Labour supporters rallied outside Croydon's Family Justice Centre on Monday fighting government cuts that will affect domestic violence victims in the borough.
The Centre, which was the first of its kind to open in Europe in 2005, tackles a range of social welfare issues, focussing on civil justice and domestic violence cases. It is used by approximately 1000 people each month.
A campaign to save the Centre was launched by Croydon Labour Women's Forum. Croydon has the highest number of reported incidents of domestic violence in London and is seen as an important facility serving the borough.
Jennette Arnold OBE, London Assembly member and campaigner for women's rights, attended the rally. She said: "This is not a service that should just disappear in the night. Croydon Women's Forum have looked at the evidence and they've listened to people – especially women. When you look at the evidence, when you listen to people, you know there is as big an issue in Croydon as elsewhere."
The cuts mean that there is only one rape and sexual assault worker and one children's counsellor at the Centre. Childcare and court accompaniment services are also no longer available.
Croydon Council insist that there is no threat to the Centre, as the current budget of £562,000 will increase to £622,000 in 2013/14 due, in part, to government funding. A spokesperson from the council said that: "Nobody from that group has come to the council to raise any concerns. We are confused and baffled."
Councillor Wayne Lawlor, Labour councillor for South Norwood, responded to the council's confusion claiming that Steve O'Connell, the Conservative cabinet member for Finance and Performance Management has admitted that the Centre would lose about £200,000 a year.
Lawlor said: "If you look at the funding historically from when the Conservatives took control, there have most definitely been cuts made. The protest was to highlight the devastating cuts the Family Justice Centre has been experiencing. The large proportion of users are women who are experiencing domestic violence and it's important that the funding is maintained."
The rally accompanies the Million Women Rising campaign that will march against domestic violence in central London on International Women's Day, 8 March.