Things are getting very silly and the Planning Department thinks it is all absolutely fine! But hey! Maybe none of it will get built….
28.05.19…..The ability to understand what the Council does with your council tax and the city you live in begins with understanding who our Councillors are and where each fits in – on decision-making Council Committees. The Brighton & Hove City Council website gets endlessly tinkered with and remains painfully labyrintine and in need of insider information and longstanding familiarity to really be useful. I this link below is helpful. Council meetings are held in public – most at Hove Town Hall. Full Council alternates between Brighton and Hove Town Halls. Some are webcast too.
Clicking on a name gets you to their dedicated webpage with a lot of what you might be curious to know, that is really none of your business but it is there for all to see out in the open….to quite an extent. It CAN matter if there is a conflict of interests with an area of Committee responsibility. Should you wish to ask a public question, mount a deputation or present a petition, speak at a planning meeting and want to know where to start, this link is a good way in if you know from nothing!
Update! 11.06.19…..Since this blogpost went up at the end of May, the Tories have taken Mary Mears off Planning – leaving 2 instead of all 3 Rottingdean cllrs on Planning. She was replaced by another Brighton Tory, however! *Dee Simson. I have a Public Question in for Weds 13th Planning Committee meeting questioning why there is only one Cllr out of 10 representing a Hove or Portslade ward. Rottingdean counts as Brighton and there are 9 of them on Planning. Brighton 9, Hove & Portslade 1. Its not on.
The Planning Committee has been reduced from 12 Councillors to 10. I know not why.
Too, there is a serious ethical question of balance in having ALL THREE Rottingdean Cllrs on Planning, only one Hove Cllr – Phelim MacCafferty – and nobody from Portslade. This bodes ill for decisions affecting Hove & Portslade. Either it is deliberate, cynical, Brightoncentric behaviour or Momentum are up to no good where the future of Hove and Portslade are concerned. If you voted for one of them, be it on your own head.
Who is on the committee?
CHAIR: Tracey Hill, DEPUTY CHAIR: Gill Williams, Dan Yates – Dan Yates was the Leader of the Council in the last Administration & Chair of Policy & Resources, Tracey sat on Housing and Gill Willams is a new (Momentum) councillor. None of them has a clue about Planning at this stage and they are in charge (!) which means the officers have their work cut out.
Leo Littman, Opposition spokesman, Phelim MacCafferty, Sue Shanks – Both Leo and Phelim were on Planning in the last Administration and Phelim was Chair of Planning when the Greens were the Administration. He was very highly thought of by opposition councillors who praised him on the record when Labour took over and he stepped dow
Carol Theobald, Group spokesperson, Mary Mears, Joe Miller – Carol and Joe have sat on Planning in the last Administration. Carole for several Administrations. Both Joe and Mary are Councillors representing Rottingdean. *Dee Simson replaced Mary Mears in a quick Tory shuffle in order to leave one Rottingdean cllr free to represent residents interests when requested, including speaking on their behalf at Planning.
Bridget Fishleigh – Brand new but her experience with the Saltdean Lido campaign was a useful introduction to the entire process and the issues developers will raise – and not just getting planning permission. She is the THIRD Rottingdean Councillor on Planning now!
The new Chair is Tracey Hill. This Councillor from the previous Labour Administration sat on Housing where she was diligent and useful. I thought then she was one to watch – I say that even though she has always been studiously rude, snooty and witheringly contemptuous speaking to me. She is not one of the Momentum crew as far as I know. As far as I know, she has ZERO experience on Planning. Quite why she was chosen is baffling to me. She should have been given the Housing Committee. I expect her experience of the Housing Committee to inform bias on the Planning Committee and residents will need to really argue their cases in legally undeniable ways in the new Administration if applications are thought to be inappropriate. This Momentum Administration will be predisposed to granting almost anything that is called a dwelling because it will look good politically.
The new Deputy Chair is a brand new Momentum Councillor who knows from nothing. But her qualification is that she is Momentum Labour and they made it clear during the election they intended to take all the lead positions.
