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Interview: City leader vows to carry on 'abused' predecessor's work

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The new Labour leader of Brighton & Hove City Council says he has the support of “the broad family” in his party and vowed to continue the work of his predecessor, who stood down following heavy criticism from some local members.

Daniel Yates leads a minority administration at a time when a large influx of new members has changed the dynamic of internal party politics in the city following the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

Cllr Yates’s predecessor Warren Morgan has said he repeatedly faced abuse and fierce attacks from some local members who accused him of conspiring to, as he put it, “discredit the left and attack the leadership nationally” – a claim he denies.

In a blog post earlier this month, Cllr Morgan said the toxic atmosphere “had not been central” to his decision to step down as leader, but added it had “been a distraction and a drain on delivering Labour policies in the city”.

Now the task of delivering falls to Cllr Yates who insists a tradition of collaboration in the city and support from within the party will enable him to carry on with the ”innovative” strategies put in place under Cllr Morgan’s leadership.

“Warren Morgan has been an excellent leader of the city council over the last three years,” said Cllr Yates. “Taking a long-term approach was a clear part of the manifesto that Warren put together and we all stood on in 2015.

“In times of difficulty you can either fight over bits of wood or you can build a raft. It is very important that Brighton has been very good at building rafts in the past and we have built a very good and sustainable raft currently. We need to keep that working.”

Cllr Yates says long-term strategic planning has enabled the council to absorb significant cuts and maintain the quality of services such as adults and children’s social care without the need for compulsory redundancies.

Brighton and Hove has been under no overall control for 15 years and following the 2015 election Labour has 22 councillors, the Conservatives 20 and the Greens 11, with one independent.

This delicate political balance does not appear to be helpful when difficult decisions must be made, but Cllr Yates is undaunted.

“Although the work is quite difficult, the politics side of it is relatively straightforward,” said Cllr Yates. “We were elected as a minority administration on a manifesto. Our manifesto was clear on our commitments to the city as a whole.

“We will continue to be very focused to make sure we are engaging with the other political groups, working collaboratively where possible, and trying to deliver the best outcomes possible for the city.”

In perhaps a reference to the distractions referred to by Cllr Morgan, Cllr Yates suggested pragmatism is the solution when leading a council without overall control.

“Maybe it is time for majority control but the reason we haven’t, some would say, is to enable us to listen better to alternative view points and to come up with a reasoned and well-rounded solution,” he said.

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