Saturday, 21 May 2011

Building Green success: The route-map to 2015 (part 3)

Throughout this week, I've been focussing on the fresh political landscape in Brighton and Hove. Whilst the UK is living through some of the most challenging financial circumstances in the last twenty years, those of us here on the coast are entertaining hopes that over the next four years, the Greens can forge a beacon of good governance and an inspiring alternative to politics as usual.

However, this historic opportunity leaves us with a great responsibility to prove that we can be trusted with holding power. Our performance here will have implications for the Green Party's reputation across the country. We can already sense that the national media and our opponents will be quick to use our leadership stance and policies here to extrapolate about the party as a whole, for good or ill.

I believe that to make this term of office a success, we need to identify a strong narrative for what we are hoping to achieve and communicate this relatively swiftly, so that voters feel able to measure us against it. In the current circumstances, we should not over-commit and aim for a series of incremental improvements to the city that leave it a more prosperous and unified place.

For me, the main achievement of a first term in office will be to persuade voters that we can be trusted to pay due respect to the core issues that matter to people. We need to ensure we focus as much on these "bread and butter" issues as the green priorities we have strong credentials upon. Ideally, we should be knitting these together to deliver on multiple outcomes at once.

So what are the main issues of importance for residents in the city? Simple. I think our principal focus has to be upon job creation and retention. Critical to this will be placing the Council's weight behind small businesses, to build an enabling environment within which they can flourish. On the expansion of green jobs, I noticed in response to one of my earlier posts, Ben Ramalingam argued for the active promotion of a commercial green network and to capacity-build these businesses in the Sussex area. We need to assess what our principal industries consist of and identify the extent to which these networks already exist for them. If not, we must take a role in convening these conversations so we become leading hubs of activity and market leaders in the country. I sincerely believe that this is an area where we can work productively with the other political parties as well as the business community

Alongside this, we need to stand firm on our principles that require the Council budget to be re-examined to try and avoid cuts to front-line public services. More than any other party, we stand on the side of the disadvantaged and those most likely to suffer the impact of our greatly reduced settlement from central government. That's why recent talk from the Greens about participatory budgeting and opening up the Council more to the public can only help accountability. You can only argue that "we are in it together" if you genuinely level with the public and propose solutions together in an accountable fashion.

The other area of great concern to residents has been the lack of new housing and the number of empty properties not being put to good use. Only 380 new homes were built here in the last year and this number is nearly half of the previous year. Already, the signs are strong that the new Green Council will reverse this and are aiming for at least 1,000 homes to be built in the next year. It is heartening that the new Leader of the Council and both of his Deputies have professional experience in housing, architecture and planning. I have no doubt this will remain high on their agenda.

What I believe the Green Party can offer Brighton and Hove is to bring all elements of the community into a pragmatic and honest conversation about the future. Our reputation as reasonable outsiders sits well with the view many Brightonians hold of themselves: cosmopolitan, moderate, yet iconoclastic. Perhaps we finally have a Council that can truly represent and articulate Brighton's unique identity?


  1. Hmmm... being trusted, supporting business building houses... Point well made and correct, but I am hoping for more. Given that B&H Greens were victorious after voting against the Tory cuts budget, rather than being pilloried indicates the public apetite for change - a different approach. I hope that the quest to be trusted doesn't quash radical ambition of the Green council to really make a difference, and to respond fully to the vote of confidence they have been given with a truly distinctive legacy.

  2. I hope that the approach to business will also think about health and wellbeing sustainability and the need to consider the dearth of occupational health facilities for SME businesses, including general practice, and the potential to maximise benefit by working across the local strategic partnership in a coherent way....I also hope there is some serious thought applied to the children's agenda to see the foundation of every child matters built through in a sustainable way

  3. I'd agree that we need a radical new approach to running a Council here in Brighton, but I'm keen that we achieve this by bringing our particularly brand of sustainable and ethical values to tackling these "bread and butter" issues. Already, we're hearing about new dialogues taking place around transport and Traveller communities in the city, alongside firm commitments on really upping our game around housing. I think we need to give our new Council time to get established in post and then see where they hope to place their energies for the first year!