Bristol City Council faces a £32million budget shortfall

Bristol City Council faces a £32million budget shortfallBristol City Council faces a £32million budget shortfall
Bristol City Council faces a £32million budget shortfall | ldr
‘Expectations of what can be delivered will have to reduce’

Bristol City Council faces a £32million budget shortfall which could be as high as £81million in a worst-case scenario.

A bleak report to full council warns that funding is “failing to keep pace with local need, service demand, inflation and other financial pressures” and that “expectations of what can be delivered will have to reduce” without major cost-cutting and extra income.

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The authority’s five-year rolling outlook on the state of its purse strings, called the medium term financial plan, says the cost of services such as adult social care, the needs of children with SEND and temporary accommodation placements keep growing.

It says: “These challenges continue to be amplified without any real sign of abatement.”

The report says that the most likely scenario based on factors including forecast inflation, service pressures, funding and staff pay would see a budget deficit of £17.8million next year. While this would drop to £8.5million in 2025/26 it then rockets to about £32million in each of the next three years up to 2028/29, with a peak of £32.1million in 2026/27.

By law the council has to set a balanced budget, so massive cuts and savings and a huge amount of new income would be needed if there is no additional government support.

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The report says that even in a best-case situation, the funding gap would be £6.5million in 2026/27 and £4.7million two years later, with a worst-case scenario of £40.1million next year rising to £81.2million by 2028/29.

It says: “There is already a total of £17.7million of savings planned over the medium term through the 2023/24 budget, and the delivery of the identified savings on a recurrent and sustainable basis will be critical.”

The report says that even with these cutbacks, the council will need to explore a range of measures to close the shortfall, including maximising existing efficiencies in departments, generating more income by being more “business-like”, such as with higher fees and charges and “improved debt management and collection”, and deep dives into services with high costs.

The medium term financial plan sets the context for each year’s annual budget, which will be recommended by cabinet in January following public consultation and then approved by full council in February.

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