Bristol Green Councillors have reacted with sadness and anger to the latest round of cuts to frontline services proposed by Bristol’s Mayor, Marvin Rees.
Councillor Carla Denyer, who sits on the Greens’ budget working group, said:
“It is hard to put into words how I feel about the current financial crisis in Bristol. I am deeply concerned by the impact that cuts to frontline services will have on those who rely on them. I’m scared by how this will affect our communities and how we work together as a city. I am also sad for the many valuable council staff who, after a lifetime of working to provide services for the people of Bristol, are being told that they no longer have jobs.
Mostly though I am angry that the people we represent are being abandoned because of a political choice in Westminster. Bristolians are being forced to pay more Council Tax for less services, and there’s a simple reason – Government is brutally slashing its grants to local authorities, by 75% by 2020. The Government have chosen a path to intentionally dismantle our public services. They could be closing tax loopholes, reforming our finance system, bringing good growth to our economy or increasing tax for the top 1%. But they are choosing not to, they chose to bail out the banks and spend billions on defence projects like Trident, and pay for it by taking from the most vulnerable. So let’s be clear, the blame for these cuts should fall squarely on the shoulders of this Conservative Government.
Every time a library closes, a homeless person no longer has a safe place to sleep or a local bus route vanishes, we must remember that these cuts are not inevitable, they are a choice that our Government has made. They have chosen to take books from our children instead of asking the richest in our country to contribute a fraction more.
We must remember this next time we go to the ballot box. We live in a democracy, albeit an imperfect one, and we can and we must demand change. It is not enough to bury our heads in the sand as the services that keep our communities together crumble around us. Until then, if we want change we are going to have to build it ourselves by campaigning for an end to austerity, a proportional voting system where our votes will count and proper investment in our public services.
Our Mayor, Marvin Rees, says he can still deliver on his commitments despite these cuts. I am doubtful but hope I am proven wrong. At the moment though this promise looks unlikely to be fulfilled. Despite promising to protect children’s services, his latest budget includes £1,500,000 of cuts to ‘re-shape children’s services’. Despite Labour campaigning to oppose any closure of libraries last year, their own budget this year now accepts libraries will have to close and, by the Mayor’s own admission, these cuts will harm the lives of the most disadvantaged that he spent his election campaign promising to work for.
We know that these cuts are not what Labour want to be implementing, so it’s time to stand up and say no. We need proper opposition to the Tory cuts, from Labour and all opposition parties across the country, not merely a massaging of ever-smaller budgets to create the least bad option.”