Agenda item - Chairs Communications
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- Meeting of City Environment, South Downs & The Sea Committee, Tuesday, 20th June, 2023 4.00pm (Item 2.)
2.1 The Chair provided the following communications:
First, I’d like to take the opportunity to sincerely thank residents across the city for their support and the trust they placed in us in this year’s local elections. As a group of candidates, we knocked on thousands of doors. We spoke to different people, in different parts of the city – but the message was the same everywhere. The state of our city, our neighbourhoods, is unacceptable. Our refuse collections are unreliable, weeds grow unchecked, our public toilets are closed, litter lines the streets and our recycling is among the worst in the country. One voter summed it up in a way that really resonated with me. She said: “I used to feel so proud of this city. Now, when people come to visit, I just feel embarrassed.”
Restoring our basic services and improving the look and feel of the city formed the core of our promise to voters, and much of that work falls within the remit of this committee. There are some complex challenges ahead, and some of them will take time to overcome. But residents rightly want to see action, and so, on the weekend of July 15th and 16th, our councillors will be out in their wards as part of our Big Clean Up Weekend, tackling notorious grot spots and cleaning up their neighbourhoods. This will be supported by our brilliant City Clean staff who will provide equipment and collect the waste, and we will of course welcome the involvement of any volunteers and community groups.
Immediately after the election, we communicated to officers that we wanted to see our public toilets open as soon as possible and asked them to redouble efforts to recruit staff. I’m pleased to report that 23 public toilets around the city are now open. In addition to improving the condition of these toilets, after years of neglect, we’ve provided additional facilities to make them more accessible to everyone in the city. These include ambulant toilets for those who need handrails, family rooms with baby change tables and smaller children’s toilets, and Changing Places toilets that support the needs of all people with disabilities.
Another cause for great concern among residents in many parts of the city has been the growth of weeds and the impact that has on the safety and accessibility of our pavements. We are currently reviewing our available resources and liaising with external groups and other local authorities to assess what additional tools we may need and how we can best deploy them around the city to deliver the improvement residents rightly demand to see. We will be working on a new policy that will come to this committee later in the year.
We intend to be an outward-facing administration that engages with anybody who wants to work constructively to improve the lives of residents. I have personally already met with numerous campaign groups and outside bodies to benefit from their expertise and ideas and will continue to do so.
I would like to just draw attention to the name of this committee. City Environment, South Downs and The Sea. These two natural wonders, to the north and south respectively, define this city just as much as our residents and cultures, and we have a duty to protect them. With the South Downs representing half of the footprint of Brighton & Hove, we also have incredible opportunities to support biodiversity – opportunities that few other cities have. And as custodians of the coastline, we must work collectively with our neighbours to restore marine habitats and prevent waste from all elements of our activity from entering and further polluting the water.
Finally, I want to thank officers here at the council for communicating a vast amount of information to us in a short period of time and helping us to get up to speed as quickly as possible. Despite there not being a single gripe or complaint from anybody, the amount of hard work that has been done in recent weeks and months has not gone unnoticed.
This committee has a long to-do list, comprised of complex problems and I look forward to working with you all to deliver for our residents.