I’m sure most residents neither attend nor watch online Brighton and Hove City Council’s strategy, finance and city regeneration committee meetings – and who can blame them with a name like that? However, it is a committee where many key decisions are made. It is a meeting which affects us all.

Last week’s agenda included an important item on the Cityclean inquiry into the bullying and harassment identified in the independent report by Aileen McColgan KC. Residents know all too well how missed collections and poor service have dogged the city for far too long. The report shone a light on deep-rooted problems which have had a significant impact on the service. Many of its finding were quite simply horrendous. Bullying, harassment and alarmingly question marks about the conduct of elected members.

Disappointingly, it was suggested by the leader of the council, Bella Sankey, that Greens have not been supportive of the report, or its recommendations. This could not be further from the truth.


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Green MP Caroline Lucas called for an independent and legally led inquiry before the elections in May, with cross-party discussions taking place in the hope that whatever the outcome of the election, this important piece of work would happen afterwards.

It is commendable the new leader carried on the work we had started, and signed off on the decision to instruct an independent KC to investigate the issues at Cityclean. We welcome the steps being taken to implement positive change following the report, and we very much support the work to create a healthier culture within Cityclean. Staff at Cityclean deserve this and residents do too.

There is only one key area where Greens differ from Labour, but it is an important one. We believe it’s vital the references in the report about alleged political interference are scrutinised further and it is in the public interest these are properly addressed. Without this aspect of the report being properly understood we fail to see how it will be possible to learn from what went wrong in the past and make sure the culture change is achieved.

It is in the city’s interest to know which councillors the report was talking about in the section which said members “completely, unashamedly just reverse officer decisions” and to know whether question marks about potential conflicts of interest were a factor in what went wrong.

Given the public support from Greens, steps taken by Greens before Cllr Sankey became leader and the support since I’m left baffled by the continued comments from pre-prepared speeches at meetings about a lack of support from Greens on this issue.

I’m not sure whether Cllr Sankey reads my column, but if she does, I repeat: we are on the same page. Like Labour, Greens want proper and lasting culture change at Cityclean. We will support any party running the council to help achieve this. But it is not healthy to try to brush the remaining question marks about political interference under the carpet. The report makes clear this extended beyond the member appeal panels on which councillors sat.

With Labour running the council for nearly six of the last ten years, and Greens running the council as a minority administration for around three and a half, I’m sure there are things we all could have done sooner, better or differently. However, question marks about political interference are too big to leave unaddressed.

Openness and transparency matter. Not just in this instance, but in all council decision making. As leader of the opposition, I’ve been left completely in the dark as to which important local services will have their funding cut in Labour’s forthcoming budget. So have residents.

The papers were not published until Wednesday evening – as late as legally allowed. They are usually published in draft form months in advance to allow residents, community groups, unions, and opposition councillors to scrutinise proposals and suggest alternatives. This year we’ll have two weeks.

Before entering politics, the leader of the council once said: “Politicians, senior civil servants and advisers instinctively hoard power because they think that’s the way to get things done – once again, the words of David Cameron. Without FOI requests, decisions on what to publish will lie with those in power – those with a vested interest in keeping politically embarrassing, contentious or damning information out of public hands.”

Now in power, Labour appears to be doing just that.

Cllr Steve Davis is leader of the Greens on Brighton and Hove City Council