As Bristol’s Labour administration voted through a budget which takes millions from both adult social care and children and families services, Eleanor Combley, Leader of the Green Group of Councillors, wrote to Prime Minister Theresa May to demand an end to the “triple whammy of cuts” hitting local authorities.
Full text of the letter below:
Dear Prime Minister,
Like other Green politicians, I have opposed austerity since its inception. This time last year I came to London, and met with Caroline Lucas MP and deputy Leader of the Green Party, Amelia Womack. Together, we lobbied the Treasury to end austerity and “to urgently provide local councils with the money they so clearly need to protect services and restore spending on community and frontline services to sustainable levels.” A year on, cuts to local government are continuing, despite your declaration in October that “austerity is over”. As a result, Bristol’s Labour administration has just voted through a budget which takes millions from both adult social care and children and families services.
Councils are being hit by a triple whammy of cuts to core funding, to public health funding and to the schools budget.
According to the cross-party Local Government Association, between 2010 and 2020, councils will have lost 60p out of every £1 the Government had provided for services. The Government has cut Bristol City Council’s core funding by hundreds of millions of pounds since 2010. Despite our early adoption of business rates retention, we are increasingly reliant on increases to council tax which, despite our campaign to protect a fully-Funded Council Tax Reduction scheme, is a regressive tax which hits the poorest hardest. I would urge you to consider fairer alternatives such as a Land Value Tax, which you find laid out in more detail in Green Party Policy.
At the same time, public health funding has been under relentless attack, with the Health Foundation estimating that there has been a real-terms cut of £900m in public health between 2014-15 and 2019-20 and that the core public health grant has fallen by a quarter per person since 2014-15. Bristol already has shocking and entrenched differences in life expectancy and healthy life expectancy between richer and poorer areas of the city: still as wide as sixteen to seventeen years of life in good health. Public health work is an essential tool to change that, by addressing both the wider determinants of health and specific causes of avoidable death such as smoking.
This year’s announcement on schools revenue funding will do nothing to alleviate the enormous pressure on school budgets, which the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) says have declined by 8% in England since 2010. Bristol is a city with shocking educational inequalities, with less than one in ten young people in some areas going on to higher education, compared to 100 per cent in others. Shrinking school budgets will only serve to increase inequality as schools in more affluent areas have more opportunities to fundraise or collect parental donations to try to mitigate the effect of cuts.
To tackle inequalities in health, education and opportunity, as well as to meet the urgent and vital need for action on Clean Air and on the Climate Emergency, Bristol needs fair funding, together with more local powers. I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience what you plan to do.
Councillor Eleanor Combley
Leader of the Green Group on Bristol City Council