Demand a Mayor Against Austerity (and Council too)!

Bristol's Mayor George Ferguson joins hands with members of the Rainbow Group outside City Hall.

Bristol’s Mayor George Ferguson joins hands with members of the Rainbow Group outside City Hall. Front three L-R: Martin Spellacey (Co-ordinator Friends of Rainbow), Bristol Mayor George Ferguson and Amy Mosley (Co-ordinator Friends of Rainbow). Date:14/05/2014 Photographer: Dave Betts/Freelance. Reporter:

At the beginning of April, Bristol City Council released a very important report (with a very dull-sounding name). This was the report of the council department charged with implementing its ‘efficiency program’ (read ‘cuts’), ‘The Change Board’; its 6-monthly progress report. Buried towards the end of its fairly opaque, jargonistic pages were its predictions on the scale of future cuts to our city.

‘The current modelling suggest that an additional £75.3m will need to be saved by the end of 2019/20’

On top of the almost £90m cut so far, this will have reduced council budgets by almost 80% since 2010.

Cuts of 80% cannot be implemented without triggering the widespread failure of essential frontline services. The compilers of the report itself know this. As they said: –

‘We stated in the last report that “inevitably a time will come when the drive for efficiency within the Council starts to yield decreeing returns”…. It should be acknowledged that this time is with us now

‘It has been a cornerstone of the programme that we will do all that can be done to avoid cutting frontline services and whilst that continues to be the case, the challenge is increasing’

In a report that emphasised the virtue of ‘optimising’ and ‘modernising’ council services as seemingly the only impulse behind the councils ‘restructuring’, and that makes no mention of funding cuts, this is strong stuff.

*** These cuts are the most significant challenge our city and its citizens face over the next 4 years.

They will fundamentally alter local government as we know it. ***

We mean to put these cuts back at the forefront of the agenda in the current Mayoral and local electoral debate that instead has been trivialised by focused on parking zones, 20 mph speed limits, and the personal rivalries of opposing candidates.

>>> We’re also asking you to challenge all of the main candidates on how they will respond to these £75m CUTS, and whether they are really willing to stand up for Bristol’s people against austerity.  Whether that be by email (we will be trying this ourselves), at hustings, or otherwise.

Over the coming months, and years (if the Tory government lasts that long), we will be building the local resistance (working with local trades unions and other local campaigns) to stop these cuts and protect the services that we rely upon. Only a massive mobilisation of ordinary people in Bristol on the streets can save our city.

But to make that job easier for us, we need to use these elections to get the most anti-austerity council possible.

None of the candidates for Mayor likely to get elected has adopted the all out anti-cuts, pro-‘needs budget’ position the People’s Assembly has called for; but both the Labour and Green candidates are nominally against austerity (though the former has chosen not to foreground this in his campaign) and we get two preferential votes.

Furthermore, several councillors (9 Greens, and 1 Lib Dem) have already voted against previous cuts budgets on an anti-austerity basis, and it seems likely that the more pro-Corbyn Labour candidates could be pushed to resist (though it should also be noted that so far all of Bristol’s Labour councillors have voted en masse for every cuts budget proposed during their times in office).

To help build the resistance against this intensification of austerity, we need a Mayor who will take a public stand against Tory austerity and fight for fairer funding, and councillors who are prepared to do that and also (alongside the Mayor ideally) prepared to vote against cuts budgets and prepare their own ‘needs budgets’.

Let’s use our vote this May 5th to make that possible. But even in a best case scenario, this election will not save Bristol’s public services. Only we can do that.

#ScrapTrident #StopBombingSyria #WelfareNotWarfare, 2nd Feb 7pm at the Trinity Centre

#ScrapTrident #StopBombingSyria #WelfareNotWarfare, 2nd Feb 7pm at the Trinity Centre

stop trident

On the 2nd of February the Bristol People’s Assembly is joining forces with the Bristol CND and the Bristol Stop the War Coalition to host a public meeting and rally against the renewal of the trident nuclear weapon system and the continued bombing of Syria.  Join us in calling for ‘Welfare not Warfare’.

The government is expected to force a vote on renewal of Trident in a few months time. The majority of the British people, including the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (though sadly not all of his MPs), the Greens and the Scottish and Welsh Nationalist all oppose nuclear weapons. They are deadly relics of a bygone era, weapons of mass destruction that would indiscriminately kill millions, and which are completely useless against the threats Britain faces. They don’t keep us safe and they divert resources from essential spending.

We are seeing devastating cuts to vital services, most tragically our NHS, and millions are forced to use food banks as the government no longer pays benefits adequate for many people to survive.  In such a situation it is a huge travesty that the government wants to waste over £100 billion on renewing the deadly and useless white elephant that is trident.

trident nhs

We’ll be coming together at the trinity centre to protest against the renewal of trident and the continued bombing of Syria.

We all oppose the brutal outrageous committed by Daesh/ISIS, but further Western intervention in the form of Britain joining the 12 other countries already bombing Syria is unlikely to achieve anything constructive.  Simultaneously it plays into ISISs hands by giving credence to their clash of civilisations rhetoric in which they portrays themselves as protecting Muslims against a hostile and militant west.  At the same time despite the promises of Cameron and the champions of intervention British bombs are already killing innocent civilians and further adding to the bloodshed and misery inflicted on Syria and its unfortunate people.

Furthermore, the obscene cost of this and other unnecessary interventions is a smack in the face to everyone on the sharp end of austerity Britain.  The cost of just one air strike mission is over half a million pounds, and we will likely spend many hundreds of millions over the year in this latest military entanglement.  The cost of bombing Daesh/ISIS in Iraq is already over £200 million a year and it seems this figure is sure to rise as our involvement escalates.

It tells us a lot about our elite that they would rather priorities fruitless military intervention and seeming tough on defence over looking after their own people.  We saw this link between austerity and war most clearly in the last budget when the government increased total defence spending by £12 billion, the exact same amount they simultaneously decided to cut from welfare.  As the late and great Tony Benn used to say “If we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help people”.

cost of bombing

That’s why we’ve organised this event and are bringing you a fantastic line up of speakers from across the movement to demand Welfare Not Warfare.

Join us to say no to Trident, no to war and no to austerity.  We deserve better!

So far speakers include:

Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
John Rees, From the Stop the War Coalition
Shahrar Ali, Deputy Leader of the Green party
Mhairi Threlfall, Eastville Councillor for the Labour Party

They’ll all be making the links between austerity and war more explicit and arming us with the arguments we need to make the case for peace and equality.

We’ll also be trying to raise awareness (and funds for coaches) for the national march against trident in London on Saturday the 27th of February.  If we are to overcome the powerful vested interested at the heart of the Conservative party (and sadly infecting some of the parliamentary Labour party too) bent on pushing through trident renewal against the wishes of the people than making this demonstration big and vibrant will be key.  Naturally we’ll be supporting Bristol CND who are organising coaches:  (if you want to buy a ticket please see www.bristolcnd.org.uk ).

To find out more about the national demo and for updates join the national CND Facebook event here  https://www.facebook.com/events/160801110932716/

So please join us the February the 2nd, and invite as many people as you can, its shaping up to be an event not to miss.

Join our facebook event and let us know you’re coming: https://www.facebook.com/events/1735525073344795/

For more information on the groups organising this event please see our facebook pages here:-

Bristol CND – https://www.facebook.com/BristolCND/

Bristol Stop the War –
https://www.facebook.com/BristolStopTheWar/

Bristol People’s Assembly –
https://www.facebook.com/BristolPeoplesAssembly/

By, Will Quick for the Bristol People’s Assembly