Life-saving condom scheme dropped by Manchester Pride handed vital lifeline

Manchester Pride

Manchester Council has secured £10,000 to continue a life-saving safer sex scheme after it was controversially dropped by Manchester Pride.

The popular LGBT Foundation scheme had been supported by Manchester Pride since it began nearly 30 years ago, allowing more than 31 million packs of free condoms and lube to be distributed across Greater Manchester.

News that Pride had “cut ties” with the charity was met with outrage from the community and prompted claims that the event had become nothing more than a “music festival”.

With the safer sex scheme in jeopardy, LGBT Foundation applied for council funding to continue distributing packs in a range of outlets across the city, predominantly in the Gay Village area.

On Sunday (15 August) Piccadilly councillors Adele Douglas, Sam Wheeler and Jon Connor Lyons announced they had secured £10,000 for the initiative, Manchester Gazette reports.

“By being free at the point of use these services help the most vulnerable,” said councillor Douglas. “The LGBT Foundation’s work has saved lives over the last thirty years and I’m proud we can support them during this period as they seek new funding.”

The money will come from Manchester City Council’s neighbourhood investment fund which allocates funding to community priorities in each ward in Manchester.

It amounts to a quarter of the scheme’s annual running cost of £40,000, with each pack costing around 39p. A further £40,000 has been raised through a GoFundMe page established by businesses of the city’s Gay Village, who joined forces to fill the funding gap.

“We have seen the public and local businesses step up after the change to the funding relationship,” councillor Wheeler said, “and with this pledge Manchester City Council will continue its historic support for our LGBT+ community.”

Manchester Pride agrees to undergo a ‘transparent review’

The announcement came after council representatives convened a meeting between Manchester Pride, the LGBT Foundation and fellow charity George House Trust at Manchester Town Hall on Thursday (12 August) to discuss the way forward.

Manchester Pride agreed to conduct a “transparent review” of its processes this autumn following a damning BBC investigation that raised serious questions about the event’s finances and notable drop in charitable contributions.

The review will take views from a wide-reaching range of stakeholders and the community about the future direction of the festival, and the result will be published along with an action plan.

After the festival the council will convene another meeting to explore how Pride can continue to support the work of the two charities on an ongoing basis.

LGBT Foundation and George House Trust described the meeting as “constructive”.

“Although our current funding partnerships are ending, we’re grateful Manchester Pride has pledged to help fund our vital community services in the future,” said LGBT Foundation chief executive Paul Martin and George House Trust chief executive Darren Knight.

“The announcement of a review is welcome, but we believe that Pride must go further,” they added. “There is a clear message coming from our community that real change is needed so this must be a truly radical review into Manchester Pride’s format and purpose.

“Ultimately it is the views of Greater Manchester’s LGBTQ+ community that count, and this is what they are calling for.”