Almost half of Brighton and Hove’s residents are disappointed with their council and how it spends our money, a new survey shows. Neil Vowles reports on public opinion in the city.
A NEW survey has found nearly half of residents in Brighton and Hove believe their council is wasteful with money.
The latest results from Brighton and Hove City Council’s commissioned City Tracker survey show that many are dissatisfied with the services they use and unhappiness at council services is higher than other public services.
Dissatisfaction runs particularly high among the over-65s and residents living further away from the city centre.
With less than a year to go until election day, opposition groups have been putting their case forward for how they would meet residents’ demands for improvements, claiming the current Green administration has overseen a “deterioration” in the state of the city.
In the latest survey of 1,000 residents by phone and face-to-face, 49 per cent did not believe the council spent money wisely.
That rose to 65 per cent of in the over-65 age group, while those living in the BN41 Portslade postcode were also among the most aggrieved with just 41 per cent agreeing the council uses money wisely.
Brighton and Hove Labour group leader, councillor Warren Morgan said: “Despite the best efforts of staff, satisfaction with the city council is plummeting under Green Party control.
“It is no wonder residents are telling us on the doorstep that they want the Greens out.
“Our first task would be to shift focus back to getting the basics right, like keeping the streets clean and turning around our plummeting recycling rates. We would seek to restore trust and confidence in the council lost under this Green administration.”
Coun Morgan said there needs to be an end to “top-down” decision making with more involvement of residents in decision making processes.
Three in ten residents also told interviewers they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the council.
This compares poorly to a 85 per cent satisfaction rate with local hospitals, despite a highly publicised need for a £420 million new facility, and 94 per cent satisfaction with East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service despite a high-profile union campaign against proposed cuts to the service.
Satisfaction with Brighton and Hove City Council is also lower than the national approval of local authority services, which is 70 per cent.
Dissatisfaction is in the majority in Portslade, where just 37 per cent of residents in the BN41 postcode area considered themselves satisfied.
Hove MP Mike Weatherley earlier this month raised residents’ concerns that Portslade, and Hove in general, was being neglected with major investment focused on the city centre and leaving outlying residents unhappy.
While residents may be inclined to groan about their city council, in general they are very happy with the city they live in with more than 90 per cent of residents satisfied or very satisfied.
Councillor Jason Kitcat, leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, said: “These results show that Brighton and Hove is a still a great place to live with high and above national average satisfaction levels.
“Through the City Tracker we know that satisfaction levels for some of our services are good and that we need to improve in other areas such as parking and keeping the streets clean.
“The council faces a tough financial challenge as we need to save £25 million in the next financial year and we will continue to work hard to provide efficient, value for money services which meet the city’s needs.”
A thousand residents quizzed
The City Tracker survey was launched in 2012 by the Brighton and Hove Strategic Partnership.
One thousand residents are interviewed city wide either by telephone or face to face interviews.
This is the sixth wave of results which are released every six months. User satisfaction with Brighton and Hove City Council, despite lagging behind other local service scores, has marginally increased compared to wave five from Autumn/Winter 2013 when satisfaction plummeted by almost 10 per cent.
Traffic and appearance of city are key for residents in survey
Residents want to see improvements to traffic systems and the general appearance of the city, according to the City Tracker results.
Nearly one in four residents state transport and traffic would be the one thing they would change in the city.
The Green administration has won awards for its determined approach to bringing in more bus and cycle lanes in the city.
A further one in ten said that parking was the main issue they would like to have resolved.
Councillor Geoffrey Theobald, pictured, leader of the Conservative group in Brighton and Hove, said: “On transport, people’s main bugbear is the excessive parking charges.
“Given that Brighton and Hove makes the biggest profit from parking bar London we believe there is plenty of scope for targeted reductions in charges to help local businesses.”
Councillor Gill Mitchell, Labour’s deputy leader, said: “These responses underline that people want the council to get the basics, such as street cleaning, right and when major transport schemes are proposed communities have to feel listened to and able to influence the process.”
The other major bugbear, which made up one in five of responses, was a need for improvements to the cleanliness and appearance of the city.
The city suffered huge rubbish problems during last summer’s bin strike and complaints still regularly arise in the Argus mailbox and on social media on bin collections and litter strewn streets.
Coun Theobald said: “There is no doubt in my mind that the overall look of Brighton and Hove has deteriorated since the Greens took over from us in 2011 and it would be one of the top priorities for an incoming Conservative administration in 2015 to restore pride in our city.
“The seafront in particular looks very shabby in large parts and we would like to see the railings, shelters and other structures given a real facelift. The seafront is our shop window and we must ensure that is stays clean and attractive.
“Similarly, our lovely parks and gardens have been neglected since 2011 and we would restore the colourful and vibrant planting that helps makes them so unique.”