As the former Liberal Youth Chair in Northamptonshire it was a campaign that is very close to my heart. Too many LGBT young people are subjected to terrible abuse and bullying – just because of who they are.
When I was elected to the County Council in 2009 I wanted to do everything I could to make sure that all people in Northamptonshire were treated equally, regardless of their age, background, sexuality, race or faith. When I heard about Stonewall’s “Education Champions Programme”, offering training, information and support to local schools to tackle homophobic bullying, I thought “great, this is exactly what the Council should be doing!”
Unfortunately the Conservative administration at County Hall do not see it the same way. Across the country many councils have signed up to work with Stonewall. However, when I spoke up about the programme at a council meeting and asked the Cabinet Member for Schools in Northamptonshire about it, he made it very clear that he wasn’t interested and Northamptonshire wouldn’t be signing up.
Like all good Lib Dems though, I wasn’t going to let the Tories get in the way! In Northamptonshire we have a “Councillor Empowerment Fund” available for every Councillor to spend. So, over the last two years I have directly funded the programme out of my grant money – £1800 in 2011/12, £1800 in 2012/13 – becoming the only Councillor in the country to fund the scheme in this way.
So when people say you can’t make a difference through politics, I know this isn’t true. By working with Stonewall I’ve been able to achieve something that I, and others, have campaigned for over many years. Homophobic bullying in schools is unacceptable and I’m proud to say that I’m doing what I can to stamp it out.
* Richard Giddings is councillor for Lumbertubs division on Northamptonshire County Council