Last night in Brighton and Hove the Council managed to pass the budget for the next financial year on its second attempt. One of the areas which has suffered, but thankfully not as much as could easily have been the case was the funding for charities and the community sector. A great deal of the credit for this goes to Joanna Martindale who tirelessly worked on behalf of the voluntary and community sector coordinated by Community Works to articulate reasons for the cuts to be as light as possible. However it is tragic that people like Jo who already work incredibly hard to deliver services to vulnerable people, then have to spend hours explaining what a few more pounds could achieve to both Councillors and Council Officers.
The following paragraph appears in slightly shortened form in todays Argus newspaper and like the success of Jo’s hard work it reflects how the impact of a few volunteers and a small amount of state funding can change the outcome for a large number of people.
On Tuesday I had the privilege of attending a meeting focused on the nightime economy of Brighton & Hove in Hove Town Hall. A number of Councillors and Council workers attended to listen to a range of speakers, all of whom work on our behalf to keep residents and visitors to the city safe every weekend of the year. Some are paid for the work they do and their hard work is no less vital because of that, but there were others who give their time free of charge to help our city protect its visitors. The nightclubs and pubs in the city which are one of the main reasons that several Million people visit Brighton and Hove each year, vary in their approach to the need to ensure that visitors are protected from harm while they are in the city. Some regularly contribute to help fund the various services and others have yet to do so. One of the newest services that involves volunteers is the Beach Patrol which utilises a quad bike equipped to keep an eye on people who venture onto the beach after dark and put their lives at risk. We also heard from a project that is part of Downslink YMCA called Safe Space which operates from St Paul’s Church in West Street to provide counselling and a place for Red Cross volunteers to be based. The Red Cross volunteers act as a buffer both geographically and also in terms of care between people who are taken ill in the West Street area and the A&E Department which is always under great threat. Because of their location Safe Space saves the NHS an enormous sum in Ambulance journeys across the city. The final set of stories came from the Street Pastors who come from a range of backgrounds and patrol the Streets every Friday night looking out for vulnerable people. It is fantastic that so much care of people is taken every weekend.
All three services have ideas about how they could improve and extend their services. All three manage on small budgets (or none in the case of Street Pastors). The cost of Safe Space is £60,000 a year and Beach Patrol £12,000 a year. It is clear that they each save the statutory services a great deal of money in the way they operate. We need creative thinking so that the fund raising efforts can be reduced and the Council and Businesses and even places like the Universities contribute a meaningful sum to get us the best set of services we can offer.