Happy New Year from the Green group of councillors! The general election means this is my first column since November.
Given the election results, we must be prepared for continuing destructive Conservative welfare “reform” and further austerity that will hit the most marginalised hardest.
“Freedom of information” requests from trade union Unison reveal the magnitude of Conservative government cuts over the last decade: in England council funding has been axed by a massive £16 billion.
It can be little surprise then that adult social care across the country is under colossal strain.
While demand has shot up, government funding hasn’t kept pace – and we have little clarity about funding beyond the next two years.
Against this backdrop we have been concerned to see that the Labour council budget plans reveal a series of worrying cuts: a £1.9 million reduction in funding for learning disability community care, cuts to domestic and sexual violence services, the voluntary sector – and respite and short breaks for children with disabilities.
Specific areas are again being cut where we can least afford them. Cuts to domestic violence services come months after Labour abandoned similar cuts – and weeks after councillors of all parties lent their support to a Brighton Women’s Centre conference.
As the official opposition, we will scrutinise Labour’s budget, provide constructive feedback and will try to amend out the worst elements.
However, we are only allowed six amendments.
Our most vulnerable residents must not be made to bear the brunt of cuts and we call on Labour to revise proposals that will negatively affect marginalised groups.
In 2020, our city faces important challenges: housing and homelessness and tackling the climate crisis. We also face the critical issue of funding.
Greens are calling for legislation to finally give residents, councils and the NHS the certainty around adult social care we need.
We will continue to push ministers for urgent investment in adult social care and local government funding which reflects the demand placed upon it.
If councils are going to continue to help you, the communities we serve, we need nothing less.
Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty is the convenor of the opposition Green group on Brighton and Hove City Council.