Agenda item - Chairs Communications

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Agenda item

Chairs Communications

Minutes:

17.1      The Chair provided the following Communications:

 

This year has been unprecedented, and the challenges we have faced due to the Covid-19 pandemic have been enormous.

The emergency active travel measures have sparked lively debate across the city, and I hope that through the ongoing consultation process residents will feel like they are part of the process of improving cycling and walking infrastructure across our city. We must remember the reasons why the council have swiftly implemented these measures. The pandemic has meant that the way we move around has had to change: physical distancing on public transport had the potential to push more people into private cars. To avoid this where possible, safe infrastructure must be provided. Improving our air quality has never been more important, with the threat of a respiratory illness such as covid, and lockdown has also led to residents appreciating green open spaces and the traffic free streets. We must also remember the biggest threat that we collectively face: the climate crisis. We only have 9 years to reach net zero by 2030, and active travel will play a vital role in the decarbonisation of our city. The fast implementation of these schemes has created some challenges, but in the weeks since the Greens took over the running of the council, we’ve moved swiftly to meet with campaigners and communities, to understand concerns and to adapt schemes.

 

When it comes to disability rights, my message is clear: we are listening. As a council we have a duty to make sure that disabled people are not adversely impacted by the schemes we introduce, and I am well aware of the concerns raised by many in the disabled community, and that the council could do better on this.

Yesterday, myself and my colleagues met with BADGE and possibility people to discuss the ongoing concerns on disabled access in parts of the city. As chair, I’m making engagement with the disabled community one of my top priorities.

Myself and other members of the administration are speaking to officers about a number of ideas that aim to elevate the voices of disabled people within council decision making. They include:

-       Appointing a councillor as lead member for disability rights

-       Speaking to the equalities team about having a staff member that specialises in disability issues

-       Co opting a member to speak on behalf of the disabled community to the ETS committee

-       Providing training for ETS committee members on issues that impact the disabled community

-       Formalising the advisory group, that some disabled groups attend, and establishing an Active Travel Forum

-       Establishing a cross-council working group, with councillors, officers and members of the disabled community, to make sure that disabled voices are heard across all council departments and policy decision making

 

As chair of this committee I am committed to working closely with members of the disabled community and campaigners going forward, to make sure that our city is truly accessible for all.

 

This month, the council implemented the Schools Streets programme across 14 schools in Brighton and Hove, with many more to start soon. School Streets involves limiting traffic on roads around schools for drop off and pick up times. This makes physical distancing at the school gates easier, but also allows children to walk, bike, or scoot to school safely. I’m delighted that this scheme is being trialled after being put forward by my Green colleagues when we were in opposition. A survey by Sustrans found that nearly two-thirds of UK teachers wanted roads closed around their schools. The evidence is clear: our children can also flourish when there is space to walk to and from school without danger. 

 

It’s been great to see phases 1 & 2 of Valley Gardens opened to residents and visitors in recent weeks. The transformation of this space has been remarkable, and I would like to thank officers, partners, stakeholders and the Local Enterprise Partnership for helping to turn this long-term vision into a reality.  Especially to those who have worked through the Covid-19 pandemic.

We now see an area full of new trees, wildflowers and green space.  New cycle ways mean people can ride safely and public transport is given a greater priority. It’s a great example of a space where sustainable and active travel can thrive.

Valley Gardens is an important project for our city and one we can be very proud of delivering and I’m looking forward to seeing work on phase three begin in 2021.

 

Last week, we held the city’s first climate assembly. Working with IPSOS MORI and the sortition foundation, the council are bringing together 50 residents that reflect the diversity of Brighton and Hove, to discuss how we can decarbonise transport in order to become a carbon neutral city by 2030. We don’t want policy making to feel like a distant and bureaucratic process: we want residents to feel that they have agency and a loud voice that politicians will listen to, and a chance to have a say in the changes required that will affect all of our daily lives. The feedback from residents will go straight to the heart of decision making and inform our 2030 plan.

 

This year has been one of the worst for Elms disease. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve visited Preston Park with the Elm expert Peter Bourne, and Stanmer park with City Parks officers, to see the impact of Elms disease and of ash dieback. With next year expected to see the loss of many more trees, I’ve asked officers to urgently pull together a communications campaign to raise awareness of the disease and ways to prevent the problem from worsening.

 

I am pleased to let you know that at the end of last week, all residents on the garden waste waiting list were invited to join the service. I want to thank residents on the waiting list for their patience while Cityclean made improvements to the garden waste service. In March 2017, the service had 4800 customers; it is now over 9000. I’d like to congratulate the team for their hard work and dedication in driving forward the service to enable residents across the city to compost their garden waste.

 

Tomorrow, we will be launching a consultation seeking feedback on managing commercial bins on the highway. We receive numerous complaints about bins that cause problems by remaining on the public highway, blocking the pavements and roads and attracting fly-tipping and vermin. They also cause problems for social distancing. So, for the city centre and areas where there is a high footfall, narrow pavements and high traffic, we are proposing to introduce time-banded collections. To find a system of managing commercial bins that works for everyone, I am encouraging residents, businesses, waste management providers and other stakeholders to share their vital input and get involved and complete the consultation. You can find it on the council’s website.

 

The last two weeks have seen significant efforts from stakeholders across the city to carry out community clean ups during the Keep Brighton & Hove Tidy fortnight. I’d like to pass my thanks on to businesses, community groups, tidy up teams, volunteers and councillors and council staff who were all involved in helping keep the city clean through graffiti paint-outs, sticker removal, street jet washing, weeding, beach and park cleans and litter picking. This is only the beginning and we will continue to tackle graffiti, fly-tipping, littering and all other ways of keeping our city clean and tidy.

 

Finally, I wanted to recognise the Black Lives Matter activists and campaigners that have been mobilising and protesting this year, in our city and across the world. You are doing vital work, and the council needs to do more to be actively anti-racist. Even in the UK and the USA, those most affected by climate change tend to be the very poorest, and predominantly from black and minority ethnic communities.

Evidence offered at a recent High Court enquiry into the government’s efforts to tackle air pollution indicated that white-British people are exposed to 14.9% less air pollution than other ethnic groups. Meanwhile, in both urban and rural areas, black-British populations are exposed to the most air pollution, at a rate almost 30% higher than that of their white counterparts.

On this committee all members and officers must recognise that there is no climate justice without social justice”.

 


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