Hollingdean Sure Start – Weekend Opening

Annual play event T in the Park with the Sure Start centre open in the background

Annual play event T in the Park with the Sure Start centre open in the background

Hollingdean and Stanmer Labour candidates support local residents’ calls for the Sure Start centre next to Hollingdean Park to be opened at weekends.

This would encourage greater use of Hollingdean Park because the cafe and toilets would be available for people using the park, as they are for the annual T in the Park event pictured above.

The centre is already a valuable hub for the local community, and opening at the weekends would enhance this. There have already been inquiries from community workers who would like to hold classes at weekends but lack a suitable venue. The venue could also be used as a place to purchase cheap staple food, helping local families out in this time of hardship.

Previously, appeals have been made for local people to volunteer to staff the centre for a few hours at weekends. But we also need the council to be prepared to allow the centre to be open.

We are appealing to officers to look favourably on this request and are planning to launch a petition in due course.

Please get in touch if you:

  • want to support this campaign
  • have any ideas for what else the Sure Start centre could be used for if open at weekends
  • would be willing to help as a volunteer occasionally to keep the centre open

Please email hollingdeanandstanmer@brightonhovelabour.com

The cafe at the Sure Start centre is also open for tender (deadline August 22nd). Follow this link for more details.

It was a vision of the last Labour government to create a Sure Start hub in every community, bringing together child care services. This remains a core part of Labour’s local government policy:

“To give every child a good start in life, Sure Start Centres should become hubs of support for children, with local services for health and family support having a duty to co-operate and co-locate to provide a single point of access in every community.”

Labour’s Local Government Innovation Taskforce, July 2014

Damp Deputation and Hollingdean Housing

A permanently damp wall in a Brentwood Road flat

A permanently damp wall in a Brentwood Road flat

A doorknocking session on Brentwood Road recently revealed that some council flats have severe damp problems, which have been reported numerous times but not sorted out. Councillor Jeane Lepper had also appealed to Mears for reasonable solutions (ie not just a dehumidifier!) with no success. So I took a deputation to Thursday’s Full Council meeting, drew attention to some of the issues (with photographic evidence), and asked that the problems be looked into. In particular, I was hoping that the damp issue might be investigated as a whole rather than each resident’s problem considered in isolation. If there is a damp problem in a flat it may well affect several of the flats in the same building and would most efficiently be treated collectively.

Councillor Bill Randall, responsible for housing, responded that the issue in the particular flat I was talking about would be sorted out by the end of the month, and that in a neighbouring flat by mid August. In fact, the visit to the first flat happened on July 10th. I sent the detail of my documentation and photograph in to the council on July 8th. Whether this is a coincidence or not, I’m glad the issues are being looked into, and will keep in touch with the residents concerned to make sure things are sorted out.

While I realise that political grandstanding is a key part of the proceedings at Full Council meetings, I was rather taken aback by Councillor Randall’s robust attack on Labour’s housing policy in his response to me. I hadn’t framed the deputation in a party political way at all. Failures of service at an individual level could happen under any administration and I wasn’t making a point about the current Green-led administration as a whole. Councillor Randall’s criticisms all dated back to Labour’s time in administration in the city, ie before 2007. Next time someone says to me that Labour “shouldn’t be negative about the Greens” I will remember Councillor Randall’s somewhat disproportionate response to me!

The deputation also mentioned the importance of tenants’ associations. A few of us at the Hollingdean Development Trust have realised that with no active tenants’ association on the estate, keeping abreast of maintenance issues will continue to be a problem. It also means that housing development grant funding is not being applied for. This is something we have highlighted in our most recent letter to residents, and I’m also involved in an initiative with the trust’s community worker and housing officer at the council to doorknock to try to identify a few people who would be willing to step forward.


A Tale of Two Cities

It has often been observed that Brighton and Hove is two cities in one, and the more I campaign the more I believe this to be true. Looking at educational attainment, for example, there are areas of the city where the number of people not attaining five A to C grade GCSEs is lower than average, and yet we also have high numbers of students and graduates. We have an exciting digital media industry offering opportunities to skilled professionals, but we also have a local economy that is dependent on tourism where pay is not high. The city benefits from a well developed private sector and lots of start-ups, freelancers and SMEs – but youth unemployment is also an issue.

