AN INDEPENDENT councillor has announced she would back Greens for a return to power, throwing the future of Brighton and Hove City Council into doubt.

The Labour administration has been rocked this week by the suspension of one of its leading councillors, Anne Pissaridou, over the sharing of allegedly anti-Semitic material on social media.

Bridget Fishleigh is one of two independent councillors on the council who could hold the keys to power should the Green Group launch a challenge for leadership after the shock suspension.

The Argus:

Bridget Fishleigh

The other independent councillor, Tony Janio, remains undecided, but hinted that he too could back the Greens should the challenge be launched.

Cllr Pissaridou is one of two members on the current Labour group who are being investigated over alleged anti-Semitism.

The other is Councillor Nichole Brennan, who is being investigated after photos of her holding up a sign calling Israel a “racist, apartheid state” were given to The Argus.

She is not suspended from the party.

In a scathing attack on the Labour administration, independent Cllr Fishleigh, who represents Rottingdean Coastal, said: “If the allegations of anti-Semitism are proven, then these two councillors have brought their party, our council and indeed our city into disrepute.

“Even former Labour group leader Cllr Daniel Yates is saying ‘our city deserves so much better’. They should surely do the decent thing and step down.

“What is beyond question is that both councillors under investigation have shown a profound lack of judgement.

“Is this the sort of behaviour we want to see from the people supposedly leading our city?

“A city that has many immense problems that need urgent attention, which cannot afford to be sidelined by party political dogma.”

When Cllr Fishleigh was asked who she would support should the Green group launch a challenge, she said: “In the circumstances, I would like to see the Greens back in power so they can take full responsibility for an agenda that has given the city the i360, Valley Gardens, a single lane coast road, constant tinkering with roads that has led to more congestion and pollution and a myopic approach focus on just one issue to the detriment of the livelihoods of residents and the economic prosperity of our city.”

There are currently 20 councillors on the Labour group including Cllr Pissaridou and Cllr Brennan.

There are 19 councillors on the Green group and two independents.

Cllr Fishleigh’s backing could even the numbers on the council and leave the other independent, Cllr Janio, with a deciding say.

However, when contacted by The Argus, Cllr Janio said he was undecided, but added: “I do have this nervousness that if members accused of anti-Semitism are going to vote to keep the party into power, having brought that party into disrepute, that would make me think again.”

It is also possible that Greens could take power with the backing of the 13 members of the Conservative group.

In response to Cllr Pissaridou’s suspension, the council’s leader Labour Councillor Nancy Platts apologised to the Jewish community.

She said: “On behalf of the Labour Group, I am deeply sorry to the Jewish community for the hurt these posts have caused.

“All councillors have a responsibility to actively tackle and challenge all forms of racism and I expect nothing less from members of my own group.

“We are a city of sanctuary and we have pledged to become an actively anti-racist council.

“I hope our actions, which go further than the national Labour Party’s, demonstrate our absolute commitment to tackling anti-Semitism.”

Cllr Pissaridou said she was “deeply sorry” for her actions and “any distress I have caused to the Jewish community”.

She said: “This happened several years ago, before I was a councillor, and the posts I shared do not reflect my views.

“I do not seek to excuse my mistake. I deeply regret not properly reading information before sharing such hurtful links.”

This came as the other member under investigation over alleged anti-Semitism was been given a role on a key committee.

Councillor Nichole Brennan has been offered a role on the council’s children, young people and skills committee.

The East Brighton representative had previously resigned from her cabinet posts.

Independents could hold keys to power on the city council

THE future of Brighton and Hove City Council is teetering on a knife edge. 
Since the May 2019 local election, the city has been governed by a minority Labour administration. 

In that election, 20 Labour councillor compared and 19 Green councillors were elected. 

This made Labour the largest party.

Councillor Anne Pissaridou’s suspension has thrown the council into turmoil as, if unable to represent the group, Labour and Greens would have the same number of councillors. 

Upon the announcement of the suspension, Brighton and Hove City Council claimed she would sit as an independent.

However, after consultation with the Labour Party on national policy, she has remained as part of the Labour group. 

Confusion has arisen as, under the Labour Party rule book, “a suspended member shall not be eligible... to represent the party at any position or level”.

But he council has been told by the national party that Cllr Pissaridou is no longer part of the Labour whip, however she is expected to vote along with her party. 

As a result, this means that during a challenge for control of the council, she would be able to vote to secure leadership for her party, 20 votes to 19.

However, Greens could be successful in a challenge by securing votes from the independent councillors. 

A vote from one of the two would see them equal votes 20-20. A vote from both would see them win 21-20.

Both of those councillors have expressed concerns that Labour could be kept in power by a member who is currently suspended by her own party.

Councillor Bridget Fishleigh has announced she would support the Greens should a challenge be launched. 

Councillor Tony Janio, remains undecided, but indicated that he also could side with the Greens.

The Argus:

A spokesman for the Green group announced yesterday: “We reaffirm our total commitment to opposing racism in all its forms. 

“We say again that anti-Semitism is unacceptable and has no place in Brighton and Hove.

“Despite previous statements suggesting that a Labour councillor would ‘sit as an independent’ while their alleged antiSemitism is being investigated, we have learnt that Labour has chosen to retain this councillor as a member of the local Labour group.

“We have also learnt that Labour will offer a seat on the council’s children, young people and skills committee to another councillor being investigated. 

“This is despite the fact that both councillors are facing the outcome of anti-Semitism investigations.

 “As a result, Labour retain control of the city council but at what cost? 

“Greens recognise the impact that discussions surrounding these allegations can often have on members of our city’s Jewish communities. 

“As civic leaders, we need to reach out to these communities, rather than leaving them at the mercy of words and actions that can serve to fuel discrimination.

“Greens are clear: we need to take a defiant stand against racism in all its forms; to minimise the impact of the Covid-19 crisis; and face the climate emergency, head on. 

“We stand united in our commitment to these urgent goals. 

“We are determined to deliver positive change for all communities across our city. 

“Labour’s internal row means our city is missing the political leadership it desperately needs– and it is our residents who will suffer the consequences. 

“While Labour cling to power, we urge them to put the best interests of the city first. 

“Greens will not cease to hold Labour to account when, as now, they fall below the high standards our residents expect and deserve.”