In 2016, the Green councillors proposed the use of New Homes Bonus to create a substantial fund to bring brownfield sites back into use to meet the need for housing of the future. It was to recognise that, for a city to be sustainable and live within its carbon means, high-density, city centre living must be made to work.
I am pleased to see this is now being progressed through the council’s application to the Housing Infrastructure Fund for expansion of housing in Neepsend and Attercliffe.
This line no longer needs to be in our budget amendment.
But the expansion of renewable energy does. This is becoming more critical as the planet edges forwards towards an uncertain future of global warming. That’s why we are offering half a million pounds for energy efficiency schemes on maintained schools. We are proposing a million pounds on solar panels for council homes.
Not only does this address climate change and energy security, but makes a real difference to council tenants’ fuel bills.
We are looking forward to future homes that are good to live in.
That’s why we also propose funding to bring more empty homes back into use and for stronger enforcement of disrepair in the private rented sector.
We are also looking forward to the future of transport in the city. We simply cannot expect to keep bringing more cars into the city centre with short-term plans to widen the inner ring road.
Our reforms of parking prices and our proposals for a workplace parking levy would encourage people to switch towards public transport to get to work but would protect residents through lower prices for parking permits in residential zones.
We would even extend this to councillors – no more car parking claims please!
We are proposing a million pounds for proper, segregated cycle lanes. We really need to make cycling work in this city – and it doesn’t at the moment.
We would also bring back the FreeBee bus.
My colleague, Cllr Teal, has innovative ideas to address the growing issue of mental wellbeing of school children – but it is better if you hear from her directly on that. Cllr Rivers knows a lot about knife crime and young people but we need more people to act on this vital issue. We are proposing more PCSOs but also new posts of Safer Neighbourhood Officers.
Our budget amendment creates 33 new jobs, a net gain of 26. We would have a new member of paid staff in each branch library; we would have new officers working on heritage, cycling and planning enforcement; we would reverse Labour’s cut to advice centres in the voluntary sector – now is not the time to be cutting these services, as they help people in desperate situations cope with universal credit and PIP.
We would have a new officer working on sustainability, helping everyone improve their lives and, by acting together, making a big contribution towards the reduction of plastics and better food-growing. We would have more trees. And these are ones you can eat, with a programme of tree-planting in parks and open spaces across the city. These would be distributed through the wards, according to need. Equally, we would boost the funding available to neighbourhoods through the ward pots.
It is of course traditional for the Greens to call for a cut to the Chief Executive’s pay. But we make a serious point about fairness and inequality with our aim to bring pay within the council inside a range of ten to one.
Our budget is a proposal for the future. The improvements in people’s lives don’t just stop in this forthcoming financial year. In each future year after that, our proposals today would generate almost a million additional pounds for essential social care.
And moreover, the Green budget proposes webcasting of all these meetings. We look forward to this beginning in April but our proposal goes further and would extend this to the full range of committees with public meetings, so that when the Greens are running the Administration, you will be able to see what we are doing.
I therefore recommend that all councillors vote for these proposals.