That’s why the local Labour Party’s pledge to set up a fairness commission is such welcome news. An independently-chaired commission will take evidence from residents, volunteers and workers from across the city and make recommendations (within a year of its formation) specifically on equality issues.

These will include finance and debt (on which Labour has already taken action), child poverty, youth unemployment, housing cost and quality, and health.

Housing in particular is one of the key challenges the city faces: it’s estimated that 40,000 homes across the city do not meet the decent homes standard, over 92% of which are in the private sector, and that 42% of vulnerable households in the private sector do not meet the decent homes standard. The Home Sweet Home campaign which has been active for almost a year has already made progress in this area.

And in terms of health, the gap in life expectancy between the most and least deprived people in Brighton and Hove has widened to more than ten years for men and six for women.

Over the past three years I believe the city has become more polarised in its attitudes, with city centre and relatively affluent populations tending to back the Green council (certainly in its early years) while those less well off and further away from the city centre feeling increasingly pushed out. We need a fairer city, which offers great opportunities to everyone whatever their background and income. The issues which will be explored by the Fairness Commission are real and important to everyone, and are also ones which a local council is able to influence.

I very much look forward to the Fairness Commission being set up in less than a year’s time.



Brighton and Hove European election result: from the count

I was at the count of votes all evening last night for the European elections. Because the verification (first check that the number of ballot papers matches the numbers recorded in polling stations) was done on Friday, by Sunday the ballot boxes had already been opened and the votes were being counted from several ballot boxes at time.

I had never been to a count before the general election of 2010, so had no idea this went on, but what most parties do is try to get a “heads up” of the election result in advance by watching the ballot papers being counted and writing down a tally of votes for each party. When the ballot papers come straight out of the ballot boxes, this also gives a rough indication of how the voting has gone within each polling district (and therefore ward and constituency). It’s a rough-and-ready exercise for party internal use only.

The European election result is announced across the whole city, not by constituency. Labour topped the ballot, more than doubling our vote since 2009. However, Caroline Lucas appears to be claiming on Twitter that the Green Party (which came second) won in Pavilion. Presumably this comes from the samples which were taken at the count. Aside from the fact that these figures are not reliable enough to be published (and it wouldn’t be appropriate anyway because they are not an official result) there is no way the Pavilion votes could have been sampled separately from those of other constituencies, because they were not counted separately.

I was at one table where all the votes for Hanover and Elm Grove and Queens Park (Pavilion and Kemptown) were counted. Any sampling at that table would have reflected the vote across both of those wards. Labour and the Greens were both strong. Later, I watched votes being counted from one polling station in Patcham and another in Hollingdean and Stanmer, which may have included Sussex campus and part of Coldean (depending on which bundle the counting agents picked up) but may not. From the ballot papers I saw, UKIP was ahead (they came fourth overall across the city).

My observations suggest that Labour and the Greens were very close in the inner parts of the city where much Green support has come from over time. In areas which are more typically Conservative, UKIP got a strong showing and the Greens hardly any. Labour got a reasonable vote in these areas too – certainly more than the Greens. Some of these areas, such as Patcham, are within Pavilion. Even if the Greens held on in their strongholds, Labour polled a lot of votes in those areas too and also did passably in the more Tory areas. So it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Labour had polled more votes in the whole of Brighton Pavilion than the Greens.

This is all speculation though, since results by constituency are not available. It does smack of desperation that Caroline Lucas is so keen to show she is ahead at all, when the Greens polled twice as many votes as Labour back in 2009. This on a turnout of 37%. With a general election turnout hopefully coming up to twice that in a year’s time, things are really looking grim for her.

This post is in response to Caroline Lucas’ tweet. I’ll post again later on the European result more broadly.

