5 September 2017
An Open Letter from Bristol Greens to the People of Bristol
On Saturday 9th September, Green party members will be joining Bristolians from many different organisations and none, to stand up for our city and call for an end to austerity. The Green Party has long stood against austerity. As Caroline Lucas said back in 2014, “It wasn't the poor who caused the economic crisis. It wasn't people on Jobseeker's Allowance who brought down the banks. It wasn't people with disabilities who wasted billions speculating on risky financial markets. So that's why we're here to say: stop punishing the poor."
Undoubtedly, our poorest will suffer most from the cuts to local services, but all of us in Bristol are going to feel the impact over the next few years as valued services disappear. It can be difficult to grasp the scale of these cuts. Bristol City Council has cut tens of millions of pounds from the budget every year as the central government contribution to the budget has been pared away. With the current consultation many people are starting to see what is at risk – for example in the potential loss of around two thirds of Bristol’s libraries – but even if all those cuts are made we will still be a long way short of balancing our budget.
In 2010, 80% of local authority funding came from central government through the revenue support grant; by 2020 the government plans to cut that to zero. Meanwhile a proposal to allow councils to replace at least part of that by keeping their own business rate income has mysteriously disappeared from this year’s Queen’s Speech. Research has shown that the deepest cuts have been to authorities in urban areas with concentrations of deprivation, like Bristol. Over the last 7 years poorer councils have been forced to cut local services by up to 9 times more than more affluent areas.
We have to keep challenging the myth that austerity is some kind of economic necessity, or that it even makes sense – Portugal’s sustained economic growth since its rejection of austerity shows the idea up as the voodoo economics it really is.
We have to keep standing up and saying that the services we want simply cannot be provided within the budgets proposed. It is not acceptable to cut public services and lose vital shared spaces like libraries forever. It is not acceptable to cut funding now to preventative public health and social support and shove higher costs onto the taxpayers a few years down the line. It is not acceptable to hit our poorest households with a huge tax rise by cutting the Council Tax Reduction Scheme. We will be proud to stand up and make these points on the streets of Bristol on 9th September. And every day, in opposition, we’ll also continue to challenge the worst cuts.
These cuts, let there be no mistake, are being doled out by the Labour administration, who despite their supposed rejection of austerity continue to hide behind Conservative rhetoric of ‘efficiency’ and ‘responsibility’ while voting to slash vital local services. Several times Green Councillors have made constructive suggestions, proposing amendments that would have worked within the limited budget to lessen the worst impacts. The Labour administration has responded by refusing to engage, nodding through deep cuts to Bristol's services rather than consider suggestions from any other groups. So yes, we will be marching to call for an end to austerity being inflicted by central government on cities like Bristol, but also to remind Marvin and the local Labour group of their responsibility to protect the poorest in our city.