Local elections 2024: ‘Here’s what Labour has done for Brighton in just one year’

Bella Sankey
Brighton seafront
Photo: Stephen Green-Price/Shutterstock

It’s been almost a year since Labour took control of Brighton and Hove City Council, securing our first overall majority in over 20 years. Two decades of No Overall Control in our city led to dysfunction and slow decision making. The Greens created financial chaos and showed themselves unable to govern.

We’ve achieved a huge amount in our first year. Some of our early actions were to reverse decisions of the previous Green administration. So we’ve reopened and refurbished our public toilets, restored our life-saving lifeguard service, and cancelled planned 300% hikes in parking charges.

We’re the first English council to pass a policy which gives priority to children on free school meals in secondary school admissions. This has been welcomed by the Sutton Trust and educationalists across the country as a major, transformative, step towards driving better educational outcomes across the board. We’ve also extended Free School Meal vouchers to children educated outside of mainstream settings.

This September, we’ll be launching a landmark pilot project to provide counselling to Year 9 students who are struggling with their emotional and mental health in our city’s secondary schools, mirroring national Party plans on this. We’ve also created the Brighton and Hove Fairness Fund, of over half a million pounds to support residents through the Tory Cost of Living Crisis.

We’ve taken bold action on the environment and climate change, establishing a new Net Zero pathway, leading the country on EV charging infrastructure and securing funding to fully electrify one of our main bus routes. We’ve also forced Southern Water to fund year-round testing of our sea-water to provide reassurance to our sea bathers.

We instructed a King’s Counsel to carry out an investigation into the council’s waste management service and acted on their findings. This has already resulted in significant improvements to our waste and recycling service. We’ve come up with a new approach to tackling hazardous weeds that have grown unchecked, causing pavements to become unsafe. And we’ve redirected resources so that graffiti tags are removed swiftly, while developing a public art strategy to better recognise our rich cultural tradition.

Clamping down on rogue landlords and taking on the government

Brighton and Hove is one of the most expensive places to live in the UK, just behind London and Oxford. So as well as accelerating plans to build social housing and buy back council stock, we are exploring ways to introduce a principal residence policy and force developers to meet the 40% affordable housing requirement in new developments. We’re clamping down on rogue landlords by creating a new landlord licensing scheme, raising standards in our private rental sector.

One of our proudest achievements so far was taking successful litigation against then Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, challenging her appalling policy of accommodating unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in hotels on a systemic basis. The landmark judgment from the High Court last July resulted in an end to the national policy and made clear that all children in need of care should be looked after by local authorities, irrespective of their nationality and immigration status.

Celebrating success and delivering significant change despite Tory cuts

We’ve also celebrated success and service, awarding Freedom of the City to Brighton and Hove Albion for their historic qualification into the Europa League and posthumously to suffragette Mary Clarke who organised in Brighton and gave her life to the cause of women’s equality.

Our greatest challenge has been balancing the budget. Like many councils, 14 years of Tory cuts, with a real-term cut of £100 million since 2010, has left our council finances in a perilous state and for 2024-25 we were forced to find a further £30 million of savings. Despite this financial backdrop, we have delivered significant change for our city and embedded Labour values in everything we do.

Our first year has demonstrated the difference Labour councils make to communities. Hearing Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner’s proposals for the Take Back Control Act and empowering local leaders is so exciting.

Working in lockstep with a Labour Government – just as our last majority Labour Council Leader Lord Bassam did in the late 1990s and early 2000s – I know that Brighton and Hove can be transformed once again.

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