Speakers' Corner: "I'm sick of out-of-touch politicians and their cuts"
Today's Speakers' Corner is from Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts' mayoral candidate Tom Baldwin.
I'M standing for Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts for Bristol mayor as an alternative to the parties of big business and of austerity. The ConDem Government is demanding attacks on the living standards of ordinary working-class and middle-class people and cuts and privatisation to our vital public services. Their agenda is one of Robin Hood in reverse, taking wealth from us and giving it to the rich.
Unfortunately all the main parties have gone along with this agenda, agreeing that cuts are needed. In local councils they've all carried out the Government's demands and passed on the pain to local people. This includes Labour and the Greens.
Here in Bristol that has meant things like the planned closure of eight care homes and seven day care centres. This is nothing but an attempt to pay for a crisis caused by billionaire bankers and big business out of the pockets of the elderly and vulnerable. Reversing these closures would be my first priority if elected.
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The news that the mayor will be faced with a £25 million shortfall in their first year will inevitably mean even more attacks on the people of Bristol if one of the pro-cuts candidates is elected. Government cuts to this city's funding will present the new mayor with a choice. Will they do the Tories' dirty work and make cuts or will they stand up to defend the jobs and services we need?
If elected I would take the second option. I would move a budget based upon what Bristol needs and campaign to win back the money that's been stolen from us. The Government may claim there's no money but there was plenty when the banks needed bailouts and they've managed to fund tax cuts for big business and things like Trident nuclear weapons.
I would begin by protecting the services we already have, but the needs of the city are greater than that. I would also bring in a local replacement to the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). This was a small weekly payment to 16 to 19-year-old students to help pay for things like travel to college; it was cut by the Tories but has been re-introduced in some local authorities. Building and refurbishing council houses would both fill a need for quality affordable housing and create much- needed jobs.
As a socialist I believe in public ownership. Our services should belong to us and be run democratically in the interests of the people of Bristol, not by unelected private companies who put their profits first. I would halt and reverse privatisation and outsourcing of council services. I support a publicly owned transport network where cheap fares and better services are the priority, not profiteering by companies like First.
Electing me as an anti-cuts mayor would be a huge boost to the fight against austerity. But for me, active opposition to the cuts doesn't end with this election. I'm fed up with politicians that you only see when they want your vote. I have a long record of campaigning with groups including the Bristol and District Anti-Cuts Alliance and Youth Fight for Jobs and Education. From lobbying the council against care service cuts to supporting disabled workers on their picket lines as they struck against the closure of Remploy factories, I've been there.
When workers are forced into striking to defend their living standards they need support, not condemnation as we've had from Labour. No wonder working-class people feel abandoned.
Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts was established to give us back a voice. If I'm elected I'll only take the average wage of a worker in the city, not the inflated mayoral salary. I'm sick of hearing out-of-touch politicians talk about "tough choices" when they're protected from the effect of those choices by their huge pay.
I say it's time for a clean break with the policies of austerity.
It's not fair to make working-class people pay for a crisis they didn't cause, especially when the most vulnerable are paying the highest price. It's not necessary when the super-rich are still rolling in money.
For example £120 billion is dodged in tax each year while the Government carries on handing tax cuts to millionaires. £750 billion is lying idle in the bank accounts of big business in this country, not being invested to create jobs because they put their profit before our needs. And it's not working. As people have less money to spend the economy is getting worse and Government borrowing is actually going up.
If you want a mayor that's going to take a stand against austerity then vote Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts first preference. To contact me or get involved in our campaign then call 07986 951527 or email email@example.com. You can find out more from www.socialistparty.org.uk, www.tusc.org.uk and www.facebook.com/TUSCBristol.