This is my weekly update for the week beginning the 20th November.
The Budget: How does it affect Brighton & Hove?
Last week's budget was a real disappointment. For people in Brighton and Hove and beyond, and especially those with the least, this budget will lock in the pain of years of slashed budgets. Wave after wave of cuts have left our public services stretched to the limit and families up and down the country face poverty this Christmas. We needed a change in direction from this callous Government, but instead this budget will lock more people in poverty with a continuation of the benefits freeze - and add further pressure on our schools, hospitals
and local councils.
Ahead of the Budget I had written to the Treasury on a number of key issues that affect Brighton and Hove, and I spoke during the debate about the Tory's disastrous environment plans.
On the BBC Budget programme I called on the Government to fund our crisis-hit schools, rather than pursuing their extreme brexit which is set to suck billions from the treasury.
The Government’s housing pledge doesn’t go near what’s needed to solve this crisis. As I argued in the Argus on Monday, we needed a specific focus on building social housing, which is genuinely affordable. Instead we have a housing target which could see homes built that people can’t afford to live in - and continued inaction on the spiralling rents we’re seeing in Brighton and Hove.
This week's brexit chaos was around the amount of money that Britain is set to pay the EU over the next few years. Britain has a number of commitments that we are required to pay during the Brexit process, but stubborn Tory backbenchers have pinned the Government into a corner and meant they've refused to countenance paying the amount required. On Tuesday morning I was on BBC Breakfast with arch-brexiteer Nigel Evans discussing the issue [link].
You may have read this week about an amendment I tabled in the EU Withdrawal Bill that would enshrine animal protection into UK law during Brexit. The law, which is part of the Lisbon Treaty, recognises animals as sentient beings and instructs governments to create laws which take into account their wellbeing. Sadly the Tories voted this amendment down last week, but thanks to campaigning from thousands of people they look set to u-turn and incorporate animal sentience into UK law soon. I've asked the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, to re-table my amendment with me, and was on Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday to re-emphasise the case.
Fair trade deals
Modern trade deals can have profound effects on many areas of domestic policy – from health, to jobs, to environment, to food safety. They impact the lives of people not only in the UK but around the world. It is essential to have as much democratic accountability for trade deals as for domestic legislation. Yet at the moment Parliament has no say over trade deals, nor do devolved administrations. This needs to change as the UK prepares for an independent trade policy.
On Tuesday I spoke at the launch of Global Justice Now’s trade campaign in Parliament - and reiterated the Green Party’s commitment to proper democratic oversight over trade deals. You can get involved in the campaign here.
I was honoured to be invited to open the Parliamentary screening of 'Dispossession', a film about the housing crisis. It feels that this documentary has come at a pivotal moment. The devastating fire at Grenfell Tower earlier this year has focussed the country’s attention on the crumbling state of social housing in the UK - but what should have been a watershed moment has not yet been met with the urgent action necessary.
Do take a look at the film here: https://www.dispossessionfilm.com/#0
Cohabitation awareness week
Not many people realise that cohabiting couple have little or no legal protection or ability to access support if their relationship breaks down and they separate. There are currently more than six million people in the UK who live together without being married or in a civil partnership, and cohabitees are the fastest growing family type. With this in mind I tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament urging the Government to act upon proposals that cohabitees meeting eligibility criteria indicating a committed relationship have a legal right to apply to the courts for certain financial orders if they separate.
Carers’ Hub Launch
On Friday I was pleased to be at the launch of the Carers Hub in Brighton on Friday - a new one stop shop with a brand new phone line (01273 977000) and dedicated website www.carershub.co.uk, run via a partnership of the Carers Centre, the Alzheimer's Society, Crossroads Care, and the local council. It will be a comprehensive resource of information, advice and access to organisations who can make life a bit easier for the many amazing carers in the city. The launch was marked with an open top bus courtesy of Brighton and Hove Bus company and a number of stops across the city.
Brighton University Students Union
It was great to catch up with the SU to discuss a range of issues, from the cost and reliability of local bus services, to pressures on housing, and the specific challenges facing international students. I was particularly impressed to hear about the union's commitment to supporting mental health needs of students