7 min read

Seagull Weekly Briefing 12/12

Labour wins by-election, petition protests Trafalgar Street erection, senior council roles suffer under-representation and more
Picture of the Christmas decorations on the Clock Tower with a soft sunset in the background
Source: The Brighton Seagull

Good morning, and welcome to the Brighton Seagull's Monday Briefing. Last night saw some snow fall on the city, and Saturday saw a gang of Santas running along the seafront. Christmas has truly arrived. We're still here, though, with the news!

This edition of The Brighton Seagull is sponsored by Cybersyn, a friendly digital analytics consultancy based right here in Brighton.

News This Week

Tragic death of student from strep A

Picture of Hove Park School
Source: Simon Carey

Following the news that a 12-year-old girl from Hove Park School died of strep A last week, The Seagull wanted to raise awareness of the symptoms, as well as extend its sympathies to the girl and her family and friends.

Strep A symptoms include aches, nausea and vomiting, a sore throat, scarlet fever or skin rash, and it is passed through coughing, sneezing, and physical touch.

It is usually a mild illness, but very infectious. Most strep A infections are not serious and can be treated with antibiotics, but rarely, the infection can cause serious problems. This is called invasive group A strep (iGAS).

If you feel that you or your child is seriously unwell, the advice from the NHS is to contact NHS 111. More advice can be found here.

Objections to developers' plans for Trafalgar Street building

Picture of the Prince Albert's iconic mural
Source: The Brighton Seagull

More than a thousand people have objected to short-term let flats and retail units being built next to the Prince Albert pub in Trafalgar Street.

In total, 1,093 people left their objections before the midnight deadline on Wednesday and there are currently 1,243 comments, after an appeal from Mark Stack of Music Venues Alliance Brighton.

He said:

One of the Airbnb bedrooms will back onto the wall where the venue’s stage is. It is the same situation as has happened to Manchester’s Night and Day Cafe venue, which is currently fighting a noise abatement notice in the courts.

We can’t keep letting this happen to our grassroots venues. It is clearly bad planning to build a bedroom right next to a venue’s drum kit.

If planning permission is granted, then due to new government planning laws, there is nothing stopping the builder converting the whole space into permanent homes. The council would be powerless to stop them.

When you consider that the Prince Albert is literally a 30 second walk away from the train station, it seems highly likely to me, that no developer would be able to resist the mega money they could make from having the building all residential and selling them to London commuters.

Venues in Brighton have closed before due to noise complaints: most recently, the Blind Tiger in 2014, which was subsequently taken over by Brewdog who bought the upstairs flats to prevent future noise complaint problems.

Councils have the power to force a venue to make changes to satisfy noise complainants, which can mean stopping live music, and the expensive possibility of going to court over it if not.

Objections to the plans have also come from people wanting more affordable housing instead of short-term lets. One person said:

I am strongly opposed to development that is for holiday lets. We need more affordable homes for local people and this should absolutely be a priority. The location is also problematic, in terms of this forming part of Brighton's unique cultural heritage (past, present, and future).

To read the planning application and comments, click here.

Concerned parents appeal city centre nursery closure

A picture of the Bright Start Nursery
Source: Google Maps

A petition against the closure of a nursery ran by the council has reached over 1,350 signatures.

Staff and parents at Bright Start Nursery in Barrack Yard have been told the nursery is likely to close by April, a move which would save the council around £104,000 according to its draft budget.

There are 50 children at the nursery and 15 members of staff. The council's budget report says there are 42 nurseries within two miles but, as parents The Seagull have spoken to say, their capacities are not such that every child will be able to go somewhere else.

Suda, the woman who started the petition, said:

We refute the rationale set out by the council for the closure and instead believe that closing the nursery deprives the city of an essential service and further disadvantages the city's vulnerable population.

Shutting down Bright Start would show a total lack of regard for the wellbeing and  dedication of the staff who have given so much to our community over the years.

