Agenda item - Chairs Communications
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- Meeting of Environment, Transport & Sustainability Committee, Tuesday, 17th January, 2023 4.00pm (Item 61.)
61.1 The Chair provided the following communication:
“Good afternoon, I’d like to welcome you all to this January meeting of the Environment, Transport and Sustainability committee.
The year began with excellent news about bus travel in the city. All of the city’s bus operators have capped fares at £2 until the end of March – allowing people to go further for less.
Funding for our Bus Service Improvement Plan - or BSIP - is now supporting two new bus fare offers for under 19s, making it more affordable for young people and those with young families to travel on our excellent bus network.
From the end of this month, the BSIP funding will also be supporting additional Sunday services on our 37 and 37B routes, which link the Meadowview and Bristol Estates with the local hospital and the city centre.
These are the first in what will be a host of excellent projects to support cheaper and more reliable bus services in the city.
I was also pleased to see that 100 of our old BikeShare bikes are being donated to a charity that will ship them to Malawi to support communities in the African country. This really is a great demonstration of how we can use circular economy principals in the work we do. This will of course soon be followed by the introduction of a new BikeShare scheme with electric bikes in the spring.
Last year, we conducted a Wilder Verges pilot project to explore how we can use verges to improve biodiversity and create bigger, better, and more joined-up habitats in Brighton & Hove. I’m delighted to report that nearly half of the 25 sites involved saw an increase in types and number of pollinator or downland plant species from the previous year. 70% of the verges recorded a pollinator or downland plant species not seen in 2021. The Wilder Verges report will be published on our website at the end of this month.
We’ll hear in this meeting about the excellent work being done to build an electric vehicle infrastructure in Brighton & Hove, making the city one of the best in the UK for EV charging. In the last year we’ve seen usage of these charge points double and I’m looking forward to hearing more about how we’re going to expand our work in this area.
Unfortunately, we will have to have some tough discussions today. 12 years of government cutbacks have seen £110m wiped off our funding over the next decade. This has left us with a huge budget gap which instead, will have to be filled through further cuts to services – which will be a significant challenge for all of us to overcome.
We are extremely dismayed by the fact that we may not have the funds to keep all of our public toilets open. While decisions on this will be made at budget P&R and budget council – rather than today, we will be discussing one way of plugging that financial gap – through charging. I also plan to write to the Government outlining the problems caused by reductions in our funding which may lead to the closure of some public toilets, and how it will affect people in this cause in our city, requesting from them the funding we need to prevent this.
The reality is that the rising cost and demand for our services is rapidly outstripping the resources we have available. We have a legal responsibility to present a balanced budget – which is why we are being forced to make these difficult decisions. If we cannot do this, the government will intervene and force the closure of most of our non-statutory services.
We’re not alone in this. Local authorities across the country are having facing the same issues and are having to make difficult choices. It is outrageous that in the 5th richest country in the world, local authorities have been forced to close over 20% of their toilets in the past six years. I plan to write to the Government outlining the problems caused by reductions in our funding which may lead to the closure of some public toilets, mentioning the problems this will cause in our city and requesting the funding from them to keep them open.
We will continue to work closely with officers to find more the most palatable savings we can, so that we can continue to work in the best interests of the people of the city”.