Bristol City Council has released its detailed budget proposals for the next financial year. They have been considered at the Council’s Cabinet on 27th January, and then at full Council on 22nd February which you can watch in a live webcast
The key elements of the papers are:
- Council Tax bills will be frozen – in recognition of the tough economic times facing families throughout Bristol, this will be the first time in ten years that residents will not see an increase in their bills
- £28 million savings will be required next year alone, due to reductions in central Government funding. This amounts to around 7% of the Council’s budget (or £1 out of every £14). The savings required over the next four years put together are predicted to be £70m (including this first year’s £28 million). Included in these headline reductions in Government funding, is a loss to Bristol in specific grants – requiring savings of £3 million in Early Intervention Grant areas next year alone.
- The plans also cope with unavoidable cost pressures – such as increasing budget for children in care placements by £1.7 million (following growth in children taken into care after the Baby P case in London)
- The Council has argued Bristol’s case hard with Government, as have other councils. This has included traveling to Whitehall last week to seek to persuade ministers. Despite this, it looks like Bristol will be taking more than its share of funding reductions from Government, so that other Councils (e.g. Dorset, Wokingham and Surrey County Council) will see their funding reductions phased in more gently over several years.
- In deciding which savings to put forward, the Council is seeking as far as possible to protect front-line services and the most vulnerable service users. This has been achieved by finding as much as possible from finding efficiencies in the way the Council works, reducing overheads, and cutting management costs – together amounting to over 80% of the savings.
- The Council predicted this situation and began preparations a year ago (well ahead of the General Election) in light of the general economic situation – freezing vacancies, finding efficiencies, spending within our means (tightening belts to bring in the current year’s budget without overspends). When staff have left the Council, rather than replacing them, the Council has generally frozen the vacancies (except for instance in vital areas, such as children’s social workers). When those vacant posts are now being cut, there are therefore no redundancy bills to pay. As a result, far fewer staff will be facing the prospect of compulsory redundancy than would otherwise be the case.
- The resulting jobs impact for Bristol City Council will see around 340 posts go, of which around 180 are likely to come through vacancies, redeployment and natural wastage, with fewer than half (160) potentially facing redundancy (out of a workforce of around 8,900, excluding school staff). In comparison Manchester City Council has just announced 2,000 jobs to go, and Hull City Council 1,400.
- The budget proposals reflect a clear focus on the Council’s priorities – maintaining the year-on-year improvement in educational attainment; looking after the most vulnerable in society; and attracting jobs and investment to Bristol.
Leader of the Council Barbara Janke said
In tough times for the public sector, the budget we’re proposing manages to protect as far as possible the front-line services serving the most
vulnerable people in the city – sometimes even increasing the funding, in areas like children taken into care. We’re also recognising the pressures on hard-pressed families by freezing Council Tax bills. We are managing to do all of this whilst cutting only 340 jobs – and most of them without compulsory redundancies. When other city councils are slashing many times more jobs, we’ve achieved this balance because we have found efficiencies and cut back on management and bureaucratic costs – and because we had the foresight to begin to tighten our belts over a year ago.
Follow the budget debate by watching our live webcasts
The budget has been discussed in these meetings. You can jump to the agenda point by clicking on ‘index points’ in the webcast player.
- Resources Scrutiny Commission (25 Jan): 2011/12 Budget and impact of economic situation
- Cabinet (27 Jan): including a discussion of the 2011/12 Revenue Budget
- Full Council (22 Feb) – budget for 2011/12 set to be discussed and agreed by all councilors