Austerity is a false economy - discuss!

September 30 2016

To say it’s a challenging time for local authorities up and down the country is putting it mildly

To say it’s a challenging time for local authorities up and down the country is putting it mildly. We are all striving to meet a growing demand for services while at the same time facing huge financial pressures following years of government cuts.  Bristol is no exception – our current working assumption is that we will need to save at least £60m - £100m between April 2017 and April 2020. This on top of the budget gap we inherited of around £30m this year.

I believe austerity is a false economy. Taking money from the kind of early interventions and vital services  Bristol City Council provides puts more pressure elsewhere in the system and has a profound and financially costly effects on many people’s lives. I have invited trade unions, other political parties and city partners to work with me in making the case to central government.

With that said; I have to deal with reality. I have to balance the budget. It would be reckless not to and financial officers or government-appointed commissioners would step in to run things, removing local democratic control.

So I am asking you to join me in a city wide conversation about our future.

In the next month or so I will be publishing proposals for how, where and when we’ll make savings and balance the books over the next five years. I want as many of you as possible to see this and have the chance to share your views, priorities and ideas. There are really tough decisions ahead. I need your input before these decisions are made.

I want to keep my promises, maintain life-and-limb services and do all I can to improve people’s lives with the resources I’ve got. I want to do all I can to avoid the poorest and most vulnerable taking the biggest hit. Your views and those of our many partners around the city will help achieve this.

To take part, keep an eye on http://bristol.gov.uk/budget, where we’ll put all the details. You can also register now to hear about this and other council consultations at http://bristol.gov.uk/consultation. Over the autumn, information will also be available from libraries and Citizen Service Points and I intend to hold and publicise several events around the city as part of the budget conversation. You should also ensure your local councillors knows what you want.

I will listen to feedback and, working with my cabinet, take real account of it. But do keep in mind the money has to be saved somehow – so I’d really welcome alternative ideas if you don’t agree with any proposals.  Together we can make the best of a really difficult situation.