Phelim Mac Cafferty: Listen to communities and save vital services

Councillor MacCafferty
Councillor MacCafferty

Just two weeks ago one of the city’s most important community centres, The Bridge, in Moulsecoomb, closed down due to lack of funding.

Offering back-to-work support and literacy programmes for adults it was able to support people we as a council or the other authorities couldn’t. Its work helped some of our most marginalised residents to turn their lives around.

The loss of The Bridge is a huge blow to residents. For such an important community hub to fold under Labour is a disgrace and raises some serious concerns about the state of the Labour council’s relationship with our city’s community and voluntary organisations. Last month I raised concerns that under Labour, key local organisations such as the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership are losing out on contracts with the council at an alarming rate –often to contractors from outside of the city.

There’s no question that nationally Conservative government cuts have played havoc with some of the amazing community organisations in our city. But locally what’s increasingly clear is that without additional support, some of our city’s most valued community groups will fail. New Labour leader Cllr Dan Yates met with The Bridge back in April. For whatever effort was put in by the Labour council once they knew of its impending closure, there is not much to show for it. Why? Where has Labour’s political leadership supporting community groups gone? How many local organisations must we see go to the wall under their watch? With the Albion’s place in the Premier League confirmed why didn’t anyone from Labour ask them to support The Bridge?

We want a pledge from Labour to start monitoring vulnerable community organisations and to start helping them through the tough times. This requires a willingness to go above and beyond to keep key organisations running for the community. Greens in power did everything we could to keep The Bridge viable – working with the Albion and others to ensure its survival. A few weeks ago in this very newspaper Cllr Yates said he wanted to ‘listen’ to communities. It’s time for him to turn his words into action.

Phelim Mac Cafferty is the convenor of the Greens on Brighton & Hove City Council.