Bristol mayor U-turn over plans to axe 30-minute free parking in revised budget proposals
Full list of amendments after mayor took time out to go over 2022/23 budget
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Marvin Rees has made a U-turn over plans to scrap the first 30 minutes’ free parking and charge disabled residents for vehicle bays.
The mayor has accepted some opposition group amendments to his budget, as well as others that Mr Rees and Labour councillors voted against at a Bristol City Council meeting last week, including agreeing to fund repairs to Kingsweston Iron Bridge.
At time of writing the revised budget papers were not yet published for next week’s second full council meeting, which was called when the mayor exercised his right to take five working days to reconsider his financial plans for 2022/23 and beyond after members made significant changes to his original proposals.
But a press release issued by the Labour administration today (February 23) revealed he had embraced two Green amendments – retaining 30 minutes of free stays in residents’ parking zones, which the mayor’s initial budget sought to axe, hiring more traffic wardens and expanding the “school streets” programme, which ban vehicles at drop-off and pick-up times.
Mr Rees has also accepted part of the Conservatives’ amendments which were voted down, although it appears funding to pay for them will come from a central pot and not from cuts to the mayor’s office or the council’s PR budget as proposed.
If councillors agree, it would mean cheaper fees for bulky household waste collections, continuing free installation of disabled residents’ parking spaces outside homes, more money for the council’s fruit tree planting scheme and funding trade union facility time.
£1m for Kingsweston Iron Bridge repairs included in revised budget
The Tories’ request for £1million to repair Kingsweston Iron Bridge – shut since 2015 after a lorry hit it – would also be approved and comes after Bristol North West Labour MP Darren Jones urged Mr Rees to find money for the project in a letter he published on Facebook this week.
Money for that would come from unallocated community infrastructure levy (CIL) funds, which Labour says will not affect other projects dependent on that pot.
Bristol’s mayor said: “After carefully considering the amended budget, I have made the decision to present a revised budget to full council on March 2.
“We have listened to the proposals from all Bristol’s political parties and incorporated the best of them.
“I have always said that my door is open to people bringing solutions, so I am pleased to incorporate the amendments that grapple with Bristol’s complexities and tackle the city’s problems.
“Some of the councillors’ proposals were well-reasoned but funded by unnecessary cuts, so we have taken away their spending proposals and worked in the ones we could afford to, in a way that won’t affect the council’s key services.”
He said the budget was designed to protect the city’s worst-off and that remained the case.
‘First and foremost a housing budget’
“We’re continuing to maintain the 100 per cent band of the council tax reduction scheme, meaning the poorest don’t have to pay any council tax, we’re doubling funding for grants to help people in financial emergencies and we’re protecting and investing in our children’s centres, schools, and libraries,” Mr Rees said.
“However, this is first and foremost a housing budget, that, if passed, will provide £1.8billion worth of investment in our council homes, including funds to build 2,000 council homes by 2028 and 300 every year after, £80million to make homes more energy efficient, and £12.5million to upgrade council tenants bathrooms.
“This is a budget for Bristol, with cross-party input, and I sincerely hope councillors vote to support it.”
Darren Jones MP said: “I’m thrilled the mayor has been able to find the money to repair the Iron Bridge and that Cllr Don Alexander has got the redesign to planning approval stage.
“After so many years of discussions with the council on behalf of my constituents I know that the local community will be delighted with today’s news.”
What’s the next step?
Full council meets for a second time on Wednesday, March 2, after failing to agree the budget at the first attempt last week when members voted in favour of five of the nine opposition party amendments.
There is no time limit for the meeting and a budget must be passed to meet statutory deadlines and to get council tax bills sent out, which are due to rise by 2.99 per cent.