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Chaotic Labour Administration Kicked Out Of Housing Scheme


Just over 7 weeks after the Labour Administration in Brighton & Hove trumpeted the fact a new ‘Selective Licensing Scheme’ for private rented homes had been given the go ahead by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government – they have been stripped of this status.

Residents Let Down

The Selective Licensing Scheme was due to be introduced early next year, for all private rented homes not currently covered by mandatory or additional licensing for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), in the following wards:

  • St Peters & North Laine
  • Regency
  • Moulsecoomb & Bevendean
  • Hollingdean & Stanmer
  • Queens Park
  • Hanover & Elm Grove
  • Brunswick & Adelaide
  • East Brighton
  • South Portslade
  • Central Hove
  • Westbourne
  • Preston Park

Labour Incompetence Leaves Tenants Vulnerable

The scheme should have been introduced from 4 February 2019 and would have protected tenants in around 27,000 properties. The scheme was approved by the council’s Housing & New Homes Committee on 15 November 2017 following a consultation the previous summer. The consultation had 804 responses with 81% in favour. The Secretary of State approved the scheme on the grounds of improving housing conditions in the city.

Significant Benefits Lost Due To Labour Mismanagement

The introduction of further licensing in the city aimed to improve management and housing conditions across the private rented sector. The benefits would have included:

  • Responsible landlords gaining from improved clarity about their role in raising property and tenancy management standards while action is taken to tackle those who flout their legal responsibilities.
  • Tenants would be clear on what standards they can expect in the homes they rent and the landlords they rent from, with minimum standards resulting in better managed, quality and safer homes.
  • Communities would benefit from a consistent approach towards proactively assessing and improving housing conditions across the areas. 

90% of Properties Won’t Be Fit & Safe For Occupation

Evidence from current HMO licensing in Brighton & Hove shows that almost 90% of properties required improvements to ensure they were fit and safe for occupation.

Cllr Mears. Conservative Spokesperson for Housing
Cllr Mears. Conservative Spokesperson for Housing

The Conservative spokesperson for Housing in Brighton and Hove, Cllr Mary Mears, said “As the Conservative Group Spokesperson on the Housing Committee I found it shocking that I had to read in The Argus about this minority Labour Administration being removed from the National licencing scheme – this surely highlights the dysfunctional chaos surrounding Labour’s leadership. The most serious consequence of this is the devastating impact it could potentially have on some of  Brighton and Hove’s most vulnerable residents. In our city we know that we have some very good landlords, who take their duty of care seriously and protect their tenants; however we do know that there are other landlords in the city who are letting properties that are not fit and safe for occupation. Without membership of this licencing scheme the council has less control over rouge landlords”

Cllr Tony Janio
Cllr Tony Janio

“Just how far does Labour’s record of incompetence and waste need to go before we start to see the resignation of Labour Chairs of Committees, or even the Labour Leader of the Council. The Labour Administration is imploding before our very eyes.”

Cllr Steve Bell CBE
Cllr Steve Bell CBE

“I am not surprised but very disappointed. During the past 3.5 years I have seen this Labour Administration waste Brighton & Hove Council Tax payers’ money on vanity projects and ignore our plea to help the most vulnerable. This will affect so many residents and cause some real risks of people living in below standard housing  which will affect their physical and mental health. Labour need to explain why they are continually failing the City by their lack of Duty of Care.”

Yet Another Delay For King Alfred Redevelopment

King Alfred Leisure Centre, Hove.

Cllr Ann Norman
Cllr Ann Norman

Cllr Ann Norman, Conservative Spokesperson for Tourism, Development, and Culture Committee, has today spoken of her exasperation on hearing the news residents must, again, face delays in getting the King Alfred Leisure Centre site, Hove, redeveloped.

Speaking outside Hove Town Hall Cllr Norman said “It’s deplorable that this chaotic Labour Administration has let down the residents of our city, yet again, by their failure to progress the redevelopment of the King Alfred Site.”

Brighton and Hove City Council (BHCC), which is run by the Labour Party, issued the following press release:

“Following formal confirmation of funding in September from the Housing Infrastructure Fund the council has been working with Crest Nicholson Regeneration to conclude the development agreement.

