Bristol budget cuts: hundreds of council posts to be axed
Hundreds of council jobs are expected to be axed as part of city mayor George Ferguson's plans to cut £35 million from the civic budget.
More than 300 posts will be shed from the council's 7,000 workforce, of which about 100 are likely to be compulsory redundancies.
About 70 of the posts are currently vacant and will not be filled. There will be more unfilled posts and an estimated 100 staff will be redeployed.
Mr Ferguson said the posts will be lost from "back office" staff and management re-structuring rather than frontline staff such as social workers and home care helps.
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He admitted that frontline services will be affected but he said his overriding aim was to keep these to a minimum.
He said: "We have had to make some tough decisions and there will be some cuts in some services - I am sorry but this has been inescapable.
"But I am very proud that between us - myself, my cabinet members and the council's strategic team of officers, more than half of these proposed cuts - £19 million - are coming from council efficiencies.
"As a result we have done our utmost to protect the most vulnerable people from the impact of these cuts."
One example of an "efficiency saving" is in the council's finance department where old methods of working will be replaced with modern technology so that teams of staff can be re-structured and processes revised which will save £470,000 next year and £1.45 million in further years.
Other examples of "efficiency savings" include:
+ the growth of academies which are funded by the Government means a number of education services will no longer be provided by the council - £1.05 million;
+ merging smaller departments such as democratic and statutory services - £290,000;
+ re-organising social care work to those in need and their carers - £833,000.
Among the most controversial cuts are:
+ a three-year plan to close a total of six residential care homes, provide three homes for people with dementia and three care homes which will be privately-run - £1.7 million;
+ no more funding for 32 Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) who are currently funded by the council - £540,000. The police employs 80 PCSOs in the city.
+ introducing car parking charges at Blaise and Oldbury Court estates and higher charges for long-stay parking at Ashton Court;
+ stop plans to build a new swimming pool for east Bristol at Brunel Academy - £350,000.
Mr Ferguson has reprieved the closure of the city's 79 public toilets which would have saved about £600,000. There had been plans to close them but Mr Ferguson said it was unacceptable to lose them. However, he did say the future of them would be kept under review and they would look at ways to run them more cheaply.
In all, there are more than 100 subject headings from across all council departments where the axe will fall.
About £3 million will be raised by increasing council tax by just under two per cent which will mean average bills will increase by nearly £30 a year.
Most council taxpayers in Bristol live in Band A to C homes which means there bills will rise by upto £20 a year - less than 50p a week.
Although Mr Ferguson admits that frontline services will be affected, it is impossible to say what the true extent of the cuts will be.
For example, all work on bringing back empty homes back into use will cease, providing a saving of £60,000 a year. Last year, 500 homes were brought back into use which eased the city's chronic housing shortage and meant fewer homeless people had to stay in bed and breakfast accommodation.
Mr Ferguson said that when he first took office, the size of the cuts was £28 million but this figure grew to £35 million as a result of Government cuts in grants.
He said this total represented nearly 10 per cent of the council's annual budget and therefore was a large sum to find.
But he warned that during the following two years, a further £65 million will have to be found. These are on top of the £56 million which have been made during the past two years - nearly £160 million in five years.
Mr Ferguson said much of the work on the budget had been done before he took office and therefore he and his team were left with a series of choices to make in a relatively short time.
But he said he would carry out a fundamental review of local government and examine its role so that a "zero-based" budget can be drawn up for the remaining years of his term of office.
This root and branch review will look at what services the council should provide and work out how to pay for them instead of making cuts each year.
Despite the cuts, the council has managed to find £70 million to provide extra primary school places, £40 million to bring homes upto modern-day standards and £10 million to reduce the city's carbon footprint.
Tory Councillor Geoff Gollop, a member of Mr Ferguson's cabinet who runs his own accountancy firm and is charged with the task of overseeing the council's finances, said no one entered politics to make cuts.
But he said: "We do see the importance of managing and controlling the budget so that we get the best value for money that we possibly can."
Former council leader Simon Cook, cabinet member in charge of leisure and culture, said the overall impact of the cuts would be a lot less than was originally feared.
The budget proposals are scheduled to go before a meeting of the council's Resources Committee on Wednesday, January 14 at 6pm and a final decision will be made at full council on Tuesday, February 26.