At Full Council today Bristol’s Green Councillors called for Labour Mayor Marvin Rees to back up his words on austerity with actions. However, the Labour group rejected an amendment to their ‘anti-austerity’ motion which called for ‘loud and active resistance’ to austerity.
The amendment suggested the Mayor follow the example of Stroud District Council, which is run by a cross-party cooperation agreement among Labour, Green and Lib Dem councillors and recently stated it would refuse to repay the government around £500,000 (See press release by Stroud Labour and coverage in local press). It also called for the Mayor to consider budget amendments from other councillor groups, instead of voting them down with a whipped Labour vote, as happened in February 2017 when Labour rejected Green budget amendments that would have saved the council £1.7 million. (2)
Proposing the Green amendment, Councillor Carla Denyer said:
“When the Mayor went to Westminster in the autumn, a few days after participating in the anti-cuts rally, the ‘Green Paper’ he took with him was, contrary to the spin, not a treatise on reversing the cuts. It was an argument for investment in infrastructure projects and devolution. And even this painfully polite, not-ruffling-any-feathers request was completely ignored by ministers.
"What us Greens and the wider anti-austerity movement in Bristol have been calling for all along is for Marvin to properly take the fight to Westminster. To tell Government that they have gone too far, and that you refuse to cooperate until they compromise. Because while Bristol might be vulnerable if it did this alone, Labour runs 10 of the 11 largest cities in the UK, so if they all acted in cooperation, it is a demand that the Government would be unable to ignore.
"Now that the softly-softly approach preferred by the Mayor has been demonstrated to achieve nothing, we feel that our calls are even more justified, and the time is now.”
Speaking after the vote, Green Group Leader Councillor Eleanor Combley said:
“It’s a shame that Bristol’s Labour Group has voted down our amendment calling for tougher action – we were looking to get the Mayor to commit to doing something about austerity beyond simply talking about how bad it is.
“Under the spin of ‘sensible’ budgeting, Labour councils in Bristol and around the country are making deep cuts to services, many of which will be difficult or impossible to reverse. The past few months have shown just how weak the Tory government is and at this point direct action, coordinated with other councils, would actually have the potential to change things. Shutting our amendment down is a perfect demonstration of how the Mayor is putting the interests of the Labour Party before the city and betraying everyone who voted for Labour’s anti-austerity platform”
Full text of Green proposed amendment here.