“The council wrote to the developer earlier this month to ask them to confirm their commitment to the delivery of the King Alfred scheme. We have received a response from Crest that restates their commitment but which is seeking a little more time to further update their viability appraisals. The council continues to be in contact with them and we are expecting a more detailed response shortly.

 “In parallel with the developer’s ongoing viability review, the council will meet with them to agree options for progressing delivery of the scheme.  We remain committed to ensuring a scheme which delivers a new leisure centre and pool complex for Hove alongside a significant housing development

“We will provide an update on the project at the Policy, Resources & Growth Committee on 6 December.”

Conservatives Question Chaotic Labour Administration

Cllr Robert Nemeth
Cllr Robert Nemeth

At a meeting of Full Council, on October 18th 2018, Conservative Councillor Robert Nemeth (Member of The King Alfred Project Board) submitted a formal written question to the Labour Administration asking:

“Given the estimated £669,000 that has already been expended by the Council on the latest King Alfred project (£409,000 officer costs and £260,000 consultant costs), what further costs are envisaged between now and project completion, and are such funds already in place?”

Flippant & Vague Response

The reply he received from Labour Leader of the council Dan Yates was worryingly lacking in actual figures and almost flippantly vague:

“As with the expenditure profile to date, activity and therefore cost to the Council is dependent on the phase the project has reached. Subject to completion of the Development Agreement in the coming months, the cost to the Council during the next two years is expected to be akin to that incurred during the past year. As with all projects managed by the Council’s Major Projects Team, resource requirements are reviewed at least annually and financial resources are allocated as part of the budget setting process. The King Alfred project is one of the Council’s strategic priorities. Appropriate financial provision has therefore been made and this is considered to be sufficient based on the currently anticipated delivery timetable.”

Cllr Wealls. Conservative Finance Spokesman
Cllr Wealls. Conservative Finance Spokesman

The Conservative Councillor for Central Hove – the Ward in which the King Alfred site is situated – Cllr Andrew Wealls, said yesterday “It’s utterly disgraceful that the Labour Administration have taken their eye off the ball. These chronic delays are threatening the viability of the entire project.” As a dedicated campaigner for the residents and businesses in his Ward, Andrew has long been an advocate of positive development in this area. He went on to say “Hove deserves better than chaotic Labour shower. Clearly in-fighting takes precedence over the interests of our great city and its residents. The people of Brighton and Hove deserve better, and I expect they will be giving Labour a massive thumbs down next May.”

Between 600 and 700 flats are proposed for this site. If we use an average council tax bill for these properties of £1,500 per annum (Current Band D 2018/19 is £1,805.98) – A delay of one year means £1,050,000 of lost revenue for our city. To date an estimated £409,000 of BHCC Officer time has been accrued alongside £260,000 of consultants fees. These figures do not include business rates from the proposed outlets and already we are looking at significant sums of money that money could have mitigated Labour’s Council Tax increase in this year’s budget. We’re just waiting to see which Labour Administration Councillor will do the honourable thing and resign over this shocking state of affairs.

Cllrs Nemeth and Wealls in Hove Library

Celebration Of Schools’ History

Secretary of State for Education, The Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP, with Hangleton & Knoll Cllrs Dawn Barnett, Tony Janio, and Nick Lewry.
Secretary of State for Education, The Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP, with Hangleton & Knoll Cllrs Dawn Barnett, Tony Janio, and Nick Lewry.
Secretary of State for Education, The Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP, with staff and pupils from West Blatchington School
Secretary of State for Education, The Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP, with staff and pupils from West Blatchington School

On Thursday 18th October West Blatchington Primary & Nursery School celebrated the history of their school with Secretary of State for Education, The Rt Hon. Damian Hinds MP.

£30m of Government Funding

More than £30m has come from the Conservative Government for these initiatives. The new premises for the Primary and Nursery school – combined with the Kings School development – are a very welcome addition to our city.

Secretary of State for Education, The Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP, with Conservative Spokesperson for Education, Cllr Vanessa Brown.

The Conservative Group Spokesperson for Children, Young People, and Skills – Cllr Vanessa Brown – spent the morning with the three councillors for Hangleton & Knoll and Secretary of State Hinds, being escorted round the current building, which is due to be demolished next year.

£1.2m Adult Social Care Winter Funding for Brighton and Hove

Conservatives invest an extra £1,228,660 in adult social care in Brighton & Hove

Local Conservatives have today welcomes £1,228,660 of adult social care winter funding allocated to Brighton and Hove City Council by the government to help local areas ease winter pressures on the NHS.

