The last of the greengrocers

My local greengrocer closed last month. From a chain of four David Rhodes shops only one survives. Mine was ramshackle, tatty and permanently cold but also warm and friendly .

That it was June and they hadn’t taken down the Xmas tree sale sign was a sign the end was near . That it had been there since the previous Christmas showed the end was a long-time coming .

Fifty metres away on either side of the road lurk a Sainsburys and a Tescos Express .

I said: “ You can’t compete.”

Errol, about 60, had worked at David Rhodes for years said : “ Our prices are better than theirs, it’s the rent and business rates that does us. It costs 375 quid a day just to open the place. “

Their prices were better for a few things but the supermarkets beat them on most. And how much easier is it to pick up tomatoes at the same time, in the same place as the pasta.

I would go their once a week and fill my bag with vegetables. If they weren’t sorting out the display one of the the rotating cast, who manned the shop from early morning to late at night, would be sitting on a low stool in the corner rolling a cigarette.

They knew customers and passers-by by name. Chefs from nearby restaurants would hurry in, pick-up a few lemons and leave, promising to pay later.

They advised me; To save leak leaves to make soup, roast the new potatoes and the cheap Chinese garlic was a waste of time. I now buy two ready-trimmed leak sealed in plastic. They’re cheaper. But were my locals’ fresher and did they taste better? in my imagination they do.

They’d knock down the price a bit if the goods looked damaged or they wanted to get rid of something. Surprise veg like cauliflower shaped broccoli would appear seemingly at random for a week. I could buy a couple of tomatoes or a handful of herbs. Always cash no cards. 

 

If I’d been away , Errol , something of a local personality, would want to know where I’d been, even if I was hundred yards away and he had to shout to find out.

In truth I feel guilty. I know local shops are important, I was amazed they survived for so long  after the supermarket chains opened . I know they needed my custom and I’d miss them when they’re gone. But I’d stopped bothering to walk 50 metres.

I asked Errol what would happen to him ?

“ Don’t know what I’ll do now “. he said. “ Something will turn up.”

The surviving  David Rhodes greengrocer , Portland Road, Hove.

Brighton’s most expensive MP is……..

Caroline Lucas is Brighton and Hove’s costliest MP according to a Government Watchdog. Independent Parliamentary Standards Association (IPSA) data shows she claimed £174,555 in expenses in 2015-16 over £40K more than Hove MP Peter Kyle

To be fair to MP Lucas, MP Kyle didn’t take up his job until after the May General Election so even allowing for Start-Up expenses his monthly costs are higher. 

The IPSA was set up due to the 2009 Parliamentary Expenses Scandal . MPs now have to disclose details of even the smallest claims  which the IPSA publishes on their user-friendly  website. Simon Kirby’s East Brighton and Peacehaven constituents can see his office April gas bill was only £1.36 and in May , Caroline Lucas spent £2.64 on bin-bags.

In 2015, of 605 MPs Caroline Lucas is 156th most expensive, MP Kirby 416th and Peter Kyle 532nd. Due to travel, Scottish and Northern Irish MP’s tend to rack up more expenses . The DUP’s Jim Shannon is the UK’s highest claiming Member at £245,931 . The cheapest by far is Kettering Tory Philip Hollobone who spent less than £9k, employs no staff  and always travels 2nd class. 

 

Philip Hollobone MP

I emailed MP Hollobone to ask how he managed this. He replied within 20 minutes and said that as I wasn’t his constituent he didn’t have to tell me. An impressive response time for a one man operation

With the introduction of the IPSA came new rules. MPs outside London can no-longer use  their second home allowance to buy a property in London. Travel outside their usual constituency-to-Westminster route has been limited and receipts are required for all claims. New rules and transparency may prevent another duck house scandal but since 2009 , despite austerity, our representatives have found new ways to spend our money. Their expenses have risen 61% from £70 million to over £113 million.

It’s not about Bobbies on the beat – PCC Sussex 2016

On the 12th May  Conservative Katy Bourne was sworn in for her second four year term as Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) having easily won a lack-lustre campaign.

The PCC elections use a supplementary vote system and although Bourne didn’t win 50 % of first preference votes and a run-off was required, her majority over Labour increased from 2012.

Sussex PCC elections

The first PCC elections in 2012 had an abysmal turn-out with Staffordshire recording the lowest at 12%,  Sussex achieved 15.3 %.

In 2016, helped by having local council and Mayoral elections on the on the same day, turn-out increased. England and Wales averaged 26%.  Sussex aided by council elections in Adur, Hastings and Crawley reached 22.5%

PCC Bourne subtracted 15.3% from 22.5% to get 42% .

Katy Bourne

 

The only public event in the campaign was a round-table debate on Radio Sussex at 9 O’clock on a working Tuesday morning. Judging by social media activity not many voters were listening in. All four challenging candidates had similar messages. They would stop Police cuts and put more bobbies on the beat.
 

