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TIME TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

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At ETS Committee, Labour, supported by the Greens, pushed through the business case for Valley Gardens Phase 3. This was despite leading figures from tourism, business, doctors, bus operators, bus users, the taxi trade and residents repeatedly advising that the proposal would economically harm the City or impact on how the City would move around.


Cllr. Lee Wares
Cllr. Lee Wares

The Conservative Group, as well as supporting those sectors, highlighted errors, omissions and flaws in the business case. This was met with confusing responses only supported by “we used the model” or computer says “no”. 
As a City that relies heavily on tourism, it was a surprise to be told that no assessment on the economic impact had been included.

However, what binds those speaking out against the proposal is that they all want to see Valley Gardens regenerated and to secure funding from the Government to do so. But we agree it should not be at any cost.


The key problem is that projects like this are considered in silos without any solution to the knock on issues they create. With Valley Gardens there seems to be a narrow minded approach to try and squeeze everybody into a tiny space that simply cannot work for everybody. The Aquarium roundabout works, it is free flowing and given the 18.3 million journeys through it each year, it is a relatively safe stretch of road.


To reduce the risk of serious accidents, the proposal is to remove the roundabout, construct a box like signal controlled junction and cut off Madeira Drive’s access to the junction. This act of economic “self-harm” is being ignored. With all traffic being planned for the east side of the Old Steine and longer journey times on the A259 (40 seconds at peak periods) air quality is likely to decrease.


Our City has miles of seafront, we are spending millions along the promenade, redeveloping Shelter Hall, progressing with the Gateway Boulevard from the Station and getting close to agreeing the massive Waterfront project. Now is the time to look strategically as to how we can best move and connect people around the City.


We don’t need to try and funnel every pedestrian, cyclist, motor cyclist, car, truck, lorry, bus and any other form of transport through one junction. We need more of a holistic view to see how we can use our space to de-conflict these risks. Why can’t we design cycle routes further away from the junction or direct pedestrians through our trading and shopping areas to our visitor attractions. We have an opportunity to help our business and tourist sector, we can make cycling and walking much safer, we can improve bus use for our passengers and we can continue to allow free flowing traffic through the Aquarium roundabout.


There is only one reason this isn’t happening. Labour refuses to see outside the boundaries of the Valley Gardens project. Now is time to think outside the box.

Conservatives Demand Apology From i360

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Cllr Steve Bell CBE demands apology from i360 for putting Brighton & Hove residents at risk of footing £36m bill

Cllr Steve Bell CBE - Deputy Leader of the official opposition
Cllr Steve Bell CBE – Deputy Leader of the official opposition

Speaking in City Chambers to the i360 loan restructure recommendations, Cllr Steve Bell (Woodingdean) demanded an apology from the owners and management of the British Airways i360.

Cllr Bell made an impassioned plea to those responsible for putting Brighton and Hove Council Tax payers at risk of footing the £36m bill for unpaid loans owed to Brighton & Hove City Council.


Cllr Bell also questioned the Capability of the i360 to deliver the recommendations of the G.V.A. and L.D.P. reports. These reports outline the action necessary to make the business viable, and centre on a new marketing strategy.


The Committee was discussing the restructure of the Council’s loan to the i360, and the Conservatives successfully amended the Labour Administration’s recommendations. The Conservatives tabled this amendment so that residents of Brighton and Hove are better protected. Cllr Bell did ask why nobody representing the i360 was present at the meeting to apologise in person, and was told it was at the request of Labour leader Cllr Yates.

Conservatives Welcome Rethink On Trains

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Local Conservatives have led the charge, as always, in Brighton & Hove City Council on the issue of infrequent services and poor access at Preston Park Station. As a Member for the Ward in which the station is situated , Cllr Nick Taylor has followed the group action up with his own lobbying of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR). Speaking outside Hove Town Hall, Cllr Nick Taylor (Withdean Ward) said “I am pleased that together with the local community, and the local MP, we have achieved a much needed rethink on the issue of services and access at Preston Park Station.”

Cllr Nick Taylor
Cllr Nick Taylor

“I welcome this rethink over the decimation of train services to Ppl which is a vital hub for residents in Withdean and indeed the whole of North Brighton” 

Cllr Taylor went on to say “However, there is more to do, particularly in respect of accuracy of ticketing data – which will influence future service plans, and access to the station.”

ESTATE & LETTING AGENT BOARDS

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To give some background to this article, concern over boards was initially raised some years ago by a Conservative Councillor of the day, Brian Pigeon, no longer alive sadly, whose lovely wife Joyce was blind. Cllr Pigeon’s concerns were very much on health and safety grounds.

Cllr Mears’ Administration Moved Forward

These concerns were taken forward under Cllr Mears’ Administration, no doubt with the support of all Councillors. Concern was raised at the time over what would get past the Secretary of State under new legislation that was released in 2007.

