The Brighton and Hove Green Party is fond of labelling Labour as a party of austerity, and claiming to be the party that really stands up for social justice and against poverty. Today’s meeting of the Green-chaired Policy and Resources Committee of the City Council demonstrated why the Greens’ claims to support the vulnerable in the city are simply beyond parody.
Most significantly, the Green administration opposed a Labour motion requiring the Council to report on food bank use in the city, deeming this a waste of officers’ time. To put this into perspective, at a meeting of the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee on 1 July, the administration proposed that the Council should put scarce resources into consulting on the banning of horses in circuses – despite a complete absence of any evidence that there was any animal welfare issue in play. Green Councillors – some of whom, ironically enough, sit on the board of the Brighton Racecourse, where a number of horses have been fatally injured over the years – made their motivation quite clear; the intention of spending the ten months until the election trying to persuade their core support that horses were suffering and it was all Labour’s fault. Whereas, today, in a city where three thousand people have to resort to food banks, where child poverty is as high as 45% in the poorer (and Green-free) areas of East Brighton, outgoing Council leader Jason Kitcat claimed that reporting on food banks was an inappropriate use of resources.
Kitcat went on to rubbish Labour’s proposed Fairness Commission on the grounds that the work had already been done; but the whole point of the Commission is to bring together people and groups from across the city to identify where more work is needed, but also where better and more joined-up working might actually save money. The Greens’ dismissive attitude to a project that has been hugely effective in other parts of the country looks very much like a symptom of deep indifference to the issues it seeks to address.
Moreover, Labour Leader Warren Morgan was able to get confirmation from officers that those in receipt of Council Tax benefit would not be protected from the Greens’ proposed 5.9% Council Tax rise; their Council Tax payments would rise proportionately. Not for the first time, the burden of what is little more than a Green vanity project will fall on the most vulnerable and exposed members of the community.
So next time a Green talks about Labour being a party of austerity, or even – God help us – neoliberalism, and next time Caroline Lucas is talking a good line on Question Time, it’s worth bearing this in mind: hers is the party that will find money to consult about circus horses, but – until other parties forced their hands – not to report on food bank use in the city.