As many residents of Brighton and Hove will already know, further central government cuts to local authorities will see Brighton and Hove’s City Council compelled to make £24 million of cuts in the city in 2017/18 alone.
After £91 million of cuts already in the past six years, there is very little left to lose. Although it should certainly be questioned whether councillors should be acquiescing to demands for further cuts which will undoubtedly cause misery for thousands of our city’s residents, it seems unlikely that councillors will risk their liberty in order to make a stand for social justice in the city. This is, of course, a crying shame; the consequences of the proposed council cuts will see rising crime, homelessness and poverty.
As it seems almost impossible that councillors will refuse to meet the budget requirements set out by the Conservative government, we find ourselves in a position where the only thing we can do is to try to resist, and attempt to mitigate the effects of the most damaging cuts. One such cut is the proposed 80 per cent reduction in funding for the youth services which form the Youth Collective. A coalition of groups, including Pre-Qual, have come together to resist these cuts. These are voluntary youth services which operate in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the city, run by specialist youth workers working with over 3,000 young people a year, many of whom have more complicated and demanding needs than their peers.
The human cost of the proposed cuts to youth services is clear, with statutory services such as CAMHS and R U OK? being forced to deal with a rising demand for their already oversubscribed services without any extra funding. The Labour-controlled council is yet to spell out how these services are expected to cope, and there can be no doubting that the proposed cuts will lead to a marked increase in gang violence, drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, homelessness and suicide attempts among young people in the city. What is also astonishing is the fiscal short-sightedness of the proposals. Research has shown that for every £1 spent by the council on these services, £5.56 is saved. This means that these cuts will actually cost £4,448,000 in policing, health services, homelessness support and community care over the next three years.
All of this is happening under a council which pays its chief executive more than the Prime Minister. The executive team, who are not directly accountable to the people of Brighton and Hove, currently earn in the region of £1.5 million a year. This means that a 30 per cent reduction in yearly executive pay would equal the proposed £1.35 million cut to youth services over the next three years. Time and time again, we are told that the cuts must come from somewhere, yet they only ever seem to effect those of us already struggling, and never the people playing a role in the decision-making process.
If you would like to help the campaign, contact your local councillor, and join us at the War Memorial at Old Steine from 1pm on Saturday as we march through the city to demand councillors protect youth services.
Seb Royle is a member of Pre-Qual, a youth led pro-equality group in Brighton and Hove.