Greens call for transparency as Council announces fresh wave of youth service cuts

The Green group have condemned the Labour Council for continuing to make cuts to the city’s youth service despite a city-wide campaign to save it that saw the budget for the work largely restored in February.

Councillor Alex Phillips, spokesperson for Children, Young People and Skills has called for greater transparency as information about recent cuts to the service appeared as a small note on the internal council information network, ‘the Wave.’ [1] You can read the notice below.

Councillor Phillips has made a statement, commenting:

“At the last full council meeting in July I directly challenged the local Labour group about the current state of youth services and was told that the youth service information bus would be retained for a further year. Now we learn – from a notice quietly ushered out on an internal council network – that the entire dedicated detached youth work team is to be lost.

“The young people who campaigned to save the youth service repeatedly made clear that access to support where they lived made a huge difference. A few in-house services in the city centre mean little to young people unable to shore up the bus fare in and out of town. Detached youth work and services like the youth mobile information bus meant that help and support came to them, where they live, with advice and activities.

“After the Labour Council attempted to axe all council youth work last February, Greens launched a series of successful budget proposals that together with amendments from the Conservatives saw the youth service funding almost entirely reinstated. The disgraceful reality is that despite this, key elements of youth work are still being axed behind the scenes. Getting rid of detached youth work flies in the face of everything we and these young people campaigned to protect.”

1] The information published on Brighton and Hove City Council intranet, ‘The Wave’:

Youth service changes

From 1 August our Youth Service is changing. 

We will no longer have an in-house detached team working from the youth bus. You will still see the bus from time to time but there will no longer be a dedicated team.

Over the years the city has been lucky enough to have a bus which has had a positive impact on thousands of young people since 2003. The team want to thank everyone for their support in helping with the delivery of the bus.

The council will still fund a Participation & Advocacy team and Youth Arts and Duke of Edinburgh programmes will continue to be delivered but now externally funded.

 

2] Question from Councillor Alex Phillips, to the Chair of Children, Young People and Skills Committee Councillor Daniel Chapman at the meeting of full council, 20th July, Hove Town Hall
Question from Councillor Phillips – Youth Services

“Could the Chair of the Children, Young People and Skills please clarify how the plans to move Brighton & Hove City Council youth service staff into the Integrated Team for Parents and Families is in the spirit of the amendments made at budget council which aims to protect not only our youth service i.e children and families work but also the provision of detached youth workers?”

Response from Councillor Chapman, Chair of Children, Young People and Skills Committee

“As you know we are going through a restructure of the in-house services to provide services in the greatest area of need and to continue to work in partnership with voluntary sector and I’m happy to discuss with Councillor Phillips as well on another occasion in more depth about what’s going on with the youth service.”

Supplementary Question

“I’ll take that to mean they’ll be no more Brighton & Hove City Council youth service that technically the council will stop prioritising open access in house youth service and I think it is awful that that may well stop.

“The youth service bus came up as a much-loved resource through the consultation. Can the Chair of the Children, Young People and Skills Committee please confirm that this bus, which amongst other things provides sexual health and education outreach to young people, will remain as is?”

Response

“The bus will be retained for a further year and resources will be available for the wider youth teams and the voluntary sector.”

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We won’t wait another 50 years for lasting equality

This weekend tens of thousands will take to the city’s streets celebrating our LGBT community. Our special city which has provided refuge for thousands of LGBT people will remind the world of our values of hope and solidarity. The Green Party has been a longstanding advocate of LGBT rights and this weekend we will, once again, be proud to march for equality.

This year’s Pride celebrations mark 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the United Kingdom- Scotland had to wait until 1980, Northern Ireland, 1982. While apologies have been issued to those whose love was labelled a ‘crime,’ no apology will erase the years of discrimination people living with a criminal record have had to endure. We follow in the footsteps of ordinary LGBT people and community organisations whose unwavering voices have, 50 years later, made mainstream the right to live without prejudice. As the city becomes a show of colour and celebration we should take the time to remember that LGBT people at home and abroad still face bigotry and violence. On Saturday we must march for them.

In the aftermath of the Brexit referendum only a year ago hate crimes against LGBT people increased by 147%. One in four LGBT people have experienced violent hate crime. Four in ten British people believe gay sex is unnatural. Homophobia is legitimised in government with the stridently homophobic DUP, who have blocked equal marriage in Northern Ireland.

Being gay is still illegal in 72 countries around the world. Horrific accounts of the torture of gay men in Chechnya remind us why it is so important to recognise LGBT rights. As important is the work to highlight that LGBT people- often from former British colonies- flee here to escape torture and persecution. Theresa May’s lukewarm words about ending discrimination must apply to them too.

There is no question we have come a long way in 50 years, but on Saturday our voices must ring out to say we won’t wait another 50 to have lasting equality here and abroad. I wish everyone a safe, happy and sustainable Pride.

Let’s keep our democratic system

Our arguments against a cabinet system remain the same now as they were in October 2015 (see article below: ‘Let’s keep our democratic system,’ Brighton and Hove Independent, first published 2015).
Without scrutiny from other parties the Labour leadership would have had no qualms in selling off Hove Library, flogging off our precious Downland and ending the city’s youth service. Opposition from elected representatives is a crucial part of democracy and has prevented deeply unpopular Labour Council plans from coming to fruition – a fact no doubt frustrating for their leader, Councillor Warren Morgan, who wishes for a return to decision making behind closed doors and who imagines he has overall control of the council.


Let’s keep our democratic system

This week I read with concern that the Labour Leader of the Council is thinking about reviving the ‘cabinet’ model for the council. This is where 10 people make all of the council’s decisions and those decisions come in front of the other Councillors for rubber-stamping.

The cabinet model would allow Councillors not to answer for the “difficult decisions” they are making, allowing them to hide the impacts of decisions from the public until it’s far too late. It is anti-democratic. It’s why Greens abolished it and revived the committee system which places decision making powers with all councillors. Whether you’re a backbench Councillor for the largest group or an opposition councillor you and your community are proportionately enfranchised, and, crucially, decisions are made by all.

Accountability for decisions is incredibly important in a city which in 12 years has not given any one party an outright majority. Currently the largest group is 22, but out of 54 Councillors they should not have divine right to rule.

The Deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor Mitchell was right to describe the cabinet model as a “one party state” in November 2011. Isn’t it interesting that the tune seems to be changing now that Labour are in power?

It is important to remember Labour has form here: a Labour Government introduced the ‘cabinet’ model and a Labour Council wanted the deeply unpopular directly elected Mayor which was rejected in 2001.

The potential revival of the cabinet system has come in the same week we’ve had cross-party meetings cancelled, reports with potentially serious proposals being withheld and Labour Councillors voting to close Full Council meetings early. We have to ask: why the attempts to reduce transparency? Are these are the early warning shots being fired in a campaign by the Labour Councillors intent on reducing accountability for the cuts they have planned?

I recognise that we face the harshest financial climate we have ever seen, thanks to the savage austerity programme imposed by the Conservative government. But lessening democracy especially at a time like this is completely inappropriate and unfair.

We need a fairer local political system including a fairer voting system for electing Councillors in the first place. But in the meantime we must have a system which allows questioning, debate and challenge for whoever is the largest group on the city council. We revert to a less democratic and accountable council at our peril.

[First published in the Brighton and Hove Independent, October 2015]