09 Jun 2016

Finance and Corporate Services

Mayor provides promised council finance update

Bristol City Council must make savings of around £44m by April 2017, before facing down another £60m budget gap for the years 2017 – 2020.

The update on public finances is being issued by Mayor Marvin Rees today (Thursday 9 June) following a promise made during his inauguration speech on Monday 9 May.

They show that the savings the council expects to have to make are nearly the same as projected in its current ‘Medium Term Financial Plan 2013/14 – 2016/17’, but adds a worst-case scenario of £8m of cost pressure in social care. This would be a £12m pressure were it not for a 2% Adult Social Care levy added to this year’s Council Tax bill.

The remaining £36m of savings needed this year are in line with plans originally set in 2014, where an anticipated £34m of savings were required in 2016/17. Officers are currently revisiting existing plans and progress made to date, confirming all of the ways in which savings will be made.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol said: “This is part of my administration’s inheritance and we will do all we can to limit the impact of this stark reality. The council has worked hard to make savings so far, but this really underlines the crippling burden being placed on local government by the much-maligned austerity measures of the government, coupled with the growing need for vital services such as social care.

“There is little fat left to trim leaving us facing unpalatable options. This is not ‘the council’s problem’ alone. Cuts here affect many lives and all sorts of organisations across the city and region. Cuts in services provided by Bristol City Council risk increasing costs faced by other city services: providers such as health and education, and the wider economy as a whole. Likewise, other people’s cuts affect us. In this context, the government needs to recognise the false economy it risks by forcing us to keep making cuts.

“We need to work more closely together across organisational and sectoral boundaries to protect local services as much as possible. I am forming a City Office to bring many partners together, understand how we impact upon each other and make sure we work together to make savings and minimise the impact on services. This isn’t a magic wand – it is one way of contributing towards savings, protecting the most vulnerable and building a strong foundation for the city’s future. But it won’t give us all the answers.”

Cllr Craig Cheney, Cabinet Member for Finance added: “Our aim will be to protect services as much as possible, but it is clear that we cannot save enough money in the long term without making tough choices.

“Our current focus is on this year, but we are mindful of the projected £60m budget gap over the next three years created by a mixture of government cuts and increasing demands for our services. Put together we have the galling task of saving over £100m in four years.

“Today the Mayor and I can present the scale of challenge, but not all the answers. Our new Medium Term Financial Plan will need to be developed with the involvement of the whole city in an honest, meaningful and inclusive conversation about the future and everyone’s priorities. We will start that conversation next month, taking the first step towards making the plan and setting our budget next February.

“In the meantime we will get on with the business of delivering the existing and emerging plans to make the necessary savings this year. More details on these will be shared in the next few months after going through the proper and necessary processes.”

The Mayor will start a fresh conversation with the city in early July, making available an online tool which will let people simulate the council’s budget decisions and show where they would invest or save money in order to safeguard the city’s future and deliver a balanced budget. This will be supplemented by other ways to engage which will be announced when the simulator is launched. The responses will inform the development of a new Medium Term Financial Plan to be shared later in the year, at which point a formal 12-week consultation is planned for the late-autumn and winter.