Council tax to rise and parking charges to go up: What’s in Bristol City Council’s budget 2022/23

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Bristol City Council has revealed how it intends to plug a £19.5 funding gap as part of the 2022/23 budget

Protecting frontline services is the priority for Bristol City Council as it launches proposals to plug a £19.5m funding gap - but a rise in council tax and parking charges along with voluntary redundancies across its workforce look set to come.

Bristol City Council has published its budget plan for the next financial year 2022/23, outlining how the authority will bridge the multi-million pound shortfall as it struggles to recover from the pandemic.

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While libraries, children’s centres and social care programmes such as Better Lives will be preserved under the new budget, Bristol mayor Marvin Rees warned in a briefing today (January 10) that the social living crisis, along with growing inflation and interest rates, were anticipated to put extra pressure on council services.

Parking charges will increase throughout the city and 30-minute free stays at residents’ parking zones will be scrapped, while council tax is also expected to go up by 1.99% along with an extra 1% cent for the adult social care sector - meaning households will see a 2.99% rise in what they pay.

But despite ‘huge challenges’ afoot, the council is taking a positive stance on its financial position while other local authorities grapple with budget gaps up to four times greater than its own.

Speaking at the briefing on the budget, deputy mayor Councillor Craig Cheney said: “Two years ago, we were looking to balance our budget over the next five years, and we had a plan to do that without making any more cuts.

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“Then Covid hit us, as it did all local government up and down the land. We’ve done quite well to get ourselves this close to a £19m problem.

“Birmingham’s budget gap is around £79m, Leeds was £60m odd the last time I looked, while Sheffield was at £50m plus.”

Will there be an increase in council tax?

Council tax is expected to rise 1.99% for general council tax with an extra 1% for social care - meaning a 2.99% increase for each household.

Mr Rees said: “We’ve looked at the consultation responses and what we’ve found is that people in affluent areas are much ore supportive of increasing council tax to cover the cost of services in less affluent areas.

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“We have to work through all the responses, but there is a reality in the background in that we have a whole collection of services we need to provide.

“The government in its financial calculations assume implicitly if not explicitly that we will maximise our council tax increase.

“When they talked a few months ago about the increased spending power of local government, that includes the maximisation of council tax increase.

“If we go to them for help they’ll ask why we didn’t take the opportunity to raise local taxes. That’s just the brutal reality of it.”

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Is the council considering redundancies to help bridge the gap?

Mr Rees said: “To be frank, the council is going to be smaller. We're looking for internal savings and part of that journey will be offering voluntary redundancies somewhere along the line.

“That’s just an unfortunate reality that we face. We must be able to do more with less, that’s the world we live in.”

Councillor Cheney said: “You’ll see in the budget that we've got a £5.5m saving against management costs, so there are a range of existing posts to be filled that won't get filled.

“But we have to go through staff consultations so can’t go too much in it at this stage.”

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How has Covid damaged council finances?

It is estimated that there was a dip of around £13m in council tax income over three years due to the pandemic as people struggled to pay due to job losses and being furloughed.

The council also lost millions via lost business rates and parking charges.

Mr Rees told the briefing he was now ‘thinking ahead’. “It's not just what Covid has done to us so far,” he said.

“Even as we begin to move beyond Covid as an every day emergency, we're going be dealing with the consquences for years and decades to come - in mental health, social isolation and over the impact on the education journey of our children and young people.”

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Message to residents worrying about how they will cope?

Mr Rees said: “There are no easy answers to that question but we're doing our best for people.

“This budget prioritises people in Bristol, supports frontline services and protects the most vulnerable - I think it really sets out what we’re about.”

“The cost of living crisis is a national stroke international issue, we just to support our residents through it.

“We need central government to take seriously just how much investment we need to put into our populations not just to survive but to recover and to thrive.

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“Local government cannot plan when so much is dependent on Westminster and Whitehall decisions.”

Impact on parking charges in the city

Parking charges are set to be hiked and 30-minute free stays at residents’ parking zones (RPZ) will be scrapped under the proposed budget.

In some areas at present, drivers without a resident or visitor parking permit can stay for up to half an hour for free by getting a ticket.

But Mr Rees said: “There are increases in parking charges. We will be moving beyond the 30 minutes’ free parking in RPZs.”

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The authority says raising parking fees will bring in an extra £2.3 million.

The budget overall

The budget holds a heavy emphasis on reducing costs within the council, looking at systems and services the authority procures to ensure value for money.

The council is also keen to establish itself as a ‘development organisation’ going forward, supporting voluntary groups and organisations rather than ‘doing everything for everyone’.

Said Mr Rees: “A classic example is our work with organisations such as Feeding Bristol. We don’t lead them. We enable their work to happen by being a positive partner.

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“We will enable resources that are not ours to mobilise in the city to get things done for the people of Bristol. That is going to be an increasingly important skill for local authorities to master.”

The budget sets aside £12m towards the de-carbonisation of the council’s estate, including a ‘bigger piece of work’ that entails looking at council-owned buildings the authority has ‘lost track of’ and determining where savings can be made in that regard.

The budget also outlines a £20m commitment to build 2,068 council homes over the next seven years.

The proposed budget will be considered at a Full Council meeting on February 15

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