Seagull Weekly Briefing 17/05

Council system change petitions, protests over Barclays funding munitions, ACORN campaign for amendments to buy-to-let mortgage conditions and more.

Seagull Weekly Briefing 17/05
Source: The Brighton Seagull

Good morning, and welcome to the Brighton Seagull's Weekly Briefing. We're well into Fringe now, which I know because Seagull Towers is in earshot of the music coming from Fool's Paradise. Last year the space was occupied the Ladyboys of Bangkok, whose set inexplicably included, in addition to all the standard pop tunes, the main theme to Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, which really threw me the first few times I noted. For more trenchant insights like this, you can get our Fringe reviews early by joining the Flock:

News This Week

Protests ongoing during The Great Escape

Source: The Brighton Seagull

The Great Escape festival has gone ahead this week, despite multiple protests and artists and labels dropping out due to calls for a boycott over its lead sponsor, Barclays.

Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign shared the following tweet on Wednesday, showing protestors gathering near the ticket collection site for the festival:

Red paint has also been thrown on Barclays bank in North Street.

The Great Escape is yet to issue a comment on the ongoing boycott calls, which have seen the following 120+ artists drop out.

Source: Bands Boycott Barclays

On an FAQ page on their website, Barclays has addressed the ongoing controversies, saying:

First and most importantly, we recognise the profound human suffering caused by this conflict. This is an exceptionally complex and long-running conflict, and we urge governments and the international community to work together to find a lasting, peaceful solution.

Barclays has been the subject of criticism in relation to Gaza based on two arguments: that Barclays is an investor in these businesses, and that we provide a range of financial services to clients which produce equipment used by the Israeli Defence Force.

We have been asked why we invest in nine defence companies supplying Israel, but this mistakes what we do. We trade in shares of listed companies in response to client instruction or demand and that may result in us holding shares. We are not making investments for Barclays and Barclays is not a “shareholder” or “investor” in that sense in relation to these companies.

Community union to hold bank protest for renters security

Tomorrow, the Brighton branch of ACORN is taking action at a local bank to protest against a rule in the company’s buy-to-let mortgage policy that is keeping renters in insecure tenancy agreements.

Members of the union will be taking direct action, including live music and a 'Renter’s Wheel of Fortune', as part of a national day of action across England and Wales.

The union is calling on the bank (which will be announced on the day) to change terms and conditions in buy-to-let mortgages they sell that stop landlords from offering more than a 12 month contract to their tenants. 

A spokesperson for the union said:

This is putting renters in a situation where they have to renegotiate their living arrangements and sign a new contract every single year, or have to put their lives on hold and spend lots of money to move home.

It also means they are more vulnerable to ‘no-fault’ section 21 evictions, a leading cause of homelessness in England, and unaffordable rent increases. 

Want to read more stories like this? Subscribe for our weekly email newsletter here.

🖋 News in Brief 🖋

  • Thousands of protesters will take to coasts and rivers across the UK tomorrow to protest against the state of the nation’s waterways, with one of the flagship protests taking place at West Pier at 11am. The protests have been organised by Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), who are calling for an end to the sewage discharges plaguing the UK’s rivers and seas.  
  • Councillor Bella Sankey, Leader of Brighton & Hove City Council, is holding her next leader’s surgery in Wish. The surgery is taking place at 3pm on Friday 24th May at the communal lounge in Sanders House, Ingram Crescent West, Hove, BN3 5NW. To book a place, email [email protected].
  • Councillor Mohammed Asaduzzaman has been elected as the new mayor! He is the first South Asian Muslim councillor to be elected to the position. As always, the mayor chooses charities to support during their mayoral year and Mohammed's are:
    • BHT Sussex
    • Sussex Cricket Foundation
    • Chomp Brighton
    • My University Hospitals Sussex
    • Brighton Students’ Union
    • Royal Pavilion Museum Trust
If you have a story for Seagull, please get in touch with our editor at [email protected].

Dog of the Week

It's just a bit of fun!

This is Bruno! He's 17 weeks old and had just completed his first puppy training class before this photo was taken. It went well! He got out of the bag a minute ago and then decided against it.

The Big One

Calls for referendum on recent council changes

Source: The Brighton Seagull

What's happening? More than 270 people have signed a petition calling for a referendum on the recent change to the council decision-making system.

Why? The petition, created by Chris Bratt, says that the recent decision to move to a cabinet system is a decision 'that's been made on our behalf, but without our democratic consent'.

Hang on, hang on. Cabinet system? Yeah, we talked about it back in March!

Seagull Weekly Briefing 15/03
Lorries vandalised, landlords scandalised, council reorganised and more

Right, yes, you did. What has the petition creator said? Chris said:

The change means that opposition parties and our-of-favour Labour councillors are now going to have a much, much harder time challenging the decisions made by our council.

There are pros and cons to both systems, but I think there's a very solid argument to be made that the committee system is more democratic. And hey, let's at least have that debate!

Why is this a big deal? Even though Labour won a large majority, this really significant change to the way in which our city operates wasn't mentioned once in their manifesto ahead of the last local elections, so residents had no idea they'd be voting for it.

As well as this, Labour won 47% of the total vote share in those last elections. That means 53% of voters now have even less representation than they did beforehand.

Is this change new for the city? Brighton actually has a long history with the committee system in particular, voting for it in a referendum in 2001 and despite being forced to adopt the cabinet system afterwards, the city then brought back the committee system in 2012 under a minority Green council which had included this proposal in their manifesto.

What can I do to get involved? Sign the petition if you agree, and share it around!

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