So that the people of Hengrove at least have the ability to vote for the Green Party should they want to, I’ve agreed to be the candidate in the coming local council elections. Unfortunately in the past support for the Greens within Hengrove hasn’t been very strong, and as the Green Party is supported primarily through contributions from its members it sadly doesn’t have the resources to campaign hard in every ward. I’d love to be able to go and try and speak to every resident and directly make the case for the Green alternative to the austerity business as usual politics of the establishment parties face to face, but we’re just not able to. So instead I thought I should at least outline my core politics here so that if any Hengrove residents want to know about their local candidates and manage to find this site they can see what their Green option is offering them.
Obviously there are many many ways the council intersects with the lives of Bristolians, and many important issues that I would campaign on and attempt to address if elected. To stop this post being too long I’m going to concentrate on four key areas that I personally think are going to be vitally important for any elected councillors to deal with. The Bristol Green Party has a whole host of policies to deal with local issues, which I would broadly follow (as well as consulting with my constituents) to help me make these decisions and attempt to make a difference for local residents.
Cuts and the economy
Cuts to public services and in particular the savage cuts to council budget are transforming the nature of both our welfare state and our local government. Regardless of which of the main parties forms the next government were going to be forced to endure another £30 billion of cuts by 2017.
Aside from their odious social impact cuts are flawed economically. Most economists agree that cuts have held back economic growth. On top of this austerity has greatly depressed wages, and with them tax returns. That is why the government has consistently missed its own targets; and why they have only cut the deficit by a third in numeric terms (a half as expressed as a percentage of GDP) when they said they would have eliminate it by now.
Services have already been cut to the bone. Where this next round of devastating cuts will fall, and attempts to resist them will dominate the political landscape of the next few years.
We need our local politicians and our local communities, their organisations, trade unions, charities and campaigners all to work together if we are to have any hope of resisting. If elected I promise to fight for the people of Hengrove and Bristol and try to use the limited powers of local government to get a fairer deal for local residents.
I would never vote for ‘austerity’ council budgets and would instead press the council to demand a fairer alternative. I would use my position to amplify the voices of local residents and of campaigns and resistance to austerity and its social ills. This is work I already do as a volunteer organiser for the Bristol People’s Assembly, and as the Bristol Green Party Trade Union Liaison Officer. I would make this, and directly representing my constituents, central to my work on the council.
I would campaign for the Living Wage to be adopted across the city.
I would campaign to make council tax fairer and less regressive.
I would campaign for the council to (like more than 60 other councils across the UK) call for the implementation of a ‘Robin Hood’ or Financial Transaction Tax (a tiny tax of about 0.05% on transactions made by banks, hedge funds and the financial sector) and any other progressive measures councils can promote to rebalance our economy in the interests of ordinary people.
The NHS and Public Services
Our public services, the people who provide them, and the people who depend on them are all being attacked to pay for the bailout of the banks. The NHS in particular has been undermined by privatisation and being artificially run as a fragmented market system. Staff have had their wages depressed, and pensions attacked, whilst there are 35,000 less of them (and 10,000 less hospital beds) then in 2010 treating ever growing numbers of patients.
Everywhere there are campaigns attempting to resist these cuts and privatisation. Last year I was proud to go on strike with my union and colleagues to fight for fair pay. Just as important as anger over poverty pay was staff anger over creeping privatisation. I was privileged again this year to join the People’s March for the NHS in Bristol. Everywhere there is great anger among staff, patients and our wider communities as people see the damage being done to our health service. We need to unite these campaigns if they are to be effective. And we need our representatives in local government to join us. This is as true for the NHS as it is for any and all of our public services.
If I elected I will press the council to campaign for all local NHS services to be provided by the NHS and not the private sector. I will support all campaigns for fair pay for staff and all efforts to resist privatisation. In particular local campaigns to support the NHS reinstatement bill which is gaining support from across the political spectrum. I will also fight to ensure all other public services, remain public, and be active in local campaigns to restore public ownership to public transport, energy and communications.
We’re facing a housing crisis in Britain, and particularly in Bristol. Short sighted housing policy (particularly right to buy which has reduced Bristol’s nearly 50,000 council homes of the 1970s to less than 30,000 today) and a lack of investment have left affordable homes in short supply. Between 2011 and 2014 annual rents in Bristol increased by £1272; whilst wages fell by £1730 in real terms. Is it any wonder that homelessness is increasing?
I would press the council to make better use of its compulsory purchase orders to bring properties back on the market and object to any developments that didn’t contain a considerable proportion of affordable homes. The councils own requirement of 40% is not enough, but even this modest measure is far too infrequently followed.
As the sale of social housing and the encouraging of ‘buy to let’ have concentrated the ownership of property in the hands of an ever smaller number of people; tenants have been increasingly getting a bad deal. Their rights are frequently ignored, they face insecure tenancies, rip off letting fees and properties that are all too frequently poorly maintained. Across the UK 1/3 of privately rented homes now contain unacceptable levels of mould and damp
I will support campaign for tenants’ rights (like ACORNS ethical lettings charter), the abolition of letting fees, and the introduction of rent caps (as they have in Scotland); and I will campaign for longer and securer tenancies for renters.
Aside for the crises of inequality and poverty, the looming environmental crisis is the most series threatening our society (and species and planet as a whole). I would encourage sustainability in everything the council does (especially energy, and procurement). I would oppose fracking which is extremely damaging to the environment, is the completely wrong direction our energy policy needs to be taking, and puts private companies’ profits before the rights of home owners and communities. I would be a vocal voice on the council for the campaign to divest from fossil fuel companies and make Bristol fossil free. Finally I would join other Greens in campaigning for better air quality throughout our city (nationwide over 50,000 people die prematurely each year because of the polluted nature of our air).
We need strong alternative voices, prepared to fight for what they believe in and for ordinary people representing us if we are to have any chance of tackling the problems we face. I believe I could be that voice for local people. If you want a strong independent alternative voice that’s committed to standing up for ordinary people and advancing social and environmental justice than I’d urge you to consider voting Green.