Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Cuts, Greens, and the Peoples Front of Judea

Some very nasty cuts are coming. They're not justified, they're vicious, they're counterproductive – and they're driven by ideology rather than any real economic rationale. That's the ideology of 'small government', or 'private good, public bad' that drives our political and financial elite and serves their own interests.

It might never have happened if Westminster's LibDem minority hadn't been seduced by half-promises of power-sharing, giving the Tories their chance to put the ideology into practice. There's a lesson in that for all small parties, even if it still seems lost on the LibDems. Meanwhile, the compliant media back up the cuts with superficial but persuasive economic cliches to keep people in line, and the main parliamentary opposition seems scared to risk challenging them .

What a mess we're in.

So it's not surprising that BADACA – the Bristol & District Anti Cuts Alliance – is one of many across the country trying to build an effective campaign to protect the public services on which so many people rely.

That's not an easy task. The law's been framed – and the funding managed – to make it impossible for the people we elect locally, of whatever party, to contemplate any refusal to implement the centrally-imposed budget cuts to essential council services. You can't win: the game's been fixed in advance.

In Bristol, thanks to those votes last year, all the power now lies with the mayor, George Ferguson. He can (and seems to) take advice all round, but when it comes to the budget, he too is just a player in a pre-rigged game with the government making the rules. His Cabinet are even less influential, and ward councillors – whatever rosettes they wore on election day – count for less still.

After a lot of discussion (and no little dissent), Bristol's Green Party members gave their backing to one of their councillors (Gus Hoyt) to take up Mayor Ferguson's offer of a 'Cabinet' position, offering perhaps some small influence over the cuts, but, more importantly, to help guide other key policies. It was a difficult decision, forced by a political structure that the Greens had opposed from the start.

What it did not mean was that the Greens are propping up a 'Cuts Cabinet'. This is not a coalition of convenience to secure power; Gus, or no Gus, Labour or no Labour, the mayor will be making the cuts, or else the government will step in with sanctions and impose its own cuts. You've heard the Pickles assessment. That's what they'd do.

This powerlessness at every local level is deeply frustrating for everyone who must watch the dismantling of public services – and it's beginning to show. Some elements of BADACA are expressing their own frustration by singling out the Greens as somehow being the 'villains', colluding with a common enemy. That's an awful pity at a time when solidarity is what's needed.

If the cuts are to be resisted, it can only be through Westminster. The LibDems, who could conceivably pull the rug out from the cuts programme, show not the slightest inclination. They're an integral part of the problem. Labour looks embarrassingly lame. Grass roots revolution looks as unlikely as ever, and it's hard to imagine the unions using their muscle.

That only leaves the big local authorities. If we think it's bad here in Bristol, it's even worse for the big northern cities. If only they could get together in effective opposition, conceivably the government would find itself unable to throw the legal book at all of them.

It's seriously unlikely to happen, of course, and still less likely that those Labour held councils would want to broaden their campaign by welcoming 'independent' Bristol into it.... but it's a more promising scenario than silly infighting within the anti-cuts movement. 

 

10 comments:

Robin Whitlock said...

Well said Pete, I think that's a very eloquent analysis of the current position. It dismays me that minority elements within BADACA seem inclined to attack the Greens relentlessly rather than actually talking to us and trying to understand our position, and also that of the Mayor. Furthermore they offer no alternative as far as I can see. What would they do if they managed to put a stop to George's programme, risking Central Government intervention? Where is their alternative? They haven't supplied one, primarily because they are stuck firmly within the politics of reaction and seem unable to move on or think constructively in a positive and flexible manner.

Stockwood Pete said...

Thanks, Robin. I'm sure that, as you say, it's just a minority who are tempted into mudslinging.

I see that Derek Wall has put his own analysis (looks persuasive, but a bit above my head!) in the Morning Star.
http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/128738

The Bristol Blogger said...

you call the government's bluff. Set a needs budget and see whether they really want the conflict involved in sending the men in grey from whitehall to run the local authority.

