Bristol council tax: How much will your council tax go up by in April
Bristol City Council’s budget has passed at its second attempt
Council tax will rise by 2.99 per cent in Bristol after the city council passed its budget at the second attempt.
But the pact agreed in advance between Labour mayor Marvin Rees’s administration and opposition Conservatives, which ensured the financial plans for the next 12 months and beyond had enough votes, was blasted as an “unholy alliance” and an anti-democratic “stitch-up”.
It means the local authority’s portion of council tax will rise by £55.20 to £1,901.22 for an average Band D property and by £42.93 to £1,478.72 for Band B households, which are the most numerous in the city.
Adding on the much smaller increases for Avon & Somerset Police and Avon Fire Authority, total bills landing on Band D doormats from April 1 will be £2,230.37 and for Band B £1,734.74.
Full council, which met on Wednesday (March 2), first had to decide on the budget as amended at the previous meeting last month when members voted in favour of five of the nine sets of proposed opposition changes – four by the Greens and one by Knowle Community Party, but none of the Conservatives’.
But because the mayor had not accepted all these, it required a two-thirds majority to succeed and the Labour and Tory councillors’ votes ensured it fell by 33-27.
Mr Rees’s alternative budget, which included some of the Greens’ wish list such as residents’ parking schemes and protecting free parking, along with Conservative requests to repair Kingsweston Iron Bridge and reduce bulky waste collection charges, among others, was then approved after another debate.
Members voted in favour by 34-8 with 18 abstentions, as some Greens, along with both Knowle Community councillors, opposed it, while other Greens and the Lib Dems abstained.
Bristol’s mayor told the meeting he had three options following the previous attempt to pass the budget – accept all the amendments, which he said he couldn’t because of where the cuts were going to come from to pay for them; resubmit his original, unaltered budget, which would have been “unnecessarily adversarial”; or find a compromise, which he had done.
Cllr Heather Mack, leader of the main opposition Greens, said the revised budget had some positives but it excluded several of her group’s suggestions which full council had approved last time, including reopening public toilets.
Budget agreement blasted as ‘unholy alliance’
She said: “It is fundamentally wrong to make deep cuts to services like those in this budget while also adding millions to the council’s reserves.” Green Cllr Martin Fodor said the Conservative-Labour agreement was an “unholy alliance”.
She added: “This isn’t a cross party budget, it’s a backroom deal budget where a Labour-Tory coalition seeks to bypass the actual representation across the city.”
Lib Dem group leader Cllr Jos Clark accused the mayor of putting his interests above the city’s by cutting a deal that was “stitched up behind the scenes, not in the public gaze”.
She said: “The mayor chose to speak to the Tory party rather than seek consensus. “
The budget as passed has reintroduced measures that full council voted against – achieving in private what they failed to in public.”
Mayor: ‘We are unapologetically ambitious’
Knowle Community Cllr Gary Hopkins told the meeting that Conservative and Labour members were performing “somersaults” by voting the opposite way to a fortnight earlier.
Conservative group leader Cllr Mark Weston said: “The budget isn’t perfect but this is a time for pragmatism and responsible, grown-up politics.”
Mr Rees told members: “This is a budget for homes, a budget for inclusion and a budget for decarbonisation. We are unapologetically ambitious.”
He said afterwards: “I’m pleased that councillors recognised that we incorporated cross-party proposals and voted across party lines to support this budget.
“There were, in total, 17 revisions to the budget initially put forward – these were sensible, well-reasoned spending proposals and I was happy to incorporate them into the budget.
“This budget is first and foremost a housing budget and includes £1.8billion worth of investment for Bristol’s council homes, which will see us build 2,000 council homes by 2028, spend £80million on making homes more energy efficient and provide funding for council tenants to upgrade their bathrooms.
“This budget passing means we can maintain the council tax reduction scheme at the 100 per cent rate, meaning 38,000 families don’t have to pay any council tax, and double the Local Crisis Prevention Fund – giving emergency grants to people in need of financial support.
“Frontline services and community assets such as schools, libraries, and children’s services remain protected and invested in, despite continued austerity.
“I am immensely proud of this budget and the fact we have managed to bridge the savings gap while protecting the city’s worst-off and investing huge sums of money in council homes.”
The previous full council meeting of Bristol City Council, on February 15, ended when Mr Rees exercised his right to take five days to reconsider the budget following the successful amendments.