Financial exclusion is an increasing scourge in this city.
As our economy worsens – exacerbated by the failure of this and the last Governments to properly regulate the banking sector - more and more people are unable to access credit and financial services, good money advice, even in some cases to be employed or adequately housed.
This is destroying families and pushing more and more people into either committing or becoming the victims of crime. The police are already warning that we are seeing an increase in acquisitive crime fuelled by financial desperation, and we know that the activities of unscrupulous loan sharks and 'Cash Converters' type high-interest loan providers is on the rise.
A 'Financial Inclusion' strategy due to be adopted by the Council's cabinet today sets out some of the ways in which we are seeking to tackle this:
* By promoting community-based alternatives to high-interest money lenders and even the high street banks whose casino banking approach has caused the financial crisis in which the UK finds itself – for example via the East Sussex Credit Union,
* By supporting the establishment of an 'advice partnership' to make sure all city residents have free access to high-quality financial information,
* And by offering help to residents seeking to improve their understanding of money matters through the city's libraries, and partner organisations, including the Whitehawk Inn and the Bridge Community Education Centre at Falmer.
Of course the problems, at a national level, are expected to worsen before they get better. The introduction of changes to the ways Housing Benefit is calculated, and the planned abolition of Council Tax benefit, will mean it is more important than ever to make sure everyone in the city is able to access financial services and good quality advice on how to manager their household budgets.
I hope that the measures outlined here will go some way to achieving this and insulating the city from some of the impact of disastrous Government policy in this area.