Hostility Towards Boards

This was quite understandable. The estate agent industry was barely online at the time and there was of course a risk that removing its ability to advertise would be hugely damaging. Alongside that, there wasn’t the same hostility towards boards that there is now. People hadn’t seen just how nice their streets could be without them.

As mentioned in the report, Cllr Robert Nemeth (Conservative – Wish Ward) brought a Notice of Motion to Full Council that received the backing of Councillors for a scheme to be introduced. Speaking for the Notice of Motion Cllr Nemeth brought confirmation of industry support and specifically mentioned areas around Hove Station.

Cllr Nemeth’s Initial Request Hijacked

Cllr Robert Nemeth
Cllr Robert Nemeth

Speaking in City Chambers Cllr Nemeth said “I do have to say that I am quite upset and feel that my initial request was hijacked. My request was about extending the Regulation 7 ban in historic and dense areas and we have ended up with lots of officer time, and association taxpayers’ cash, being spent on a voluntary scheme in an area where voluntary action would inevitably fail – not least through the hyper-competition of very focused agents in a particular market. I predicted such a thing at this committee.”

Cllr Nemeth returned to Committee on November 22nd (2018) asking for an attempt to be made on the Regulation 7 extension. Cllr Nemeth explained the difference in the situation now to that of 2010. To summerise these are:

1.       Agent support rather than agent opposition.

2.       A completely changed industry in terms of marketing including everything now being online, and window boards being quite normal.

3.       A general feeling of bewilderment amongst residents at the current two-tier system where some streets have the ban and adjoining, similar, streets do not.

Speaking to the Conservative Group amendment  Cllr Nemeth said “I am specifically focusing on the non-student areas because I accept that such areas would not be suitable for the Regulation 7 and am happy to trust the Chairman to open a fair conversation, and make the final decision, on what streets might be suitable.”

FLAWED VALLEY GARDENS PHASE 3 BUSINESS CASE WILL HARM THE CITY’S ECONOMY

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Valley Gardens ©Google 2018
Valley Gardens ©Google 2018

Millions of pounds are to be spent changing the layout of the Old Steine area but the project could cost all of us much more if the wrong approach is taken.

The risk is that businesses are unable to receive vital deliveries when they need them, jams make Brighton a much less attractive place to visit and pollution gets worse rather than better.

Road Safety?

Road safety is cited by the council’s current Labour administration as a reason to do away with the Aquarium roundabout and put in a “T” junction and traffic lights.

But the numbers don’t stack up. The 40-second delay at the proposed T junction will have a negative impact on the local economy – on jobs and businesses – estimated to cost more than £17 million.

No Evidence…

And there is no evidence that a reasonably safe stretch of road will be made significantly safer by a redesign that few people in the area actually support.

Are the Conservatives suggesting that Brighton and Hove City Council does nothing? Far from it. Even amid the flawed consultation that is said to have taken place, there are possibilities that could work for people living, working and travelling through the area.

The business case has now been published and responses to the consultation are being made which only amplify the concerns voiced by the Conservatives.

But if the Labour administration remains determined to replace the roundabout with a T junction, it risks bringing the whole project down.

The T junction element has so many economic dis-benefits that it will, if properly assessed, so outweigh the benefits, that the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) will struggle to award vital funding.

Labour admits in the business case that the traffic light delays alone will hurt the economy. But it does not appear to have assessed or included the impact of the 120-plus coaches and buses that use daily Madeira Drive once there is only one exit – at Duke’s Mound.

There are no plans to change the Duke’s Mound junction with Marine Parade so how will coaches and buses turn left without crossing both carriageways? Imagine the jams, the delays and the pollution – not to mention the new road safety risks.

Taxi and private hire drivers will pay for this mess too, as they will end up going expensively out of their way as a result of the new layout. And their passengers will have to pay the price with no economic assessment being made of the impact to the City’s own 1,100 licensed taxi and private hire vehicles. Nor is there any mention of how the exciting Waterfront project and the T junction will be future-proofed to ensure that the new concert and conference centre can accommodate tens of thousands of people coming and going.

We need to provide efficient mass transport solutions to and from the city centre so why are we now limiting our options?

We have a fantastic variety of business sectors in Brighton and Hove yet Labour seems to have overlooked the key role of tourism. It supports 22,000 jobs and is worth a staggering £900 million a year.

The business case focuses on things like active travel, land values, public realm changes and knowledge-based businesses. But there is no economic assessment of how tourism will be affected.

Now is not the time to do anything that could remotely harm tourism, not least given how reliant the council is on the sector for rents and business rates.

Crucially, the case for altering the Aquarium roundabout is not necessarily linked to the Old Steine regeneration. It appears more to do with casualty numbers.

