Happy New Year. Welcome to 2019 and – just a little advance warning – there’s a local election coming across the city in less than four months.
For many in our city though the thought of a happy new year or any sense of excitement from the coming local elections will be completely absent.
Increasingly, ongoing Tory austerity is leading to greater use of foodbanks across the city, more families struggling in worsening financial circumstances, insecure employment becoming the norm and hope for any improvement diminishing daily.
That’s not just my impression of how things are, but it’s also exactly what I have heard from local residents already this year at my first surgery at my local foodbank.
It doesn’t take much these days to push people over the edge from struggling to drowning in debt. There are all too many ways in which people small hopes of improvement can be dashed by the system or by faceless decisions taken far from their local community.
However as a City Council, despite not having any one party in majority control, we are working hard to make sure that we do our bit to keep things as stable as possible for those at most risk of toppling into debt.
Working alongside a range of important partners in the city and by ensuring we make the best use of the money available, we have worked to ensure that those who are most in need can have access to debt advice, council tax reduction, financial planning, discretionary funds and community banking.
As a city we are lucky to have such a strong range of partner organisations committed to help those struggling financially across our communities.
And we shouldn’t imagine that these services haven’t also felt the impact of Tory austerity – both on their funding streams but also on the sheer number of local residents who are needing support and finding things tough.
Christmas often makes things even tougher with expectations high and finances low. The new year can be the time that all of these pressures start to mount and the burden of debt becomes most clearly felt.
If you know anyone who could do with some initial advice then try the helpline 0800 988 7037 or look them up online.
I wish everyone a peaceful and calm 2019.
Councillor Daniel Yates is the Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council.