Today’s guest blog comes from Deputy Mayor Cllr Craig Cheney, Cabinet Member for Finance, Governance and Performance.
In our budget this year, we are delighted to be able to freeze rents to help those who have faced such hardships, maintain the council tax reduction scheme to support our most vulnerable residents and table a budget with no cuts, recognising that the fiscal responsibility we have put in place means we can deliver on our promises.
In the face of a global pandemic and ten years of austerity, we have tabled a balanced budget which invests in Bristol, its communities and services that need to recover. The budget is a base for us to start to build back better.
Our budget includes a Council Tax increase of 4.99% which includes a 3% precept to support Adult Social Care, an essential service for residents that is growing and under pressure. I agree with Keir Starmer and others who highlighted that at a heightened time of economic uncertainty, the government should be doing more to prevent and reduce these burdens on families. However, we have been given little choice by a government which has turned its back on local government and our communities despite promising do ‘whatever is necessary’. Through our proposals we have prioritised those on lower incomes and most at risk of losing out during a downturn in the economy.
We are proud to be the only city with a fully maintained Council Tax Reduction scheme. This important scheme of exemptions and reductions helps thousands of people and families in Bristol who most need a helping hand.
And we have gone further, with the freezing of council rents. Considering the current economic conditions, the impact of pandemic and the hardship suffered by people in need, council house tenants will see their housing costs frozen for the coming year.
The budget invests millions into services that have been under immense pressure since last year, and will help us deliver the infrastructure and homes Bristol needs for the future. These decisions will also provide some certainty to hard pressed families as things look very uncertain at the start of 2021. The budget sets out how we will spend the £424.1m of revenue for the year, and will be agreed at our cabinet meeting next week, who will recommend it to full council. It also details our ambitious programme of capital projects, totalling £907.6 million over the next five years.