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]

Major concerns over ‘Public Space Protection Orders’ (PSPOs).


Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty

Greens have major concerns about the introduction of Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs). They are a blunt and ineffective instrument to deal with anti-social behaviour. Many of the areas currently affected such as St Nicholas Churchyard and Brunswick Square are not even covered by PSPOs. We already have many powers to deal with anti-social behaviour in squares such as bye-laws. Why aren’t they being used more effectively? There has been no analysis of the potential use and problems with existing powers. We agree that we need a clear way to prevent anti-social behaviour but there is no evidence to suggest PSPOs will either cut or prevent it. So why should we trust new, untested powers?

If we want the strongest approach to community safety, we need the funding to do the job properly. Without extra resources for Sussex Police or for the Council, PSPOs will only move anti-social behaviour on from one area to the next. The reversal of cuts to Council community safety budgets and ending reductions in police resources would be far more effective.

Under the new order, anyone sleeping in a tent can be subject to a PSPO.  Yet many people sleeping rough on our streets have been forced out due to high rents, evictions or even domestic violence. The overwhelming public support for our proposal to open empty buildings up for the homeless shows that we need to home the homeless, not needlessly criminalise them. We need to see tolerated stopping sites for travellers brought forward as soon as possible, because they are fairer for all communities and create a stronger basis to protect open spaces. We must balance the need to prevent anti-social behaviour with ensuring vulnerable groups are protected.

Greens will speak out against PSPOs at Brighton and Hove’s upcoming full council meeting, April 6th.

Greens have supported representations to Council from human rights and Friends of Travellers groups on this issue. Greens opposed the original introduction of PSPOs back in July 2016, but the proposal passed, backed by Labour and Conservative Councillors.

It’s time to wake up the treasury



HM Treasury: The heart of UK austerity

Brighton and Hove: Join us to wake up the Treasury!

Saturday, 13 February, meet 10am at Brighton Station

Wake up the Conservative government ministers to the cuts hitting Brighton and Hove and the reality of public sector cuts!

Play a musical instrument, sing, blow a whistle, ring a bell or bang a drum before we hand a letter in to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The Treasury, Horse Guards Rd, London SW1A 2HQ.

We will be meeting by the piano in Brighton Station at 10am to catch 10:18 to Victoria. Once in London we will be marching to the Treasury to make as much noise as possible and to deliver our letter.

More details: Bit.ly/Treasury13thFeb
for further queries please email phelim.maccafferty@brighton-hove.gov.uk


The cuts must stop now!