Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/845/20161
Bristol Greens back 'shocking' austerity policies
Robin Clapp, Socialist Party South West region
In its 2012 Bristol mayoral manifesto, the Green Party unambiguously set out its opposition to cuts: "We do not agree with the logic of cutting public spending at a time of recession."
The following April, one candidate argued that "we are activists who are willing to speak up to protect public services, oppose the cuts and make sure local voices get heard".
Fighting words, but completely at variance with their deeds on Bristol City Council. The six Green councillors are indistinguishable from the other cutters and careerists who sit in the chamber axing jobs and services.
Independent Mayor Ferguson, elected by just 12% of Bristolians, dangled an assistant mayoral cabinet seat before the Greens. He hoped to entice them into his "rainbow cabinet" of the talentless - and they stampeded to his door.
Councillor Hoyt "gladly accepted" the £32,000 post, a decision unanimously endorsed by the local Green Party. Later, the same councillor brought public ridicule upon himself by whining the salary was too low.
£91 million was cut from the council budget between 2011 and 2014. Hoyt's conscience wasn't troubled too much at being associated with this butchery. On behalf of the Greens he explained there was "no alternative but to accept the financial situation" and that "with power comes responsibility".
The Green Party has not only endorsed austerity in Bristol, but has been happy to associate itself with some of the most shocking manifestations of it.
Most disturbing, Hoyt - as assistant mayor with responsibility for housing - has appeared alongside the mayor in an attempt to force the council to drop its no-eviction policy for those affected by the bedroom tax.
When challenged by the Lib Dems and Labour to uphold the no-eviction policy, another Green councillor attacked them for a 'nakedly political' attempt to publicly deride an assistant mayor!
In November, the faithful Councillor Hoyt appeared in a YouTube video alongside the mayor as part of the council's library cuts programme. The cuts have been described as "an exciting opportunity to create the 21st century community library".
This was a step too far for several ordinary Green members who rebuked Hoyt for either an astonishing show of naivety or deliberate dissembling. Even council officials acknowledge when pressed that this exercise is about making substantial cuts to the existing service.
The Green Party in office has also performed disgraceful u-turns in relation to its supposedly core policies. When plans were unveiled to build a new 15-storey luxury housing development in south Bristol, their councillors correctly opposed the move.
Five months later, while lamenting the absolute lack of commitment to affordable housing contained in the scheme, one performed a somersault of Olympian quality. He wrote to the architects withdrawing his opposition. It is still not clear why Green councillors have become such converts to this multi-million-pound property development.
At the 17 February budget-setting meeting - a year into a three-year cuts package of another £83 million - the Green councillors abstained on the Substantive Revenue and Capital Budget for 2015-2016 and 2017-2018 Medium Term Financial Strategy vote [This sentence was altered and corrected on 28.2.15 - website ed].
Their behaviour continues to be a shocking slap in the face to those who looked to them to bring a fresh approach to local government.
TUSC will contest every seat this year, going head to head with Green councillors in some cases. Our message to Bristolians yearning for an alternative is: a vote for the Greens is a vote for the same old tired status quo that has decapitated jobs and services.
Their anti-austerity rhetoric has been rumbled. Only TUSC councillors will oppose cuts and refuse to take more than the average wage of a worker.
Additional info, 2.3.15
Following publication of the above article, a response to its contents was posted by 'a Green trade unionist in Bristol' on a blog: agreentradeunionist
The factual inaccuracy in one sentence of the above article has since been corrected (as marked in italics in the article), and the following reply has been written by members of Bristol Socialist Party regarding the points raised in the blog.
Reply to a Green Party member, by Bristol Socialist Party members
28 February 2015
A representative of the Green Party has contacted us to state that five of its six Bristol councillors voted against the City Council budget at full council on 17 February, contrary to the assertion in our previous article that they voted in favour of it.