Of interest is the switch of Rottingdean Cllr Mary Mears from Housing to Planning. Council Housing has always been her thing and she is highly knowledgeable in that area. When she was Council Leader in the Conservative Administration she was responsible for the setting up of the Seaside Homes vehicle which took over 499 council dwellings in need of work and got a £30m loan from Santander bank to pay for it. Seaside provides temporary housing within Council ownership and the properties do not have right to buy. The Tories have their work cut out to retrieve election losses; and since Bridget Fishleigh, who won a seat from the Tories in Rottingdean is ALSO on Planning, there are two reasons to park Mary on Planning this time!
05.05.19…..Nobody could call it in advance, though it was known there was a Green surge in two Brighton wards. So many of us had expected a very low turnout, that, when it was announced by CEO Geoff Raw that it was 42.5% – above average for us – it became clear a lot more was going on than anyone anticipated. Candidates had worked for and got the voters out – but whose? And where?
The Count was to begin at 9:30 Friday, but started late. The expectation of an early result – noon to 2pm even, was not to be either. Not until later did Declarations even begin to trickle out.
Rumours flew from Verification in the morning that the Tory Leader, Tony Janio, had lost his Hangleton & Knoll seat. Indeed soon after I arrived, he emotionally informed this writer “I’m out”, as did one of his two running mates, Nick Lewry (because of Brexit). Before the election itself, rumours had been rife that Labour’s Chair of Planning, Julie Cattell, would lose in Preston Park. The word was she was unpopular with her own party who were not working for her and the Greens were pouring resources into taking advantage of that. For cllrs standing for re-election and losing support, the stress and upset is distressing and officers are on high alert to deal with potential meltdowns.
What is Verification?
To ensure no votes are lost, when postal votes are opened and ballot boxes get emptied at The Count, the number of ballots is matched to the number of residents whose names were ticked off as having voted. God knows HOW they do it but candidates watch keenly at this stage of proceedings and get an early sense of how well they did – if differences ARE clear. Christopher Hawtree knew he had not won in Westbourne and left The Count, as did candidates from other parties, either then or as the day wore on.
Sometimes voters just choose all the candidates for a single Party. Others split choices between candidates from differing parties. Block votes go into named Party boxes in batches and mixed votes in a box of their own. Spoilt and iffy ballots are weeded out and set aside for further scrutiny. These boxes are placed at the front of tables where Agents and Candidates park themselves, STARING fixedly, some taking notes, as piles grow. It is, for them, nerve shredding stuff! And exciting too. And the size of piles ebbs and flows…..
The Count Proper
I won’t even attempt to untangle what I watched in any great detail; but I have to say, the system of checks and balances is complex and various to ensure accurate results. First they filter ballots into the Party, Mixed or iffy boxes. Then each of those boxes gets counted in batches and clipped. There is one moment when a line of about 20 overlapping ballots are spread across the table with a clear plastic sheet over them. Out comes a ruler and marker to check the ‘X’ s match up. A tick goes under the area every five or so… Hangleton & Knoll was recounted at least 3 times and Declared late into the early evening before the final Election result was known.
There is a specific process for deciding how iffy votes are judged and it is at a special table with all-party scrutiny and deliberations. So much can make them iffy, from scribbled comments to voting too many times for the number of cllrs you actually have. Some wards have 2 and others have 3 councillors. And voters get mixed up and sometimes vote for 3 people in a 2-councillor ward. Maybe a mark is not entirely in the box or is outside a specific one… or sits BETWEEN boxes! Deciding whether to count a ballot or declare it spoilt is a process very seriously done collaboratively.
There was drama. Nick Lewry and Tony Janio spent the day nervously stressed and upset, sure they had lost. Nick Lewry said he felt they had been punished for Brexit and his hurt resentment was clear. The local election votes should be about local issues that the Council are responsible for – not what Westminster is doing. Theirs was the cliffhanger drama of the day. When Hangleton & Knoll were finally called, Nick Lewry had won by just 2 votes. Tony Janio by a mere 26. Dawn Barnett won more easily….as expected.
