Last week marked National Empty Homes Week, which is spearheaded by Action On Empty Homes, a charity that raises awareness about the “waste” of unused properties. Its campaigners hope to pressure ministers to work with councils and tackle the issue of long-term empty homes.

Brighton and Hove Labour councillors support the Local Government Association’s (LGA) call for new powers to acquire empty homes to be at the heart of a Government response to dealing with the current temporary accommodation crisis, which sees more than 127,000 children trapped in temporary accommodation during the pandemic and many more at risk of homelessness.

We also support Action On Empty Homes calling for a national empty homes strategy featuring new powers for councils and new investment from government.

A new national strategy could include measures such as a national fund to support councils in bringing tens of thousands of long-term empty homes back into use; new powers to allow local councils to bring empty homes back into use; and a fund for local authorities to help community-led housing projects which sustainably refurbish long-term empty homes and neglected buildings to create high quality, well-insulated, affordable homes.

While in administration, Labour were successful in pursuing an active buy-back scheme of empty homes, and we are continuing to support this work from opposition. We urge anyone who is struggling with bringing an empty property back into use, or anyone who is concerned about an empty property to get in touch with the council for help.

This week marks the beginning of Fairtrade Fortnight, when thousands of individuals, companies and groups across the UK come together to share the stories of the people who grow the ingredients that make up our food and drinks, mine gold and who grow the cotton in our clothes, people who are often exploited and underpaid.

The pandemic has shown us more than ever how interconnected we are globally.

This interconnection is at the very heart of the Fairtrade message and is where your role begins. As consumers we have the power to drive long-term change, not only with our shopping choices but with our support in spreading the message.

The focus of Fairtrade Fortnight this year is the climate crisis and the growing challenges it brings to farmers and workers in the communities Fairtrade works with. The climate crisis is an immediate and ever-increasing threat and those in climate vulnerable countries are already seeing its impacts from droughts and crop disease to floods, heatwaves and shrinking harvests.

Farmers and workers in countries like Kenya, Ethiopia and Honduras, who have done the least to contribute to climate change, are disproportionately affected by it. 

Those workers have told the Fairtrade Foundation that climate change is one of their biggest challenges right now, that low prices for their crops mean that they are struggling to fight back and that only with more money will they feel equipped to meet their everyday needs and deal with the challenges they face from climate change.

Fairtrade Foundation are hosting a free virtual festival over the next two weeks called “Choose the world you want to see”, featuring music, art and entertainment, interactive workshops, and discussions about why winning a fairer deal for farmers and workers is critical in tackling the climate crisis.

This Fairtrade Fortnight, let’s all try and commit to do our bit to reduce our carbon footprint and look out for Fairtrade products.

Budget council, when the council’s annual budget is debated and voted on, takes place on Thursday.

I’m proud of the fact that the Green administration is bringing forward a budget this year that is based on last year’s Labour budget, and on Labour’s council plan that includes priorities such as tackling rough sleeping and building more council and affordable homes, combating the climate crisis and working to become a carbon neutral city by 2030.

While we welcome much of what is in the proposed budget, Labour will be bringing forward our own amendments that are based on listening to our communities, carbon neutrality and tackling disadvantage and deprivation.

Our budget proposals include measures to tackle drug dealing, address the educational attainment gap and support the city’s economic recovery, whilst ensuring our approach to carbon neutrality is one based on incentives rather than sanctions, which is in line with the recommendations of the climate assembly.