Thatcher backed down to local authorities a number of times in the early 80s and Hatton got the money to build 5,000 council homes. That's a solid achievement your red trousered toff will never match.

Stockwood Pete said...

Shall we try asking him on Friday? I'll pitch in with
"Would you consider challenging the government by setting a 'needs' budget to protect essential services if other major cities were pledged to do the same?"
If others put in similar suggestions, maybe he'll be given the chance to brush it to one side - or even to surprise us.

http://bristolmayor.co.uk/2013/01/30/join-me-for-my-first-askgeorge-live-webcast/

The Bristol Blogger said...

To give you some idea of the crisis heading towards local government if they continue as managerialists imposing cuts:

"The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) must establish emergency intervention plans in case budget cuts and increased demand for services force a spate of town hall bankruptcies, government spending watchdogs warned today."
http://www.localgov.co.uk/index.cfm?method=news.detail&id=108643

Local authorities could end up with the Whitehall men in grey anyway.

Particularly in Bristol when it becomes evident what former finance boss, Will Godfrey, has really done.


The Bristol Blogger said...

I see you've wasted no time in getting behind the outsourcing of youth services:

Youth reforms on track to officially start next month

The transformation of youth and play services in Bristol is on track to start on Friday 1st February with the beginning of new contracts, Bristol City Council announced today.

As part of the £22m Youth Links scheme announced in October a number of current council assets such as youth centres and playgrounds are likely to transfer to new consortia. Others will continue to be used in the interim for delivery of services, whilst the interest expressed by a number of community organisations to run premises is explored further. A £140k fund has been established to ease the process.

Bristol Youth Links will create more up-to-date, joined up services for children and teenagers aged eight to 19, outside of school through new area-based contracts. It includes youth groups, play services, advice and guidance and support to help young people volunteer and get involved in their community. Specialist services include counselling, preventing drug and alcohol misuse, reducing teen pregnancies and supporting groups with particular needs such as disabled children and young people.

It is anticipated that newly shaped services will be up and running from Easter. Young people will have the opportunity to influence the new services while being able to attend activities in the usual locations and at the usual times in the meantime.

Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Environment Gus Hoyt said:

“There has already been considerable interest in many of the sites available to transfer to communities or to the new consortia involved in delivering youth services. From April young people will start to notice the difference in their communities through Youth Links and brand new services on their doorstep such as courses, outreach services and apprenticeship schemes.”

Sites for transfer include Felix Road Adventure Playground, St Paul’s Adventure Playground, Southmead Adventure Playground and Lockleaze Youth and Play Space. Other centres under discussion for transfer include Southmead Youth Centre, Brentry Lodge Youth Centre, Docklands Youth Centre, Lawrence Weston Youth Centre, Oldbury Court Youth Centre, Hillfields Youth Centre and Hareclive Youth Centre.

Young people can get more information about the changes and activities in their area at www.goplacesdothings.org.uk and www.goplacestoplay.org.uk

News release Tuesday 15 January by Bristol City Council press office

Stockwood Pete said...

From what I've heard, the youth service cuts are some of the worst - and they're pretty sure to be counterproductive.

These must have been planned a good while ago, though. I don't think anyone on the green side would choose to go down this path.

The Bristol Blogger said...

That press release doesn't create the impression you don't support it. Quite the reverse.

There's more on this in today's Post:

http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/Bristol-s-Windmill-Hill-City-Farm-closes/story-18021185-detail/story.html

It's also worth finding about the TUPE arrangements (or lack of them) that BCC staff transferring to the new organisations have received. Once again, workers are paying the price in lost jobs, lost employment benefits and less pay.

A terrible thing to be putting your names to.

Stockwood Pete said...

Yes, I saw that they're closing the adventure space at Windmill Hill City Farm. I said this was going to be be cruel and unfair.

But you can't be suggesting that it wouldn't have happened if Gus had stayed out of the Cabinet?

Can you suggest anything with even a half chance of preventing cuts like this? Other than defeating the government, of course....

Fawad Tariq said...
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