I AM still getting used to attending full council meetings from home rather than speaking in the chamber. It seems like a lifetime ago when we would conduct these speeches in Hove Town Hall, with the press and residents watching on from the gallery.

Despite these meetings going virtual however, you can still watch live or watch them back on the council website.

Those who tuned into Thursday’s meeting will tell you it was a packed agenda and the meeting went on for several hours. I try to report back to residents on these meetings in various formats, as I appreciate few people have time to watch these meetings in full.

That shouldn’t mean you don’t have a right to be updated on what your councillors are up to and the decisions your representatives are making. So, I thought I’d use my column this week to round up the highlights of last week’s meeting.

Unfortunately, the meeting was marred by a nasty personal attack made by the Conservatives on our mayor. What makes the attack particularly unfair is that the mayor is apolitical and unable to respond. He has to be guided by the officers of the council and cannot be seen to be favouring any group or political party.

Councillor Alan Robins has lived in Portslade all his life and is immensely proud to be mayor and he doesn’t deserve this unpleasantness.

It’s all a bit undignified and in my view, brings the whole council into disrepute.

The Conservatives were upset that petitions, generated from their own website, were ruled out of being debated at full council on October 22 for legal and constitutional reasons.

Past mayors will know how this works, of course, which makes the attacks by some even more distasteful.

The cynical Tory attack included a nasty threat behind the scenes that if the mayor did not do what they wanted they would call a vote of no confidence.

Labour and Green colleagues felt the behaviour of the Tories last week was disgraceful and that they ought to be ashamed of themselves.

I’m sure many residents and businesses will agree that all efforts should now be focused on keeping our local economy moving, keeping people in jobs and their families fed.

On a more positive note, Labour brought forward a range of exciting proposals that gained support, and we worked in co-operation with the Green group on further positive motions to help our city.

We got approval for our motion on an exciting concept I touched upon in last week’s column – “20-minute neighbourhoods”.

I think these could work well in Brighton and Hove and fit in perfectly with our vision for a healthier, active city that supports independent local businesses and builds community wealth, as well as cutting down on carbon emissions.

The 20-minute Neighbourhood concept evolved from the principles of the Garden City movement of a century ago, which sought to create small cities harnessing the best aspects of both town and country living by providing locally accessible work and affordable housing in an environment that would lead to healthy and socially connected communities.

I’m aware that all sounds quite nostalgic, and although the movement was successful and Garden Cities were built around the world, the concept got lost as demands of globalisation led to ever larger cities, ever more commuting, and suburban countryside full of retail parks.

But, 20-minute neighbourhoods are a very modern take on an old idea.

The 20 minutes is based on research that looked at how far people were prepared to walk to meet most of their daily needs.

The answer was about 800 metres.

So 400 metres there, and 400 metres back... about ten minutes each way.

Imagine if every neighbourhood contained diverse housing including genuinely affordable options, local schools and adult learning opportunities, local health facilities, green spaces like community gardens, employment opportunities, diverse shopping parades, safe walking and cycle routes, sports and recreational facilities – everything you need to create a genuine community.

I want to thank my colleague Councillor Amanda Evans, who introduced our motion and whose speech I’m borrowing from to explain 20-minute neighbourhoods. She will be following up in the Community Wealth Building Working Group and working with other parties and officers to draw up a report on introducing pilot schemes in our city and identifying sources of funding.