A raft of five consultations launched today (Tuesday 13 June 2017) reveal detailed proposals for how Bristol City Council could deliver certain local services with a reduced budget. The ‘Your Neighbourhood’ consultations propose smaller, more focused options which encourage people to take part in civic life and reduce dependency on council-funded services.
Libraries, public toilets, school crossing patrols, Neighbourhood Partnerships and Bristol Community Links are all covered in the proposals. The ‘Your Neighbourhood’ consultations ask people to comment on as many of these proposals as possible. It includes an interactive map to help people judge and comment on the combined effects of the different options they can choose from.
The proposed changes include reducing the number of city libraries to 10; closing street toilets and investing in a new community toilet scheme to expand availability; removing around half of the city’s school crossing patrols (unless community, school or other options emerge); changing the current Neighbourhood Partnership model to a local grant system with less frequent community meetings; and making detailed changes to the way a suite of services for adults with learning disabilities and dementia operate. Together the savings amount to just over £4.7m.
The consultations are open now at www.bristol.gov.uk/yourneighbourhood and run until Tuesday 5 September. Anyone with a disability or particular access needs can request alternative formats by contacting the Consultation Team on firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0117 922 2848. A limited number of paper copies are available from local libraries and the council’s Citizen Service Point at 100 Temple Street. People who can take part online are encouraged to do so because it is quicker and easier for them and helps save the council money in print and transcription costs.
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol said:
“We have no choice but to make major savings following years of government austerity and the rising cost of providing vital services to more people. At the same time we want to deliver on our priorities and make Bristol a more equal city where no-one is left behind and where there is less of a need to rely on the council doing everything it once did. To do that we will work more closely with partners around the city to tackle Bristol’s biggest issues and enable more people to get involved in providing services.
“Last week’s election demonstrated that the UK’s major cities have rejected austerity and the damaging impact it continues to have on our lives at a local level. I will be asking the UK’s other major cities to join me in taking an argument to the new government for a fairer, more sustainable deal for our cities. These proposals reflect our current financial position and how we can provide adequate services without spreading ourselves hopelessly thin. It’s a tough call, but we’re asking ourselves questions like ‘Would we rather have 27 libraries which are hardly ever open, or 10 which have longer hours and better facilities?’
“We want your ideas and views across the board and we will be considering them carefully before any decisions are made.”
The consultations follow the council’s Corporate Strategy consultation last year and the subsequent budget decisions made by Full Council in February. Now that the council knows how much must be saved, it is presenting details of how this can be achieved. It is also welcoming local ideas and is encouraging more people to step up and play an active role in city life, including the possibility of some services or facilities being taken on by community groups or other organisations.
Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor added:
“There are some harsh prospects here but in many cases we’re supporting outdated, expensive ways of doing things which aren’t really suitable anymore. So whilst there’s definitely a big challenge and many hard choices, there is also a chance to work together on new ways of doing things.
“We are also looking at whether there are ways that the council can support community groups, volunteers and partners to play bigger roles in the delivery of some services. We want to help others to get things done, rather than supplying all the same services ourselves. Getting more involved in your community can help make you happier and healthier, whilst reducing the impact of these savings, so I’d encourage people to keep that in mind as they take part.”
The ‘Your Neighbourhood’ consultations are set against a challenging financial backdrop shared by most local councils following years of cuts to government funding, the costs of a growing, ageing population and a rising demand for services. In Bristol over £33m of savings were agreed for 2017/18, with work underway producing a new Medium Term Financial Plan to fully assess the longer term picture. Financial projections change often and for many reasons, but when the council’s budget was set in February it was anticipated that it needed to save a minimum of £104m between April 2017 and March 2022.
Councillor Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor said:
“Savings on this scale are incredibly hard to make and we have to work together to make Bristol work for everyone. The ongoing removal of council funding by the government doesn't have to mean the end of a service and we’re prepared to help other people or organisations step up.
“We’ll be taking account of all the feedback as colleagues firm-up their proposals and again when we make any final decisions on these services. However this is very much asking how we make savings, not about if we should make savings, so please keep that in mind when making suggestions.”