Local Authorities in England are receiving a share of a £240 million fund, announced by Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock earlier this month. The money is aimed at reducing delayed transfers of care and could pay for the following:

  • Home care packages to help patients get out of hospital quicker
  • Reablement packages, which support workers to help patients carry out everyday tasks and regain mobility and confidence
  • Home adaptations, including new facilities for personal care, such as adapting a shower room if a patient has limited movement
Cllr Nicholas Taylor
Cllr Nicholas Taylor

Nick Taylor, Conservative Health and Wellbeing spokesperson commented “This funding for adult social care is gladly received to ease the annual pressures on our fantastic local health services during the winter months. Residents of the city deserve the very best care and this funding is further evidence of the Government’s commitment to deliver that.”

Valley Gardens Phase 3

Valley Gardens ©Google 2018
Valley Gardens ©Google 2018

Lots of good work has been done on the Valley Gardens project, and phase 3 is no exception. There are four options on the table for this phase, and they were presented to the Environment, Transport, and Sustainability Committee (ETSC) on Tuesday 9th October 2018. There are some interesting ideas, However the Conservative Group have expressed some concerns.

Forty Second Penalty

Cllr Wares - Environment Spokesman
Cllr Wares – Environment Spokesman

Cllr Lee Wares (Conservative Group Deputy Leader & ETS Spokesman) had previously asked for general traffic timings, and sadly many were not included. However Cllr Wares has highlighted a worrying figure that is included in the document. Westbound traffic on the A259 will be travelling 40 seconds slower, even after optimising, and the knock-on effects of this will be far reaching and cause a great deal of frustration for residents and visitors to our city.

The Matrix Is Flawed

Cllr Wares explained that the matrix upon which the decision to choose option 1 is flawed. Just a few slight ‘tweaks’ of this matrix result in a roundabout option coming back in to play (options 2 & 4). Bus companies, the taxi trade, buswatch, and cyclists throughout the city remain unconvinced. Cllr Wealls said “The Conservative Group cannot support  option 1 in its current form.”

Cllr. Lee Wares
Cllr. Lee Wares

Cllr Wares also highlighted that information for a public consultation (on option 1 for the scheme) is already prepared without the benefit of this committee’s decision. Cllr Lee Wares (Conservative Group Deputy Leader & ETS Spokesman) described this state of affairs as “unnerving”.

Lack Of Future Proofing

With a desire to build a conference centre at the Eastern end of our seafront the plans for Madera Drive, contained within option 1, show a complete lack of foresight regarding the impact of traffic around that area. Cllr Wares said “In its current form, option 1 would be a noose around the neck of future development.”

Conservatives Call For Proper Scrutiny

Cllr Mary Mears
Cllr Mary Mears - Conservative Spokesperson for Housing

Following a special meeting of the Housing & New Homes Committee on Wednesday, 26th September, 2018 a major decision, which will affect all Council Tax payers in our city and directly impact all tenants / leaseholders of Brighton and Hove City Council (BHCC) properties, was made by just 10 of the 54 elected representatives of BHCC. The Conservative Group of BHCC do not think that this is representative, and do not believe it is truly democratic.

During a meeting of The Policy, Resources, and Growth Committee (PR&G), in City Chambers on 11th October 2018, the Conservative Group of BHCC wanted to ensure all 54 democratically elected Councillors could vote, freely and fairly, on what is a decision that could bind this city for 7 years. This dec

Cllr Wealls. Conservative Finance Spokesman
Cllr Wealls. Conservative Finance Spokesman

Cllr Andrew Wealls (Conservative Group Finance Spokesman) said in the Committee “We want to ensure the very best value for tenants, leaseholders, and Council Tax payers overall. This proposal does not do that.”

Costs Will Escalate

Cllr Tony Janio. Leader of the official opposition
Cllr Tony Janio. Leader of the official opposition

Cllr Tony Janio, Leader of the Conservative Group, implored Committee members to consider and defend the interests of Council tenants and leaseholders, saying “Risk is being put on tenants & leaseholders. This should not happen. With a private contract the risk is borne by private companies, not our residents. When costs escalate, as they inevitably will, the burden on tenants and leaseholders will become too great. Cllr Janio went on to ask Cllr Yates (Labour) “Will you come back to this Committee and apologise for this decision in the event of rising costs?”

