LGBT people and the Council’s budget

 

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty

This is a horrendous time for the city council’s funding. Figures from the Local Government Association tell us that almost 80% of councils the length and breadth of the country will struggle to make ends meet. Conservative government cuts are perpetuating inequality in our communities in Brighton and Hove. LGBT people are facing greater inequality too: like other vulnerable groups, services for LGBT people around the country have been the first to be cut. As austerity bites and inequality rises under the Conservative government cuts, we cannot give ground to bigotry.

Even if we put the impact of austerity to one side, things are far from perfect:

  • A report produced by the Health Committee of the London Assembly reports LGBT+ people identified that 40% of LGBT people experience a mental health issue, compared to 1 in 4 of the wider population. Some of that is because LGBT people are often invisible when it comes to decisions because of poor data and poorer consultation.
  • One in six lesbian, gay and bi people have experienced a homophobic or biphobic hate crime or incident over the last three years; while 38 per cent of trans people have experienced physical intimidation.

We have to be mindful of how short-sighted cuts could really jeopardise LGBT equality. Our analysis of this year’s city council budget meant we were able to identify that Labour’s council budget included cutting the LGBT community safety post. In the aftermath of Brexit we have faced a spike in hate crimes-  leaping from 49 to 64 crimes and incidents, including several prominent violent homophobic attacks in the city. The evidence is clear: now is not the time to cut the budget for the LGBT community safety post.

Our analysis also showed that because of the massive 80% cuts to the youth service and the £370K cut to the investment programme in the voluntary sector, support for LGBT people, including our young people, would be hit disproportionately. We know that almost half (48%) of trans people under 26 said they had attempted suicide. More than half (55 per cent) of lesbian, gay and bi pupils have experienced direct bullying. So it is clear that the work that Allsorts and community youth groups do with young LGBT people in the community is more than a service – it can be a lifeline. Many other LGBT community and voluntary groups rely on the funding that the council injects into the sector and it’s often matched by other bodies such as the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), so that Council money invested here stretches further. Lately the sector has been warned that the CCG will not be providing funding into the future so cuts here will hit twice as hard.

The Green Group of Councillors published a series of proposals which outlined our priorities and principles in the budget: http://bit.ly/GPBudget17

Our proposals include measures to reverse the cut to the LGBT Community Safety post and reverse cuts to the youth service. Our aim: to make suggestions that turn the focus of the Council towards the real value of the city’s preventative work and towards ‘spend to save’ initiatives that will support the Council – and our residents – in the long term. This is a different approach to managing budgets but we must push to resist savage cuts in difficult circumstances. We wanted to stick up for our more vulnerable community members and preventing problems for LGBT people becoming a crisis further down the line.

All the evidence supports the fact that if you cut services you will inherit problems in the future. This is why we committed to a different approach, putting prevention at the heart of our proposals. We are glad that the amendments that we put forward to budget Council have reversed some of the planned cuts to services that support LGBT people. We worked hard to save what we could, but we feel as if there really are no winners in a budget that cuts £20m.

 

 

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Budget Council Open Letter

 

Throughout the last number of weeks, the Green Group has examined the Labour budget proposals. Through a combination of reasonable charge increases, spend to save measures and a focus on prevention; we sought to reverse some of the most toxic proposals in the budget.

Our group is allowed to submit amendments to Labour’s budget, which will see cuts of more than £20m affecting vital front-line services across the city. Our budget approach centres around the value of preventing problems for some of our most vulnerable residents. Provided that any changes can be funded and don’t leave funding holes, they are put forward for debate. However we are disappointed to tell you that the Labour administration are still seeking to push ahead with the original planned budget cuts.

You can read our proposals here: bit.ly/GPBudget17

We know that work which helps to address problems early on reduces the need for more costly interventions later down the line and we want more work to be done to preserve these services. Whether that’s stopping a cut to supported buses that help keep older residents more active, reinstating the planned removal of the city’s youth service or reversing cuts to early help, we have been focused on investing in the budget for preventative services in key areas.

