Good morning, and welcome to the Brighton Seagull's Weekly Briefing. Team Seagull spent the weekend enjoying some laughs at the Brighton Comedy Garden—we hope you had a nice time despite that variable weather. Lots of big news this week, so let's get to it!
News This Week
Council overspend of £3 million is apparently more like £11 million
The council has revealed what they thought was an overspend by the previous administration of £3 million is more like £11 million. According to councillors we've spoken to, the Greens' income stream projections were "overly optimistic", which is why the extra £8 million was missed. As a result, the council has imposed emergency financial controls,
Councillor Jacob Taylor deputy leader of the council, told The Seagull:
The first budget tracking report for this financial year shows the council is on track to overspend by £11m. I believe this is because many of the financial assumptions made by the last Green administration were flawed - we are living with the budget that they set just before the election.
The Green approach of constantly putting up parking fees to support the budget is starting to unravel - because demand for parking won't last forever when fees are so high. Parking revenues are forecast to fall short by £800,000.
This leaves the council in a very serious position, and the Labour administration is choosing to act decisively and early to try and get the situation under control. Despite the perilous financial position we've inherited from the Greens, we're already delivering change by focusing on what residents actually want: reopening public toilets, cleaning up the city, and reinstating the lifeguard service.
Lloyd Russell-Moyle, MP for Kemptown and Peacehaven, said the overspend is 'partly due to the grossly unrealistic estimates on revenues. He continued:
In just one example, they assumed that all car parking in the city would be utilised far more than they have been, resulting in an £800,000 shortfall in that budget alone.
It’s become very clear that the last administration deliberately overinflated revenue streams in an election year to avoid reality.
Councillor Sue Shanks, Finance Lead for the Green Group, said:
These projections are the worrying reality, as they are for so many local councils today. This has been the case for years. In 2020 Labour suspended several councillors and lost their majority, so Greens took over to lead the council. The equivalent forecast we inherited was a £35million overspend. In our minority administration, we turned this into an underspend.
Currently Labour is playing political games to frame the Green Party. But the latest budget that they are now attacking was something negotiated by Greens and Labour together, and which Labour voted for.
We all know that the real culprit behind these financial pains is a Tory government that has forced us into endless crises; COVID, Brexit, inflation, the cost-of-living, inflation and austerity. Clearly Labour think they have more to gain blaming Greens than Tories, even if they have to twist the truth to do so.
But while the Labour leadership postures, the city would be better served by us uniting in opposing the Tories. We’ve been fighting back against the Tories day after day; Labour would be welcome to join us anytime now.
Council announces independent inquiry into serious allegations raised by whistleblowers
An independent inquiry into complaints about behaviour and working culture within Cityclean, the council’s waste service, was announced last week by Councillor Bella Sankey, council leader.
A significant number of council workers have come forward to disclose allegations of sexual harassment, racism, discrimination based on disability, bullying and intimidation taking place at the Hollingdean Depot.
We take such complaints extremely seriously and that’s why we’ve asked Aileen McColgan, Kings Counsel, to conduct an independent investigation into these allegations.
Every member of our valued staff team should be able to work in a safe, comfortable and non-discriminatory environment. Unacceptable behaviour in the workplace will not be tolerated.
Brighton & Hove UNISON have released a statement on the investigation, expressing its support and co-operation. They said it is 'essential' for the council, workers, and unions to work together 'to ensure that every employee can thrive in a workplace free from bullying, harassment, intimidation or victimisation'.
The council have said it is 'committed to taking necessary action to address the concerns that have been raised with us', and anyone with relevant information can email Aileen McColgan KC in confidence on [email protected]; UNISON members who need support should email [email protected].
St Mungo's and University of Brighton staff to continue strike 'indefinitely'
St Mungo's workers with Unite, and University of Brighton workers with the UCU, have said their strike will continue 'indefinitely'.
They are holding an event in The Gresham Suite at The Old Ship Hotel on Tuesday, from 7:15pm, on why they've launched indefinite strikes, and how they plan to win, with speakers from both disputes.
800 members of Unite at homelessness charity St Mungo's are fighting for decent pay. Following a four-week strike they began an indefinite strike on 27th June.
At Brighton Uni, 600 members of the UCU are on indefinite strike over job cuts. Come and hear from these two important fights, and what you can do to support and what can be learnt.
The Young Unite Network is throwing a party tonight at The Cricketers to raise money for their strike funds. Tickets are £4-£8, you can buy them here.
🖋 News in Brief 🖋
- The Queery, an LGBTQ+ cafe and bookshop in George Street, is looking for more volunteers: if you're able to volunteer in the cafe, maintenance, admin, emails, social media, grant applications, events, or anything else you think would be helpful, fill out the form here. They are also currently looking for help with the removal of an old piano.
