The News in Brief section of this edition’s paper was dedicated almost entirely to the upcoming cuts to council services, which are currently out for consultation. The latest round looks to shave a few million pounds from support services to people with physical or mental health issues, the public toilets and the closure of half of the city’s libraries. In addition, more news from the National Health Service and Bristol’s housing developments.
Words: Sid Ryan
Council cuts consultation
The next round of cuts to council services is coming in, so we encourage readers to get involved in the consultation to help influence where the axe falls. Council consultations are available at bristol.citizenspace.com and the ‘Your Neighbourhood’ cuts consultations are open until the 5th September. Get yourself heard!
Large cuts to disability support services
There are currently two sets of proposals under consultation which will cut back on support services for people with disabilities and mental health issues. Budgets will be cut by between 25-33%, the only question for the public is exactly what gets lost. It’s suggested that the council will no longer be a provider of care to people with complex learning disabilities, and there will be further reductions in supported accommodation for people with mental health issues or those fleeing domestic abuse. Also proposed are cuts to welfare and money advice services, transport to community services for disabled people and, potentially, the closure of the Bristol Community Links centres.
The council can’t spend a penny
Also on the chopping block are Bristol’s public toilets. About half of the city’s 36 public facilities are expected to close down. Bristolians can choose which they prefer: close 17 toilets and renovate one, close 18 toilets and don’t look for other provision to save £30k, or close 18 and set up a community scheme where charities and businesses open up their toilets to anyone who can’t hold it in.
Where are all the libraries going?
A total of 17 of Bristol’s libraries are going to have their funding withdrawn. This will leave them either having to be rescued by their communities or simply shut down and the buildings sold off. You’ve got no choice about how many close, but can choose whether you’d prefer the remaining libraries to be in the best buildings, or in the areas that need them most.
The Metro Mayor
The Conservative candidate Tim Bowles won the election for Metro Mayor with the first preference votes of just 8% of the electorate, but what’s he been up to since? Nothing of substance it seems: It’s taken two months to get the first public meeting set up. Keep your eyes peeled for the West of England Regional Development plan due to be released for consultation in July, so you can help decide which of the £7.5bn worth of infrastructure projects proposed the Combined Authority should spend its £30m per year on.
The National Health Service
There hasn’t been an awful lot of news coming out of the health service in recent months. Now months overdue, the local health services still haven’t released detailed ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plan’ proposals to outline which services are going to be cut to close a projected £300m budget deficit across the greater Bristol region. But what news does leak out isn’t good. North Bristol Trust’s IVF clinic is closing, and so is Weston General Hospital’s emergency department overnight service. Part of the reason Weston General’s ED is closing at night is that patients were spilling into the corridors, but now patients arriving after 10pm will be sent by ambulance to Bristol’s hospitals – which are themselves routinely going over full capacity.
After a long-running and hard fought campaign against a new McDonald’s in Fishponds, the planning inspector ruled against the council and the NoMacInF campaign and granted planning permission to the multinational corporation. On Spike Island, developers ‘The Guinness Partnership’ are planning to provide only half of the required amount of affordable housing in McArthurs Warehouse. And Bedminster might get a new power station, an £11m gas-fired plant to heat and power the Bedminster Green development.
Labour’s big win
It was a Labour win in all four of the city’s core constituencies, that much you should already know. But what you might have missed is the sheer scale of the victory. In Bristol West, Thangam Debbonaire increased Labour’s share of the vote by a whopping 30.3 percentage points. This was Labour’s biggest swing since the 1950s.