Let’s showcase the city on Patcham’s Gateway Roundabout

Patcham Ward Councillors are delighted to learn that Highways England is open to ideas for the future look of the Patcham A23 roundabout.

In response to an initial letter from the Ward Councillors, Highways England have responded to the Council saying that they want to start discussions about the future of the roundabout which was cleared of vegetation in February for safety reasons.

Cllr Lee Wares said “An opportunity exists for the ugliest roundabout in Sussex to be transformed into something more stunning or iconic that reflects the nature of our great City and we are urging the Labour Administration to grasp it with both hands. Of course there will be constraints and regulations to abide by but why not, for example, hold a competition for the children of our City to produce ideas to express what they think Brighton and Hove means to them?”

Cllr Wares added “So much emphasis is placed on public art and displays in the City and making our seafront attractive and quite rightly so but, let’s begin the experience here in Patcham”.

Cllr Geoffrey Theobald said “Hundreds of thousands of people pass this roundabout and I would hope that Highways England would agree to sponsors for the site to help fund something exciting and imaginative. We should not let this opportunity pass us by and end up with a wasteland covered in weeds or a few shrubs”.

Cllr Carol Theobald commented “I’m pleased that Highways England has recognised the importance of this site and are open to discussions. However, it’s not before time – we contacted them about two months ago try and get something done and have had to chase it up on several further occasions.”

Conservatives Retain Strong Council Leadership Team

Geoffrey

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald (Patcham Ward) has been re-elected unopposed for a sixth year as Conservative Group Leader for the forthcoming municipal year at the Group’s AGM this week.

Existing Group Deputy Leaders Dee Simson (Woodingdean Ward) and Andrew Wealls (Central Hove Ward) were also re-elected unopposed, Andrew for a second year and Dee for a fourth year in a row.

Andrew has been the Group’s Finance Spokesman for the last year and Dee is the Group’s long-standing Community and Voluntary Sector lead and is highly respected in the sector.

Andrew

The Conservative Group is the Official Opposition on Brighton & Hove City Council, holding 20 out of the 54 seats. Cllr. Theobald became Group Leader following the local elections in May 2011.

Cllr. Theobald said: “I am delighted that my colleagues have given me the honour of leading the Conservative Group for another year and I would like to thank them for their support. I have a united team behind me, including two excellent deputies, and our new intake of councillors is already making a big impression.”

Cllr. Wealls said: “I would like to thank my colleagues for their support. We have had a great deal of success this last year with the Labour Administration now following our lead in starting the process of reform and modernisation of many of the Council’s services.”

Dee

Cllr. Simson added: “It is great to be given another vote of confidence by my Group colleagues and I am looking forward to the year ahead. With all the changes coming in across the Council we shall certainly be aiming to keep the minority Labour Administration on its toes.”

Patcham & Hollingbury Councillors Welcome Rubbish News

Cityclean have advised that Highways England have agreed to them having night time lane closures on the A23 and A27 to pick up all the rubbish on the verges. This will happen on the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th April. Litter picking will take place on the A23 between Patcham roundabout and the pillars and on the A27 between Falmer and Southwick tunnel. It will also include all the slip roads.

Cllr Lee Wares said “this is very welcome news and has been needed for a long time. As a lot of the major roads pass through Patcham Ward, you can imagine the volume of complaints and enquiries we receive. Not only is rubbish extremely unsightly, it can be a significant risk to motorists with debris and rubbish capable of blowing around in the wind. One shudders at the thought of a piece of plastic wrapping across somebody’s windscreen at 70mph”.

Cllr Carol Theobald added “we have raised this many times in the past and I’ll be delighted once it has all been cleaned up. The litter is not a good advert for the City and whereas we would like this done more frequently, a big clear up before the summer season is excellent. Hopefully Patcham roundabout will be included”.

Cllr Geoffrey Theobald commented “I commend Cityclean and Highways England for working together on this and arranging the work. Lane closures on major roads are not easy to organise but very necessary to keep our workforce and roads users safe. We know there is a degree of inconvenience to motorists, but at night it should be minimal and I think we would all accept it will be a small price to pay to get the gateway roads to our City litter free”.

Conservatives Criticise Labour Motion on Retail Sector

The Conservative Group on Brighton and Hove City Council has criticised a Motion to be proposed by the Labour Group at this week’s Council meeting as ridiculous and cynical.

Conservative Finance Spokesperson, Councillor Andrew Wealls said “It is ludicrous that Labour has called on the Government to better support the retail sector when small businesses themselves have welcomed the tax reforms and raised threshold for business rate relief announced in the Budget.

“Not only that but the government’s commitment to raise the National Living wage and basic rate Income Tax threshold represents a pay rise of over a thousand pounds per year for full time minimum wage earners in the retail sector. Additionally the government is investing another £25m in recruiting young people into apprenticeships and is committed to delivering three million apprentices by 2020.”

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald, Leader of the Conservative Group commented “Four years ago Labour Councillor Gill Mitchell produced a report on how the council could better support the retail sector. They have done nothing since then. We suggest the Labour administration works hard and utilises the Council’s own localism powers to better support the local retail sector, instead of pointing the finger at central government and cynically asking them to do things they have already done.”

