In the news this week, more harsh consequences for public services have been revealed as a result of the council’s multi-million pound shortfall. The council have repeatedly spoken of the difficulty they’re facing in balancing their books, citing financial decisions made in Westminster as the culprit.
In November, Mayor Marvin Rees said: “If we are to continue to meet our statutory obligations including providing housing, delivering care for the elderly and disabled, creating school places and helping people through the cost of living crisis, we are going to have to be prepared to let go of some of the things we’ve fought hard to protect over the past six years.”
In September, a report released by the council showed a £31 million shortfall for 2023/24, with the potential for this to be made far worse, even doubled, by inflation. Two days later, cabinet papers showed that in a ‘worst-case scenario’, the council could be facing an £88 million budget shortfall within the next five years.
In light of this news, Rees said “everything is now on the table” including childrens’ services and libraries. In the weeks since, news of cost-cutting ideas and plans have been published, some of which have been floated in the council’s public consultation on the 2023/24 budget.
One idea that caused a stir in recent weeks was moving Bristol Central Library from its current location to the empty former Debenhams building in Broadmead. In response, councillors brought two petitions with a combined 4,000 signatures to the council against the library move.
This week, the council announced it will cut up to 300 of its staff positions, and cut more funding to parks than the service currently receives: a £1.5 million cut for next year, when this year’s budget was £1.3 million.
This means parks in Bristol, which generated around £12 million in income last year, would put £200,000 in revenue back into the council budget for 2023/24.
Your Bristol news round-up 🗞️
🔍 An independent report on the arrest of a young mum in Bedminster has been published on the two-year anniversary of the incident. An independent panel found that Avon and Somerset Police officers had used an “inappropriate level of force”, including restraint and PAVA spray (an ‘incapacitant’ spray similar to pepper spray) to arrest the woman after she got into a dispute with a bus driver.
⚠️ The South Western Ambulance Service has revealed more than 12,000 hours were lost in handover delays in one week in September. The ambulance trust said it was their “highest level of resource hours lost in a single week”.
🚓 Police are appealing for information after a man in his 50s was killed in a hit-and-run in Shirehampton. The incident took place in Antona Drive in the early hours of Sunday December 11. A woman in her 50s and a man in his 60s have been arrested on suspicion of causing death by careless driving and failing to stop following a road traffic collision.
⚽ Bristol Rovers coach Andy Mangan has been charged with making an alleged homophobic comment to a Plymouth Argyle staff member during a match. He’s accused of using “abusive and/or insulting” language which “included a reference, whether express or implied, to sexual orientation”, a breach of FA rule E3.
🚧 The demolition of Filwood Broadway’s old abandoned cinema and bingo hall is set to begin next week.Campaigners have been trying to save it, arguing it should remain a ‘treasure’ of the area, which has long seen a dearth of cultural investment and infrastructure. The council have claimed they want to use the space for ‘affordable homes with community and commercial space’.
🚶 Chandos Road in Redland and Rosemary Lane in Eastville could be the next Bristol streets to be pedestrianised. Councillor Don Alexander revealed plans for Chandos Road are underway, alongside the news that the council has secured funding to make Cotham Hill’s existing pedestrianisation permanent. Marley Bennett, the Labour Councillor for Eastville, has expressed support for public consultation of plans to pedestrianise Rosemary Lane.
📮 Photos taken by drone appear to show a huge backlog of post left outside the Royal Mail depot in Filton, as national strikes continue. One Royal Mail worker claimed they “had never seen a backlog of deliveries like it”, however, Royal Mail have said the scenes are “typical for this time of year”.
Solutions and Successes 🙌
🟢 Bristol City Council is looking at several areas in Avonmouth where new wind turbines could be built. The onshore turbines could generate renewable energy for the city, after the government lifts its onshore wind ban.
🏅 The University of Bristol has become one of the first universities to receive the University Mental Health Charter Award from the charity Student Minds. The institution has been criticised in recent years for its high-number of student suicides. The award recognises the university’s “strong, structured” approach to improving its mental health services.
🎄City centre takeaway Urban Tandoor has released its very own Christmas song: ‘Bring Another Tray’, as ‘East India 17’. The song, released via their Twitter page, comes complete with a snow-dusted music video, which one commenter called “oscar-worthy”.
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