We all wish there were no casualties but based on Labour’s own predicted fall in casualties (44 per cent), the T junction will still have the highest number of casualties in Brighton.

To put it into context, based on Labour’s own figures, over a five-year data period, there has been only one pedestrian casualty rated as severe and no deaths.

One casualty is one too many however, with 50,000 vehicle journeys through the aquarium roundabout each day, equalling 91 million journeys over five years, there is a 1 in 91 million chance of a pedestrian being severely injured.

The odds of winning the National Lottery are 1 in 45 million – and over the same five years there were tragically 2,104 deaths from 171 million commercial flights.

In reality, you are twice as likely to win the lottery or 1,000 times more likely to die in a plane crash than be severely injured as a pedestrian at the Aquarium roundabout.

We have asked a number of questions in recent weeks seeking specific details on accidents and how they happened. We have asked for comparable accident data elsewhere in Brighton and Hove. We have asked for a breakdown of the economic benefits and dis-benefits presented in the business case.

Regretfully our questions have not been answered and we are told that the model doesn’t allow for the financial data to be broken down. Computer says “no”.

The business case appears to sweep away the concerns and negative impacts of the T junction by recommending that the decision to proceed should be made because of the benefits to the wider Valley Gardens scheme.

That is frankly not good enough. To “lose” the negative impact of changing the Aquarium roundabout because other disconnected areas are better will not prevent the economic downturn to those who rely on driving through the T junction or those who rely on tourism.

Further, the financial implications in the report to ETS identify a total budget of £7.25M of which the City will contribute £1.25M. However, in the same report costs are projected to be £7.84M with the potential to rise by 20 percent. Before the project starts there is a projected overspend that will only weaken the already fragile Business Case.

There is a solution, however. It is known as option 3 and involves buses and taxis and private hire vehicles running up and down the western side of the Old Steine. Crucially, this phase of the scheme – phase three – should adopt option 3 and except for some minor improvements, do nothing to the aquarium roundabout.

The Conservatives will present amendments when the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee meets next Tuesday (27 November) to decide how to proceed.

It may mean a delay to the decision but we have one chance to get this right. If we get this wrong, the impact will be significant and long-lasting.

Labour delayed decisions on the first two phases of this scheme for two years so that it could look at the traffic modelling in more detail and using more up-to-date information.

We are asking Labour to support our amendments so that we get this right for the future of our city.

Four years ago Councillor Gill Mitchell, Labour’s lead on the committee, said: “We are being asked to take on trust that replacing the Palace Pier roundabout with a giant T junction will work.

“I would urge Conservative councillors to rethink their support for this scheme, which gives every appearance of being made up on the hoof.” 

We don’t see that anything has changed and we would hope that Councillor Mitchell reflects on her own words and doesn’t perform a U-turn on this busy junction.

We would also hope that Councillor Alan Robins – Labour’s lead on tourism and a member of the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee – will recognise the significant risk that he will pose to the very industry he is supposed to support and promote.

If Labour doesn’t apply the brakes now, it risks driving our local economy into an easily avoidable crash.

HAS £1.83M FOR HIGHWAY REPAIRS DISAPPEARED?

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At the 9th October Environment, Transport & Sustainability Committee, Labour presented the 2017/18 Parking Annual Report. Labour lauded that a windfall surplus of £2.3M raised through parking fees and fines was to be spent on highway maintenance projects such as repairing potholes, pavements and road surfaces. This was in addition to the £1.352M allocated this year to the City by the Conservative Government.


Who Is Making The Decision?

At Committee, the Conservative Group asked for information on where the £2.3M would actually be spent, who made the decision and how was it accounted for in budgets. Labour advised the answer was complex and would provide a briefing.

With no briefing materialising, Conservative spokesperson, Cllr. Lee Wares formally submitted a question to the forthcoming 27th November Committee asking why no briefing had been provided and why the secrecy. 


£1.83m Seems To Have Disappeared… 

However, in a briefing paper now provided to Committee Members, Labour are advising that a windfall surplus of only £0.47M has been allocated (instead of £2.3M); a reduction in £1.83M.

Cllr Wares - Environment Spokesman
Cllr Lee Wares

Cllr. Lee Wares said “After being forced to chase this information, we now discover that £1.83M seems to have just disappeared. Either the Labour Administration, in light of the Government’s recent cash boost, has decided to secretly “move” the cash elsewhere or the original report with all its fanfare and hype was wholly incorrect and misleading.”


This Typifies Labour’s Shambolic Approach…

Cllr. Wares added “This typifies Labour’s shambolic approach to the City’s finances. Was the report incorrect or has the money been secretly diverted elsewhere? We hope that at the November Committee, Labour will come clean on the £1.83M, tell us where it has gone and answer the original outstanding questions or admit that the Annual Report was wrong and misleading.”

