Green Councillors in ruling administrations across England and Wales have written to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, calling on him “to ensure proper funding of local services and… sound policy that works for people, not profit.” Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer supported the open letter, pointing out that even Conservative councillors are raising the alarm over lack of local government funding.
“Councils are at breaking point. Several, including Tory controlled Councils, are on the verge of bankruptcy. Michael Gove must listen, not just to the strong chorus from Councils run by opposition parties, but also to Tory councillors.
“The Conservative head of the Local Government Association has warned: ‘the numbers just do not add up,’ and that without government support ‘there will be real service cuts to some of the most vulnerable in our communities.’
The joint letter from Green Councillors says “It makes no financial sense to cut local government funding to the point where they can no longer deliver even basic services” and calls for a three-year funding settlement, an increase in all council budgets in line with inflation, an increase in investment for retrofitting homes and in services for the most vulnerable, particularly adult and child social care.
Meanwhile in Bristol, following budget scrutiny sessions on 22 and 23 November, Green Councillors raised serious concerns over the Labour administration’s plans for millions of pounds in cuts to services. They pointed out that in many key service areas the council still lacks a proper strategy, and argued the impact will be hardest felt by the most vulnerable Bristolians. The Green Group Leader said the current proposals “are not thought through” and Labour risked making “haphazard” cuts and jeopardising the Council’s ability to fulfil its core duties.
Heather Mack said:
“We have repeatedly heard that a new strategy will be made for a service that is facing cuts, and then the cuts will be made in a responsible, efficient way that minimises the impact. I am worried that many of the proposed savings are unlikely to pan out, having already been tried in recent years and proven difficult to achieve. After nearly 7 years of a Labour administration, we have no strategy for parks or libraries, yet achieving these budget savings next year relies on producing many new strategies.
“It feels as though the Labour administration are attempting to put a positive spin on things. But if the current budget situation does not improve I think it is highly likely that the cuts Bristol faces will be haphazard – the current proposals are not thought through.”
Easton Councillor Barry Parsons criticised planned cuts to libraries, saying:
“The proposed cuts to libraries are devastating, amounting to a third of the entire budget. You can modernise the service, or you can gut it. You can’t do both at the same time, and it’s a fantasy for the administration to suggest otherwise.”
“We’re told Bristol is a city of hope, but these cuts smack of despair. By cutting programmes like council tax reduction and the local crisis prevention fund just as poverty is rocketing, the administration is balancing the books on the backs of the poor and vulnerable.”
Councillor Mack noted that council cuts are ultimately caused by central government funding.
“The Greens know that this budget is a reflection of Conservative ideology and central Government’s refusal to properly resource our public services – refusing to tax the super-rich while living standards plummet for everyone else.
“Let’s not pretend there is any scope left for ‘harmless’ cuts or easily achievable ‘efficiency’ savings. The administration shouldn’t try to sugar-coat or put a positive spin on these devastating cuts proposals currently being looked at. The scale of what the government looks set to force upon Bristol is unparalleled and unacceptable, and will put the council’s ability to fulfil its core duties at risk.”