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Bristol mayor says 'out with the new, in with the cuts'
Robin Clapp, South West Socialist Party secretary
When Bristol businessman and former Liberal Democrat George Ferguson reinvented himself as an 'independent' and won the mayoral election in November, he claimed his success signified: "a new way of doing things.
"I want to use that mandate to go and ask the prime minister and the government in general for more powers for Bristol and for more resources."
The city had bucked the national trend by voting in an earlier referendum to have an elected mayor. Only 28% turned out to vote in the subsequent election.
Had the proposal been to sack all the cutters and mediocrities who keep the council benches warm, polling stations would still have queues outside them today.
The new mayor is now singing a different song and guess what - it's that old standard 'We have no alternative to cuts'.
Revealing himself to be just one more professional politician who faithfully executes the wishes of his Westminster masters, Ferguson has announced that another £35 million will be cut from this year's budget, to be followed by an eye-watering £65 million by 2017.
He expresses frustration that prime minister David Cameron seems unwilling to reward his electoral success by increasing Bristol's grant, but in the next breath wags his finger and warns that nobody will escape the pain, including the most disadvantaged.
Gone are the honeyed words that promised a new approach to running local government.
Instead he's endorsed the closure of care homes and daycare centres, is handing out 100 redundancy notices, chopping another 250 posts and hiking up council tax by 2%. Some children's centres face the axe and a new swimming pool in east Bristol is being mothballed.
The Labour Party locally is in turmoil. When Ferguson dangled a cabinet seat before them, they eagerly accepted, before being instructed by Labour's national leaders to stay away from this car crash waiting to happen.
Their leader then promptly resigned, and having had an interim leader, they've now dredged up a former leader to become the new leader.
Reluctantly exiled from the cabinet, they nonetheless continue to loyally belt out Ferguson's cuts chorus, never hitting a discordant note.
In an act of opportunism that has caused several notable resignations from their ranks, the Green Party - with just two councillors - has joined Ferguson's cabinet (nothing to do with the £21,000 cabinet salary of course).
This is despite Ferguson's two-fingered salute to these new allies - he's scrapping a proposed new recycling centre!
Trade unions, along with Bristol Anti-Cuts Alliance, are gearing up to lead the fightback.
Ferguson's 'man of the people' populism may backfire, as the fury of those same people turns to organised resistance against Cameron's mayoral mouthpiece.
In The Socialist 23 January 2013:
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