Posts Tagged 'Green Party'

‘Tourist tax’ would damage city economy

I was very concerned to read in the Argus today of a possible ‘tourist tax’ for Brighton & Hove. In my view, this would be very much a backward step for Brighton & Hove and would seriously jeopardise our hard-earned reputation as a destination of choice for visitors.

What Simon Fanshawe and other proponents of this seem to be forgetting is that our local economy is based around tourism. As the recent State of the City report showed, we host some 8 million visitors every year and these visitors spend over £700 million in local shops, cafes and hotels.

It is all very well to say that a few pounds here or there won’t deter people from coming to Brighton & Hove but if it is a straight choice between paying that and going somewhere else, then in these difficult economic times, people will vote with their feet. And whenever a new tax is introduced, however low the initial rate is, it is all too easy and tempting for politicians to increase them as a revenue raising measure. Just look what happened to the council tax – it started off at a relatively low rate but under the last Labour Government, it more than doubled.

The new Green Administration has pledged to investigate the introduction of a new tourist tax but I would strongly urge them to reject it.

Advertisements

Opposition stifle supermarkets debate at Council meeting

At Thursday’s Full Council meeting, opposition Green and Labour councillors voted to curtail my speech during a debate on the growing impact of multinational retailers in Brighton & Hove – an issue of great importance to the City.
The sponsor of the petition – a Labour candidate – was criticising us for not doing enough to address the problem. However, when I listed all the actions that the Council and the Government were doing the opposition clearly didn’t like it!
The opposition green and labour groups are always accusing my Administration of not being open and transparent but if this is how they behave, I would hate to think what they would be like if they ever took control of the Council.
There was a similar situation at the recent Budget Council meeting when the Convenor of the Green Group responded to the amendments which my Group had put forward. He said that he liked our amendment but couldn’t support it because it was being put forward by Tories – who he has previously described as ‘doing the devils work’.
I think it is about time that they stopped being so childish. We were having an important debate about a huge issue in this City – you would think that they might want to hear what the Leader of the Council had to say! For information and clarity, here is the full text of my speech:
  • I’m very pleased to be able to respond to this petition on behalf of the Administration as this is a cause which I am very committed to.
  • I would just like to say at the outset that although I clearly support the sentiments behind it, I am slightly disappointed in the wording of the petition. This campaign is not just about keeping Brighton unique. It is the City of Brighton & Hove and the same issues apply across the whole City – and that also includes Portslade.
  • But I would just like to outline some of the work that this Administration has been doing on this issue for some considerable time now.
  • We all know that one of the main reasons that so many visitors and shoppers come to Brighton & Hove is because of its diverse and interesting range of shops and facilities. Brighton & Hove is most definitely not a ‘clone town’ and we must keep it that way.
  • There are currently 56 major supermarket stores in the City and whilst, clearly there is a significant demand amongst residents for the services they offer, I feel we are rapidly approaching saturation point.
  • This has incredibly serious implications, not only to the individual retailers and traders themselves, but also to the wider economy of the City as a whole.
  • Mr Mayor there is both a national and a local angle to this. I have been consistently lobbying central Government about giving councils greater powers to determine the best mix of retail in their areas because I genuinely believe that we are better placed than the civil servants in Whitehall to assess this.
  • For example, under current legislation, we are not allowed to prevent a supermarket moving into an existing shop, regardless of whether or not the local community want it there. Exactly the situation which is happening with the Taj now in St. James Street. I believe that this needs to change.
  • So I was very pleased to see last week in a response to a question in Parliament by Simon Kirby MP that the Government is going to be reviewing the whole planning framework around this in the Summer. And we will certainly keep up our lobbying to ensure that Brighton & Hove’s concerns are taken into account during this process.
  • I’m also pleased to see that the Government announced last week that it is going to publish a Bill in May which will pave the way for the establishment of a new ‘Supermarkets Ombudsman’ which was the main recommendation of the recent Competition Commission Inquiry into the power of large retailers. Again, I shall be lobbying, through our local MPs, to ensure that this new body has real teeth and is able to address the issues that we are facing in Brighton & Hove. I think this is a really positive step forward.
  • It is also true to say that Labour don’t have a great record on this. It was the Labour Government which changed national planning rules on retail development (through Planning Policy Statement 4) and scrapped the so-called ‘needs test’ which significantly weakened council’s ability to stop unwanted out-of-town supermarket development.
  • Moving onto the local angle. A couple of weeks ago, we hosted a conference called Streets Ahead which brought together local traders, supermarkets, campaign groups and Council officers to discuss how we can best protect and enhance the unique character of Brighton & Hove’s retail sector.
  • It was very useful and productive to get everyone in a room together, not only to listen to people’s concerns, but also to map out a way forward.
  • I agreed to set up a special commission on retailing to consider these issues which will include representatives from the various retail sectors in the city, alongside independent experts and the Council.
  • At the event, local traders gave us some very useful examples of things that we could do better and I hope that the new Commission will be able to consider and implement these as well as some other useful practical measures.
  • We are also, of course, continuing to promote our high profile ‘Be Local Buy Local’ campaign and will continue to look at any other ways of ensuring that residents and visitors recognise the many benefits of buying local produce and goods.
  • However, I do think that we need to sound a note of caution. The last thing that I want is for this to turn into a battle between chainstores and independents – this would not be beneficial to anyone. Supermarkets do provide a service that many people in the City use – they are convenient for families who lead busy lives and they and provide a huge range of foods at relatively cheap prices. At a time when everyone’s budgets are stretched this is not something we should take lightly.
  • So, to conclude, Mr Mayor, we welcome this petition as a reflection of people’s genuine concerns around the increasing dominance of large chain stores in Brighton & Hove. We will continue to highlight this as an issue and to take action where we can and we look forward to working closely with the new local Commission to ensure that this City retains its unique attraction for residents and visitors alike.

