Bristol budget cuts: new parking charges and public toilets could close
PARKING charges at two of Bristol's most popular parks and the possible closure of council-run public toilets are just some of the measures being announced today by mayor George Ferguson as part of budget cuts totalling £35 million.
The new parking charges at Blaise Castle and Oldbury Court – as well as increasing long-stay charges at Ashton Court – would raise about £110,000 a year.
The closure of the 79 council-run toilets – including 20 in the city centre – would save about £600,000 a year in maintenance costs. The cuts would be made alongside a two per cent increase in council tax.
Other key measures which will be announced today include:
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â Removing council funding for 32 police community support officers, to save £540,000 a year;
â Stop night bus funding, which would save £40,000. Bus operator Wessex currently operates seven night-time services but it is understood the council has held talks with First about extending existing services into the night;
â Squeezing better value out of commercial contracts for home care provision – £461,000;
â Cuts in marketing, consultation and press office – £231,000;
â Cuts in the council's finance department – £320,000;
â Halting plans for a new Household Waste Recycling Centre in Hartcliffe – £220,000;
â Speeding up the move to more energy-efficient white street lights – £200,000.
Mr Ferguson was today set to spell out that the £35 million cuts represent about nine per cent of council spending next year and are on top of the £56 million cuts which have already been made during the past two years.
In a speech presenting the budget, he said: "This is all in the context of a city that is growing faster than the rest of the country, with more children being born, people living longer, and more people moving here or staying here after university. These are all changes to be celebrated, but they do also bring additional pressures on our services. There are other particular cost pressures, too, for example from the growing number of children requiring services from child protection social workers.
"My budget proposals actually include spending an extra £6 million in these vitally important areas – £3 million more on safeguarding children and young people, £3 million more on older people and vulnerable adults."
But in order to balance the civic books, Mr Ferguson plans to increase council tax bills by just under two per cent, which he says is a freeze in real terms because the rise is less than the level of inflation. This increase would see an average council tax bill jump by about £30 a year.
On the council tax increase, Mr Ferguson says: "My proposals now published include keeping the council tax bill rise down to just under two per cent for hard pressed families, under the rate of inflation, and matching our spending to today's harsh economic realities. They reflect my joint priorities to protect services for the most vulnerable and addressing the city's most pressing needs as far as can be done.
"I have carefully considered the potential impact of our changes on different sections of Bristol's community and am keen to give individual people more choice and local communities more influence over their neighbourhoods.
"The proposals invest in stimulating Bristol's economy in a sustainable way, while cutting out identifiable areas of waste, because I am dedicated to squeezing every last penny of value from tax payers' hard earned money."
Mr Ferguson says that "back office" cuts and reducing the number of management posts – which inevitably means jobs – will raise about £19.5 million.
He says this is to protect frontline services as far as possible. But he has admitted that it is not possible to avoid some cuts to frontline services.
Mr Ferguson's proposals will be put before the council's Resources Scrutiny Commission next Monday and the budget will be finally decided at a meeting of the full council on February 26, at 2pm.