuity.
Protection for pets
New council tenancy agreements include a requirement that dogs living in council-owned homes should be micro-chipped. This has encouraged more tenants who own dogs to behave responsibly as their pets are much easier to trace.
Planting for nature
B&H Greens have been including more diverse and sustainable planting in its open spaces such as perennials, wildflowers, and bee and butterfly banks.
By November 2014, Greens had overseen the delivery of 389 affordable homes (as part of wider residential and mixed developments). Another 130 are due to be completed before May 2015, and at least another 232 due in the year after the election.
Filling empty homes
By July 2014 the Green administration had brought some 416 council homes and more than 460 empty private homes back into use.The average time it takes to re-let an empty council home is now just over two weeks – the lowest in many years and one of the best turn-round times in the UK.
Building new homes
In the Green Party’s term of administration it will have overseen the building 639 homes. A further 681 affordable homes, including more than 200 new council homes, are in the development pipeline.
Safety for private tenants
In Nov 2012 it introduced a new licensing scheme by which private landlords letting a property for sharing by three or more people must bring it up to an agreed standard. More than 1,500 licences were applied for by April 2014 with new fire alarms and other prevention measures installed.
Warmer homes, cheaper bills
For the first time in living memory, communal heating bills in some Brighton and Hove council blocks have fallen as council tenants benefit from a major programme of energy efficiency retro-fitting which, where possible, include solar panels and new heating systems.
Rather than wait for the Government to provide funds for building new schools, the Green administration bought a disused police station in Hove and revamped it as a satellite to the nearby junior school so that they could increase the number of children they take.
In 2013, thanks to ensuring investment in their team helping young people back into training or work, Brighton & Hove became one of the most improved areas in England with only 6.6% of 16-18 year olds not in employment, education or training – the lowest figure since 2004 when this measure was first calculated.
Education in Brighton & Hove was for long a major concern to parents in the city but since the Greens came to office results have improved. The 2013 GCSE results were the best ever, though they fell in 2014 after tougher marking was introduced across the country. A level results continued to improve in 2014. 80% of sixth form and colleges are good or outstanding as judged by the school inspectorate Ofsted.
Early years provision
All Children’s Centres have been kept open across the city with no loss of services, in contrast to many councils and despite government cuts in this area. All the council’s early years provision is judged outstanding by Ofsted.
Helping council tenants
In October 2012 the Greens set up a Housing Inclusion Team, to offer financial help and advice to tenants hit by benefit cuts. The group joined forces with advice charity MAC and by August 2013 had helped nearly 400 people access £350,000 in unclaimed benefits and savings on household bills.
No bedroom tax evictions
In May 2013 the council was the first in the country to declare a “no evictions” policy for tenants who could not pay the bedroom tax. It has been extended to 2014/15.
The Green administration invested £100,000 in a local credit union partly to help it set up an online system for residents to access loans, making the credit union as accessible as high interest ‘payday lenders’. It also banned such lenders from advertising on council billboards.
The Greens signed innovative deals in September 2014 to convert the derelict site Circus Street in the city centre into an “innovation quarter” with an academic building, library and gallery for University of Brighton, a new dance studio, theatre and offices and flats. It signed a similar deal with the university to redevelop a derelict army barracks, which is estimated to create 740 new jobs over a 10-year period, including a new business school, 300 homes, and central research laboratory to support hi-tech start-up companies.
Hospital redesign – partnership working
The Greens worked in partnership with the Royal Sussex Hospital to ensure that the proposals for the £420 million rebuild of its Victorian hospital, the city’s biggest ever regeneration project, were brought forward speedily and successfully to planning after they had stalled under the previous Tory administration.
Business start ups
The concentration of start-ups and small and medium enterprises in the city grew while the Greens were in office from 2011 to 2013 by 5% giving it the third highest concentration in the country. In June 2014 it was also rated the third best city in the country for small enterprises with high growth strategies.
Two new libraries
While other councils have been closing libraries Brighton greens opened two in 2014 at Mile Oak and Woodlingdean.
Health for all
18 months after the Greens introduced a concessionary card for entry to leisure centres for people on certain benefits, 1,300 people had signed up and made 34,000 visits to the council’s leisure centres.
Healthy, quality food
In July 2014, Brighton & Hove city council became the first in the country to introduce Soil Association food buying standards for all catering contracts over £75,000, including local and healthier food.
In spring 2011, in a moved later recognised by Sustainable Food Cities network and the World Green Building Council it was the first council in the country to encourage urban food growing in its planning guidance, with encouragement to grow on walls, rooftops and balconies. In the twelve months following 44 out of 98 planning applications (45%) proposed food growing as part of development. Examples include a sixth floor raised bed allotment.