Brighton and Hove launches Europe Campaign (23rd April)

EU Campaign Launch Brighton and Hove

Brighton and Hove Labour launched their European election campaign, with candidates Tracey Hill (who is based in Brighton), Anneliese Dodds, John Howarth and Emily Westley. The candidates highlighted the need for a strong voice in Europe for extra investment and jobs, and to preserve employment resulting from EU trade. They revealed figures which suggest that around 12,149 jobs in Brighton and Hove are supported by exports to the European Union (EU).

Recent controversy around Britain’s membership of the EU has often failed to take into account the potential impact of withdrawing from the EU on firms who export to the rest of the EU from Britain. This new research shows just how many employees could be affected here in Brighton and Hove – over 12,000 of them.

Anneliese said: “The EU supports many jobs in Brighton and Hove, but Labour wants to see more-and better-quality- jobs being created in East Sussex in the future. Our MEPs have worked hard in the European Parliament to secure investment in the South East and also to improve working rights. Now we’re campaigning for the EU to take action against zero-hours contracts and other measures which mean that many people working here in Brighton and Hove are really struggling to cope with the high cost of living”.

John said: “As someone who runs a small business in the creative sector, like hundreds of those across Brighton and Hove, I know we would be poorer off out of Europe. I want to work hard to ensure South East England get the most out of our relationship with the rest of the EU, I was us to be able to live where we want, work and do business where we want, and trade with our neighbours”

Over the next few weeks until May 22nd, the candidates will be campaigning in Brighton Pavillion, Brighton Kemptown and Hove, as well as in a number of other Sussex constituencies. This follows numerous previous visits by Anneliese and John, the two top-placed candidates, to Brighton and Hove, when they have talked to hundreds of people on their doorsteps, met with people involved in the local food economy and attended events at Sussex University.

The figure of 12149 jobs being dependent on trade with the EU is calculated on the basis of recent research by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) which suggests that since 1997 there has been an increase of 17.5% in the number of jobs in the South East dependent on trade with the rest of the EU. This has been used to calculate the uplift on jobs estimated to result from trade with the EU for the three constituencies of Brighton Kemptown, Brighton Pavilion and Hove which South Bank University calculated for 1997 on the basis of ONS statistics (2333, 4259 and 3748, respectively).

City business leader says Britain leaving the EU is “a nonsense”

Wording of a press release sent in early May:

Tony Mernagh, chair of the Brighton and Hove Economic Partnership, which supports business development and growth across the city, has issued an unequivocal statement in favour of Britain’s membership of the European Union.

In a statement to Tracey Hill, a Labour MEP candidate for the south east based in Brighton and Hove, he says:

“When some of the world’s largest companies tell you that they have invested in the UK because it is part of Europe and they will seriously review their presence here if that changes, we need to sit up and listen. At a time when global connections determine which countries will thrive and which will struggle, it is a nonsense to contemplate Britain abandoning its membership of the world’s largest single market with half a billion potential customers.

“The UK is in danger of sleepwalking out of one of the most powerful trading blocks on the planet because people don’t understand EU regulations, half of which are just urban myth peddled by Red Tops rather than reality.

“Europe provides both jobs and hard cash for our economy. If we aren’t part of the EU, we will still have to abide by EU rules and regulations if we want to sell our goods and services to them but we will have no place around the table influencing the terms and conditions of that trade. London is unlikely to continue to be Europe’s global centre for finance and business services if it is outside the EU. Britain’s position on the world stage will be hugely diminished if we are a country isolated outside the European block.

“We will gain nothing by leaving the EU, we will lose much. And once lost, it will never be regained.”

Tracey Hill says:

“At this time when personality and media exposure seems to be leading the debate, it’s really important for business leaders to speak out and give a clear reasoned argument for why Britain should remain in the EU. Over twelve thousand jobs in Brighton and Hove depend on Britain’s membership of the EU. Much of the protection for workers such as health and safety, guaranteed holiday and maternity leave are in place because of the EU. Without a doubt, Brighton and Hove, and many people who live here, would be worse off if Britain left the EU.”