Brighton & Hove’s local economy – reasons to be optimistic

Last week at our Full Council meeting we had a very interesting debate on the possible effects of reductions in public spending on the local economy. The Green Party, who put forward the motion for debate argued strongly that cuts to the public sector will have a damaging effect.

For my part, I argued that we have good reason to be optimistic here in Brighton & Hove and that talking the economy down in this way does nobody any good. By and large the driver for local (and national) economic growth is the private sector and in Brighton & Hove there are very encouraging signs:

  1. The Centre for Cities have once again singled Brighton & Hove out as performing strongly post-recession. One quote from their report explains why: “Cities with strong private sector economies and limited public spending cuts, such as Brighton and Cambridge, will be well placed to drive the UK’s economic recovery.”
  2. Just last week the Argus highlighted that recruitment specialists are reporting a surge in vacancies with firms returning to pre-recession staff levels. They also reported that the number of young people starting apprenticeships is rising faster in Brighton and Hove than anywhere else in the South East. Both very welcome pieces of news.
  3. Amex announced last week that they are looking to expand still further in Brighton by relocating a significant number of jobs from their Madrid office.
  4. And developers are still looking to invest in Brighton & Hove. For example, the exciting proposals for a new hotel on the old ice rink site in Queen’s Square.

So, although clearly there are going to be tough times ahead, particularly for us in the public sector, I do retain a sense of optimism about our future prospects.

And I have to say that what would really damage the local economy is the massive increases in taxes on business that the Greens advocate. Just last month, Caroline Lucas put forward proposals to introduce a new ‘business education tax’ on companies – supposedly to pay for free higher education. I’m sure that businesses would be delighted to have this extra burden imposed on them at this time. It would certainly ensure that there would be far fewer jobs for all the new graduates to go into!

And just think what the effect on local businesses would be if the Greens ever got to introduce their cherished congestion charge? As we have seen in London, a Green candidate for the Mayoral elections – Jenny Jones – wants it extended to cover the whole City and the charge to be raised to £50! This really would kill the economic recovery stone dead and I think it would be extremely bad for this City if they ever got the chance to bring it in.

UPDATE: Further good news yesterday on the jobs front. According to a survey by BrightonandHoveJobs.com, more than a third (36%) of local employers plan to create new jobs and take on new staff over the next 12 months, while 17% said they expected higher than average growth which could lead to new jobs. A mere 4.3% said they were looking to reduce staffing. Very encouraging.

‘Smash EDO’ Verdict Turns Justice on its Head

I must admit to being completely astonished to read the other week of the ‘not guilty’ verdict in the trial of the ‘Smash EDO’ activists who broke into and caused £200,000 worth of criminal damage to the EDO MBM HQ in Moulsecoomb. These so-called ‘decomissioners’ were adjudged to have acted with “lawful excuse” to prevent further alleged war crimes being committed by Israel against Palestinians in Gaza.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Palestinian situation I believe that this judgement opens up a real pandora’s box in terms of the law and how it is policed in this country.

The idea that you can now legally and justifiably cause criminal damage to a company/organisation who are acting completely within the law (and incidentally employing significant numbers of local people) just because you don’t agree with what they do, is extremely worrying and sets a dangerous precedent. Where does this leave the Police? Do they now have to make an operational judgement as to whether a criminal act is morally justifiable before deciding whether or not to make arrests?

And I was equally flabbergasted to read that Caroline Lucas, the new Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, had stood up in the court to defend the actions of these people. She is quoted as saying that they had “exhausted all democratic avenues … to prevent further suffering in Gaza.” I would have thought that having a member of parliament to fight their cause in Westminster would have been a very good democratic avenue which clearly can’t already have been exhausted after only 2 months of her taking office.

This isn’t the first time that the Green Party have shown a complete disregard for the law and respect for the institutions that they represent (remember MPs and councillors have a duty to uphold the law and to act on all occasions in accordance with the public trust placed in them). Other examples include:

1) Cllr. Vicky Wakefield-Jarrett stated in a public meeting of the Full Council:

Firstly on the subject of lawfulness, when the Parliament that makes the laws of this country is representative of the people that live in this country then I will observe by the laws of that Parliament. In the meantime I will observe by morals and justice. That’s my personal take on the law while it remains to be such an undiverse and unrepresentative body, I don’t see that those laws can be expected to cover the majority of us.

At the time, she was defending the right of van dwellers to park their vans and live on the public highway – an unlawful activity.

2) Cllr. Ben Duncan (who is ironically the Council’s only representative on the Sussex Police Authority) has regularly publicised ‘Smash EDO’ demonstrations in the City, including advertisements which invite people to ‘come fight and party’.

3) Cllr. Duncan has also described benefit fraud as a ‘petty crime’ and enforcing it is ‘just another way that the poor in society are victimised’.

I could go on….

I am all for the right to peaceful protest and freedom of speech but this must be done within the law – the minute people break those laws, in my view they forfeit that right to protest. Effectively giving the green light for people to cause criminal damage whenever they believe it is ‘morally justified’ is setting a very dangerous precedent.


council twitterfeed

October 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jul    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031