Yesterday afternoon my Cabinet endorsed a report to cover an increased spend for the MetroBus Scheme. I have to admit this is frustrating and disappointing at a time councils are facing such a challenging financial settlement from central government.
We inherited the MetroBus Scheme and overspend, as well as the disruption. Nevertheless, we’ve now got to continue and see this through.
I described the situation using a metaphor my wife’s grandfather-in-law used: “you’ve got the tiger by the tail. You don’t want to let go of the tiger because it will bite you, but you wouldn’t want to have hold of its tail in the first place.”
Having spent the sum to date, we need to finalise the scheme despite these difficulties and make it work.
At Cabinet I was frustrated by some comments which suggested that this came at the expense of affordable homes. It is important elected members are explaining how Council budgets work and don’t create false equivalencies.
Because of the way the project is funded by Central Government, you cannot simply take money off MetroBus and use it for affordable homes. Money has been granted by the Department for Transport specifically for it. Failing to deliver would not only put the cash in jeopardy, but would have a reputational impact for our city that would impede our ability to get more government money in the future, including money to build affordable housing.
What’s far more important is that we need to look at transport with a more ambitious eye. We are working on a number of big ideas for transport as well as the urgent need to upgrade Bristol Temple Meads as the gateway for the city. There are a number of other ways to achieve these aims working with the Community Infrastructure Levy, private investment and central government finances.