The Council has launched its Your Neighbourhood consultation, which is a public consultation on where to make massive cuts. Go take part, and encourage anyone you know in Bristol to do the same.
You will hear a lot of shirking and buck passing from Marvin Rees and Labour councillors over this, including mention of “the mess left by the last administration” – a line much beloved by many a politician. Labour want to pin as many of these cuts as possible on a “£30 million black hole” left by George Ferguson.
Considering Labour voted through every single one of Ferguson’s budgets, and chaired the committee whose job it was to scrutinise the council’s finances, it’s a bit suspicious that these concerns have only come up since Labour took over.
It’s also conspicuous that, despite yearly calls by Bristol Greens to do so, Marvin Rees has made no attempt to take any significant stand against cuts to the council budget. The leader of Bristol Greens, cllr Eleanor Combley, has once again called on him to rally the core cities together in a stand against austerity, writing recently:
“As Bristol now has a Labour mayor, a Labour majority on the council and four Labour MPs representing it, surely there is no excuse for Labour not to do what they were elected for – they should use the momentum they have now to work across the core cities (the 10 largest cities outside of London).
“They should push the government to accept that the cuts to local government funding are completely unachievable, and will have a devastating effect. We will be more than happy to support the administration if they do.”
The electoral map in Bristol is currently peak Labour. Unfortunately, the Labour Party tends towards hubris when it finds itself in a position of strength, quickly forgetting the long road it took to come to power. As cllr Combley put it:
“The context since these cuts were first proposed has changed, and we are now in a much stronger position to oppose the Tory austerity budget that underlies them. There are hints from Number 10 that Theresa May could be retreating from austerity, and we want to see Labour pushing the Tories on this issue, not continuing to implement Tory cuts as they have done in Bristol over the last year.
“Bristol sent out a clear message last week that they are not content to sit by and have services slashed around them. They put their faith in Labour to stand up against austerity.”
There is only so long that Labour can continue pointing at the Tories, saying, “they made us do it”. We have the weakest Prime Minister, and the most precariously balanced Government of a generation.
If Marvin Rees refuses to take a bold stand against austerity now, then he is effectively agreeing with the cuts regime, however heavy he claims his heart to be.
Simon Stafford-Townsend is a political blogger, writing as PsychoPolitico. He lives and works in central Bristol with his partner and child, and is a Green Party member of the watermelon persuasion. Tweet him sometime: @PsychoPolitico.