Residents elect their councillors to focus on council issues not national matters.
Brighton & Hove City Councillors are elected to directly manage a £777 million council budget that provides essential services to the City - a large budget that is made up by council tax paid by local taxpayers, rent paid by council tenants and rates paid by businesses.
It therefore stands to reason that council meetings should be about ensuring that services paid for by the city’s taxpayers are being properly delivered for the City.
This is something as Conservatives we strongly believe in as we always want to see good financial management of taxpayer’s money. As a party we prioritise getting the basics right and this is the platform we stand on when we stand for local government.
As reported by The Argus’ report ‘Nuclear Fallout’, at the final council meeting of 2020, council issues were pushed aside as Labour triggered a debate on Nuclear weapons.
The nuclear debate was one of 4 national-level issues brought forward by Labour and the Greens on the night which chewed up council time and ultimately meant that genuine local matters concerning service delivery were pushed to the bottom of the agenda and never debated before the meeting ended.
During the meeting the Conservative Councillor Robert Nemeth summarised the situation with a tweet which I think would encapsulate the view of many residents in the City:
Nuclear weapons are an issue – but is this an issue that local councillors should be taking up the time of a full council meeting to speak about? Of course not!
The issue clearly sits at a national level – perhaps even an international or NATO-level. Councillors have no influence over the matter.
If Labour and Green Councillors have an issue with nuclear weapons, they should be raising it with their MPs in Parliament– not at a Brighton and Hove City Council meeting.
The Conservative Group has taken a stand and decided not to take part in these national or international level debates as it has absolutely nothing to do with council business.
We consider the constant pursuit of national and international issues by Labour and Green Councillors to be disrespectful to residents who elect them to deal with the core issues that the City faces.
Furthermore, given the number of these national and international matters that have come up under this council, we also feel that the Green Labour Coalition uses these debates to avoid scrutiny and distract from its failings.
Often Labour and the Greens are not content with using their own allocated notices of motion to discuss these issues (they are provided with 2 notices of motion each), they also put forward ‘Joint Notices of Motion’ as well, which takes further time away from council matters.
So what local matters were pushed aside at December’s meeting?
Our Conservative Group brought forward two motions on council issues that are of serious concern to local residents.
The Conservatives’ motion on heritage in the city, something that has been brought into sharp focus recently with The Argus’ investigative reporting detailing how heritage items were found for sale on Facebook marketplace, was not debated. Conservatives were calling for the establishment of a semi-independent body to look after the City’s heritage items after a number of recent failures.
Similarly, the Conservatives second motion on field officers was also not able to be debated.
The Council’s field officer team have a responsibility for tackling antisocial behaviour in the City but the council has not been managing the team properly. The City has gone through an entire summer without having a full complement of officers. Residents, including council tenants in particular, have been paying for a service which they have not been receiving. This is a core service delivery issue and we wanted to bring this matter forward to ensure the matter was corrected as soon as possible.
But because of the debate on nuclear weapons and other national matters we never got there.
The Council has enough to be focusing on at the moment without the luxury of being able to pontificate about international affairs.
The City is facing damaging strike action after wasting £10 million on a Labour insourcing policy that is proving impossible to implement. Schools are facing a £3.3 million bill because of a council administrative error.
These are just two issues from the last month.
It is time for Labour and the Greens to end their obsession with national and international matters and allow the council to do its job and manage local issues.
So here’s a New Year’s resolution for the Council – let 2021 be a year where we focus on local matters, not national and international issues that we have no control over.