Conservatives won six seats at last week’s Brighton and Hove City Council elections – seats that will be vital in holding the majority Labour administration to account for the next four years.
Personally, I would like to thank the residents of Westdene and Hove Park for putting their faith in our Conservative team of myself, Emma Hogan and Ivan Lyons.
This is a new ward, created following the Boundary Commission’s review over the past two years – and also represents a Conservative gain of one seat from the Greens in this area.
Having been the Councillor for Hove Park over the past four years, I was pleased to stand in the new three-member ward which joined the Westdene and Withdean neighbourhoods with Hove Park.
It is a truly “Brighton and Hove” ward, crossing the historic boundary between the localities, reflecting how interconnected our city has become.
Labour are now the majority party on the council, with 38 seats, elected on a manifesto full of big promises to “fix basic services”.
Their blame game with the Greens must now end – and they have responsibility for carrying out their promises in full.
The Argus published an article last week headed “Brighton election: Nine promises made by the new Labour council”.
The first two items on this list were the “war on weeds” and “reliable rubbish collection”. Weeds are a good place to start in holding this administration to account.
The weeds became a symbol of the state of the city in recent years and was an issue that resonated and came up with voters on the doorstep.
It will then also be a symbol as to whether the Labour majority administration is delivering on its promises.
During the election campaign Labour promised to “safely wage war on weeds that have been allowed to grow”. This, Labour have said they will do, without returning to the use of glyphosates (weedkiller).
During the election campaign, Labour election leaflets in Westdene and Hove Park misled residents about why these weeds “have been allowed to grow” and how easily this problem could be fixed.
The leaflet misled on two fronts. First, it sought to blame “Tories and Greens” for weeds on the pavement.
But the “root cause” of Brighton’s weeds problem was the Labour administration’s policy decision in 2019 to ban glyphosate use with immediate effect, with no back-up plan or contingency in place.
Labour’s responsibility for the past and current weeds problem on our pavements was confirmed by former Labour councillor Nancy Platts last September when she said that the policy was brought in on her watch as leader of the council.
Back in 2019, Labour was warned repeatedly by then Conservative councillors Lee Wares and Vanessa Brown not to proceed with an overnight weedkiller ban – but they did so anyway.
On the doorstep, we came across many who had been told by Labour candidates that the weeds were “the Greens’ fault”. They were surprised to learn the truth – that the party that had actually banned weedkiller was in fact Labour.
Labour’s leaflet misled further by claiming that the weeds on the pavement problem could be resolved “with £70,000” that was “set aside by the Labour administration” of the time to find environmentally friendly and cost-effective removal methods.
This, too, was not true. The weeds problem will not be solved by such a mere cash injection – did we have any left? – as extensive trials by neighbouring East Sussex County Council found alternative measures cost 16 times more than an annual spray as Brighton and Hove used to do.
As is the way in democracy, such misleading comments may come back to bite Labour as they must now find a way to deliver on their promises.
By ruling out a return to glyphosate, they have put themselves in a policy straitjacket for the next four years.
With the huge cost of alternatives to glyphosate, including staff costs of manual weeding, with the need for multiple weedings a year, what will Labour’s “war on weeds” cost residents? What will be cut to meet this spend?
Labour’s attempts during the election campaign to deflect blame and avoid responsibility for their decision on this must now be acknowledged by the new Labour administration as it attempts to right this wrong.
Labour must now do better and provide the plan for sorting the weeds issues this spring once and for all and before it becomes uncontrollable as was the case last summer.
We all want our pavements to be safe and we all want our bus stops to be accessible. We’re all looking to the new administration to tell how it will do this.
Councillor Samer Bagaeen is a Conservative member of Brighton ad Hove City Council.