Our children are being abandoned by our lack of council service provision in Southampton. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition presents a clear programme of intervention to raise our class out of poverty.
When we attend Socialist Party stalls in the centre of Southampton, everyone who stops and speaks to us knows something terrible has gone wrong in our society. 36% of our children in Southampton are living in poverty, while 33% of pupils in state-funded schools in Southampton are eligible for free school meals; the national average is 22.5%.
A November 2021 Southampton City Council report on NHS mental health provision stated that Southampton generally compares poorly with the nine nearest neighbours for identification of need, protective and primary prevention factors in relation to mental health. It has the highest percent of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), who have social, emotional and mental health needs. It has the second highest self-harm admissions aged 10-24 years. It is the third (of 64) most deprived local authority (LA) districts in the South East (SE).
It has the second lowest percentage of 15-year-olds reporting positive life satisfaction. It has the lowest average score of emotional, mental health and wellbeing statements. It has the fourth highest free school meals score and the highest repeat child protection cases. It has the third highest number of children in care, and the SEND highest percentage of school-aged SEN pupils.
Southampton is the most dangerous city in Hampshire. In 2022 crime was 58% higher than in the whole of Hampshire. For the UK as a whole, Southampton is among the top five most dangerous cities. The most common crimes in Southampton are violence and sexual offences. A Southampton City Council survey from last year highlighted that approximately 50% of Southampton’s population feel unsafe out after dark.
How did we get here?
This situation has occurred mainly through drastic cuts to social welfare, 14 years of stagnation in salary increases, the lack of a council housing building programme to meet the needs of the Southampton population, the closure of Sure Start centres, the council youth centres in the city and the sacking of staff, as well as the lack of provision of a functioning mental health system that meets the needs of our community.
There is no new social housing or council housing available in Southampton. There is at least a five-year waiting list and the council website clearly directs you to private renting. Three out of five private renters cannot afford the cost of living, plunging them into poverty.
In 2017 the National Youth Agency reported that the fundamental causes of knife crime and violence are a result of inequality, deprivation, lack of trust in our social institutions and a loss of year-round and voluntarily accessible youth services. Their analysis in relation to services for young people also shows that these areas have suffered from large cuts to their youth service provision.
All of this was predictable and was clearly stated by the Southampton TUSC council candidate for Swathing Ward and ex-youth worker, Nick Chaffey, during the 2013 campaign to keep youth services open: “If you don’t give them [young people] support, many of them will end up costing us far more being put into detention centres.”
Proposals for change
In 2019, Unison reviewed the state of youth service provision in the UK and it came to the conclusion that it should return to its pre-2010 provision. Councils have a statutory duty to provide youth services. It states that current rules allow youth service provision to be merged into other services and be provided as part of a broad package of educational and social care measures. As a result, real youth work is being lost. When youth services go, benefits to young people and communities are lost – along with the resulting savings in intervention services further down the line. Local authorities must have a genuine duty to provide universal, open access youth services, backed up by the necessary resources, such as qualified staff and a dedicated building known to the youth of the community. Proper funding of mental health provision is also lost due to this merging of services.
When Southampton youth services provision was being stripped from the community in 2013, Keith Morrell and Don Thomas, Southampton TUSC councillors, put forward a clear balanced budget to Southampton Labour council, proposing to use the council’s legal powers to access borrowing, financed by reserves, to fund the budget deficit and protect all jobs and services in the city, including fully-staffed youth centres. This defiant stand would have bought time and prevented council cuts. If linked up with other councils, it would have laid the basis for a huge campaign to force a government U-turn on council spending and restore the money stolen from the council since 2010. However, the Labour councillors rejected it, chose to carry out Tory/Lib Dem cuts, delaying some for a future budget, and the loss of our youth and mental health services began.
The Southampton TUSC is campaigning on the following programme in the May 2023 council election to:
Fund school kitchens to provide free meals for all school children including FE colleges in collaboration with Ex-Labour Councillor Barrie Margetts (now independent), ex-councillor Keith Morrell and Don Thomas.
Use council licensing powers to cap rents and regulate landlords. We say no to evictions!
Increase hardship payments. Open up council buildings for warmth and shelter now.
Reinstate council run youth service provision throughout the wards of Southampton, providing state of the art, fully resourced buildings with professional staff, including mental health professionals as well as youth workers.
Launch a massive carbon zero council house building programme where staff are directly employed by the council with union protection.
Improve workers’ pay and conditions through supporting union strike action. Fight for £15/hour minimum wage.
Campaign to defend the rights of all marginalised communities to access public services including the provision of free medical provision to the trans community.
Campaign to bringing our buses under public council control, not just pay private companies to run it on behalf of the council and say it is a municipal bus service
Introduce a free bus service and restore routes which will encourage the use of public transport to reduce air pollution. Do not penalise vehicle drivers and small businesses through the implementation of regressive Low Carbon Neighbourhoods policies.
Campaign to return all our lost services back under council control, including our social care, pre-school and nursery provision. Two pre-school nurseries have been closed in Southampton this February 2023. This can be achieved through using reserves and borrowing powers and a city wide campaign to force the Tory Government to restore the £1 billion stolen from our council since 2010.
Campaign for proportional representation in our political voting system as well as an end to the use of ID cards to vote in a council or general election.
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