City Risks ‘Losing Momentum’ On Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls

Two of the city’s female Labour councillors are calling for more action and urgency in the implementation of the recommendations of the city’s Commission on Violence Against Women and Girls.

The call comes amidst fears that funding cuts could hit resourcing ahead of the one-year anniversary of the murder of 18-year-old Bobbi-Anne McLeod last year.

The councillors are bringing a motion to full council next week calling for action in a number of areas including additional Government funding to deliver on the recommendations as well as a public communications plan on how the recommendations will be implemented. 

Plymouth Labour’s spokesperson on Violence Against Women and Girls, Cllr Charlotte Holloway, is proposing the motion which will be seconded by Cllr Zoe Reilly, who will be speaking publicly for the first time about her own experience of domestic abuse.

“I was pleased, with others, to call the formation of a VAWG Commission last December, which was created following the horrific murder of Bobbi-Anne McLeod and received cross-party support,” said Cllr Holloway, who was elected in Drake Ward in May.

“Whilst there are pockets of good work under way there is a fear that, against the wider context of budget cutbacks and political turbulence, the city risks losing momentum in making the Commission’s recommendations a reality.

“The Commission reported in May 2022 with 15 recommendations and public consultation. This motion is intended to ensure that, a year on from the events of last November, that there is greater transparency, accountability and resourcing for making the recommendations a reality.

“The public outpouring of emotion last year will stay with us all for a very long time. Shock, grief and anger combined with personal experiences on personal safety saw people from across Plymouth come together in wanting positive change to come from the abject senselessness of Bobbi-Anne’s death. Quite rightly, they looked to our city’s leaders for that change and a concerted focus on tackling violence against women and girls.

 “It’s time for more action, renewed leadership and fresh communication with the public ahead of this important anniversary.”

Seconding the motion, recently-elected councillor for Honicknowle, Zoe Reilly said: “I am proud to be a Campaign Champion for Women’s Aid and I am proud to be seconding this motion as a survivor. However, like many others, I’m equally saddened that tackling violence needs to be an issue in the first place. I aim to show women that it is ok to speak up, and that they are safe to do so. It’s so important to stop blaming survivors and be open about the barriers women face within society when they try to escape, then we wouldn’t have to be asked the question “Why didn’t you leave?”.

Councillor Chris Penberthy, who is Plymouth Labour’s spokesperson on Community Safety, said it was “important” to remember that the main perpetrators of violence against women and girls are men and boys.

 “We need to challenge other men who we see acting towards women and girls in inappropriate, sexualised, aggressive and violent ways,” said Cllr Penberthy, who is a St Peter and the Waterfront councillor.

“I am really frustrated that this is not given the priority it needs if we are to stop violence against women and girls. It’s time for the Council and men to step up to the plate and call out bad behaviour.”