As laid out in the petition, the nursery is one of a handful of council-run nurseries in the town centre, where many parents who use its services work.

It is also one of 'very few' which are open all year round, for children aged three months to five years, from 8am to 8pm daily.

Suda went on to say:

Losing this kind of care will impact families who have to work long hours, single-parent families, and families who cannot afford to take longer periods of parental leave.

The staff at Bright Start also have specialist knowledge and training in dealing with a range of children with complex medical, disability and special educational needs.

Furthermore continuity of care is essential for the well-being of these young children, some of whom face the extra upheaval of having to find a new nursery for only a few months before they then move on to primary school.

Other parents The Seagull spoke to raised the issue that, for their children who are set to attend primary school in September, they will have nowhere to go for five months from the planned April closure, and even if they could find another nursery with space, it would be incredibly disruptive for the children.

According to an equalities impact assessment shown to the Policy and Resources Committee at the council, 38% of children there have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), 25% of the families are low-income, and 17% of children were eligible for the early years pupil premium (funding for early years pre-school settings to improve education for disadvantaged children).

To read the petition, click here.

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🖋 News in Brief 🖋

  • Labour's Bella Sankey won the by-election for Wish ward by nearly 60% of votes cast (on a 34% turnout), with the Conservative vote slumping to around half the level it was in the previous election. However, the election was dogged by postal strikes, which according to the council may have caused some postal voters not to receive their ballots (though it seems unlikely this would compromise the overall outcome given the magnitude of the majority).
  • Congratulations to everyone who took part in the annual Santa Dash on Saturday to raise money for Rockinghorse!
  • Only 110 days until the Volks reopens!!! 🚋🚋🚋
If you have a story for Seagull, please get in touch with our editor at [email protected].

The Big One

Senior council positions severely under-representative

A picture of Hove Town Hall
Source: Hassocks5489

What's happening? Disabled and BAME people are under-represented in senior positions at the council, according to a report that went before the policy and resource committee.

What does this mean? There are pay gaps for disabled and BAME workers at the council compared to non-disabled and white British workers. Disabled and BAME workers are 'not proportionally represented in the upper pay band'.

How many disabled and BAME workers are on an upper pay band? The percentage of disabled staff at the council who are on a pay band of grade M8 or higher is 6.2%, as of December 31st 2021.

Give me some more stats. According to the report, there has been a 0.6% increase in the number of BAME staff from December 31st 2021 to September 20th 2022. For White Other staff, there was a 0.4% increase in the same time period.

What have the council said? The report says that this means '0.2% of the workforce are from BAME backgrounds, compared with a target of 9.1%'. For White Other staff, they comprise 8.4% of the workforce compared with a target of 8.8%.

They've also said:

It is important to note that whilst this is encouraging, both groups remain under represented in the middle and upper pay bands (grades SO1/2 and above) and, are more likely to be employed in the lower pay band (grades 1-6).

And disabled people? 8.3% of the workforce at the council are disabled compared with a target of 7.5%. From December 31st 2021 to September 30th 2022, the council saw a 1.7% increase in disabled staff in the upper pay band, taking the percentage of disabled people in the band to 6.2%.

The council also said:

It is important to note that not all employees chose to share their disability status. This report is based on 80.2% of the workforce on the snapshot date who have told us their status and excludes employees who have declined to share details.

LGBTQ+ people? The report says LGBTQ+ staff are proportionally represented 'at all levels', as are women. Men are under-represented.

Does this mean there isn't equal pay at the council? Not based on this, no. Pay gap reporting is not the same as equal pay. Equal pay means people in the same employment doing the same job have to receive the same salary and have the same contractual terms. It is possible to be equal pay compliant and still have a pay gap due to more white or non-disabled people being employed at higher pay grades.

The council says 'actions to address these inequalities have been identified in the workforce equalities report 2021-22 and are being monitored throughout the current Fair & Inclusive Action Plan.

That's all for this week—please subscribe, and forward to friends who might be interested!