- Councillors voted on Thursday to approve measures to continue the rollout of cycle hangars across Brighton & Hove. Members of the committee also voted on exploring options to bring the management and maintenance of the cycle hangar scheme in house in the future, with the council receiving income directly from the hangar rentals. You can find the full report here.
- Over the weekend, staff at The Clock Tower Sanctuary hiked 12.6 miles across the Downs to raise money for the shelter. They've raised £290 of their £500 target: find out more here.
- Petition of the week: This petition calling for the Pavilion Gardens toilets to be reopened by August 1st has been signed by 55 people at the time of writing. They say older people, those with some medical conditions and many with restricted mobility are being stopped or discouraged from using the Gardens & the Pavilion Gardens Cafe.
Dog of the Week
It's just a bit of fun!
This absolutely scrumptious, beautiful, perfect little baby is called Beau! He's the new dog of our editor's godfather Ben, and his husband. He was born on Ben's birthday, and they chose him on their seventeenth anniversary.
Beau is five weeks old, a champagne lab which is the lightest shade of golden, and his brothers and sisters are charcoal and silver. We are already very attached to him and love him so much.
Fun fact: when they were driving to see him, they drove past somewhere called 'Humphrey and Beau'. Their previous dogs were called Humphrey (nicknamed Doofs/Doofy/Doofus) and Dolly—Ben said:
My first day back at work after Dolly passed a silver lab came in, and I had never seen another one. I spoke to them, followed him on insta and got in touch with his breeders…. Beau was born on my birthday and we chose him on our anniversary. It was meant to be. Doofs and Doll have given their blessing.
The Big One
Trousers the cockerel at risk of homelessness
What's happening? Matt and Adele Allen, residents of Craven Road, have been told by the council to rehome Trousers the cockerel within two weeks after complaints from a neighbour.
Trousers? Yes, the cockerel. He has been a pet in their family for three years, and their daughter, Ostara, is particularly fond of him. According to the family, she brings him in every evening before she goes to bed, and she takes him outside after 8am the following morning.
Do cockerels crow often? Usually around ten times a day (based on our research): at sunrise to tell the flock it's safe to go out for food, at nighttime to tell them to go home to roost, when wanting to mate, and when they see a predator.
What complaints have been made? William Ranieri, who lives in the same road, described living in his house as feeling 'like being confined in a prison, and I yearn to regain my freedom'. He says Trousers crows 'every hour or so' from 8am, and 'it feels like a constant and extremely loud alarm clock that disrupts my peace and drives me mad'.
Just to clarify, I want to express my frustration regarding the House Tenancy Management Policy's provision on the keeping of pets in council accommodation. According to the policy (8.4), residents are not allowed to keep cockerels.
However, it seems that someone in the council has ignored this rule as a cockerel is being kept inside during the night. The main issue here is the council's deliberate breach of its own policy, which undermines any respect I have for their authority.
How can one respect an authority that conveniently bends its own rules?
What has he done? Mr Ranieri said he wrote to the ward councillors, 'hoping they can shed some light on the matter and swiftly resolve the problem', and that he will seek legal advice if needed.
What are the councillor's views? Tristram Burden, councillor for Queen's Park, said he visited the Allen family last week and met with Trousers, as well as other nearby residents. He said:
I listened to both sides but feel William should withdraw his complaint and the council reconsider. No other residents have ever voiced a complaint, and some of them didn’t even know their neighbours had a rooster.
[Trousers] is quite a small, elderly guy, and consequently not the volume I was expecting, especially in comparison with seagulls and other urban noises. They've gone to great lengths to minimise the amount of disturbance their hens and rooster make, from rat-proofing their coop, to housing Trousers indoors overnight.
While I appreciate it’s been causing Mr. Ranieri distress, I’ve asked whether he can put up with the quite modest noise for another few months and find it in his heart to withdraw his complaint so the Allen kids can keep their beloved pet. I’ve also urged the council to reconsider having the Allens rehome him.
Did the family have permission for Trousers to live with them? They say they were given permission to keep him by the council, but it has now been revoked, which they feel is 'unjust and unacceptable'. They said the policy on cockerels 'is not set in stone, but a guideline'.
What have the family said about the rehoming of Trousers? They said a family pet belongs with its family, and that their children 'will suffer with their mental health should they lose their beloved pet'. They have also said that their road backs onto a woodland, 'with a plethora of animal noises including seagulls squawking and foxes and badgers shrieking'.
How can one support Trousers, should they wish to? The family have a petition here.
And if one hates cockerels? There’s a petition here.