The activities of Government is a phrase that could be used to describe the setting of budgets to protect vulnerable people, the taking of bribes for asking questions in Parliament or to agree a planning decision, the lighting of street lamps, emptying of our dustbins, the caring for an elderly neighbour or the failure to protect a child from an abuser and many stages in between. A great deal of this work is carried out by the private sector or by charities that have been commissioned to work on behalf of the state or that are working in partnership with Government or local Government. In reality for every bribe or failure that comes to light there are many 100’s or 1000’s of unseen and unheard examples of good practice that even elected representatives seem to overlook. Last Wednesday as part of a debate in Parliament on the budget Alison McGovern a Labour MP for Wirral said the following in her response to Caroline Lucas “I have been to Brighton and seen people rough-sleeping, and it worries me greatly that the council there is insufficiently focused on those with the least.” I find this comment very disturbing as I am one of a number of people working with partners that include the Police, Voluntary Sector, NHS and yes the Council to improve the life chances for those who rough sleep in Brighton every year. What is more, the services provided, in part due to the combined effort of local government agencies has become a great deal more innovative in the last 2 years thanks to the hard work of people like John Routledge and Helen Keats working for a range of partners. I raised my concern about this misrepresentation through a blog which has been widely read and yet the Labour Party with the exception of one Councillor who is very hard working and a person of great integrity has remained silent.
My point is that whilst I have no way of knowing how focused any of our Councillors are on those with the least beyond my own interaction with them, nor how many problems exist within the work of around 8000 Council workers each day in our city, I do know there is clear evidence of the broad partnership working for rough sleepers in our city in a more determined manner than has been the case in many previous years. If Labour MPs from across the UK wish to criticise our Green led Council administration they are clearly entitled to do so, one could question if a debate in Parliament on the national budget is the best time and place for this but whenever they choose to do so it is surely reasonable to ask them to speak in a manner that does not discredit what is actually working well. It is not as though we don’t have other issues which are not effective, or indeed that the Labour Party don’t have other things to focus on. I have already offered to show Alison how effective the partnership is and other voluntary sector partners have agreed to join us if She can be bothered to take up the offer (she will be in the city in September for the Labour Party Conference). Sadly the local Labour Party appear unable to get past the idea that the Green Council is in their view ‘insufficiently focused’, I sense they are unaware of the good work being carried out for rough sleepers, or else it is simply convenient for them not to even discuss the matter!