LibDem  James Walsh said: ” Cuts would lead to the loss of 700 front-line officers.” and  “the  public wants PCs and PCSOs they can talk to.”

Labour’s Michael Jones said that bobbies on the beat were integral and PCSO numbers could be maintained.

Patrick Lowe, for UKIP, would tear up the current Police plan and recruit more officers.

The Greens’ James Doyle said: ” Bobbies on the beat are the eyes and ears of the Police force.”

But Katy Bourne replied: “Bobbies on the beat is a twentieth century policing model and has to be changed for modern-day crime challenges. ”

Election results showed Ms Bourne received most votes in every Sussex council area except Brighton and Hastings.

 

In the 2012 campaign Ms Bourne, a local councillor, had promised a PCSO in every community. With police funding cuts this seemed an impossible promise to keep, and was. She now says police numbers are operational matters decided by Sussex Chief Constable Giles Yorke.

 

Sussex Police Numbers

YearPolice Officers PCSOs
20123204344
20133076369
20143033363
20153040340
20162926265

The 2015 Sussex Police Plan pledges more cuts and a move away from bobbies on the beat, many officers are to be based at six main response hubs which will cover Sussex.

Chief Constable Yorke writes: ” The size of the financial challenge means we will need to reduce the size of our workforce by 700 officers.” Three hundred police staff will also go.

The Chief Constable says he has made cuts of £50m but may need to make £57m more.

So the 2016 Sussex PCC election wasn’t about bobbies on the beat although voters reading Conservative campaign leaflets and taking a quick glance at PCC Bourne’s achievements might think it was.

 

Katy Bourne Election Campaignleaflet

 

 

 

Hove – Brexit or not

EU Flag West Pier Brighton and a lampost

Saturday was a day-of-action for Remain in the EU referendum. Every day is a day-of-action for Leave. In Hove, two Ins and an Out. Labour, Greens and Vote-Leave had set up stalls. None were confident of winning, all were concerned about a low turn-out and conflicted about their allies in their cause.

Green-In Andy

Remainers apologise for the EU. On the Green-In stall overlooking Brunswick Square. Andy said: “We know there’s a lot wrong with the EU.”  but workers rights and the environment are the Greens main reasons for staying-in. Andy felt we belonged in Europe and connections with European Greens were important but it was strange being on the same side as the Tories. He thought most people were fed up with the campaign and a low turn-out would lead to Brexit. Vote_Leave George Street Patricia

Leavers are angry about the EU. Patricia on Georges Street was angry that the UK paid the EU £350 million every week and said that this controversial claim wasn’t controversial. She was exasperated that the majority of people didn’t seem interested and if they knew the facts they would vote to Leave

She said. ” Someone  told me that they had voted Remain in last weeks PCC election.”

The Leave campaigners were from Ukip’s Grassroots-Out who lost out to Vote-Leave in being designated as the official Brexit campaign. Ukip have worked for years to get a referendum but now find themselves volunteering for a Brighton & Hove Vote-Leave campaign controlled by Labour Councillor Tom Bewick. Patricia was uneasy that Vote-Leave leaders were talking about a second referendum so winning on the 23rd June would mean renegotiation not Brexit.

Labour-In Ann Georges St Hove

Just along Georges Street,  Ann for Labour-In , with a Jeremy Corbyn lapel badge said: “We know the EU needs to change.” but ” the EU had won workers rights and protected the environment. ” She predicted a low turn-out which might help Vote-Leave win and was perplexed with ending  up on the same side as ” Cameron and Gideon ” .

But what would happen if they lost :-

Anne said the worst thing about losing was Farage, Johnson and Gove winning. There would be no protection from the Tories but thought it might give Labour a chance  at the next election .

Patricia for Leave didn’t know what would happen to Ukip but thought they would carry-on fighting.

Andy for Greens-In said :  ” If I wake up on the 24th and we’ve lost I’ll be absolutely devastated .”

PCC 2012 -The forgotten election

On the 5th May England and Wales go to the polls to elect 41 Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs). The inaugrural PCC elections in November 2012 were notable for the electorate not going to the polls.
There was an average voter turnout of 15%. Staffordshire was lowest with 11.6% and the BBC reported on a polling station in Wales where nobody voted. The Electoral Commission said it was the lowest recorded level of participation at a peacetime non-local government election in the UK
The low turnout was one reason a high number of independents beat the party-backed rivals.

