The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round

What are you doing, Brighton? Since I last commented on the affairs of this fair city the wheels on the bus no longer seem to be going round and round, but seem to have fallen off.

In the space of 3 months the Dear Leader, Bill Randall, has been replaced by the Son of the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-Kitcat, or Jason as he prefers to be known. Well, that had been anticipated for many months, so no shock there. But from a tier of 5 senior officers (a chief executive and 4 Super Directors) three are moving on to pastures new.

In September chief executive, John Barradell, is moving to take up a similar position in the Corporation of the City of London, Charlie Stewart is to become the chief executive of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, and David Murray is heading off to, actually I have no idea where.  In the case of Biker Dave, it was a bit of a pantomime, a matter of “is he going? Yes he is. Oh no he isn’t, he’s going to become interim chief executive! Oh no he’s not! Oh yes he is!” etc.

In fact Finance Director, Catherine Vaughan, who has never before enjoyed such high prestige (by which I mean featuring in this esteemed blog), has been recommended to act up …. as interim chief executive. Catherine is highly respected, and is said to have a good working relationship with Jason Kitcat from his time as Finance Chief. They will need to work well together because the next year could be brutal as the Council has to make up the amount to be lost following Labour and the Conservatives acceptance of the government’s council tax freeze bribe, and further cuts to budgets. How they managed the budget process for 2012/13 was very impressive, and bodes well for Jason Kitcat’s leadership should he remain engaged and responds on a political level.

Back to wheels on the bus. The axing of the bus routes, and the confusion over bus tenders, hasn’t looked good for the Greens. A u-turn in the last couple of days, when a wedge of cash was found down the back of the sofa, has saved the services. Is this yet another great result for the fearless campaign to save the number …? What number is it this week, councillor Fitch

Labour has run a successful campaign to save the bus routes. And credit hear should go to councillor Gill Mitchell and the party dynamo, Caroline Penn, who always seems to be snapping at the heals of the Greens and Tories, taking well aimed bites along the way.
Labour seems to be in good spirits following its restructuring, and once again full of fight.

The Enigmatic Flo has lamented my absence in recent months, asking why I was not giving credit where credit is due. She has chastised me saying it is about time I said something nice about Labour. Yes, the Labour Party in Brighton and Hove seems to be in much better shape, taking the Greens on in a concerted fight back. Target seats have been identified, with Hollingdean and Stanmer being high on their hit list.

Being the political establishment is never easy, and the Greens have taken a knocking in recent months. Labour made a mistake some years back when they had highly competent people at the helm of the City Council, but they lost the political argument. Something similar is happening with the Greens. The bus fiasco hasn’t helped.

The Tories are not benefiting much from the Green’s ill-ease. Apart from Bulldog Bobby from Westbourne, my identical twin brother, Graham Cox, they are lacking punch. The Bulldog appears to be doing all the running, and my prediction is that it will be Bobby who leads the Tories into the 2015 local elections.

But neither Labour or the Conservatives should be complacent over the difficulties being experienced by the Greens. All administrations have difficulties, but there are some good political tacticians within the Green ranks. As long as the Green Group doesn’t assume it is the Green Party locally to the exclusion of others (as the Labour Group did in Brighton from which it is only just recovering) the Greens will remain a political force locally. After all, the Greens have a trump card, and one that infuriates Labour activists. Remaining the outstanding politician in the City, head and shoulders above the rest, is Caroline Lucas.

8 Responses

  1. Welcome back BPB and thank you for this interesting blog that summarises the position in July 2012. Losing 60% of senior officers is indicative of their uncertainty as to future strategic direction? As for Green prospects it is as you write:- Caroline Lucas’s nous and popularity will keep the Greens a force in parliamentary elections but the perceived local see-sawing in a tide of austerity management will play into Labour’s hands at local level. The Tories too are likely to benefit as it is hard to see Withdean keeping a Green toehold next time under these circumstances, especially under the impressive Chief Constable-Councillor Cox.

    As for bus campaigns, many thanks must go to Brian Fitch for saving the No.5 single handed and to Labour for getting the recent cuts cancelled.

  2. Jason’s finance experience as a councillor goes back to the Conservative Administration, when he sat on the Audit Committee taking an obviously keen interest in its remit. It means he has a good few years of acquaintance with Catherine Vaughan.

    It would be helpful if she remained as acting CEO until after the Budget is set for 2013/14.

    A great worry is that BHCC will be tempted to seek to job share the position of CEO with a neighbouring authority.

  3. As the bus figures were discussed in a fascinating closed session, i cannot say too much here. But even without the extra money, the Green proposals – agreed at February’s Budget – means that, by standing firm, there is now an interesting change of emphasis by the bus companies.

    Meanwhile, it was surely unprecedented for Gill Mitchell to be talking about Ovingdean. She was reliably informed that it is between Roedean and Rottingdean (both of which are rapidly reached).

  4. I think there is a real political problem. The Greens are such a broad church they are not united and act as individuals with their own idealogies and priorities. This means the politics is divided and incoherent. Unfortunately, they are also failing to grasp the big picture and instead of developing a strategic response to the financial predicament of the City (not just the Council), they are focusing on detail which will not matter when Welfare Reform hits, and major public sector cuts which will mean what the public sector does and how is radically changed. The impression I have is that the Greens are sticking their head in the sand and fiddling at the edges with 20 mph citywide speed limit, a cycle lane, one planet living. It is fiddling whilst Rome burns.

    And then I really fear that the Leader’s ability to develop relationships within his own party, across parties and outside the council will be the breaking point. He is being advised by one of the most disliked politicians I have known (even Mary Mears has loyal friends and respect). And when I say disliked, disliked by his own party and all others because he cannot develop relationships other than antagonistic ones.

    I predict we are in for some more bad times, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Greens fell a part, I certainly don’t expect them to be in power at the next elections and this will impact on them nationally.

    Sorry to be so doom laden

  5. It’s easy to forget how disastrous the local election results have been for the Tories. Losing 8 councillors seems to have left them in complete disarray.

    They have been ineffective as the official opposition and seem entirely out of touch. Trying to close a Bright-Start nursery in order to save the mayor’s numberplate during the budget made them look mean and ridiculous. The attacks on the patron saint of libraries, Cllr Hawtree, were at best childish, while Dawn Barnett’s behaviour towards Amy Kennedy was distinctly odious.

    Cop Cox may be vocal and energetic, but his tweets about the opposition parties are so ill-informed and stupid, they are worthy of Baroness Warsi herself.

    Should they continue in this vain, it is possible they will go the way of the Lib Dems at the next election. And who would miss them?

  6. Well its only the 52 being cut – giving ovingdean no direct link to the hospital, city centre or station.

    The Greens have cut out mobile library and now buses – they don’t want to run the whole city (especially not the deans), just Brighton Pavilion.

    They can’t cope with a city that doesn’t match their hare-brained schemes for walking/cycling everywhere (city 10 miles across, on the south downs).

    And BHASVIC should only be accessible to people living who can walk cycle there… don’t want people wandering out of the stone age villages the greens have planned for us all.

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