Good morning, and welcome to the Brighton Seagull's Weekly Briefing. And Happy New Year! We hope you all had a lovely time over the last few weeks—Team Seagull certainly did, and now we're back with all the news.
News This Week
Council leader calls for reinstatement of Household Support Fund
Bella Sankey has written to the chancellor to restore the Household Support Fund, funding which has been used in the past to help residents and community and voluntary sector initiatives.
Councillor Sankey wrote to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt prior to the local government funding announcement confirming Brighton & Hove City Council’s settlement is £1.4 million lower than anticipated. The council’s deputy leader and finance lead Jacob Taylor called this ‘desperately disappointing’, saying 'in the last 13 years, the government has slashed the council’s budget by £120 million in real terms'.
It is hoped that councillor Sankey's letter will put across the serious cost and demand pressures on the council. She said:
The cost of living crisis continues and so I am extremely disappointed that the government has not yet made a decision as to whether it will continue the Household Support Fund.
As we know from our work on our draft cost of living action plan, the Household Support Fund has been a mainstay of the support offered to the most vulnerable residents in the city through the council and our community and voluntary sector partners.
Its discontinuation from 1 April 2024 will remove a vital local resource to support very low income families through the cost of living crisis and creates both a cliff edge of lost support and even greater demand pressures on local government.
Brighton and Hove most air polluted city in the UK
Idle drivers could risk being issued with a £40 fine, in a move which it is hoped will improve air quality in the city.
A Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) will be issued to motorists who are caught by an Environmental Enforcement Officer leaving their vehicles running while parked, whether in a parking bay, taxi rank, or other parts of the road.
An idling engine can produce up to twice as many exhaust emissions as an engine in motion; exhaust emissions contain a range of air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter.
Air quality in Brighton and Hove is the worst in the UK, with 11.52 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter of air. Portsmouth is fourth at 10.45 micrograms, London is eighth at 9.69 micrograms, and Southampton is ninth at 9.41 micrograms.
It was agreed at June’s meeting of the City Environment, South Downs & The Sea Committee that the council could begin issuing the FPNs to drivers for engine idling.
The council has also applied for funding for 16 electric buses and charging infrastructure to the government’s ZEBRA 2 fund: transport accounts for a third of carbon emissions in the UK.
It is hoped this will improve air quality, help those suffering from long term health conditions such as asthma, and support the city to reach carbon neutrality.
🖋 News in Brief 🖋
- Saltdean Lido's new gym opens today! You can pay annually, monthly, or as you go, with concession options available. The gym will be open 7am to 8pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm Saturday, and is currently closed on Sunday (watch this space!).
- Brighton & Hove Community Land Trust are hosting the launch of their Who Owns Brighton? project, which will happen online this Thursday from 7pm to 8:30pm. Who Owns Brighton? sets out to explore what is being built in the city, who it’s for and how we, as citizens, can more actively participate in this process. Book your free space for the launch here, and find out more about the project here.
- Councillor Bella Sankey, Leader of Brighton & Hove City Council, is holding her next leader’s surgery in the Hangleton & Knoll ward. The surgery is taking place at 3pm on Friday 26th January at St Richard’s Community Centre. To book a place, click here.
The Big One
Council apologises to parents over Bright Start blunder
What's happening? Brighton and Hove City Council has apologised to parents at Bright Start Nursery for causing 'confusion and concern' over plans to cut their nursery.
What's the background? Someone hasn't been reading their weekly briefings! As we reported here and here, in October 2023, the council announced cuts to Bright Start Nursery, which would see a closure of the baby room, a 70% cut in the number of places, and cuts to the hours and weeks the nursery operates. The Council also wants to move the Nursery from its current home in Barrack Yard to a smaller space in the Tarner Family Hub, preventing any future expansion.
What reassurances did the council give? The plans, voted on at the Children Families and Schools Committee on November 6th 2023, stated that there would 'be community and parental consultation', with. committee chair, councillor Jacob Taylor, assuring parents via email that they were 'going to consult families and the community'.
So what happened? At the committee meeting, council officers announced that there would be not consultation with the wider community, referring to this as an “error.” Instead, parents have been offered a very limited consultation on the “operating model” at the new site.
What has the council said? Campaigners from Save Bright Start say that, in response to a complaint by parents, Brighton and Hove City Council have now apologised for the 'confusion and concern that the description of community consultation has caused', but have reaffirmed that they will not consult the wider community.
Ed Armston-Sheret, a spokesman for Save Bright Start said:
We welcome this apology, but it doesn’t go far enough. The Council has backtracked on commitments made to parents and residents of Brighton and Hove.
In the local elections last May, the community made their views on nursery provision very clear. They elected a Labour administration on a manifesto that stated: ‘A Labour council will look to increase the city’s provision for pre-school children and seek to maintain council-run nurseries wherever possible.’ Labour have no democratic mandate for these cuts.
Councillor Jacob Taylor, deputy leader of the council, said:
As Ed says, our manifesto promised to ‘maintain council-run nurseries wherever possible’, and that’s exactly what we’re doing in this case. The central issue is that the current Bright Start building is in poor condition and would need significant money to repair it.
We needed to find a suitable new building to rehouse Bright Start - that's the Tarner Family Hub, which is very nearby and is co-located with other vital services for families.
This is in stark contrast to the Green Party approach—they proposed the outright closure of Bright Start, with no alternative.
We are one of the few local authorities in the whole country that still maintains a significant number of council-run nurseries, and we are fighting hard to maintain that against catastrophic real-terms cuts from the Tory government.
We held a well-attended consultation with parents last month, which I was pleased to join, and where I had a good discussion with Ed and a number of other parents.