The Green-led Bristol City Council will demand the new Labour government bring an end to austerity and invest in local public services. Since 2010 local councils have had their budgets slashed with dire impacts on services ranging from bins to care homes, potholes and libraries.

Last week Labour won the general election, providing a glimmer of hope that budgets for public services might soon be restored. But the Green Party has criticised Labour’s manifesto, saying their plans don’t go far enough.

The Greens, who took control of the council in May, say a wealth tax would raise billions every year to improve public services. They received support from Labour and the Lib Dems for a motion during a full council meeting on Tuesday, July 9, calling on the new government to finally end austerity.

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Green Councillor Rob Bryher, who tabled the motion, said: “We must make clear the scale of the challenge we face. Nationally, the nightmare of austerity has contributed to 335,000 excess deaths, a fall in life expectancy and a real-term average income cut of £11,000.

“Although Labour does use the line ‘there will be no return to austerity’, I must express scepticism about this claim. There has been insufficient detail as to how exactly Labour will increase funding to local government, rather than simply maintain the stagnant status quo.

“We also need to borrow to invest. There’s a common misconception that a national budget is like a household budget, when really if you control your own currency, like the UK does, you have a lot more leeway than that.

“We want to see public investment through taxing wealth fairly, and taxing investment income at the same rate as earned income. This would mean £28.5 billion raised in taxes on personal income and wealth, rising to £71.9 billion by 2029. This is how you pay for good public services, and is the detail that the Labour manifesto sadly lacked.”

Austerity began in 2010 after the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government was first elected, although Labour had promised to do the same. The economic programme came in response to the recession and global financial crisis, and was designed to radically reduce how much the government spends on public services, in order to reduce the deficit.

Cuts to council budgets over the next decade led to a wide-range of problems, including care homes closing, bin collections becoming less frequent, more potholes plaguing roads, and fewer services and less support for people with disabilities or mental illnesses. While the deficit did fall, until the pandemic, experts blamed prolonged minuscule economic growth on the spending cuts.

Conservative Cllr Mark Weston said: “You make several assumptions, when actually if you look at fact-checking services you have to take them with a slight pinch of salt. They all say that you’re conflating causation and everything else. The various items you talk about, £11,000 worse off, the excess deaths and all of the rest of it, actually when you dig into that, you can’t blame it entirely on austerity. You can’t, and they say you can’t.

“Our budgets have been cut since austerity started. It actually started under Labour, but we carried it on. The Labour Party were saying they would cut the deficit in half in four years; the Coalition cut it by a third in four years. Which bit did we cut that you wouldn’t have done? What would you have done differently? You forget that each and every time.”

An academic study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health in 2022 found there were 334,327 excess deaths in England, Wales and Scotland between 2012 and 2019. Its authors, from the University of Glasgow, said more people were dying early after experiencing a cut in income, as well as poor health, nutrition and housing.

However, these deaths can’t directly be linked to austerity. But the academics used data going back to 1981 to compare the number of deaths in the eight-year period with previous trends, and found many more people were dying earlier than expected, suggesting a causal link.

Labour Cllr Zoë Peat said: “The last 14 years of Conservative rule have left councils across the country without the necessary funding for our public services. Their failures need more than just an easy fix and it will take time to repair the damage that the Conservatives have done.

“However, today is a new day and our newly-appointed Labour government is committed to multi-year funding, ending competitive bidding, and strengthening devolution to give councils more power to provide for their citizens.

“The last four years have been reminiscent of some other pivotal moments in British history, such as those that followed the devastation of the second world war, when the United Kingdom demanded investment and demanded a Labour government — a government which provided a mass council house building programme and created the NHS.”

While Labour hasn’t explicitly pledged to increase council funding, two important changes have been promised. These are providing cash to councils over several years, instead of just for every year, allowing for more long-term planning; and also stopping the practice where councils have to bid against each other for small pots of money, which itself costs considerable sums.

Green Cllr Bryher added: “After the devastation of World War Two, the Atlee [Labour] government invested and borrowed to invest. It gave a massive boost to people, and we need you to do the same thing. I’m looking forward to our Green MPs pushing Labour to borrow, and actually reject this discredited economic orthodoxy that says we cannot borrow to invest and we cannot tax wealth. We have to do it so that we can get good local government public services.”