The PCC elections use a supplementary vote system. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the electors’ first preference vote then the top two receive the other candidates’ second preference votes.
In Sussex, Katy Bourne, a Conservative councillor from Haywards Heath was elected. The turnout was 15%

PartyCandidate 1st Round Cotes1st Round %2nd Round VotesTotal
ConservativeKaty Bourne5963531.5%2039380028
LabourGodfrey Daniel4076521.5%1483755602
IndependentIan Chisnall3893020.5%
UKIPTony Armstrong2932715.5%
Liberal DemocratDavid Rogers2057910.8%

First preference votes from Sussex’s thirteen council counting stations show Labour doing well in Brighton and Crawley. The Tories received more votes in rural areas. The LibDems dived bombed and independent Ian Chisnall finished second everywhere except the final count.

Ian Chisnall PCC candidate

Ian Chisnall

Mr Chisnall said: If he had done better in Brighton, where he lives, and beaten Labour for second place he  may have overtaken Katy Bourne in the run-off, as party supporters tend to choose an independent for their supplementary vote rather than a rival party.
Evidence from the other PCC elections back him up , Independents won more secondary votes in 15 out of the 16 regions where they reached the second round. In neighbouring Hamphire, Michael Mates, the Tory grandee, led by almost five thousand in the first round but independent Simon Hayes received 30 thousand more second preference votes in the run-off and was elected.

The low turn-out nationwide questions the legitimacy of the results and an Electoral Commission review blamed lack of candidate information for the lack of interest. This time a booklet will be delivered to every household detailing who is running and what for. With local elections being held on the same day the Commission expects a higher level of participation.

But when only 8 % of people know the name of their PCC and only 39% know they have one maybe Independents will continue  running  what many believe should be apolitical independent offices.

It’s alright for some – Brighton’s housing boom

House prices in Brighton & Hove have risen by 490 % in the last 20 years. The highest percentage increase of any town or city in the country.

Data from the ONS  shows the Median House Price in Brighton & Hove  rose from £50k in 1995 to 290k in 2015. The highest of the 113 towns and cities analysed. The lowest was Burnley with 148%.

 

The North/South property-price divide is widening. In the Median-House-Price-Increases League, The South dominate the top ten positions and northern towns occupy the bottom. In the last twenty years the lowest house prices have risen the least.

 

The Brighton property market slowed during the economic recession but has surged during the recovery. It’s good news for Brighton’s estate agents and home-owners.

But for first-time buyers and those who missed the property boat there are few affordable options.

BoatShoreham

More working more not-working

Almost seven thousand more people are out-of-work in Brighton & Hove compared to the corresponding period last year. Government data released last week shows the UK with 31.4 million in-work, a rate of 74%, the highest figures ever, but in Brighton & Hove employment fell further from it’s September 2014 peak.

Chancellor George Osborne is happy

ONS data shows unemployment numbers in Brighton & Hove falling slightly but an increase of almost seven thousand in the  Economically-Inactive since last September.

When it comes to labour statistics The ONS puts everyone, aged 16-64, into one of three boxes. Anybody doing any paid work is Employed, Anybody actively looking for work is Unemployed. Everybody else is Economically-Inactive.
The main Economically-Inactive groups are unemployed students, people looking after home and family, retired people, the  long term sick and disabled.

The rise of the Inactive, in the city,  isn’t down to any particular group but seems to be a general trend. The ONS also estimates the Economically-Inactive who want to work. In the year up to September there was an increase of six thousand people who want a job but aren’t looking for one.

The majority of the –  Don’t-want-a-job people are home-makers, parents, carers and full-time students but who are the Out-of-work, who want to work but are not looking for work ? It’s an important question economically and may hide real poverty and real unemployment levels.

Catherine Barnham at the ONS says,  Child-care costs being higher than wages is a factor but we don’t ask

those who do not want a job and are not seeking one whether they are available to start work. Similarly, people who want a job but are not looking if they are available to start.

So we don’t know.

Is Brighton working?

The latest ONS employment stats show more people working in the UK than ever before and unemployment returning to pre-recession levels but Claimant Count numbers indicate a rise in the out-of-work in Brighton and Hove.

Chancellor Osborne is happy

When it comes to work The Office of National Statistics recognise three types of people: Doing any paid work at all is Employed, Looking for work is Unemployed. Everybody else, aged between 16-64, is Economically Inactive.
The estimates come from the Labour Force Survey which interviews 41,000 households.
The most recent UK figures are for the 3 months to October. The latest comparable figures for local authorities are for the year to June.

If the recession started half way through 2008, Brighton and Hove unemployment reached a peak at 8.8% in Sept 2013  and is now at 5.8%.  

31 million workers in the UK is an all time high and 2 million have been added since Osborne became Chancellor in June 2010.

At the start of the recession there were job losses but economists were surprised that unemployment only reached 8% in the UK. Our neighbours in Ireland had 15%, The US 9%. Over a quarter of the working population were not-working in hard-hit countries like Spain.

