Thursday, 20 July 2017

Leaders need to take responsibility for their actions and inactions

An edited version of the first part of my recent blog post 'Opposing cuts in services' was published as a letter in the Bristol Post. It has sparked a reply, which is great because the more we discuss austerity and cuts and the need to oppose them, reverse them, and invest in our future wellbeing instead, the better. 

Below is a copy of my response:

I'm glad that there is some common ground between myself and Bob Farmer, who replied (Post 19 July) to my letter of 12 July about the deep cuts in local public services being made by Bristol's Labour Mayor Marvin Rees. Bob and I agree that central government are the primary cause of the cuts.

The Conservative Lib-Dem Coalition followed by the David Cameron and Theresa May Conservative Government's austerity policies have cut budgets for most government departments, cut funding that goes to local government, cut public-sector wages, cut benefits, cut spending by government - and increased the overall tax burden at the same time. This is very poor economics with very bad social, economic and environmental consequences.

Bob says that it's not helpful to blame Bristol's Mayor for the local cuts. I disagree because the Mayor has done too little, too late to make the case for more money for Bristol from the Government. He has to take some responsibility for his actions as the elected leader of Bristol. 

Instead of it being his first and urgent action when elected in 2016 it has taken him a year to get together with the other core cities - all Labour run - to begin to make a case. Green Councillors urged him to take this action a year ago. As Bob himself points out, the Government can and has found money, doing a £1.5 billion deal with the DUP to keep itself in power. It is vulnerable to pressure - but pressure from Bristol and the other core cities is lacking at present.

Bob refers to the situation Mayor Rees has inherited as 'untenable to most of us'. I agree but untenable means it cannot be maintained or defended, which means it should be changed and opposed. Mayor Rees is enabling the untenable situation to continue by setting budgets that go along with it, rather than fighting tooth and nail for more local government funding.

Reflections on leadership and how cities should be lead 

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