CONSERVATIVES CRITICISE LACK OF COUNCIL ACTION TO BAN SINGLE USE PLASTICS

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The Conservative Group has called out the Labour Administration for lip-service a year since Conservative Cllr Steve Bell raised a Notice of Motion calling for a ban on the purchase of single use plastics in all Brighton and Hove City Council buildings and council funded agencies.

The Notice of Motion also called for businesses with which the council engage, via procurement, to support the banning of these consumables, yet singe use plastics are still rife in and around the city. 


12 Months Since Unanimous Agreement…No Action Just Talk

Cllr Steve Bell CBE
Cllr Steve Bell CBE

Criticising the Council today, Cllr Bell said “12months since the Council unanimously agreed to lead by example and stop the use of single use plastics all we have to show is a few polite signs. We have had report after report; but now is the time to stop talking and start acting.”

300 Million Tons Of Plastic Each Year

The country produces roughly 300 million tons of plastic each year, half of which is disposable. Although plastic will not biodegrade, it will break down into tiny particles after many years, the process of which releases toxic chemicals which make their way into our food and water supply. Single use plastics are also a major source of marine litter. 


…Ban These Consumables…Lead By Example

Cllr Bell added “Events such a Pride and the Brighton Marathon left the city littered with these environmentally damaging plastics. By compelling organisers wanting to hold events in our city to ban these consumables we could go a long way towards changing the culture of usage of plastic products for the wider public and truly lead by example.”

FURTHER £2M GIVEN TO BRIGHTON AND HOVE BY CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT

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NHS

Local Conservatives have today welcomed an additional £2,098,961 for adults and children’s social care in Brighton and Hove from the government.

Local authorities in England are receiving a share of £410 million in 2019-20 for older people, people with disabilities and children. This is in addition to the £240 million winter funding announced last month and will help local authorities to deliver the important services our communities need and support the most vulnerable residents.

The combined funding will mean an extra £3,327,621 for the Council. 

Cllr Tony Janio
Cllr Tony Janio

Cllr Janio, Leader of the Conservative Group commented “Every winter the NHS comes under additional pressure from the cold weather and all that it brings. The government’s additional funding will go a long way towards easing these winter pressures to both support our vulnerable residents and get people home when they are well enough to be and stop bed blocking. This should help out the city’s Labour Administration who can’t budget, choosing instead to waste money on vanity projects.”

CONSERVATIVES WELCOME HUGE CASH INJECTION FOR THE CITY’S ROADS AND STREETS

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Brighton and Hove Conservatives welcome the Government’s £1.163m cash injection into the City to repair and maintain roads and streets. This is in addition to the £0.189m previously given to the Council for pot hole repairs.


Cllr Wares - Environment Spokesman
Cllr Lee Wares

Conservative spokes for transport, Cllr. Lee Wares said “The combined sum of £1.352m allocated by Government to Brighton and Hove this year is significant, we would hope the Labour Administration will now use the money wisely and not waste it”.


We Don’t Want Waste

“What we don’t want to see is waste such as the Labour Administration buying road salt needed to keep our roads clear this winter to only store it outside for it to dissolve in the rain before it can be used”.


Labour Have No More Excuses

“With the Government’s £1.352m plus the £2.3m windfall surplus the Council banked from parking charges and fines; a total of £3.582m can be spent this financial year fixing potholes, roads and pavements, Labour have no more excuses.”


GOVERNMENT PRAISED FOR COMMITMENT TO DEMENTIA CARE

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Click link below for ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE INTERNATIONAL website. Picture: COPYRIGHT © ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE INTERNATIONAL
Click link below for ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE INTERNATIONAL website. Picture: © ADI

Alzheimer’s Disease International has praised the UK Government for its progress and commitment in tackling the stigma of dementia and improving the care experience for sufferers and their carers at this year’s UK Dementia Congress, held in Brighton’s Hilton Metropole.


£60 Million Target Exceeded Early

The Government has exceeded its £60 million target for the Dementia Research Institute earlier than 2020 and has the second largest research spend on Dementia in the world. 


Diagnosis Rate Increased to 66%

Since 2010 the dementia diagnosis rate has increased from 42% to 66% in 2018 meaning more people can access the support and care they need. Over a million NHS workers have also had training on dementia over the last five years.


UK Will Be World Leader

Cllr Nicholas Taylor
Cllr Nicholas Taylor

Attending the UK Dementia Congress, Nick Taylor, Conservative Health and Wellbeing spokesperson commented “Dementia can be a cruel and difficult condition for individuals and their families. Since 2015 the Government set about the UK being the best country in the world to support those living with dementia, either personally or as a relative.

“I was very pleased to hear from the Minister of State for Care directly that this is still a firm commitment and remains on track.

“There is always more to do but with our health partners we can be ambitious for our city”


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