Labour have got themselves in a tizz saying that I’m somehow “intimidating the opposition” by tweeting that they were lying. Is one tweet from me so scary?!
They aren’t happy about my statement in relation to their campaigning in the Westbourne by-election. Rather than sensibly backing away from their falsehoods, I shall have to expose them further in public. Labour were serially dishonest in both last year’s general election and the local elections this year. It did them a great disservice and the results spoke volumes as to how ineffective their approach was. I suppose I should be thankful as Greens did well out of it. But I think we are all reduced when political discourse descends into outright falsehood. Each party have their own great traditions and histories – they should build on that to make their distinctive cases for how they can improve the city. Lying about the competition doesn’t help the voters decide and it doesn’t move the debate forward.
Let’s look at the claims, some of which are on their Facebook page, others are in their leaflets which aren’t online.
LABOUR CLAIM: Greens refused government funding for a new school in Hove.
GREEN ANSWER: False. The government aren’t offering funding. If we want a new school then all we are allowed to do is run a contest for which independent providers bid to run an academy funded direct from central government, not through the council. There would be no democratic control over this school and they wouldn’t need to use our city-wide admissions scheme, so there would be no guarantee it would solve the problems. Labour’s “proposed co-operative school” would be an academy which teaching unions, the Greens and now even Jamie Oliver* oppose as a retrograde step for public education.
Furthermore Labour were the ones who caused the schools shortage. When in administration they ignored warnings from midwives and GPs that a baby boom was starting in 2005/6. Even worse, only five years ago, they actually closed a major secondary school in Brighton (Comart). Which is why there aren’t enough places to absorb pupil numbers.
There are actually enough school places for everyone but the real issue is that they might not be at a parents’ first choice school. Building a new school would not solve that. We are working hard to solve the issues in the school system. Labour have some gall claiming to have a solution to the problem they caused!
LABOUR CLAIM: The Greens promised a new secondary school and new primary school for Hove.
GREEN ANSWER: Debatable. We did not promise these in the May Council elections. We said it during the 2010 parliamentary elections before the Tories came to power and stopped local authority school funding. We did not get elected to the City Council on this ticket as by then we knew the school-building programme had been ground to a halt by Michael Gove.
LABOUR CLAIM: Labour will put an end to portakabin classrooms.
GREEN ANSWER: False. There are no portakabin classrooms in Hove at the moment. This is just dishonest scaremongering. And Labour are the smallest party on the council, so how exactly would they propose to change matters?
LABOUR CLAIM: Greens have plans to cut Sure Start funding at Conway Court
GREEN ANSWER: False. The Sure Start programme created children’s centres. There are no threats to the Conway Court children’s centre which was funded by Sure Start.
LABOUR CLAIM: Labour are “campaigning to protect the NHS from Tory cuts and privatisation.”
GREEN ANSWER: Highly debatable. When Cllr Sven Rufus and I presented a motion to full council opposing NHS privatisation, the Labour group of councillors voted AGAINST it and the most vociferous speech against the motion was by a Labour councillor.
Furthermore BBC Newsnight and the Spectator have both shown how Labour’s own economic plans are less than 1% of GDP away from the Tory cuts plans now underway. They planned to cut by nearly as much.
LABOUR CLAIM: Labour are against Green’s “record Council Tax”
GREEN ANSWER: Really?! In the ten years of Labour control, council tax rose 120%. Greens are proposing a below inflation increase of 3.5%. If Labour are supporting the Tory government’s tax freeze grant then they should list the £5.4m of additional service cuts they support – which is what the council would need to do to be able to afford the grant, or an at least 8% increase in council tax the year after. Which is it Labour?
Labour state that Tory cuts should not be passed on to residents through council tax. They also claim to be against inflationary increases in parking fees, yet when in administration Labour increased tax and parking charges with great gusto. Balancing the budget in the face of cuts with no increases in fees or council tax would require devastating service cuts. I look forward to Labour explaining which ones, I’m sure the unions would like to know too.
The table below shows the council tax increases for every Labour-led budget in Brighton & Hove since the city council was created. The Green proposal of 3.5% is below EVERY SINGLE ONE of their tax increases.
** Includes notional adjustment for Fire
LABOUR CLAIM: Greens are pushing Brighton & Hove to be the only council in the country to refuse the government tax freeze grant.
GREEN ANSWER: False. A recent survey showed that up to 20% of councils are likely to refuse the tax freeze grant. We are not the only ones and this has been widely reported in all the major media.
LABOUR CLAIM: Greens promised to “resist all cuts”.
GREEN ANSWER: False. We didn’t and I have repeatedly told Labour this is a lie, but they persist. As Labour well know, the law has changed and if councillors do not set a budget then the government will impose one on us. Greens promised to “resist, to the greatest extent possible, the service cuts and privatisation imposed [on us]” and that is what we will do.
LABOUR CLAIM: Why did the Greens say before the elections they wanted Brighton and Hove to be a “zero waste city”, but now insist that is “clearly impossible”?
GREEN ANSWER: False. We have never said it is “clearly impossible”. They also seem to not know what this refers to. In 2008 the then Labour environment minister Hilary Benn announced that councils could get pilot funding to become a “zero waste place”. Our proposal was to achieve this funding, however the new government have currently stopped this programme. We remain absolutely committed to reducing waste.
LABOUR CLAIM: Greens set the date of the by-election.
GREEN ANSWER: False. The by-election was called by the unexpected resignation of a Conservative councillor. When the by-election is held is at the discretion of the Returning Officer (the Council’s Chief Executive) within limits set down by law. It is NOT at the discretion of the Green administration, which would clearly be inappropriate.
LABOUR CLAIM: Greens wanted the by-election early to avoid debating the budget.
GREEN ANSWER: False. The budget will be published on 1st December, the earliest a detailed budget plan has ever been published by this council. We want to debate and consult on the proposals. This date is well before any possible date for the by-election could have been.
I make that 8 outright lies and the rest are debatable. So no Labour, I won’t retract my comments. But now that I’ve pointed out your dishonesty, will you may any retractions or correction?
UPDATE: To include link explaining Jamie Oliver’s views on academies.
UPDATE 2: Added table of Labour council tax increases during their time in administration.