Our approach has shown how the Council can create £2 million extra to stop these cuts. These proposals have been evidenced and in the case of fees and charges, are in line with what many other councils around the country are prepared to do. It is a source of real disappointment to us that they received little support in their original form and that they have now been watered down. At a period of time when our budget is under massive strain we hoped our approach and the additional funding it would bring to the Council would be welcomed.

However, we urge the Council to invest in prevention; and Greens will continue to promote the benefit of ‘spending to save.’  This is reflected in the amendments as they now stand.
Greens are pushing for the Council to recognise how important early help is for the future of our city. We know that the evidence supports this approach. We will fight to take out some of the worst elements of the budget and invite all the other parties to work with us to protect services in Brighton and Hove.

Yours sincerely,

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, Convenor of the Green Group of Councillors

Public Services are best provided by local authorities or third sector organisations; not unaccountable private companies. Why do Brighton & Hove’s Labour Councillors disagree?

by Councillor Leo Littman

When elected as a Councillor, I signed up to the seven principles of public life (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-7-principles-of-public-life/the-7-principles-of-public-life–2) These include accountability and openness.

Sadly, private companies which run many of our vital public services; from NHS contracts to railway franchises, are not obliged to make the same commitments. Often, the public have to fight tooth and nail to reveal their deplorable customer service and dangerous practices. Look for example, at Coperforma’s astonishingly incompetent management of the Sussex Patient Transport service, or Southern’s massively remunerated mismanagement of our rail services. Public concern over our lack of say in how these firms run our services is shared by organisations like Trade Unions; The Green Party; and the Labour Party, at least, nationally.

So, when a resident asked me to get the Council to support the principles of transparency, accountability and putting the public first in the provision of public services, little did I know it would lead to the self-destruction of Brighton & Hove Council’s Labour Administration. Over a year ago; the campaign group ‘We Own It’ launched ‘Our Services, Our Say’, a campaign to get Local Councils to state that they believed public services were better provided by publicly-accountable bodies than by private businesses, and that, when private firms were involved in delivering public services, they should play by the same rules as public bodies; for example, being open to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

In Liverpool, a Motion supporting these goals, proposed by Greens, passed with support from the city’s Labour Councillors.

All B&H Councillors knew the campaign’s goals to encourage public services for the public a week before our meeting, as they had been circulated: however, concerned that my fellow Councillors might feel they hadn’t enough detail, the night before Full Council I sent each of them the full version of the campaign aims.

Their calls for public accountability over our public services have overwhelming support. 61% of the public think local government should run services in-house, by default. Only 21% want to see outsourcing as the default. 64% distrust outsourcing companies. Only 16% think there is adequate regulation of private companies running public services.

On the night of Full Council, I mentioned the Liverpool result, and my expectation that B&H Labour Councillors would vote as their colleagues had. I was astonished when, instead, they decried it. The Motion came from “A Left-of-Left perspective”, said one Labour Councillor. He then argued that there was nothing wrong with how public services were currently commissioned. Another Labour Councillor then told us the stunning truth: Brighton & Hove Labour Party’s Group of Councillors were going to abstain on a Motion calling for public ownership; transparency; and accountability.

Given the make-up of the Council (23 Labour; 20 Tory; 11 Green), Labour sitting on their hands, meant that the Tory ‘No’ vote; supporting a profit-driven, market-led approach to public provision, beat the Greens call for public-ownership of public services. This was the point at which Brighton and Hove’s Labour Group of Councillors turned their backs on over a hundred years of Labour Party history, policy, and principle; and allowed the Tories to defeat the Greens’ calls for the defence of public services.

This whole unedifying process took less than 25 minutes and can be viewed here: http://brighton-hove.public-i.tv/…/webcast_interacti…/261310 from 3:04:40 to 3:28:20

Labour Councillors in Liverpool supported their local Greens’ call to make theirs the first Council in the country to pass a Motion to give residents a say over public service outsourcing. However, it is now clear that those who believe in the principles upon which the Labour Party was founded can no longer afford to vote Labour in Brighton and Hove. The people they’d be voting for have abandoned those principles and now wholeheartedly embrace the Tory ideology of: ‘The Market: Right or Wrong’.