Confusing Lack of Support

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

Following Cllr Sykes’ speech, announcing his lack of support for the Conservative Group seeking debate with all Councillors, Cllr Steve Bell said “I’m confused that after admitting all these figures [projected costs] are estimates from Savills, and stating they could well rise, why he [Cllr Sykes] doesn’t support our amendment to have this proposal discussed by all Members at a meeting of Full Council.”

Rough Sleeping Strategy

Brighton & Hove Rough Sleeping Strategy

Speaking at the Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities, and Equalities Committee (NICE) in City Chambers on Monday 8th October 2018 Cllr Robert Nemeth, the Conservative Group Spokesman for NICE Committee, raised his concerns over the way funding for rough sleepers is distributed and spent within our city.

Cllr Robert Nemeth
Cllr Robert Nemeth

Cllr Nemeth began by expressing thanks and praise for the contributions of hundreds of volunteers and community groups – such as Off the Fence, Sussex Homeless Support, and the Churches Network, plus a plethora of other donors and fundraisers. He went on to thank those employed to tackle street sleeping – whether they be at Brighton and Hove City Council, Brighton Housing Trust, or St Mungo’s – showing appreciation to them all for going over and above what they are paid to do.

Cllr Nemeth is  the Conservative representative on the three councillor Brighton Centre Night Shelter Working Group. Speaking in the Chamber Cllr Nemeth said “It was here [Brighton Centre Night Shelter] that I started learning the ropes, in the good company of Councillors Moonan and Gibson, and I witnessed some phenomenal work from volunteers and officers.

“Today is not an opportunity to vote on the strategy itself, and I can’t in any good conscience do anything to embrace it at all, as it is clearly not working. So I won’t even be noting it; I feel that strongly against it.”

Real Battles Needed To Solve This Problem

In an impassioned speech, Cllr Nemeth went on to say “I think that the right rough sleeping strategy would be a much more unpopular document. Real battles needs to be had if this problem is going to be solved. Quite frankly, I’d like to see the current document shredded, and the existing managerial and facilitation approach scrapped. There should be no ‘business as usual’ in constructing such a paper. Writing it and releasing it will take real guts; the likes of which were exhibited by this Council in introducing litter fines and public space protection orders.”

Jeopardising Funds & Job Opportunities Needed To Tackle Rough Sleeping Properly

Not tackling street drinking head-on has clearly been bad for everyone. A loving approach to a person in need is not to allow them to sit on the street and drink themselves to death, nobody benefits from that. This approach damages the retail and tourist industries which provide many of the funds and job opportunities that are required to tackle rough sleeping properly.

Cruel To Those Who Need Love, Help & Guidance

The same goes for allowing tents on busy streets, any street for that matter. The existing situation in Brighton and Hove is an avoidable national embarrassment, and it is incredibly cruel towards those who need love, help, and guidance.

Not speaking out strongly against middle-class drug users ultimately brings the drug dealers here; this is a huge mistake as we have seen at The Level, in Brighton. Middle-class support for drugs is killing our most vulnerable. Middle-class drug facilitators needs to be told this; a subject that was approached by Metropolitan police Commissioner Cressida Dick last month.

More Guts Required

Not tackling head-on the funding of drug dealers, through the very selfish act of giving large amounts of cash to beggars is a tragedy. More guts are required is to say this, it’s in the report in small letters.
(Click link for report.)

Cllr Robert Nemeth
Cllr Nemeth

In his closing remarks to the Committee on this agenda item, Cllr Robert Nemeth said “Donations should go to grassroots charities. People donating who claim to care must do more. Concentrating hostels and services in the city centre is potentially a huge driver of the circle of deprivation. And I say this very much with the success stories of George Williams House and Emmaus in Portslade in mind. A rethink is required. If we truly care about the people sleeping on our streets, at most high risk of violence, and often lost to drink and drugs, it’s time for tough love not warm words.

