TORY councillors have hit out after the city bin strike was settled, claiming they are the only ones who "stand up to bullying tactics" and put residents first.

The Conservative group on Brighton and Hove City Council expressed relief that the dispute was over after a deal was agreed with the GMB union.

But deputy leader of the group Councillor Robert Nemeth said the handling of the row by the Greens raised concerns.

He said: "We are certainly pleased for residents that a short-term solution to Brighton and Hove’s long-running rubbish issues has been found.

"Looking ahead though, we remain concerned about the way in which the Green administration has been undermined by both the Labour group and the GMB union and obviously have reservations about how the issue has been handled by the Greens generally.

"If the issue is to be dealt with once and for all, residents must surely consider voting for a political party that is not conflicted on who they represent as the Labour group has clearly been, and a party which is willing to consider all options to resolve the matter once and for all.

"The Conservative group is the only party locally that can stand up to bullying tactics and put residents and their services first."

Cllr Nemeth has previously claimed the Labour group helped orchestrate the strike to undermine the Green-led administration, an allegation firmly denied by Labour co-leader John Allcock.

During Tuesday's council meeting to ratify the agreement reached between the council and the GMB, another Conservative councillor, Joe Miller, suggested the Cityclean service should be privatised.

Cllr Miller faced criticism last week after he compared striking bin workers to terrorists in a council meeting.

He has refused calls to apologise to the GMB and to resign over his remarks.

He said: "They [the GMB] are acting entirely unreasonably with their pay request - it’s going to cost millions of pounds resulting from an equal pay dispute, that will lead to austerity across the council, which will result in services such as those for children and those with special educational needs being cut.

"You have to take a strong stance against this kind of behaviour and I am standing up for Conservative principles. You can’t give in to unions on their first demand."

The pay deal, included in the resolution to the bin dispute, is expected to cost the council £2.5 million a year, which could grow by an extra £1.6 million in the current financial year if the cost is backdated to August.

However, the actual cost of the deal - which will scrap the two lowest tiers of pay for staff - will remain secret for now, with the council's senior lawyer suggesting the council could release the information in a few weeks' time.

In the policy and resources meeting on Tuesday, Cllr Nemeth expressed fears over the impact on taxpayers and council services.

He said: "There has been little, if any, discussion of what vital services will need to be cut to pay what is reported in the press to be millions of pounds annually.

"Such discussion should have been key to the discussion from the outset. And such a discussion should include analysis of the pay and conditions of those workers who may already have been in need of a pay rise, who may not have been in a position to make their case so strongly."

Cllr Miller called for a full report on the service reductions, tax and fee increases necessary to fund the deal negotiated with the GMB.

The GMB said the deal reached with the council was "ticking every box and more".

The resolution means residents will avoid a five-week bin strike that was due to start today.

GMB regional organiser Gary Palmer said the agreement negotiated by the union has "delivered for working people".

He said: "The council has now ratified the written commitment from the council to increase pay and end unilateral round changes.

"We are very proud of GMB members for standing up for themselves to win their own respect and fair treatment.

"They have also had amazing public support, despite the inconvenience the people of Brighton and Hove have had to put up with.

"We will also see all lowest paid council staff - predominantly women workers - across the city get a pay rise as a consequence of this GMB Cityclean campaign."

The union had claimed more than one thousand council workers will see their pay increase as a result of the deal.

Green councillor Tom Druitt, who chaired key parts of talks with the GMB, said: "I am very proud that we have been able get through this process and improve the pay of the lowest-paid council staff."

In response to Cllr Miller's concerns about possible cuts as a result of the deal, he said: "We’ll be making lots of observations on ten years of government cuts on the city.

"If you look at the accumulated cuts to the council’s revenue support grant over the last 11 years, the cost of this resolution to the strike pales into insignificance.

"The blame for the council’s budget issues we have this year, next year and the year after – whatever happens today – lies squarely with the government."

He said there were few positives from the past few weeks’ experience but it had made people aware of just how much rubbish they generate.

Green councillor David Gibson said raising pay amid rising inflation and other pressures was a "positive outcome".

He said: "Seeking to negotiate and address low pay for all staff is something that is very dear to me.

"We are aware of the cost, and the cost will be reported through the targeted budget management process.

"We understand the pressures and will have to work with those, but I am so positive about the abolition of the two lowest pay scales in the council."

In a statement, the Green group said the government should step in to address the wider issue of wage stagnation.

It said: "With fewer and fewer resources provided to councils by central government and the impact of Brexit, job shortages and the pandemic, we’re clear that proper national funding is urgently needed, to ensure councils can address the crisis hitting essential public services and workers."

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