He added “If Labour is serious about helping to increase trade and opportunity for our city’s shops then why did they oppose our Motion to offer free parking before Christmas which would have undoubtedly encouraged more people to venture into the city and spend in our local shops? This on top of making it more difficult for people to park with the hugely flawed pay-by-phone system and increasing parking charges suggests quite the opposite that Labour does not care about our local retail sector at all.”

ENDS

Notes
Councillor Theobald’s comments refer to the findings of the 2012 ‘Support of the Retail Sector’ Report of the Overview and Scrutiny Panel, chaired by Councillor Mitchell which are yet to be implemented. Recommendations included, among others “increasing the flexibility of [the Council’s] approach to parking, utilising special offers and targeted support through parking regulations to promote specific retail areas”; “developing and implementing a Citywide Retail Strategy”; and “exploiting new ‘localism’ powers to support retailers through increased flexibility and responsiveness.”

The Labour and Cooperative Group Notice of Motion on the Retail Sector seeks agreement to “request the Chief Executive to write to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills urging the Government to give us every assistance in supporting the retail sector in Brighton and Hove, including having a strategic approach nationally to improving wages and terms and conditions in the retail sector, encouraging career progression in retail and ensuring the creation of high quality apprenticeships within retail.”

Patcham Councillors Reverse Hollingbury Library Proposals

As part of the library service redesign proposal, Hollingbury Library was due to be closed with the children’s collection going to Hollingbury Children’s Centre and everybody else needing to go to Patcham library. It was proposed that some senior and less mobile residents might receive a home delivery service.

During the consultation process, Patcham Councillors Lee Wares and Geoffrey and Carol Theobald suggested that as well as the plan for the Children’s Centre, the library service should consider using The Old Boat Corner Community Centre just down from the existing library.

It has today been published that Hollingbury will now retain a full library service across the Children’s and Community Centres. The proposal also means that computers will be available for the public to use, a full collection of books for all age groups remains in Hollingbury and that a library service will now be increased from 3 days a week to 7 days a week. Library staff will also be available one day a week to support volunteers whereas before, there would be no staff.

Cllr Lee Wares said “This is great news for Hollingbury residents. Not only has a full service been retained but accessibility has been increased by an extra 4 days. Also, by sharing with the Old Boat Corner Community Centre, residents will have access to a café and comfortable space and more pleasant surroundings”. He added “What better way to visit the library especially in the summer, every day of the week; you can choose a book, get a coffee and sit by the park”.

Cllr Geoffrey Theobald commented “We are delighted that the Council listened to our proposal and thank them. As we have said many times before, reducing costs doesn’t have to mean cutting services. With innovation and collaborative working with the community, not only is it possible to retain a full service but in this case, offer a better and increased one”.

Cllr Carol Theobald said “We very much appreciate the support of the management team at the Old Boat Corner Community Centre who have welcomed our idea from the start with great energy and commitment. It did concern us that our senior and less mobile residents would suffer the most from the original proposal. Now we have a better solution that will in turn provide opportunity for access to more information, better facilities and ability to socialise”.

The Hollingbury Children’s Centre is also to retain the present level of health and care services for families in the area with the added benefit of a library service aimed at children, parents and carers. The new proposal also means that Patcham library will increase its opening times from 3 full days and 2 half days to 7 full days a week.

The proposal goes before Economic and Culture Committee on the 10th March and then to Full Council for Councillors to agree its adoption.

AGREEMENT REACHED ON WITHDEAN PUPPY PARK

It had been decided by the Council to remove the fence in Withdean Park to reduce costs in the long-term. A petition was started that has now achieved over 1,900 signatures campaigning for the Council to consider other initiatives that would allow the fence to stay.

The fence around a section of the park, originally to protect young lilacs from rabbits, has been used for years by owners of dogs, especially those in training. It has also been a place where families with young children and puppies have been able to enjoy a space in safety, knowing that the children and dogs cannot stray too far away.

Patcham Ward Councillors have been working with campaigners and the Council to broker an agreement whereby campaigners can take responsibility for the fence. Campaigners had offered to raise the funds and provide the workforce.

Cllr. Lee Wares said “Agreement has now been reached between the campaigners and the Council for the fence to remain. Campaigners will raise the funds and work on the fence and the Council will provide supervision through the Ranger teams.”

Cllr. Geoffrey Theobald added “This is a good compromise for those that want to use the park with the benefit of the fence and for the Council who can retain a facility that it promotes, whilst not having to direct funds towards its maintenance”.

Cllr. Carol Theobald commented “We are pleased that the Administration kept an open mind to this matter and for Cllr Mitchell in agreeing to support a project where residents can have a greater say and involvement over the park; a principle we have been promoting for a long time”.

Patcham Conservatives seek A23/A27 roundabout reassurance

Patcham Ward Conservatives on Brighton & Hove City Council have written to Highways England asking what their plans are to improve the look of the large A23/A27 roundabout following recent vegetation clearance work.

The tall and dense vegetation was cleared in order to improve sight lines, and hence road safety, for drivers approaching the roundabout but nothing has been put in its place.

