Help us to Keep The Lights On for another decade! Back the Cable
The Bristol Cable

Council tenant rents to rise by 7% but parks and library cuts shelved under updated budget plans

The updated Bristol City Council budget, which will be finalised in February, also includes proposals to increase the cost of garden waste collections and charging second-home owners full council tax.

Reports

Council tax will rise by 5% and council tenant rents by 7% under Bristol City Council’s new budget plans.

But proposed cuts to parks, libraries and the council tax reduction scheme, which helps the poorest families, have been shelved following a backlash.

An updated council budget, to be recommended by mayor Marvin Rees’s cabinet on 24 January, also includes new proposals to increase the cost of garden waste collections from £32 to £50 a year and charging second-home owners full council tax. 

Councillors will then vote on proposals next month.

Proposed savings

The council tax hike, comprising the maximum allowed 2.99% for general services and 2% for adult social care, means a £94.87 increase for band D properties and excludes smaller precepts from the police and fire authorities.

Despite the extra income, the local authority still faces a £20.3 million budget gap in 2023/24, going up to £40.2m in four years, although the cabinet papers say the worse-case scenario by 2027/28 is a £125m blackhole.

The council has proposed savings totalling £16.2m in the 12 months from April and £30.2m overall.

This has come down from the £45.7m of suggested cutbacks in its original draft budget that the council recently consulted on, which included £1.5m less for parks, a £1.4m cut for libraries and £3m savings on the council tax reduction scheme.

All three have been reversed following public feedback and with some more money from the government to help the worst-off.

A further £8.8m will be used from reserves over the next three years to balance the books.

What the mayor said on updated plans

Mayor Rees said that more than a decade of government austerity has already cut council budgets “to the bone”, adding: “But despite the challenges, we have found a way to continue to protect frontline services.”

He said a consultation on proposals showed people felt particularly strongly about the proposed savings for parks and libraries.

“Central Library will remain in its current home and we will not move ahead with the other aspects of those savings proposals,” he said. “Instead, we will work with the city to find ways to sustainably run these departments with less government funding in the long term.”

Rees said the council budget will protect funding for the city’s 22 children’s centres and 27 libraries. 

How the extra income will be spent

Last year, the safety of council blocks across the city came under intense scrutiny following a number of fires, forcing the council the announce major fire safety measures, including removing flammable cladding.

Rees said every penny of the 7% rise in council rents to £90.76 a week would be spent on repairs and improvements to tenants’ homes.

“This includes our sprinkler installation scheme, communal fire alarms and the ‘waking watch’ for homes with expanded polystyrene cladding,” the mayor said.

“With this rent rise, our programme for improving council homes remains on track, with £80m for making them more energy efficient, saving tenants money on their heating bills, our £8.7m fund to improve communal areas and a £12.5m bathroom replacement scheme.”

He said the rent increase would be absorbed for around two-thirds of tenants by the local housing allowance, while others should see the rise offset through the council tax reduction scheme.

The cost of Bristol Beacon has spiralled by another £25 million.

Tory group leader Mark Weston said: “We welcome the removal of the libraries and parks spending from the savings plan as these will always be key Conservative priorities when considering what ought to be core council competences.

“Overall, one cannot help but think that the authority’s finances would be in a much better position had the mayor not frittered away so much money on hopeless commercial ventures – Bristol Energy – and the rather grotesque cost of rebuilding the Bristol Beacon.”

Disproportionate impact of cuts 

A report to next week’s meeting said: “The medium-term financial outlook is the most severe we have known for many years and the council continues to manage a challenging financial environment.

“The position is unprecedented with national and international factors largely beyond the council’s control, including inflation and pay-related cost increases, rapidly rising energy costs and broader demand pressures and costs in both adults’ and children’s social care.

“The identification and achievement of significant savings is essential to live within our means and to shield us from the immediate impact of government cuts in 2025/26 and beyond.

Get our latest stories & essential Bristol news
sent to your inbox every Saturday morning

The report added that the impact of the saving proposals would likely have a disproportionate impact on people living in poverty, low-income families, and “equalities groups particularly on the basis of age and disability.”

It continued: “We will aim to mitigate this disproportionate impact as possible by prioritising and retaining statutory and targeted services which most benefit vulnerable groups.”

The proposed general fund revenue budget totals £483.5m up by £58.5m on this year.

Full council will set the budget on 21 February.

Join 2,500 Cable members redefining local media

Your support will help the Cable grow, deepening our connections in the city and investigating the issues that matter most in our communities.

Join now

What makes us different?

Comments

Report a comment. Comments are moderated according to our Comment Policy.

  • We do not need 24/7 waking watch fire wardens.
    We do not need water sprinklers.
    Education around charging lithium batteries sure. As with any fire hazards.
    Removal of dangerous cladding absolutely.
    But the thing that will kill and bring about much suffering is a rent rise when there is little or even no money to be had.

    Reply

Post a comment

Mark if this comment is from the author of the article

By posting a comment you agree to our Comment Policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related content

‘This is long overdue’: campaigning high-rise residents promised action to improve their homes

After years of living in crumbling, leaking housing, and putting pressure on the council to take action, people in neglected blocks of flats at St Jude's hope change is finally coming.

Listen: The Debrief – what does Bristol’s Green surge mean for the city, and what next for the council under a new committee system?

The Green Party became Bristol's largest party at local elections on 2 May, falling just short of an overall majority. As Bristol kisses goodbye to its mayoral system, what will happen next?

Green surge secures historic victory at Bristol council elections

The Green Party gained 10 seats, mostly from Labour, but fell just short of a majority. Now, they will go into Bristol's new committee system as the largest party, but restated their commitment to work with others in leading the council.

From activists to councillors: the local election candidates taking the plunge into party politics

With a new committee system about to give councillors more power, the Cable spoke to some of the new faces hoping to take their desire for change to City Hall. 

Listen: Bristol Unpacked with Emma Edwards on making local politics less toxic, and whether the Greens are ready for power

Growing support for the Green Party could well see them running the council beyond May's local elections, but are they ready to make the tricky transition from the main local opposition to being in charge?

Listen: Bristol Unpacked with Tory leader Mark Weston on how the council has waged ‘war on motorists’ and wasted millions

The councillor of nearly 20 years discusses the Tories' miserable national polling, the millions of pounds of public money wasted by the council, and the cultural divides between Bristol's inner city and suburbs.

Join our newsletter

Get the essential stories you won’t find anywhere else

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter to get our weekly round-up direct to your inbox every Saturday

Join our newsletter

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter

Get our latest stories & essential Bristol news
sent to your inbox every Saturday morning