I didn’t expect to see the same Labour councillors who said they’d hold Southern Water to account for sewage dumps suddenly reveal they’re fine with dousing us all in toxic chemicals through spraying our own streets with pesticides, writes Green councillor Steve Davis.

When Southern Water was exposed for deliberately pouring sewage into our seas and rivers, we were right to be furious. If Southern Water turned around and told me that they just needed to “reset” by dumping more sewage into the sea in a “controlled” way, I’d tell them to jog on. “Controlled spraying” or otherwise, glyphosate is a carcinogen: a chemical with known links to cancer and other chronic health conditions.

Glyphosate is also more likely to have harmful impacts on our children – who also are more likely to play in the streets at the front of their homes. I personally want to be able to reassure parents that cancer-causing chemicals aren’t being deliberately sprayed on their front doorsteps every few months – and I’m sure other Labour councillors do too. I urge them to think again.

We’ve also witnessed the bizarre spectacle of the Labour’s own environment lead suggesting this pesticide won’t affect our local bird life because you “do not tend to find spiders, worms and berries on pavements or on roads”. Well, we certainly won’t now. Since Labour introduced the glyphosate ban we’ve always been clear that addressing the challenge of overgrown plant life in the city wouldn’t be easy. But claiming to address the critical issue of pavement accessibility by subjecting us to a chemical known to exacerbate chronic health conditions is a far from logical solution. It’s also likely that a more phased approach using a variety of non-chemical methods can be more cost effective over time – charities like Pesticide Action Network UK have detailed plans other councils are using.

I’ve said before and reiterate we stand ready to work with Labour and support them to tackle the challenges the city faces including issues with our pavements. The most popular petition in the council’s history – with over 100,000 signatures – was about tackling pesticide use to help save our local wild life and specifically starling population. But in little over six months Labour has broken manifesto pledges and are rapidly eroding all the trust residents placed in them when they campaigned so aggressively at the local election. They said “listening Labour” – but all I’m hearing is outcry from communities affected by their other botched manifesto pledges like the ones that suggested they wouldn’t use glyphosate or be closing schools any time soon. The press this week reported that promises made by Labour councillors to campaigners pushing to save Bright Start nursery of a “consultation” were made “in error”.

But the time to prove you’re a listening council is now. It’s no secret that the city faces a huge cliff edge thanks to the deliberate, controlled demolition of vital public services over the last 13 years of destructive Conservative government. The Tories have bled local services and communities dry while ignoring the consequences. More people need help with bills and rising energy costs. More people are struggling to make ends meet. More and more people need support: with care for their elderly relatives; with assistance for their children, with access to free or low-cost services. All these are services councils often provide and with no extra funding, we know other services our residents are used to – like weeding – will take the hit. Brighton and Hove City Council is staring down the barrel of a possible £33 million worth of cuts. That will affect every single job tethered to the council and the services in our fantastic community sector like charities for children with disabilities, or facing youth homelessness, or tackling domestic violence, every external contract the council holds will be on the table. Yet communities and staff are in the dark, with little more than four weeks away from huge budget decisions being made at council.

Instead of listening there is nothing but silence. No draft budget papers have been seen. Community, charity and voluntary sector groups remain in the dark about where the axe will fall. Residents who rely on care are without information about what could be coming. It doesn’t have to be this way – it’s a long-standing protocol in the council that communities are given access to the budget so alternative proposals can be made and in the past youth services have been saved from the axe this way. But there simply won’t be time for communities or councillors to push back on Tory cuts if Labour keep the budget secret. It’s time for them to stick to their pledges not betray residents’ trust.

Steve Davis is the Green Group convenor on the city council