Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Greens setting the agenda at Brighton Council

Yesterday I was invited to address members of Brighton Council's Environment and Community Safety Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Yes, quite a mouthful, I know.

I'm not a member of the committee, and therefore didn't have a vote or anything, but I was amazed really to find the meeting completely dominated by the Green Party's agenda - to see proof in action of how our 13-strong group is batting above its weight.

First there was the substantive stuff: the committee agreed to establish two separate scrutiny panels to investigate services for victims of rape and serious sexual assault (this was something I proposed myself, following conversations with victims, police officers and others, and discovering that rape victims in the city are taken to Crawley - as there are currently no round-the-clock support facilities available in the city), and one to look at whether following the lead of cities like Portsmouth and Bristol by establishing a blanket 20 mph speed limit would save lives and improve traffic flows - another Green Party campaign, this one led by Hove parliamentary candidate and St Peters and North Laine councillor Ian Davey (pictured).

And then there was the non-substantive stuff: a debate on roadworks (I've already blogged about this) sparked by Queen's Park Green councillor Paul Steedman. There was a discussion of the future of the London Road area which revolved around traffic congestion and the majority of residents' views that the last thing the area needs is a Tesco superstore. Although this was the clearly stated view of those living and working in the area - it tallies exactly with the Green Party's position on the issue, and a brief debate about the council's strategy for dealing with waste - and, perhaps bizarrely for such an urban authority, mineral extraction. There was wide acceptance of the view that we should do everything the law allows us to do to refuse to import waste from London, and that we need to boost recycling levels and find alternatives to landfill and incineration where we can. Again, exactly the Green party's position.

So it seems that the Greens' by-election win in Goldsmid is already making a huge difference. With 13 councillors, obviously we can't make any of the big, important decisions. But we can, and are, setting the agenda in which those decisions are being taken - that can only be good news for residents.

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