While we regret that in this specific point of fact, our initial report, based upon incomplete information, was incorrect and we of course apologise for this inaccuracy, it has now emerged that according to the official web cast of the meeting, only the Liberal Democrat councillors, for entirely opportunistic reasons, voted against.
See: bristol.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/160182 ( 05 hours: 59 minutes: 08. seconds)
Contrary to what Green Party spokespersons have insisted was the case, the official web cast lists Green councillors Bolton, Fodor, Hoyt, Malnick and Telford as having in fact abstained on the Substantive Revenue and Capital Budget for 2015-2016 and 2017-2018 Medium Term Financial Strategy vote, a position which we find to be incomprehensible and completely at variance with the stance they claimed they would take at the commencement of the meeting.
For reasons that are unclear at the time of writing, assistant mayor Danielle Radice is not recorded as having voted.
This is a retreat from the position they took in 2014, where under pressure from the Anti-Cuts Alliance and others, their lay members opposed the budget. Their then council cabinet member however, voted for it, a fact they seek currently to draw a veil over.
Abstaining on a budget that will have a further devastating effect upon the lives of tens of thousands of ordinary Bristolians is completely unjustifiable and despite the protestations of Green councillors that they are anti-austerity, in the minds of many will now be the question of how committed they really are to opposing cuts.
Within days of the budget vote, the Green Party's assistant mayor and cabinet member with responsibility for the library service, was faced with having to explain why a costly consultation exercise supposedly about creating 21st century libraries for the city, had recommended the closure of one quarter of them with potentially compulsory redundancy notices for staff.
Rather than resigning instantly from the cabinet and forgoing her £32,000 salary, councillor Radice simply sought to apologise for the outcome by claiming: "This is the horror of austerity. We have to face up to the reality that there will be more cuts...".
We can assure her that TUSC will be seeking to build the widest possible coalition against these cuts and we completely reject the fatalism implicit in her words that she can do nothing to avoid another act of wanton destruction of much-loved public services.
In the light of this, we would once again ask ordinary members of the Green Party whether they are happy with having councillors representing them who let themselves be used by mayor Ferguson and his Tory sidekick councillor Gollop to present the cuts and in effect take the flak, for policies which they say they find appalling?
The Green Party is not providing an anti-cuts strategy or using its position in the council chamber to reach out to community campaigners, service users or council staff who are suffering relentless assaults on jobs and services. Instead they prevaricate, issue soundbites that may seem stirring in the moment and then go into the vote on one of the most critical issues of the year - and abstain!
Leadership is about building a real campaign against the cuts and flows from being prepared to face down the mayor and his senior advisors who seek to intimidate you with false claims that if you move an alternative budget based on what the city needs rather than on what they say the city needs to lose, you will find yourselves outside of the law.
Leadership is what the Liverpool councillors displayed in the 1980s when they stood up against Thatcher's Tory cuts and instead created a mass movement around a programme of building homes, creating jobs and defying those who argued that councillors must be "realistic".
Leadership is what those growing number of former Labour councillors who've broken from the straightjacket of New Labour's 'me-too' austerity programme in cities like Hull, Leicester and Southampton are displaying. It's not about talking, but doing.
Green councillors tell us to be realistic and have derided TUSC as engaging in fantasy politics in thinking we can successfully stand up to the Tories.
Yet when they present Library closure proposals or line up with the mayor to argue for the scrapping of Bristol's no eviction policy for bedroom tax arrears, they confirm only their lack of confidence in thinking a real movement against austerity can be built.
If Green Party members are serious about opposing all cuts to jobs and services, they should join those in the trade union movement, community campaigns and the Bristol and District Anti-Cuts Alliance (BADACA) where they will find a welcome home in forging a real grassroots movement that challenges the prevailing ideology that there is no alternative to relentless austerity and therefore no fightbacks can be waged and won.
That is why TUSC will be contesting every seat in the forthcoming elections in Bristol.
In The Socialist 25 February 2015:
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