Charity ‘Chuggers’ Challenging Customers

Cllr Andrew Wealls & Conservative candidate for Central Hove, Rico Wojtulewicz, campaigning earlier in 2018 on dangerous cyclists in George Street Hove.
Cllr Andrew Wealls & Conservative candidate for Central Hove, Rico Wojtulewicz, campaigning earlier in 2018 on dangerous cyclists in George Street Hove

Conservative Cllr Andrew Wealls, acting on behalf of concerned residents and businesses, submitted a letter to the Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities, and Equalities Committee (NICE) in City Chambers on Monday 8th October 2018.

Intimidating Passers-by

The letter refers to charity ‘chuggers’ and the annoyance and / or obstruction they cause to visitors in George Street, Hove. Cllr Wealls has received complaints from businesses in George Street, Hove, detailing the intimidating activities of some of these individuals in this area.

We All Support Legitimate Fundraising

None of us have an issue with legitimate fundraising activity by charities, whether by licensed ‘tin-rattling’, or setting-up stalls promoting their causes. What is a problem is approaching people visiting the street to enjoy the shops and cafes and pursuing them to sign-up to direct debits.

Labour Inaction Rules Out A Solution Before Christmas

Cllr Andrew Wealls, Conservative Finance Spokesman, and Deputy Chairman Membership
Cllr Andrew Wealls

Speaking before the Committee meeting Cllr Wealls said “I approached the Council requesting they help to deal with this back in July. I understand we may get a ‘report’ in December – too late for Christmas shoppers in George Street. I suspect local businesses will find it hard to understand why the Council is making such a meal out of enforcing a by-law that already exists.”

Full details of the meeting can be found by clicking here.

Following discussion, and after interjections from several Councillors, it was agreed that a report will be brought to the committee in November. 

Conservatives Push for Preston Park Station Access

Preston Park Train Station entrance
Preston Park Station platform – accessible only via substantial number of steep steps.

The Department for Transport and Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) have provided clarity on the process and timescales for nominating stations for consideration for possible funding as part of the next tranche of ‘Access for All’ funding for station accessibility improvements in the next control period – CP6 (the funding settlement for 2019-24) for Network Rail. 

Conservatives Want Access For All

Cllr Nicholas Taylor
Cllr Nicholas Taylor

Following lobbying from Conservative Councillor Nicholas Taylor, Preston Park Station is being pushed as a priority submission owing to the accessibility issues posed by both the footpath, which runs between Withdean Rd and Preston Park Railway Station, and the lack of lifts meaning the numerous steps make platforms inaccessible.

Constructive Engagement

Preston Park Station steps
Preston Park Station steps

Cllr Taylor, and all other stakeholders, will be working with GTR in the coming weeks to ensure nominations for both Preston Park and Moulsecoomb stations are submitted for consideration by the DfT for future accessibility improvements.

Win For Hove Beach Hut Association

Cllr Nemeth & members of Hove Beach Hut Association
Cllr Nemeth & members of Hove Beach Hut Association

Cllr Robert Nemeth’s request to the leader of the council, to drop the sales tax rise on beach huts, has been adopted; at least for now.

Cllr Robert Nemeth (Wish Ward) is the Conservative Group Spokesman for the Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities, and Equalities Committee, and he also sits on the Tourism, Development and Culture Committee; he  was in City Chambers, on Thursday 27th September 2018, continuing his long running campaign to defend the rights and interests of beach hut owners.

Hove Beach Hut Association Formed

Some months back Cllr Nemeth pledged to form an official grouping of beach hut owners and, after working with a dedicated group to make it happen, he announced to the Chamber that, on Friday 21st September, Hove Beach Hut Association (HBHA) was officially formed. HBHA is a non-political group that is representative of all hut owners.

Cllr Robert Nemeth
Cllr Robert Nemeth

Speaking in the Chamber Cllr Robert Nemeth said “The hope is that it [HBHA] will evolve into a group that operates like the Allotment Federation. It will therefore help the Council, and hopefully be congratulated and embraced today. But it will need some support from us whilst it is at this fledgling stage.”

Call For Clarity

During his speech Cllr Nemeth called for greater clarity regarding what constitutes a transfer, asking “would the transfer from a deceased mother to her son trigger the transfer fee?” before going on to address another contentious issue “…the one month eviction rule is extremely unfair, especially if an increased sales tax is proposed for the future. Some give and take here is right and proper.”

For the Committee papers please click here.

For details of the Conservative Group amendment please click here.

Read how it all started by clicking here.