Archive for Brighton & Hove City Council

Brighton’s Green Nightmare

Posted in Brighton, Politics with tags , , on March 5, 2015 by telescoper

Two years ago I posted an item about the effects of industrial action by Brighton & Hove’s refuse collectors, the ironically-named company Cityclean. Strikes and other industrial action have happened intermittently over the last year, but it has been difficult to establish when Cityclean are working and when they are not because the typical level of service is absolutely abysmal. Apparently the latest strike is supposed to have finished, but some drivers are still “working to rule”.


The fact of the matter is that this state of affairs is the rule in Kemptown, the part of Brighton I live in. The refuse collection service is shockingly unreliable and more often than not the street resembles a rubbish tip, whether or not there’s a strike.

It’s quite obvious who is to blame for all this. Cityclean is managed, badly, by the local Council which is controlled by a shambolic Green Party more interested in splurging money on vanity projects like the infamous i360, and trying to wreck the budget-setting process, than providing decent services for local people. Given the importance the Green Party pretends to attach to recycling and sustainability, it is appalling that the fraction of refuse that is recycled is just 24%, one of the lowest rates in the entire country. The local Greens think the council should take over running bus services too. If they do as good a job of that as they do with the refuse collection service then I’ll probably be walking to work most days of the week.

I keep hearing from people living elsewhere who a flirting with the idea of voting for the Greens in the General Election and Local Elections forthcoming in May. I very much doubt that there will be any “Green Surge” in Brighton, unless it comes in the form of a noxious ooze emanating from mountains of uncollected garbage. I am pretty sure the Green will get wiped off the face of the Council in Brighton and Hove. If you’re actually thinking of voting for them elsewhere, take a look at the mess they’ve made here and I’m sure you will change your mind.

Britain’s only Green MP (Caroline Lucas) is looking to retain her seat in Brighton Pavilion at the General Election. To attempt to achieve this she has initiated a frantic campaign to distance herself from the antics of the Green Party’s representatives on the local council. I find that attitude completely hypocritical and I hope she fails. If she really doesn’t agree with her party she should stand as an independent. I won’t be voting for her anyway. Apart from everything else I’m not in her constituency..

Strike Suspended

Posted in Brighton, Politics with tags , , on June 21, 2013 by telescoper

I worked quite late last night. When I finally got the bus home I checked up on Twitter, and found that CityClean workers who had been on strike had decided to suspend their strike action and return to work. It seems that Brighton and Hove Council made an offer which the GMB Union reps decided was worth putting to their membership. The strike is therefore suspended while a ballot takes place. There’s no guarantee that the offer will be accepted, of course, and the refuse collectors and the rest will presumably go back in strike if it isn’t, but in the meantime the CityClean staff will at least be working properly. This morning I saw signs of the cleanup starting. They seem to be concentrating on the main roads, so the residential streets are still an absolute nightmare, but at least it’s a start. It will probably take weeks to return to normal and “normal” for Brighton is in any case fairly grubby…

Relieved at the news I stopped off for a pint at my local in Kemptown. Most properties in this area are divided into flats (like mine) and there is therefore a very high density of occupation. Kemptown has consequently been hit particularly badly by the strike. Anyway, the offer made to CityClean operatives is covered by a confidentiality agreement so at this point the general public aren’t being told the terms. In the pub a rumour was going around that the offer that is now being put to a ballot has actually been on the table for some time, and that the Union is balloting on it now because public support for the strike has evaporated. I took that all with a pinch of salted peanuts, actually, but when there’s confidentiality it’s human nature that there should be rumour…

Anyway, at least there’s a light at the end of this very long and unpleasant tunnel. If the union does accept the offer made by the Council then hopefully the two sides can start to build a proper working relationship for the future without recrimination or triumphalism on either side.

To paraphrase the Book of Ecclesiastes: better is the end of a strike than the beginning thereof.

Anyway, before yesterday evening’s news I’d already decided to head out of Brighton for the weekend. Hopefully, the place will just a bit more inhabitable when I return to work on Monday.

Brighton News

Posted in Brighton with tags , , , on June 15, 2013 by telescoper

As Brighton and Hove’s recycling, refuse and street-cleaning operatives begin their strike, the Evening Argus takes an unorthodox view of the dispute..


