Today’s blog comes from Cllr Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor with responsibility for Finance, Governance and Performance, and is taken from his speech to present this year’s budget to Full Council on 25th February.
Yesterday, I was proud to take my fourth budget to Full Council. Yet again, we are able to present a balanced but ambitious financial plan for Bristol, setting out our priorities for the coming year and driving us towards a more inclusive and sustainable city.
It establishes a solid and resilient financial base to meet the future challenges that will result from the uncertain financial, social, economic and environmental climate facing us.
Although we continue to face significant financial uncertainty as we await reforms to the system of business rates retention, the fair funding review and the Spending Review, we have a solid financial platform supported by strong city relationships.
In the face of these challenges, and in contrast to so many other councils, we are presenting effectively a no cuts budget again.
After three and a half years we continue to prioritise and protect all life and limb services, keeping all of our children centres and libraries open and maintaining the council tax reduction scheme for the most vulnerable citizens in the city.
A significant proportion of this investment is focused on large infrastructure that will support long term regeneration across the city, such as our programme of new housing building and the development the Temple Quarter site.
This is balanced against investment which will support improvements in our increasingly stretched core Council offer, including our Social Care and Education services.
Our capital investment programme begins to address our ambition of making Bristol a more equal, aspirational and resilient city. Below are just some of the areas we will be investing in:
- £35million will go towards providing quality school places for a growing population;
- More than £42million is to be invested in additional special educational needs provision;
- More than £15.5 million has been made available to support adults with disabilities to live more independently and remain in their own homes wherever possible;
- Over £1 million has been allocated to investment in sports schemes, improving the health and wellbeing of our citizens;
- Almost £4.5million will be invested in parks and green spaces across the city, improving access no matter where you live;
- More than £40million has been allocated to developing the area around Temple Meads;
- More than half a million will be available for investment in our city’s libraries;
- More than £6.5million has been set aside to build a third household waste recycling and reuse centre at Hartcliffe Way, transforming our city’s relationship with waste;
- More than £35million will be available for the redevelopment of Colston Hall, improving our city’s cultural offer;
- More than £72million is allocated for our housing delivery programme, with an additional £56million set aside to implement a new housing delivery vehicle and a further £60million for projects related to the Council’s Housing Infrastructure fund;
- Almost £8.5million will go towards improving the sustainability of our transport system, recognising the climate emergency that faces us;
- More than £23million will be invested in expanding Bristol’s Heat Networks, ensuring more people can heat their homes affordably with minimal carbon cost.
I would like to thank the finance team, the council’s corporate leadership board, the Mayor, cabinet and all staff and councillors for their work on this budget. I’d also like to extend a special thank you to the scrutiny task and finish group. For me this group is the exemplar for how task and finish groups can be hugely effective in pre-decision scrutiny. We welcome more of this type of contribution.
It’s an ambitious budget that prioritises frontline services, recognising our responsibility in building a better future for everyone in the city, regardless of their background. I’m proud that it so clearly reflects our vision of creating a true city of hope where everyone can share in its success.