Seagull Weekly Briefing 15/03

Lorries vandalised, landlords scandalised, council reorganised and more

Seagull Weekly Briefing 15/03
Source: The Brighton Seagull

Good morning, and welcome to the Brighton Seagull's Weekly Briefing. I'll be honest, this week has had absolutely miserable weather and as a consequence I'm a little bit glum. You know what cheers you up, though? News.

News This Week

Council introduce organisational redesign, Greens call for referendum

Source: The Brighton Seagull

The council have introduced a redesign of its organisational structure, changes the Greens say are 'controversial' a 'power grab', and should be put to residents before being finalised.

The existing committee system is set to be replaced with a cabinet system, which will see services distilled into:

  • Corporate services
  • City services
  • Families, children and learning
  • Housing, care and wellbeing

Greens argue this would further strip away at the foundations of local democracy in the city which they say have already been impacted by previous Labour decisions to restrict opposition councillors’ ability to start debates in the council chamber, and recent examples of public petitions submitted ahead of deadlines being left off council agendas.

Greens have put forward concerns around key issues being made exclusively by a single councillor appointed lead member for that policy area, or being delegated to council officers.

Green Party councillors are calling for a local referendum on Labour’s plans, criticising Labour for not mentioning these plans in their manifesto. They argue this means there is no mandate for 'such significant changes to local democracy'.

Chief executive Will Tuckley said that this is coming at the right time, while council leader Bella Sankey said 'the way we work needs a refresh to ensure that we deliver the high quality, compassionate, services residents deserve'.

A notice of motion calling for a referendum, backed by Conservative councillors, has been submitted by the Greens, and it is planned to be debated at Full Council on Thursday 28th March.

The Green group convenor said:

Residents need to be given the chance to have their say on these plans. Any changes should be delayed until after a people’s vote and Labour should commit to honouring its outcome.

If the Labour leadership is adamant this is a positive step for the city and not just their own party, they should be confident enough to make their case to the people of Brighton and Hove and agree to abide by what residents decide.

Council warns Citiclean after lorries 'deliberately vandalised'

image showing the wires on a lorry that have been cut
Source: Brighton and Hove City Council

Two bin lorries have found to be 'deliberately vandalised' at Cityclean, meaning they couldn't operate or go on collection rounds.

No vehicles leave the depot until they are checked by managers, but town hall bosses say the sabotage and vehicle defects have increased dramatically following dismissal action that was taken as a result of the KC report published last October.

The damage has been reported to and is being investigated by Sussex Police.

Council leader Bella Sankey has warned those responsible, saying:

We know the vast majority of Cityclean staff are extremely hard working and want to do an excellent job for our residents and the city.

However, the sabotage and resulting disruption of recent weeks shows there are a small minority who are disrupting our waste and recycling service. Under my leadership, we will not be held to ransom by these people.

The cutting of lorry wires is unlawful and scandalous, and is extremely dangerous to our staff.

We’re taking the necessary steps to find out who is responsible for this illegal sabotage and they will face the most serious disciplinary action.

A letter to staff from Donna Chisholm, the council's executive director for economy environment and culture, about the sabotage, said the damage is 'unacceptable', and that the council are 'determined to find out who is carrying out this criminal damage'.

She said:

The huge amount of dropped work and missed collections has led to residents and customers feeling the service we’re now providing is poor, which is not a good reflection on the hard work that staff carry out on a daily basis.

Cityclean managers say they’re beginning to clear the backlog of missed collections – for both residential and communal bins - and are trying to ensure extra waste around the latter is cleared away as soon as possible.

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🖋 News in Brief 🖋

  • Happy World Sleep Day! According to research commissioned by Hotpod Yoga Hove, Brighton and Hove residents are getting less than six hours’ sleep a night. 37.93% agree that they would like more sleep, and 42.84% want better quality sleep. Stress, worries or a racing mind (55.17%) irregular sleep schedule (25.86%) and screen time (17.24%) are to blame.
  • Hove has ranked in The Sunday Times' top places to live in the south east. They say it has all the advantages of being by the sea and close—but not too close—to Brighton, with swimmers and ball-chasing cavapoos, cosy cafes, and 'a better choice of homes than Brighton, from mid-century blocks to neat terraces and grand Victorian houses converted into flats'.
  • Brighton officially has the most expensive parking of any seafront, with parking costing an average of £24.21 for eight hours (according to a study by Motorscan).
If you have a story for Seagull, please get in touch with our editor at [email protected].

The Big One

Source: The Brighton Seagull

What's happening? The council is introducing a landlord licensing scheme, following a four-year campaign from ACORN.

It was voted on by the Housing & New Homes Committee on Wednesday night, along with an Additional Licensing Scheme for smaller Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), which will be introduced by the summer.

Additional and selective licensing are schemes local authorities can introduce to address issues such as poor management standards and poor property conditions.

Where will it cover? The licensing scheme will be a selective scheme for now, covering Kemptown, Moulsecoomb & Bevendean, Queens Park and Whitehawk & Marina wards from September. The areas chosen are ones that the council say there is a clear link between poor property conditions and private rented homes.

What does it mean? This scheme will make it much harder for rogue landlords to operate, potentially introducing fines of up to £30,000 for those that break the rules. It will give tenants power to complain about poor conditions in confidence.

What will it do? The aim is to drive improvement in conditions and management standards in the city’s expanding private rented housing sector, with nearly a third of households in the city renting privately.

What do people think? A consultation that ran between October and January received broad agreement from residents to both schemes, while landlords and agents generally disagreed.

How many people will be affected? The selective licensing scheme will cover around 2,100 private rented homes, and the additional HMO licensing scheme will cover around 2,200 properties.

Will the selective licensing scheme by extended? Subject to approval by the Secretary of State, the council is also proposing the introduction of a second stage of the Selective Licensing Scheme to cover thirteen wards on the grounds of poor property conditions.

Which wards? Brunswick & Adelaide, Central Hove, Goldsmid, Hanover & Elm Grove, Hollingdean & Fiveways, Preston Park, Regency, Rottingdean & West Saltdean, Round Hill, South Portslade, West Hill & North Laine, Westbourne & Poets Corner and Wish.

When will approval be sought? The plan is to get approval six months after the launch of the initial scheme.

What did Acorn find? In their own survey, they found that 78.8% of respondents have had their health affected by renting, and 74.6% have had their safety affected by renting.

What have Acorn said? Toby Sedgwick, Acorn organiser, said:

This is a historic victory for ACORN that will make the lives of ordinary tenants across the city easier. It wouldn't have happened without the hard work of ACORN members, in the face of the previous administration's inaction.

We'd also like to thank councillor Gill Williams, who has always fought beside us to make this scheme a reality.

What have the council said? Councillor Gill Williams, chair of the Housing & New Homes Committee, said:

I'm very excited we will be introducing these two licensing schemes, aiming to help tackle the problem of landlords who fail to manage and maintain their properties.

The benefits are multiple. It leads to better managed, safer and fit to occupy properties for tenants and reduces levels of deprivation for the wider community.

It also supports our work to prevent homelessness through reducing abrupt end of tenancies through early intervention and dialogue.

They can also benefit landlords by putting us in a better position to help them improve and maintain their properties. It isn’t only about dealing with problem landlords.
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