A deafening screamfest of jubilation greeted the results for Preston Park and Withdean . After the retirement of Ann and Ken Norman, the newbie Greens had swooped in to steal Withdean from the Tories. Over in Preston Park, the Greens sitting Cllr Leo Littman with two newbie Greens took out Julie Cattell, Labour’s Chair of Planning, along with candidates standing with her. (Now) ex-Cllr Cattell pitched up onto the stage for the Declaration in bellicose mood, enraged by her loss. I had been photographing each Declaration line-up and tweeting results. Every other candidate who stayed for the Declaration, to take whatever humiliation was coming, was quietly gracious. She brought the Labour Party into disrepute with THIS regrettable behaviour…..!
Our New Council
It was noteworthy that an awful lot of the newbie Green and Labour Cllrs were young women! We have a very young Council for the next four years…maybe. Because Labour scored 20 seats and the Greens 19, neither party is in a position to lose anyone. Full stop. But either or both will find that someone wants out. And true to form the Party will not let them resign. They will just stand aside and do nothing – move away and/or take a job out of the area, or stop doing council work to make enough money to pay the rent, mortgage, bills…..or because they just cannot relate to or cope with getting what they wished for, stood for. Family, partnership calls on time can interfere. Sometimes ‘paper’ candidates win by accident.
Too few have the slightest idea what they signed up for….alas. Most new councillors have never attended a council meeting or watched one being webcast. Social or adversarial experience within a political party is what they bring to running the city or a bit of volunteering somewhere.
A Councillor’s pay is meant to compensate for about 25 hours a week work. For some the £12/13,000 is going to be their sole source of income. For others, becoming a Councillor will compromise existing careers and financial or private life obligations. The reason a very young Council is a problem is because it tends to produce one-term Councillors unable to make this conflict of interests work. Living in Brighton, Hove and Portslade is expensive and being the Councillor they would wish to be is not always doable. Ending up a cardboard cut-out Cllr who just props up a compulsory Chair at Council or on a Committee, doing the legal minimum attendance, helps voting numbers but it is depressing to watch and does not serve voters at ward level.
The Council is nearly evenly split in thirds. 20 Labour. 19 Green. 14 Tory. I Independent. It forces collaboration and negotiation to achieve anything but it is nevertheless a very left-wing Council now. I expect that to serve policy on affordable housing & environmental focus especially well. But not for awhile…. My next post will strand out the makeup of the Labour Group as between moderate Labour Councillors and Corbynite Momentum ones. Rumours suggest that Momentum is wanting to move on Dan Yates and force a change of Leadership. Momentum’s Nancy Platts is being talked of as expecting to become the next Leader.
As a former Council officer was earlier in the week quoted as saying: Officers take Minutes; Councillors take time. SO MANY novice Councillors requires a period of waiting for them to get the intensive induction training/officer mentoring to come, as well as allocation and installation of prefix 29…. landline home phones for council work. For some of them it will be a major culture shock – especially any new Councillors of Labour’s ‘Momentum’ persuasion…. Things could get lively!
02.05.19…..When the wannabe’s were knocking your door, pumping the paper through your doors, were they telling you what they PERSONALLY bring to the job of Councillor they seek to get? Did they just bang on about their Party manifesto points? Smile and ask “Can we count on your vote?” Slag off their opponents?
In my last post (just below, have a look) I let rip about the mess politics is in. And I drew reader attention to a city map with wards marked off that you can click on, produced by Brighton & Hove News. Having sent out questionnaires to every candidate, they then put the replies online, ward by ward and who bothered to reply and in what way was revealing.
I was dismayed to see that answers seemed to have been prepared to the questions by Labour’s central offices that were just cut and pasted by the candidates – deliberately whipped they were so that you could only see Party lines and not the quality of the person you are asked to vote for. It means they will be cardboard cut outs at council meetings, just toeing party lines, doing as they are told and not THINKING, or bringing anything of themselves to the table. SO disappointing! It was especially the case concerning the Valley Gardens plans. Their replies amounted to “no comment”. How can you trust that?
