It’s budget time again at the council. Officers and councillors are busy struggling with how best to deal with an estimated budget shortfall in the next financial year of over £18 million.
This follows on from many years of savage cuts in funding by the Conservative government to the council over the last 11 years that now totals £110 million a year.
This makes it extremely difficult to maintain vital services but, in these hard times, Labour is committed to maintaining support for those who are struggling to get by, tackling disadvantage and restoring council services.
So I was disappointed to see the Green administration were proposing to remove £48,000 from “Arts Award” in the new financial year’s budget report at the council’s Budget Policy and Resources Committee.
Arts Award works with young people in the city who are supported by a family coach or social worker.
The scheme particularly focuses on young people who have mental health issues that impact their education, training or employment.
The service is also offered to young people who are in care and care leavers.
It inspires and encourages young people to grow as artists and arts leaders. It’s creative, rewarding and accessible. It’s a flexible scheme enabling users to achieve an Arts Award in any area of the arts, from fashion to digital art, pottery to poetry.
Arts Award offers three levels of qualifications – Bronze, Silver and Gold – and they are recognised nationally.
The Gold is a level 3 qualification – equivalent to an A level or BTEC National – and carries 16 UCAS points which can help young people with university applications.
I have heard from users and parents who have informed me how vital this scheme is when other more mainstream educational provision isn’t available due to an individual young person’s needs.
Some of the benefits of the Arts Award are that
- it is an accessible scheme for young people when others aren’t accessible due to individual needs
- it helps to gently facilitate users to gain confidence and build practical and social skills
- the accredited award itself supports CV building, access to more education and ultimately employment opportunities
This is a vital service that tackles disadvantage and is absolutely essential for many of our young people in our city particularly during this difficult time.
I have of course urged the administration to reconsider this painful budget cut that will, in effect, decimate this service if approved at the Budget Council meeting next Thursday (25 February).
Let’s hope they listen to what we have said.
Councillor John Allcock is the joint Labour opposition leader on Brighton and Hove City Council.