Tag Archives: video

Rewiring Public Services – Local Government’s battle cry for the future


This past week I spend a productive few days at the Local Government Association’s 2013 annual conference in Manchester. It was great to discuss the issues facing councils with friends old and new. Passion and innovation were on display in spades thanks to a strong presence from the LGA Improvement Board, NESTA, Public-i, MySociety and many others.

Some of the best sessions for me included an extraordinarily frank speech by Lord Heseltine, insights into NHS re-organisation from Lord Victor Adebowale and a good overview of the financial challenges ahead from Professor Tony Travers. Most, but not all, of these and much more are online through the conference webcast.

Also at the conference saw the formation of the Key Cities group, of which Brighton & Hove is a founder member. This grouping of major urban areas will prove to be a major voice in lobbying central government, especially as many are in the bidding process for City Deals. This work along with associated sessions hosted by the Centre for Cities were hugely positive for shared understanding and learning. It’s important to note that this group is resolutely aiming to be supportive of the LGA and remain within the association, in contrast to some of the noises made by the group of 8 Core Cities.

But by far the most important outcome from the conference was the launch of the LGA’s powerful ‘Rewiring Public Services’ campaign and the associated reports that back it up. This campaign was produced following extensive engagement across the public sector and with support from all four political groups on the LGA (Conservative, Labour, LibDem and Independent – which includes Greens). If ever there was a time for solidarity amongst councils, this is it, which is why I strongly encourage all councils to remain in the LGA despite the pressure from some to save on the annual fee.

The campaign is superbly put together, well designed and with a clear set of asks. In essence the campaign first shows that through financial modelling that we cannot continue as we are, that the funding shortfall will hit £14.4 billion by the end of this decade. Given this and that the ‘big three’ parties in Westminster all accept current spending plans, the campaign then makes a clear bid for a sustainable alternative. This alternative includes financial independence for councils, enshrining a constitutional right for local government to exist, simplification of the relationship with central government and lasting resolutions to the key challenges, such as social care.

I was delighted to be invited to speak at the opening plenary responding to the campaign’s launch along with the RSA’s Matthew Taylor, Graham Allen MP and some fellow council leaders. The mood at that session epitomised the whole conference: Defiant, positive and united in championing local government as the best way to lead solutions for local needs.

Local Government Minister Eric Pickles was dismissive of the whole thing when he spoke to the conference a day later. But this was hardly unexpected. He is but one voice in the political sphere, there are many others to be persuaded.

In one sense, as work by the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee has shown, the Rewiring Public Services campaign’s asks are eminently reasonable and deliverable. Indeed they are only asking for what local government in the rest of the developed world already has – freedom. But given how long England has struggled under centralism, the cross-party consensus on campaigning for these changes is quite remarkable. That extraordinary consensus now has to be maintained and pushed upwards from councillors and officers to MPs and civil servants.

Local government’s future is in genuine crisis. If now is not the time for fundamental change, then when will it ever be? This is a once in a generation opportunity to achieve a sustainable foundation for local government. Everyone who cares about local services needs to set aside party allegiances, as the LGA leadership have, and lobby to achieve the change we desperately need. I certainly will.


Action on licensing: East Street residents speak out

Licensing issues continue to be a key concern for residents in Brighton city centre, as previously noted. Despite the introduction of a ‘Cumulative Impact Area’ hours continue to get later and it’s a struggle to stop a race to the bottom. I’m really pleased that Police, residents and ward councillors have been working together more closely than ever on licensing issues. Unfortunately, that’s not always enough… For example earlier this week, despite very strong objections from the Police, the council noise team, residents and myself as ward councillor, a panel of licensing councillors agreed to extend the hours and operations for Jam (formerly the Water Margin) in Middle Street. Their decision seemed to run contrary to council’s own policies and furthers the rush to later hours, as it seems only a matter of time before other venues nearby try to extend their hours to keep up with the competition. There’s more in my release.

With limited Police resources, Operation Marble (which handles night-time economy issues Fri-Sat) can only cover so many streets and, at best, runs until 4am. However more and more premises are being allowed to open beyond that, meaning people leaving clubs after the visible Police presence has gone.

The Cumulative Impact Area (CIA) policy is supposed to go a little way to balancing the problem that each license application is supposed to be taken on its own merits. Without the CIA it’s virtually impossible to refuse applications just because there’s already too many licensed venues in an area already. However it’s not enough and East Street is a good example of where a high density of venues in one small area can cause serious problems. We need to preserve Brighton & Hove’s attractiveness for visitors, but we need to do that in recognition that it has an old town centre with a significant residential population.

Working with the residents I’ve created a film of what a Friday night is like for them. Along with the launch of this film I’m calling for a summit to bring together the council, Police, venue managers and residents to find solutions. We’ve already had some small wins by just improving communications between venues and residents. I know we can build on that. Until the licensing laws get properly sorted out by Parliament, we’re going to need a lot more of this kind of joint working to ensure that the needs of businesses, visitors and residents are sensibly and successfully balanced.

Preston Street: Ready for Regeneration

Preston Street needs help. Working with the traders association, chaired by Angelo Martinoli, we’ve tried petitions, meeting with cabinet members and their officers as well as press work in The Argus. Progress has been minimal I’m afraid, other than a few minor tweaks here and there and one vacant shop now with council-provided boarding.

This video highlights some of what the street is going through – I had to cut many other examples and comments from traders to keep it a reasonable length. The main three issues I hear again and again are:

  • The need for something like the i360 tower development to come forward to bring more people into the area;
  • Improved street-scape as the current setup is unattractive, riddled with double-parking and unworkable — ideally pedestrianisation or shared-space as on New Road is needed;
  • The recognition that many tourists drive to Brighton but parking fees discourage people staying in that part of town when other car parks elsewhere are cheaper.

As a Green, parking is a tricky one for me, but I don’t like waste and the council’s Regency Square car park currently stands mostly empty every day. Since this film was made the council have approved new 1 hour and fixed evening fees for Regency Square (before 2 hours was the minimum charge). These are yet to have been implemented and were brought forward without any consultation or discussion beyond the initial petitions I presented flagging up the poor use of the car park.

We’ll be sending this video to key decision-makers in the council. Please do support Preston Street and if you have any comments or ideas get in touch.