Council tax to rise in Bristol as government cuts start to bite

February 29 2016

Council tax to rise in Bristol as government cuts start to bite

BRISTOL City Council has confirmed its annual budget for the financial year 2016/17 but it is a budget reduced by £30 million, compared to last year, as central government cuts are passed onto the city.

Following a seven hour debate on Mayor George Ferguson’s proposed budget, a number of amendments were discussed and voted upon by councillors.

Nine amendments in total were agreed by majority vote including raising council tax by an extra 2% above the originally proposed 1.95% (3.95% in total). The extra revenue raised by the 2% charge will be dedicated to delivering adult social care within Bristol.

George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol, said: “It was an excellent budget debate with many constructive contributions from all parties and I am delighted to have returned a balanced budget.

Despite continued reductions in central Government funding and growth in service demand, I am pleased that our enterprising management of the city’s finances has allowed us to continue investing in the city’s infrastructure and provide one off funding for a variety of projects across Bristol.

“I am particularly pleased to have been able to inject further money into early learning and the development of employment opportunities and skills, especially during Bristol’s Year of Learning.”

Included in the budget for the next financial year is £345m of funding to cover the cost of running day to day services plus £56m earmarked from the Housing Revenue Account for capital investment in new and existing council housing.

The meeting also confirmed the capital budget at £134m, to be spent on projects to improve infrastructure such as roads and buildings. Government grants for specific uses such as the Public Health Grant and Dedicated Schools Grant will generate further millions of pounds for investment by the council.

Councillor Geoff Gollop, Deputy Mayor of Bristol, added: “The setting of this year’s budget is a result of the hard work and support of many people within the organisation. I would like to thank all Council Officers involved in the process and my cabinet colleagues for their input and dedication. I also thank all Councillors who have been constructively involved in the budget process for their efforts and contribution.

“The council has a duty to ensure that any budget that is put forward must be balanced and should be sensible, achievable and in the best interests of the public. I am pleased to see that our continued sound management of the city’s finances has resulted once again in a budget that fulfils this duty.”

It is a view that was not shared by all. Leader of the Green councillors, Ani Stafford Townsend said: “These devastating cuts to vital council services are not something that Greens can support.

“Thanks to our amendment, adult social care will be receiving an additional £3.5 million funding this year for care homes, disability services and home care services, but even so, the overall funding gap for these services continues to increase.”

“As far as the overall budget is concerned, the Green’s don’t believe that most people want a society where their local council cannot afford to pay for care of older and disabled people, maintain our streets or pay for basic services.”

The meeting also agreed to earmark funding for a number of oneoff investments totalling just over £1m. The projects identified for special funding are £250,000 for Early Years Children Centres, £50,000 for an Ashton Gate rail station business case, £250,000 to establish an Employment Engagement Hub at Engine Shed, £500,000 towards a Bristol Aerospace Centre and £50,000 for the Campus Skate Park in Bishopsworth.