Sadly a lot of would-be councillors ignored the questionnaire. Why would you vote for people who hide like that? Who don’t CARE enough to engage. They probably won’t answer emails or do much ward work either!
So how else can you work out who to vote for?
Hangleton…………The more suburban wards are not given a lot of focus and attention or targetted by developers as much as the more central ones are. Here ward councillors like Dawn Barnett are invaluable for bringing attention to turf issues and getting publicity for them. She ensures Hangleton is not overlooked!
Hove Park…………Are you in a ward that is vulnerable to HUGE redevelopments? Hove Park is one that is….from the Sackville Trading Estate to the Homebase site, the Coral Greyhound Stadium (potentially) and even how Hove Park gets junked up, there is a change of character and use threat to be addressed. One Labour and one Tory candidate are high level professionals concerning planning, construction, development. Residents would be wise to choke on tribal loyalties and vote for Samer Baghaen and Michael Charles Harrison. Both would be formidable on Economy, Development & Culture, or even PRG, or Planning. One is Tory and the other is Labour. Go for it!
Wish, Westbourne, Central, Brunswick & Adelaide…………..our precious seafront. Who is doing what for residents and the city economy where use of the seafront is concerned? Who has the expertise and the commitment to make best use of it for the King Alfred redevelopment? Who will protect and consider best use of the lawns and Hove Lagoon? Deeper inland there are heritage issues of importance. Who can you look to where the Grade 2 Listed Carnegie Library, the wealth of Grade 1 and Grade 2 architecture in Brunswick & Adelaide are concerned?
Budget battles for the Library have been won by the Greens who have Christopher Hawtree badgering them constantly about it. Over the last 4 years he (Westbourne) and Robert Nemeth (Wish) have done exceptional work to block officer-led attempts on that Library. Labour does not value Hove heritage and consider it worth investing in. Sadly the outgoing Labour Administration chose to give a very long lease for Hove Library’s basement and outdoor space to a nursery, and put a coffee bar on the ground floor. And there are a dozen other nurseries close by. Book space on the ground floor was then sacrificed to create offices for diminishing levels of staff.
This can ONLY impact on how the library is experienced by other users as it becomes more and more of a noisy community centre instead of a refuge, place to use computers in peace or read in peace. This is especially sad for poorer, older or unemployed people who rely on use of the facilities for study, job-seeking, logging into Universal Credit on a weekly basis!
I would like to think Christopher and Robert would both be elected so that Hove Library can have their close ongoing attention from inside the council. There is an important need to review how the Library budget is achieved and how the PFI contract that built the Jubilee is now killing the city’s entire book supply task. This is something that Christopher Hawtree is particularly keen to see addressed. Development is an issue along the seafront and because Phelim MacCafferty was such an effective Chair of Planning under the last Green Administration and has proved to be a similarly effective leader sitting on Policy & Resources, I hope he will be re-elected.
Goldsmid…….I am told a Tory Cllr thought Jackie O’Quinn was a very effective Chair of Licensing in the outgoing Administration. She has also served on the Planning Committee and whilst one person has suggested she is ‘underpowered’ (she could do more!), the fact that there is so much redevelopment in this ward – along Davigdor Road, around Hove Station – means that her experience on these two committees is important for the next four years as well. She too should be re-elected.
Portslade……..Les Hamilton is a former maths teacher and God knows the Council needs numeracy! This experienced councillor is needed again so that the overwhelming newbie intake will get the benefit of his sobering experience and guidance and so the Labour Group won’t look too chaotically ‘Momentum’.
Brighton….Lee Wares has said some good councillors are going to lose their seats. A real mishmash possibility could emerge with the count of ballots Friday. And I hope that Tories, Lee Wares and Steve Bell, are not among the casualties. These two performed really well on Policy, Resources & Growth. On the Housing front, Labour’s Tracey Hill along with the Green Party’s David Gibson really stood out as committed and effective councillors and it would not be right if either lost their seats today.
Vote with real care. But vote!