Good morning, and welcome to the Brighton Seagull's Weekly Briefing. I was hoping to try and edit this one from a cozy chair in a cafe somewhere, but while we have an abundance of cafes I can't think of anywhere that has really nice sink-into-them armchairs off the top of my head. Do you have any ideas? If so, please send them our way. News time!
News This Week
The Montreal Arms confirmed as Asset of Community Value
Bad news for Charlie Southall: The Montreal Arms has been confirmed as an Asset of Community Value, after the council has successfully defended its decision to list the former pub, news which has been welcomed by councillors and campaigning residents.
In April 2022 a local group called ‘Friends of the Montreal Arms’ applied to the council to nominate the former pub as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).
Listing as an ACV recognises that a building or land is of social value to the local community. This status means that there must be a moratorium on any sale of the building or land to enable a community group to make its own offer.
Being listed as an ACV may be a material consideration where there is a proposal to change that use through new development.
The council considered the nomination against the specific legal tests, which relate to the 2011 Localism Act, and decided to include the Montreal Arms in its list of Assets of Community Value.
A review was requested by the landowner, but the decision was upheld. Following this, an appeal was pursued to the First Tier Tribunal, at which point a judge had to consider whether there was a time in the recent past when the use of the Montreal Arms furthered the social wellbeing or interests of the local community, and also whether it would be realistic to think that it could do so at some point in the next five years.
The tribunal found that this was the case, as the pub had only closed early in 2020, and the judge considered that, in the future, the pub could have further community use and dismissed the appeal.
Cllr Birgit Miller, lead councillor for culture, said:
I’m delighted that the council’s decision to list the Montreal Arms as an Asset of Community Value has been upheld, giving further protection to this well loved and historic building.
We will continue to use the Asset of Community Value legislation, where relevant, to give further protection and support local communities.
Landlord licensing consultation form—have you filled it in?
The council are running a consultation for landlord licensing, and we want to strongly encourage everyone reading this to take part.
ACORN has been pushing for the council to implement a licensing scheme, and after four years of campaigning a consultation has been released.
It would see a landlord licensing scheme introduced to four wards of the city: Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, Whitehawk and Marina, Kemptown, and Queen's Park, with an aim for it to be rolled out across most of the city eventually.
The scheme would force landlords to pay for a license and have their property inspected before they could rent it out, and give tenants a tool against landlords ignoring disrepair, mould and damp in our homes. Rogue landlords would have their license taken away.
A spokesperson for ACORN said:
This is excellent news and wouldn't have happened without tireless ACORN members campaigning. However, we now have to make sure we don't fall at the last hurdle and allow the organised landlord lobby to flood the consultation and drown out tenant's voices.
The consultation is available online, and ACORN has created template responses here. If you're happy for ACORN to fill our the consultation for you, based on the template responses, you can fill out the shorter form here.
🖋 News in Brief 🖋
- More recycling bins are coming to the city! An additional 54 recycling bins for food and drink cartons like Tetra Paks, and 21 new containers for small electrical items are going to be distributed across the wards throughout 2024.
- Big news: toilets and a cafe are coming back to The Level! The council are seeking planning permission to renovate the MacLaren Pavilion into a new cafe with accessible public toilets.
- The cost of fines for 'environmental offences' have been raised. This includes graffiti tagging (was £150, now £500), fly-tipping (was £400, now £1000), littering (was £150, now £300), and flyposting (was £150, now £500). This is effective as of Friday 1st December.
Dog of the Week
It's just a bit of fun!
This week's dog of the week belongs to Chloe Hayward: Lena is a one-year-old toy maltipoo, and the second our editor saw her they knew she had to be our dog of the week. Lena is very inquisitive, extremely soft, and very patiently sat on Chloe's lap while she got her nails done. Chloe, that is, not Lena.
The Big One
Cleanup at Cityclean
What's happening? An independent report into Brighton & Hove City Council’s waste service has been published.
Oh yeah, you told us that was coming back in July, right? We did indeed!
Remind us why it was needed? The 17-page report, written by Aileen McColgan KC, was called for by council leader Bella Sankey after whistleblowers came forward alleging sex discrimination, racial harassment and other abuses.
How was the report made? The KC spoke to more than 70 witnesses from all levels and jobs within the Cityclean service, and released her report on Tuesday after a three-month investigation. She was given 'extensive' documentary evidence from a number of sources, who gave accounts of 'appalling behaviour' at Cityclean.
What were the findings? Included in the report are accounts of people doing the following:
- Threatening to stab people
- Bringing weapons into the depot and showing them to staff
- Pointing in managers’ faces while shouting, making implicit and explicit threats to use physical violence and in fact using such violence
- Making inappropriate sexual comments to and about women
- Calling a member of staff racist terms, and painting racist graffiti on bin lorries while parked in the depot
- Refusing to work with a member of staff because he is gay.
You mentioned weapons? Yes: a search of the depot was undertaken by an independent security company. Weapons found included a katana, nunchaku, and other weapons which were given to the police.
What have the union been doing? According to the report, many of those accused of inappropriate behaviour are either GMB reps in the council, or are among a group of approximately ten men who were described as having been particularly protected by the GMB reps.
The report also found that, until recently, managers at Cityclean and elsewhere in the council have been unable to respond appropriately to the behaviour discussed in the report by reason of the threat of industrial action and a (reasonably) anticipated absence of political support. The KC has found the GMB operates at Cityclean to protect some of its members while displaying significantly less interest in other members.
What is being done as a result of the report? Ten recommendations have been made to the council to create a safe working environment. These include:
- Taking firm action on behaviour
- Equality matters, including 'recommendations supportive of the BME Workers Forum', reasonable adjustments for disabled staff, and equity of treatment between GMB and UNISON at Cityclean, including that the council ceases to provide a GMB office and a parking space for the exclusive use of the GMB at Cityclean
- Stopping councillors getting involved in disciplinary proceedings, the Member Appeals Panel, plus the day to day running of the service
What has councillor Sankey said about the report? She said:
I have rightly apologised on behalf of Brighton & Hove City Council to every member of staff past and present who has been affected by the toxic culture that was allowed to grow and fester within Cityclean.
Now the depth of the bullying, aggression, racism, misogyny and homophobia have been exposed, I have vowed to take action to ensure this toxic culture is never allowed to rear its head again.
As council leader I will accept nothing less than zero tolerance to bullying, sexism, racism, aggression and intimidation within Brighton & Hove City Council. We fully accept Aileen McColgan’s recommendations.
We must also look towards the council and GMB having a far better and more constructive and positive relationship at Cityclean and within the wider council for the benefit of all our staff, residents, businesses and visitors.
What have GMB said? A GMB spokesperson said:
The type of language and behaviours alleged in the report are entirely unacceptable and employees and the people of Brighton and Hove need to have confidence that these have been investigated thoroughly and correctly.
However, GMB is very concerned that this report fails the basic test of fairness. It has been compiled and published without contributions from people who are the subject of allegations, raising serious questions regarding its balance.
There are also a number of areas where sweeping allegations are made on the basis of anonymous, unsupported statements that cannot be fairly assessed.
The limitations of the report does not help with the vital task of ensuring there is a healthy and safe working environment at the City Clean depot.
GMB is clear – when incidents are identified and properly assessed as not meeting expected standards, we take firm action. Our commitment to facing down discrimination and bad behaviour is unwavering.
What can I do to help? Team Seagull stands in solidarity with the whistleblowers, and all those who bravely gave evidence to the KC. Call out abuse in your workplace if you see it, and support those who do the same.