Brighton Council pay dispute

Posted in Politics with tags , , , on June 10, 2013 by telescoper

Here’s another blog about the Brighton refuse collection dispute (by an author whose twitter handle is @socialistgreen), also asking for explanations of the mysterious “allowances”…


The current pay dispute at Brighton & Hove Council highlights all that is wrong about so many trade unions, who instead of looking at the bigger picture, concentrate on the needs of a small number of people, usually men.

As I understand it, the Council’s current plans to equalise pay will see many women earning more, but a small number of workers, mainly men, will be worse off. Why aren’t the unions scandalised that all those women have been underpaid for so many years, (and at least 4 years since most other councils sorted out ‘single status’), and why aren’t they seeking  compensation for all that pay that those women missed out on? Now that would be a good campaign!

Brighton Council are offering compensation to workers who will lose out, and maybe that could be raised or paid over a couple of years while they adjust to the change…

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Brighton’s Rubbish Collections

Posted in Politics with tags , , , on June 8, 2013 by telescoper

Time for a quick post about a local difficulty in Brighton. A dispute over allowances that has been rumbling on for weeks has resulted in a vote for a strike by the city’s refuse collectors and street cleaners, due to start next Friday (14th June). Unless a deal is reached there will be no refuse or recycling collections or any street cleaning for a week. If the warm weather continues, a serious environmental hazard could ensue, as uncollected food waste will no doubt lead to a proliferation of vermin.

I’m not going to comment on the rights and wrongs of the dispute, and facts about what precisely is going on are difficult to come by. A webcast by the Council explaining the background can be found here. The issue is not about basic hourly pay, which isn’t changing under the Council’s proposals, but Cityclean workers are claiming that changes to the Council’s system of allowances will lead to some of them losing as much as £4000 per year in take home pay. I don’t however understand what these mysterious “allowances” are. If anyone can enlighten me through the comments box then I’d be very happy. Other than that all I’ll say is that I hope a settlement is reached before things get even more unbearable, but the atmosphere between workers and Council seems already to be so acrimonious that it is hard to see either backing down. I hope they don’t but things could get very nasty.

I will, however, comment on the state of the rubbish collection in Brighton even before the strike starts next week. A two-day wildcat strike in May led to a pile-up of rubbish beside the communal bins. In the weeks since then “targetted disruption” (the Council’s phrase) has meant that this backlog has never been cleared, despite the Council effectively cancelling recycling collections to concentrate on ordinary refuse.

In fact I haven’t had any paper or glass collected for recycling for a month, so I have given up and now take it on foot to one of the few recycling centres dotted around the place. That’s a bit inconvenient, but not too much of a problem in the grand scheme of things. In fact, it has surprised me a lot since moving to Brighton from Cardiff a few months ago, just how poor the recycling service in Brighton is. Home to the UK’s only Green MP, Caroline Lucas, and with a (minority) Green party controlling the Council I would have expected a much more comprehensive approach to recycling than is actually the case. As it is,  compared to Cardiff (which isn’t brilliant), Brighton’s recycling service is really hopeless. The Greens will probably argue that they inherited the system in a time of austerity and have been unable to improve it, but if they can’t improve something which represents one of their core values why bother having Green councillors? Brighton’s Green Party shows signs of going into meltdown over this issue anyway, with the resignation of a Councillor in Hanover ward triggering a by-election so their prospects in the next Council elections look pretty grim.

Anyway, the immediate problem is not the poor provision for recycling, but the regular refuse collection. Here’s a typical picture of St James Street (Kemptown):


It’s extremely unpleasant to have to walk through or around piles of stinking garbage, but remember that this picture was taken before the official strike has even started! It seems to me that Cityclean workers, who are currently getting paid for not collecting garbage, will, when the strike begins, simply no longer get paid for not collecting the garbage. What this means about the likely duration of strike action remains to be seen.

I continue to hope that a settlement can be reached that averts industrial action, but that hope is fading fast, and so, unfortunately, is the prospect of Brighton having a decent refuse and recycling service in the foreseeable future.

And there’s another point. Councils have a statutory obligation to collect and dispose of domestic refuse. There’s no doubt in my mind that Brighton and Hove County Council is failing to meet that obligation, but what action can an ordinary person take? Answers on a postcard, or through the comments box….

UPDATE: I have invited @gmbcityclean to comment here on the nature of the allowances, but they have declined to do so.