In Brighton the number of people working actually increased. Taking the first quarter of 2008 as Recession Year-Zero; at first the self-employed became unemployed then, from the beginning of 2012, self-employment drove job numbers up in Brighton, and across the country.

According to the Government commissioned Labour Market Story many of the new self-employed are the over-50s and many of them are not earning much.

Unemployment stayed relatively low and employee numbers increased due to a surge in immigration from the hard-hit EU countries and a flexible workforce, or as Ed Miliband said: “The epidemic of Zero Hour Contracts.”
The Financial Times believe people have a choice and said: “British workers deserve much of the credit for reacting to the slowdown by accepting less pay and hours.”

The latest ONS figures are Claimant Count(CC) statistics for November 2015. They indicate that unemployment across Great Britain is falling, Middlesbrough is the local authority with the highest numbers claiming, Stratford-on-Avon the lowest. Despite being considered a thriving vibrant city Brighton and Hove is average

Claimant Count figures are the number of people claiming any unemployment benefit on a certain day. Benefits include Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) and anyone unemployed receiving Ian Duncan-Smith’s Universal Credit. The CC has less margin for error than an estimate from The Labour Force Survey particularly for regions and local areas . But many unemployed don’t or can’t sign-on: Due to their partners working, they’re in full-time study or have a pension. Also employed working less than 16 hours a week can still claim JSA.
However the ONS and the BBC reckon that The Claimant Count correlates with unemployment. Mapping local authoritys shows the highest levels in the North-East and Birmingham. In the prosperous south, coastal holiday towns like Hastings and Margate in Thanet stand out. Despite Government regeneration schemes they refuse to be regenerated.

The final unemployment stats of the year indicate a continuing recovery but with Osborne warning of a cocktail of threats in 2016 maybe British workers should stay flexible.

Two beers one city

Brewdog Old Steine

A Brewdog pub has just opened in Brighton. The independent Scottish brewery says: It sells cutting-edge beer in amazing locations with legendary staff.
Can it survive in a City that is home to three Wetherspoons ?
In Brewdog the most expensive pint is £12.30, half a mile away in Wetherspoons the cheapest is £2.10

West Street Wetherspoons

Wetherspoons West Street

The latest pub in Brewdog’s chain has moved into Hector’s House on Grand Parade. Vacant since 2014 when The Blind Tigers Club, a live music venue, closed due to noise complaints.

The live music has gone. Brewdogs refurbishment is fake industrial with booths in wire cages and exposed pipework. There are lots of beards about. The range of beers is mad and so are some of the prices and strengths.

Brewdog beers

Beer is available in pints, halves, two-thirds and thirds. The staff are friendly, offer samples and advice. It’s a Living Wage company.
For a strong beer the barman recommended Stone Ruination he said: It’s typical Brewdog, they get all types of hops and throw them at it.

Stone Ruination £5/half 9.2%

Stone Ruination £5/half 9.2%

It has a great taste of hops but with 9.2 % alcohol it has the after-taste of street drinkers favourite Carlsberg Special Brew.
Wetherspoons has carpets, fruit machines, Sky News, big family groups and single blokes having a quiet pint. The cheapest pint is an IPA at £2.10 but is off, Directors at £2.50 is having it’s pipes cleaned so it’s London Pride for £2.80.
The staff are on automatic, half-way through a long shift.

London Pride £2.80/pint

London Pride £2.80/pint 4.1%

Draught London Pride has the foamy texture and taste of the once ubiquitous John Smiths. The bitter that stopped people drinking bitter.
The only beard is Jeremy Corbyn’s who is on Sky News having just become Labour leader. He fights against inequality in society. If he succeeds maybe there will be more Brewdogs and fewer Wetherspoons.

The best band I’d never heard off

Gig-going based on recommendations has it’s ups and downs. It led me to discover, unfortunately, the music of Hayseed Dixie and Zion Train but on top of the the upside there’s Brakes.

I bought a ticket due to this post on Brighton Gig Buddies.

Glorious news! Brakes are back! Well, only for a one-off gig to celebrate 10 years since the release of their first album Give Blood. But it’s a start.
Formed over drinks in the Prince Albert (so the story goes) by Eamon Hamilton (original keyboard player with British Sea Power), brothers Tom and Alex White (AKA The Electric Soft Parade) and Marc Beatty who also worked with British Sea Power in their early years. Sadly they went on an indefinite hiatus around 2010.

A happy packed Concorde2 witnessed an heroic attempt to fit 35 tracks into one and half hours.

Jamgaw@starsfrighten summed up the the chaos .


Subsequent research has shown the limits of my musical knowledge. Debut album Give Blood had been acclaimed by the Observer, Time-Out and Rough Trade. Colin Murray on Radio 1 chose  follow up album, The Beatific Visions, as his album of the year

Fortunately the one-off gig has become a short tour so more people can discover if Brakes are the best band they’ve never heard off..