Cllr Louise Gibbard, Dunvant, gave a fantastic speech at council this week in support of the Labour administration’s proposed budget for 2020/21.  With her kind permission, we’ve published it here:

Thank you presiding member for allowing me to speak and also for highlighting this Sunday’s International Women’s Day. I wanted to speak in support of this budget and link it to IWD which is a celebration but also a chance to recognise the damage that gender inequality does to all of us in society.

I’m very proud to support this budget that shows some of the biggest investment in our services, communities and individual citizens for a decade (in spite of the attempts of the opposition to block so much of it with their amendment).

But it also gives me pause to think just how much more we could be doing if Westminster hadn’t turned off the tap since 2010 due to their unnecessary and politically motivated choice of austerity. Cllr Paxton-Hood Williams talked about levels of funding from Welsh Labour government but the key problems I’ll outline come from Westminster and are national UK wide issues for which our council has to pick up the pieces.

In the last few weeks several reports have come out showing how this choice has had a serious affect on our citizens with the poorest, women, people of colour, the disabled and LGBT people continuing to bear the brunt of cuts and so called “reforms”.

Life expectancy has stalled for the first time in 100 years and has reversed for the poorest women. This in the UK in 2020. The sixth richest country in the world. And Professor Marmot who led the review is very clear on the causes of this saying “austerity has taken a significant toll on equity and health, and it is likely to continue to do so” and that “poverty has a grip on our nation’s health- it limits the options families have available to live a healthy lifestyle.”

He is also very clear that this decline in living standards is not down to individual choices which I have I’m very sad to say I’ve heard some suggest on the opposite benches in this chamber. Instead, he points to the increase in precarious work, zero hours contracts and reliance on foodbanks.

And its no surprise that this is hurting women. Mothers in particular are being forced in to poorly-paid and part time jobs (often several of them) and struggle to juggle their families and work. Making the heartbreaking decisions to feed their kids and not themselves.

Of course its not just women. Another recently released study has looked at unemployed young men and shown that they are twice as likely to see a GP for anxiety and depression, three times more likely to smoke and drink and 10 times more likely to attempt suicide. Austerity kills.

But these young men don’t live in a bubble and yet more recent reports have highlighted the huge increases in violence against women and girls. 2/3rds of 14-21 year old girls and young women have experienced sexual harassment in public places, 37% say they have experienced this at school. The number of women killed by a current or an ex-partner have risen by 27% a year. It was already on average 2 women a week. I can’t say this enough- AUSTERITY KILLS.

So in this week of our budget and International Women’s day, while I am thrilled to see a bit more money trickle in and proud of many of the choices we are making here in Swansea to improve our citizens’ lives. I just can’t contain my anger at the past lost decade and its likely impact for many more years to come.