ANTI-domestic violence campaigners fear vulnerable women could be placed in danger despite promises that work to eradicate abuse is being protected.
Protestors today made a stand on the Guildhall steps against controversial plans to cut £155,000 from Portsmouth City Council’s domestic abuse service.
The plan, which would have seen the number of city workers supporting victims reduced from 13 to five, formed part of the Tory administration’s 2016/2017 £11m savings programme.
The protest spilled into the council chamber where the proposals were discussed, as protestors spread a ‘cutting dv services kills women’ banner over the public gallery, prompting the debate to be briefly adjourned.
But Tory council leader Donna Jones later said £155,000 would be taken from the environment and community safety service’s reserves to plug the gap for the next 12 months, and councillors are running their own support surgeries.
She said her team will lobby police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes to secure government cash.
We know every three hours in Portsmouth, police receive a call about domestic violence. So if this service is cut, it will result in women dying.Janelle Brown, of feminist group Sisters Uncut
Yet domestic violence groups aren’t convinced by the strategy.
Shonagh Dillon, chief executive of Aurora New Dawn, said: ‘I knew they would be able to save the service for a year; but that’s only 12 months. I am not sure what their strategy policy is around finding that funding from elsewhere. I am concerned about the rhetoric of councillors running their own surgeries. If they can’t find this money, it means women don’t get their service, and their lives will be at risk and placed in danger.’
Janelle Brown, of feminist group Sisters Uncut, warned ahead of the meeting: ‘We know every three hours in Portsmouth, police receive a call about domestic violence. So if this service is cut, it will result in women dying.’
Cllr Jones said: ‘Domestic violence is one of the key causes of crime in Portsmouth, it is also one of the biggest reasons family units break down and children end up in care.
‘We are committed to developing and enhancing this service.’
Other services were dealt a blow as the rest of the £11m cost-cutting plan was endorsed.
Community centres will see grants for activities and repairs reined in and a unit that supports victims of hate crime will go. Fewer people will receive support for substance and alcohol misuse and some sexual health activities will be scaled back and axed as part of £2.6m savings in the health and social care service.
Almost a quarter of the traffic budget – £800,000 – will be lost, with subsidies to bus companies cut and negotiations opened over the price of routes.