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.