Cllr. Geoffrey Theobald said: “We fully support the efforts of Highways England to improve safety for drivers at this roundabout, which must be just about the busiest in the city. However, we would like to know what their plans are now to make this an attractive gateway to our city rather than the ugly abandoned wasteland that it has become.”

Fellow Ward Councillor, Lee Wares, added: “We are receiving a number of e-mails from local residents about the mess that the roundabout has been left in following the recent vegetation clearance. I think it is incumbent upon Highways England and the Council to work together to address these quite legitimate concerns.”

Cllr. Carol Theobald, who is also President of the Patcham Horticultural Society, added: “This roundabout is in such a prime location there must be local firms queuing up to sponsor it and get it planted up with some attractive new flowers and low-lying shrubs. This roundabout has been neglected for far too long and is well overdue some care and attention.”

Conservatives welcome Budget outcome

Speaking after last night’s Budget Council meeting, Conservative Group Leader Cllr. Geoffrey Theobald, said:

“Despite the Labour Administration having originally voted against all of our amendments, we are delighted that they have now shown common sense by agreeing virtually all of them.

“This means that we have succeeded with saving funding for mental health support, vital respite care for parents of disabled children, housing support to protect against homelessness, public toilets, verge cutting, noise patrol services and the Community Grants Programme, a vital resource for those who need it most”.

The Conservatives also succeeded in negotiating a £30k reduction in the amount of taxpayer funded Trade Union Facility Time. Brighton & Hove City Council has one of the highest number (10) of Full-time Trade Union officials in the country.

Conservatives unveil Budget proposals

 

Conservatives on Brighton & Hove City Council have unveiled their Budget proposals ahead of next Thursday’s crucial Full Council meeting. These include:

  • Restoring £60k to the Public Toilets Budget, potentially saving some of the 5 toilets proposed for closure by Labour.
  • Reinstating the Council’s Noise Patrol Service which Labour wants to abolish entirely.
  • Investing £93k in grass verge cutting and gully cleansing to improve the look of the city and help prevent flooding.
  • Reversing Labour’s proposed cut to preventative mental health funding.
  • Reversing Labour’s proposed cut to residential and respite breaks funding for children with disabilities.
  • Partially reversing Labour’s proposed cuts to support for homeless households and to the community grants programme.
  • Protecting the St. John’s Day Service for older people.
  • Freezing the cost of business, trader and visitor parking permits.

These measures will be largely paid for through additional savings in Senior Management costs and through reductions in the 10 full-time Trade Union Officials employed by the Council – one of the highest numbers in the country.

Speaking about the proposals, Conservative Group Leader Cllr. Geoffrey Theobald, said: “We are pleased that the Labour Administration has started to carry out some of the reforms to Council services that the Conservative Group has been advocating for the last 4 or 5 years. However, there are a number of areas where we disagree with their approach – namely in cutting some of the bread and butter services that residents rely upon and also services to some highly vulnerable groups. Our fully costed amendments demonstrate that there is no need for them to make these cuts.”

Group Finance Spokesman, Cllr. Andrew Wealls, added: “Labour’s inheritance from the Greens’ lost years was unreformed council services, hostility to the community and voluntary sector and a chronically overspent budget. We are pleased Labour has adopted many of the ideas presented in our Conservative manifesto last year to address the challenges faced by the city. However, if we aren’t to face a crisis in future years we will need to see much faster action on reform and a willingness to challenge Labour’s vested interests to ensure our city’s frontline services are high quality and accessible, especially for those who need them most.”

 

 

Councillors Broker Stay of Execution of Puppy Park

As has been widely reported, the petition for Withdean Park “puppy park” has gathered significant momentum. A fenced area in the park (originally to protect the lilac collection) has become a popular destination for dog lovers and their families from all over the City and beyond. The area is even promoted by the Council as one of the benefits of the park.

Councillors Lee Wares and Geoffrey and Carol Theobald have been working with the campaigners behind the scenes and have now brokered a stay of execution of the puppy park.

Cllr Lee Wares said “This is not a movement to try and force the Council to maintain the fence at the expense of the taxpayer. The campaigners are ready to put their money where their mouths are, raise additional funds and put in the time and effort to maintain the fence”.

“We are delighted that the Council have agreed to postpone the removal of the fence so that residents can explore with them how they could take on responsibility of the fence and look after it for the benefit of everybody”.

Cllr Lee Wares added “This is just the sort of initiative the Council should embrace. When residents offer to fund projects and put in the hours to maintain the public realm, the Council should support them. Of course there is the devil in the detail to be worked out and we are pleased the Council had little hesitation in agreeing to the concept and begin working with residents to make it happen. Whilst the long-term arrangement is being explored, the Council have also agreed to discuss working with residents to carry out minor but urgent repairs”.

Cllr Geoffrey Theobald commented “Giving greater control and responsibility to residents to have a say in how their parks and open spaces should be cared for is something we strongly support. It is this level of passion and determination by residents that needs to be encouraged. And it is all the more reason that our Rangers should be retained to help residents, who willingly give up their free time, to make our City better”.