Socialists standing in the upcoming local elections in Bristol have criticised the main political parties as the “voice of big business”. Eighteen candidates are standing for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, with a pledge to refuse to make any budget cuts to public services.

Over the last 14 years, councils have been hammered financially with a huge drop in funding from the government. Recently, the sharp rise in demand and costs of some services, like social care and special needs education, has left many councils struggling to balance the books.

Council leaders like Bristol's Labour mayor Marvin Rees say they have no choice but to cut funding for some services, otherwise risking effective bankruptcy. But the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition has promised to fight against all budget cuts, if they win any seats on Thursday, May 2.

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The fringe left-wing party is also proposing for Bristol City Council to spend its reserves and borrow money to avoid making any budget cuts this financial year. When councils can’t balance the books, known as declaring a Section 114 notice, government commissioners are sent in.

These commissioners take drastic measures to slash services and find ways, often unpopular with local residents, to make huge financial savings. TUSC candidates say they would simply “refuse to cooperate with any Tory-appointed commissioners”, if this were to happen in Bristol.

Dan Smart, TUSC candidate for Hillfields, said: “Tory budget cuts have hit jobs and services hard. Now they threaten the very existence of local government with several councils going bankrupt. That will be the future of Bristol unless we stand up for ourselves.

“Yet Labour has carried out cuts in the city, while the Greens put forward no alternative [budget] this year. We need socialists in the council who are willing to take on the government and fight for what Bristol needs.

“Whether it be on council cuts, NHS privatisation, the cost of living crisis, or the devastation being wrought on Gaza, all we’re hearing from the main parties is the voice of big business. The strikes over the last two years show that the working class is willing to stand up for ourselves, but we need a political party that’s willing to stand with us.

“We need a socialist alternative to the capitalist crisis we see all around us. That’s why I’m standing for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition.”

The party also plans to reject any increases in council tax or rents for working class people, as well as exploring alternative local taxes for funding public services. The party is demanding the government “restores the cuts in funding imposed since 2010”.

Housing crisis

As well as austerity, TUSC is focusing on the housing crisis in Bristol. They say the council should “immediately begin a mass building programme of eco-friendly council homes”.

Suzanne Muna, TUSC candidate for Clifton Down, said: “Over the last 20 years, I’ve been actively involved in my trade union, as well as launching and running the Social Housing Action Campaign. I have witnessed the devastation wrought by poor quality, unsuitable and insecure housing.

“Councils could be doing much more to alleviate Bristol’s housing crisis. We need to build thousands of good quality council homes and cap private sector rents.”

TUSC was founded in 2010 by former RMT leader Bob Crow. The party has never yet won a seat on Bristol City Council, but received 3,194 votes in the 2021 mayoral election, coming in sixth place.