by Andrew M. Collins
Last night saw the launch of the 20 page Brighton and Hove Conservatives manifesto for the 2015 elections. It was unveiled at City College before an audience of Councilors, Candidates and supporters.
Titled “A Common Sense Council for Brighton and Hove”, the manifesto covers all the expected local issues such as council tax, recycling, parking charges, homes and schooling, plus investigates possible seafront improvements, the planning system and the ‘flourishing voluntary sector’.
Geoffrey Theobald, Conservative Group Leader, opens the manifesto with a personal message which concentrates on decent, strike free service delivery, and the party’s commitment to hospital improvements, schooling, housing and community.
Perhaps in an effort to dent the Green vote in the City, the brochure begins on an environmental note – promising cleaner streets and verges, Green Flag status for the parks, tree planting and lower emissions in the city, both from businesses and traffic.
They also promise to improve waste collection and street cleaning to make it more efficient than it currently is. Parking charges are to be frozen or reduced; extra spaces to be provided. Local businesses and traders will see a 10% reduction in their parking permit fee. 3,000,000 new apprenticeships have been promised nationwide by the Government, and Brighton and Hove Conservatives promise to ensure that this City fully participates in the scheme.
They tackle tourism – a vital part of the city’s economy, and interestingly mention reinstating the Tourism Office near or in Brighton Station – which should have been done long ago. Transport of every kind promised to be improved – more cycle parking, better paths, more taxi ranks.
Council tax will be frozen by implementing their Value for Money programme, first introduced by the last (Tory) administration.
The focus on schooling covers pupil premium – extra funding for poorer children, and promotes acadamies. The Labour / Green policy of ferrying reception year children all over the City is opposed.
1000 affordable new homes are proposed within the City, taking advantage of low interest rates, and the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme will be fully supported.
The seafront will be spruced up – especially the King Alfred Centre in Hove, and a better maintenance programme will be introduced.
Some planning restrictions will be removed – with a focus on schemes that promote economic growth.
Increased social care for the elderly and vulnerable is promised, including support for successful drug treatment programmes, although a Conservative Administration will not countenance any ‘shooting galleries’ or any legalisation of drugs. They plan to continue support for Extra care housing and want ‘a massive increase in care places across the City’.
Finally, working with community, voluntary and ‘third sector’ (CVS) organisations will be prioritised and given support.
The manifesto is well designed, comprehensive and clearly very well thought out. However, although it all looks wonderful on paper, a veritable Christmas list – can it all be delivered especially with central funding cuts – albeit a stated 1.8% overall? The budget meeting earlier this month on March 3rd agreed to a 1.99% Council Tax increase which will go some way to make up the shortfall, but with £20 million predicted savings having to be made over the next five years, some services are bound to suffer as a result.
The council have called the ever increasing funding gap (£102 million by 2020) “challenging” – which is tame to say the least. Unviable I would say, and the City’s future council certainly face some very testing years ahead.
See the manifesto here: