AS MANY as 50 people gathered on the seafront to protest against a decision to strip a charity of its contract to provide support in the city.

People held a petition of 25,000 signatures on Brighton seafront this afternoon in protest against the controversial decision made by the council last week.

The charity was recently told that it had not won the £5 million seven-year contract starting in April although it has been providing the service for about £1.4 million a year until now.

Rise has run refuge and helpline services in Brighton and Hove for the past 26 years.

The Argus: The protest on Brighton Seafront The protest on Brighton Seafront

The contract runs until 2025 and is funded by the two councils – East Sussex and Brighton and Hove – and the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner.

Domestic abuse survivors put together a website and started a petition which was signed by more than 20,000 people in just six days.

Stretching almost 30 metres, people held up the banner of names while chanting "rise up" in unison.

The Argus: Campaigner Nicola BengeCampaigner Nicola Benge

Campaigner Nicola Benge told The Argus the move from Brighton and Hove City Council said

"I went into shock when Rise lost their contract.

"I want to know that an organisation like Rise can protect and support victims - and their families - in every aspect of their lives.

"Breaking up those services to limited companies will not save lives.

"It is absolutely shambolic."

Onlookers and passersby stopped and took photographs of the demonstration that took place for over an hour.

The Argus: Police watching onPolice watching on

Organisers gave out leaflets, urging the public to contact their local councillors to make them aware of the issue.

Beverly Scott has lived in the city for 15 years and said Rise has provided "excellent" provision for women.

She said: "Rise is a byword for excellent provision for women in the city.

"Obviously, I cannot speak for everybody but I certainly found out about the petition and spread it amongst my friends and I have never had such a response.

"I think most women in the city know someone who has used the service and know what a great service it is."