Last week, the local Labour and Conservative councillors voted in favour of a £20m cuts budget for our city.
Massive cuts from Whitehall mean the axe in the Town Hall has fallen on services for the old, for the very young, for the disabled and the already vulnerable, from cuts to mental health support, sexual health services, substance misuse rehab and care for the elderly. This is unacceptable and will hit marginalised residents the hardest.
There is no doubt in my mind that the fight against these cuts is also a fight for equality. With International Women’s Day approaching on March 8 the Greens call on the Council to recognise how deeply these cuts will affect women in Brighton and Hove.
Almost 300 jobs in the council are in jeopardy: 60 per cent of staff are women so they will face the burden of cuts. ‘Early help’ services that work to prevent a crisis for families and stop children going into care have been slashed.
Women are more likely to be carers, often unpaid – yet there are huge cuts planned to elderly care and community support. Sexual health services that provide vital free contraception support will lose £712k. Black and minority ethnic women and lesbian bi and trans women also face a double whammy as specialised community groups struggle to absorb £300k of cuts.
All this is set against a backdrop of a housing crisis, rising domestic violence figures and draconian benefit caps that deepen inequality in society. 105 homelessness applications were made in Brighton and Hove due to domestic violence last year, but only 38 could be accepted. Rather than rubber stamp Tory Government policy, we need coherent, creative opposition from the Labour leadership of the council.
Like the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, we must be ‘bold for change.’ Greens will continue to reject inequality and austerity and speak out against sexism. International Women’s Day provides a platform for raising awareness and an opportunity to recommit ourselves to fight for equality every day of the year.
Cllr Phelim MaCafferty is the convener of the Green Group on Brighton and Hove City Council.