SHBC has passed a motion stating its commitment to supporting the LGBTQ+ community.
The motion, put forward by Cllr Morgan Rise (Mytchett and Deepcut) at Full Council on 26 February, asked the Council to note the increase in hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people across the country, and how this group are more likely to suffer from problems including mental illness, homelessness and violence.
In response to this, the Council reconfirmed its commitment to the Equality Act 2010 in promoting equality and eliminating discrimination for all minority groups within Surrey Heath.
Last August SHBC held its first Pride Flag Raising ceremony at Surrey Heath House, an event prompted by 14-year-old Dara McSweeney-Cooke, an LGBTQ+ Ambassador for King’s International College, Camberley, who contacted SHBC Councillors Morgan Rise and Sarah Jane Croke (Frimley), to ask if the Pride Flag could be raised in Surrey Heath.
As part of Cllr Rise’s motion at the latest meeting, the Council committed to an annual Pride Flag raising at Surrey Heath House and to fly the Pride Flag for all of Pride month in Surrey (August) to show visible support from the Council for the LGBTQ+ community.
SHBC will also join other local authorities, including Surrey County Council, in supporting Pride in Surrey’s delivery of community events across the county, including a planned Pride Picnic in Surrey Heath.
The Council also committed to task the Equality Working Group to carry out an audit of the Council’s work to promote LGBGT+ inclusivity, together with outlining an annual work plan for approval by the Executive, to balance the Council’s resources and community priorities within the full range of defined characteristics of the Equality Act 2010.
This will help connect and support the local groups, organisations and charities delivering inclusive services for LGBTQ+ young people in Surrey Heath.
Cllr Rise said: “It was such an honour to present the LGBTQ+ equality motion and I am thrilled that the motion passed unanimously. It is important for a minority community to see places of power become welcoming and inclusive places for them, and with the commitment from Surrey Heath Borough Council to greater LGBTQ+ equality I am sure we will make great strides forward.
“As the only openly gay councillor on the Council this motion was very personal to me, and as I stated in my speech it is so important for the wider LGBTQ+ community to see the Council be a welcoming place for them.”
Surrey Heath Portfolio Holder for Support & Safeguarding Cllr Josephine Hawkins said: “As the Chairman of the Council’s Equality Member Group, I am proud to say our Council is committed to embedding equality and diversity not only in our own employment practices, but also where we can actively support external organisations and partners.
“We seek to have a stronger voice that prevents discrimination, and we recognise that people have different needs and must be treated fairly.
“I am delighted to be a part of this initiative that actively considers the Equality characteristics, and how best we can utilise the opportunity to fully engage with the relevant individuals and groups.
“Having lived in Surrey Heath for much of my life I take pride in being a local councillor, and strive to enable our community to mutually respect people’s individual beliefs.”
The actions outlined through the motion adopted build upon work already being done by SHBC to help encourage equality and inclusivity across the Borough.
For example, over the past year a full review of the existing Revenue Grant scheme was undertaken, looking at whether grants were being made at the correct levels, to the right organisations, and also examining the value for money the grants offered.
The Council increased the cash budget funding available to £200,000 per year (an increase of around £40,000), and this extended scheme becomes effective from 1 April 2020.
New organisations to benefit from this new extended scheme include The Autism Trust, Catalyst and The Hope Hub, whose clients are examples of people with protected characteristics as detailed in the Equality Act 2010.
More information on the Motion
More information on Pride in Surrey