Green Councillors Lorraine Francis (Eastville) and Christine Townsend (Southville) were interviewed recently by West England Bylines about the cost of living crisis and the council’s response.
The Councillors talked about a range of issues, including Bristol council’s warm places initiative, the scale of poverty in Bristol, the council tax reduction scheme, bus cuts and pressure on essential services.
You can watch both parts of the interview here and read a summary of some of their points beneath the videos.
Councillor Townsend pointed out that even before the current crisis, there were an estimated 30,000 households in Bristol in fuel poverty already, and since her election in May 2021 two new foodbanks have opened up in her ward of Southville
Lorraine Francis added:
“The data tells us that at least 15,000 children under 16 live in low income households and anecdotally I’ve heard of things like massive queues for free uniforms.”
Councillor Francis also mentioned the Council Tax Reduction Scheme – Bristol is the only Core City to still have a 100% funded scheme that supports the poorest in the city with council tax bills, after Greens and ACORN pressured the city’s Labour administration to U-turn on plans to cut it in 2017.
Both councillors discussed how the cuts to public buses would make it harder for vulnerable people and those unable to drive or cycle to get around the city, including to reach the ‘warm spaces’ the Council is looking to set up.
Councillor Townsend said:
“It’s only going to make people more isolated… it’s only going to make people less able to get out of their homes in order to access any support that might be in place”.
Both councillors were supportive of the Council’s initiative but had questions about how far it would be able to help people, given the failure of national government to step in.
Councillor Francis said:
“To be able to be warm in your home should be a fundamental right – you shouldn’t have to be leaving your home to walk down the freezing road to go to a warm hub”
Councillor Townsend said the warm spaces might be hard to access for people with care or mobility needs:
“If you need care in your own home, it’s going to be very difficult for you to go to a community space and then receive that care”
Councillor Townsend said:
“We’ve had 12 years of austerity that’s just hollowed out all of these public services in a way that means we’re now trying to catch up – and it’s just not there. It’s very, very frightening.”
Councillor Francis said
“There are billions of pounds in this country and it’s not being directed correctly because we have a Conservative government. That’s what Conservative governments do.”
She also said services were struggling under the impact of austerity and social crisis, saying:
“Frontline staff are being totally decimated by the workload, pressures, to keep going… over the pandemic many of us were working flat out – we haven’t stopped. Staff are worn out, tired, worried about being able to keep up with the workload.”