At the first meeting of the city council's new Green administration cabinet on Thursday the party now in power in the city gave three priorities for the next four years.
Tackling inequalities, making Brighton & Hove the most sustainable city in the UK and involving communities in decision making were listed as the three guiding principles for the work of the council up to 2015.
Council Leader Bill Randal said that the people of the city had voted for the Greens because they are a party that will do things differently from the previous Conservative or Labour administrations.
In terms of tackling inequalities the Greens are proposing a raft of measures including a cap on council officer salaries with no one earning more than 10 times that of the lowest paid worker and the promotion of a “living wage” [about £7.60] as opposed to the “minimum wage” [£5.93].
The Council's Chief Executive earns £170,000 per annum and could be required to take a pay cut to comply with the edict. In 2010, when attempting to justify the increase in salary for the new Strategic Directors from £100,000 to £125,000 he cited the importance of offering the “going rate” for high profile positions to attract the best candidates in the field.
Other measures include £400,000 support for the East Sussex Credit Union over three years to offer an alternative to loan sharks. The new administration has also pledged to build 1000 new homes over four years although this is quite a modest target given that the city has consistently build around 500 homes per annum over the past decade. Council owned land will be considered for new house building and the Greens have pledged to set up a new permanent site for gypsies and travellers. Given a dire shortage of development sites, and the controversial nature of the proposal, this latter will not be easy to accomplish but the problem of illegal gypsy and traveller encampments is reaching a critical point in the city.
A raft of measures are proposed to make Brighton & Hove the greenest city in the UK. The promotion of One Planet Living principles based on zero carbon and zero waste, establishing a biosphere covering the city and neighbouring areas and solar panels on 1,600 council homes and other suitable buildings are all proposed.
Forty sites have already been identified for photvoltaic solar panels at a cost of £2.6m and they are expected to generate an annual income of nearly £160,000 from the government’s feed-in tariff. However, the continued government subsidy of large-scale solar installations is uncertain.
Retrofitting homes to upgrade them to higher sustainability standards would reduce fuel bills and carbon footprint and a pilot food waste recycling scheme would also contribute to the city’s green credentials.
A major plank of involving more individuals, agencies and communities in decision making will be support for the 1,600 Community & Voluntary sector organisations that exist in the city and the creation of neigbourhood councils to give smaller communities the opportunity to input into local plans.
The new Greens have also pledged to support the city’s small businesses including continuing with the previous administration’s Streets Ahead initiative to protect independent retailers.
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