It’s been a busy and productive first 100 days in office for the UK’s first Green-led council. Since their historic victory in May, Brighton and Hove City Council’s 23 Green Councillors have launched a series of initiatives to deliver their three main priorities: tackling inequality, involving the community more deeply in decision-making, and making the Brighton & Hove the greenest city in the UK.
The initiatives include:
- Promoting a ‘Living Wage’ for Brighton & Hove and reducing the ratio between the highest and lowest paid council workers 
- Working with partners to create new apprenticeships for the city’s most deprived residents 
- Improving community involvement in decision making 
- Bidding for funding to set up Neighbourhood Councils with devolved local budgets 
- Developing an ambitious programme of renewable energy generation to cut CO2 emissions and create jobs 
- Introducing radical plans to upgrade cycling and pedestrian routes  and to cut pollution and improve air quality 
- Working towards achieving UN Biosphere Status  and making bold moves to slash carbon emissions 
Brighton & Hove City Council Leader Bill Randall said:
“Residents of Brighton and Hove voted for a change, and they will see services to the city’s most vulnerable residents protected, communities more involved in making decisions that affect their lives and the introduction of practical measures to protect and improve our environment.
“The city faces unprecedented and reckless public spending cuts imposed by the Tory-led coalition government. Nevertheless, we remain determined to address the city’s housing crisis, reduce chronic inequality and at the same time protect and improve our environment to deliver our vision of a sustainable and fair city.
“We are exploring all possible avenues to provide more affordable homes, upgrade and green our existing homes and, at the same time, create training, apprenticeships and jobs for local people. We are working with Brighton Housing Trust on plans for an ethical lettings agency that would give the city’s 28,000 private sector tenants a better deal.
“We have also produced plans for a Tenant Scrutiny Panel to give council tenants the right to scrutinise any issue of concern to them about the way their homes are managed. Closer partnerships have been forged with the East Sussex Credit Union, the CAB and other organisations in our drive to tackle financial exclusion.
“Air pollution is choking our city, and traffic makes some streets dangerous for children getting to school. Since May we have secured more than £4 million of extra funding that will make it easier and safer to cycle and improve the air quality and the health of the city.
“It’s early days and we face difficult challenges, but I firmly believe we’re on the right track.”
1. The first step towards setting a Living Wage in the city has been taken with around 340 of the lowest paid council and school workers set to see their wages rise to £7.19 an hour help tackle inequality. The pay ratio between the lowest and highest paid council workers has been further reduced with the help of Chief Executive John Barradell who agreed to take a 5 per cent voluntary reduction in his salary.
A Living Wage commission has been set up and starts work in October. Membership includes business leaders and representatives from other public sector bodies and the trade unions.
2. The council is working with Mears (its main maintenance contractor), the GMB and other partners to increase the number of apprenticeships available to those living in the most deprived areas. It is supporting a new bid by Mears for funding to offer apprenticeships to ‘hard to reach’ young people.
3. Community involvement in decision-making is central to the council’s budget setting plans for 2011/12. The budget will face unprecedented scrutiny from residents, trade unions, the third sector and other political parties. The proposals will see council tax rise by 3.5% next year to help protect frontline services for the city’s most vulnerable people.
4. Early next year the council hopes to be one of the first to roll-out neighbourhood councils with devolved community budgets and decision-making powers. A bid has been submitted for substantial funds to kick start this work.
5. As part of its bold commitment to making Brighton and Hove the UK’s greenest city, several initiatives have been rolled out. The first will see solar panels fitted on schools and other public buildings to take advantage of feed-in-tariffs for renewable energy generation. Work is in hand to install solar panels on the roofs of 1,600 council homes and to help 400 home-owners retrofit their properties.
6. The council is also consulting residents on proposals that could make travel greener and safer across the city. The first is improving cycle lanes and footpaths on the busy Old Shoreham Road in a £450,000 project. Currently under consultation, the proposals cover a 1.5 km route from Brighton and Hove Sixth Form College at Dyke Road up to and including the junction of the Drive and Shirley Drive.
7. The city has bid successfully for more than £4 million of government funding to cut air pollution and improve road safety in the Lewes Road, one of the city’s main arteries. Physical alterations to the road will include upgrades to public transport infrastructure, cycling improvements, traffic signal upgrades, pedestrian improvements and improved links to the new South Downs National Park.
8. Work has begun to investigate how the council might achieve UN Biosphere Status and declare the city a biosphere reserve in a move that helps strengthen the area’s eco-credentials. A full time project co-ordinator will continue work on this, joining the authority in September. First talks have been held with the neighbour Lewes DC on joint working on this project.
9. Meanwhile the council aims to accelerate achievements in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The council has cut its own greenhouse gas output by over 1,000 tonnes – the equivalent to the CO2 emitted by 100 homes – in the space of a year.