“We’ve got a good chance” – An interview with the Conservatives
Tomorrow morning, the polls will open across Brighton and Hove and voters across the city will make up their minds about the direction they want to see in their communities for the next four years.
Among those fighting hard for the votes of local residents is the Conservative Party who, after defections from Labour, are currently the largest party on the council.
Joe Miller, who has been a councillor for the Conservatives in Rottingdean Coastal since 2015, said that the party needs to return to power on the council to rectify what has gone wrong under different administrations.
“Over the past eight years, we’ve had a Green and Labour administration, both of which have failed on delivering for the city in terms of rubbish collection, recycling and delivering schemes the city needs. We’re seeing salami slicing of cuts and no real reform of services or the way they’re delivered with support from the community and voluntary sector.”
“Conservative councils are a lot better at getting higher recycling rates”
On recycling, Miller said he wants to see recycling rates increase and ensure refuse is collected on time.
He said: “Across the country, Conservative councils are a lot better at getting higher recycling rates than Labour councils and even Green councils.
“There are some quite simple solutions. It’s about making sure there is sufficient clarity on bins and sufficient numbers of bins, so people aren’t having to throw their recycling into the rubbish because the recycling is full and hasn’t been emptied.”
He added that, if the party regained control, they would work with the council’s recycling contractor to get more plastics recyclable and improve education on recycling.
“You can manage your money without affecting frontline services”
Miller criticised Labour’s approach to savings in public services in response to cuts by the central government to local councils. He said that the lack of innovation and creativity with ways to raise new funds and where savings have been made have led to many issues in the city, including rising crime.
“You can manage your money without affecting frontline services by just being far more efficient in the way the council works,” he said.
“If you’re salami slicing preventative services, such as children’s youth and health services, or youth justice services, what you end up doing is manifesting a problem that doesn’t need to exist, because you’re deciding not to be creative with income generation.”
Working with other councils to deliver affordable housing
The Conservatives, in their manifesto, have called for more new housing in the city, whilst protecting the South Downs and ensuring local people are consulted on big projects.
Miller praised the government for lifting the HRA borrowing cap, which will allow local councils to build more council homes.
He added: “We have to make sure that the developers, when they come along with a private scheme, they have to provide liability reports to make sure they make as much affordable housing as required as possible, and if they can’t, they should provide community sites for the council.”
He also said that the party would also look to work with other local authorities to help house people in and around Brighton and Hove.
“There needs to be more affordable housing in the area surrounding us, because we can’t have enough housing for everyone in the city, whether it be affordable or general.
“We are never going to meet the demand for housing, so we need to go on to other areas around Sussex as to how they can support residents from Brighton and Hove. It’s about working with our closest neighbours in order to make sure that, across the greater city region, we’ve got appropriate housing.
“It will grind the city to a halt”
The Conservatives acknowledge that pollution is a big concern in the city, and would continue to support bus companies in their efforts to make buses hybrid, provide more electric vehicle charging points, as well as ensuring the right infrastructure is in place to support greater bus and bike usage.
However, as Miller explained, the party is strongly opposed to the plans for the Valley Gardens project.
“It will grind the city to a halt. We don’t believe that removing the roundabout to create a T-junction is going to work for the city.
“It needs other modelling being done as to what the best transport solution is. The area needs improvement and we’ve got a significant amount of money to do that, but it’s about making sure the transport is right.”
“I think we’ve got a good chance of becoming the administration”
Despite national polls suggesting that the Conservatives could be on course to lose 1,000 councillors or more nationally, Miller is less pessimistic.
“On the ground, it seems quite good to me. I’ve been knocking on doors and our base is holding up. Some people are upset about Brexit, but when they talk about local elections and the potential that we might get a Momentum council, they are particularly concerned about that. I think they’re more likely to give the government a bloody nose at the European elections.”
That said, Miller does acknowledge that the party will lose seats nationally and said: “2015 was a high watermark for us and I would expect the government to lose seats across the country because that’s generally how governments do in local elections.”
Looking locally, Miller expects the election in Brighton and Hove to be very close.
“I think it’s going to be quite close, with all parties maybe gaining in the region of 16 to 20 seats. I suspect it will be a hung council again.
“I think we’ve got a very good chance of becoming the administration, but I think there will be very little in it.”