Budget Consultation 2021-22

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Bristol City Council (the council) is consulting on the level of Council Tax for next year (2021/22). We would like your views on whether a modest rise is acceptable if it helps to sustain the services you have previously told us you most value or whether there should be no increase this year. We are also seeking your views on the possibility of raising additional funds to support social care.

The council provides a wide range of essential services to your local area. Some services are easy to see like road maintenance, street lighting, waste collection, recycling and running libraries. Other services are less visible; such as the assistance provided by the council to provide care and support to people of all ages.

As a council, as well as providing essential services to Bristol’s residents, we work with other organisations to enable them to provide services as well. The Corporate Strategy 2018-2023 explains how services are shaped to meet the city’s population growth, the increases in the need for care services for the most vulnerable, and the council’s financial challenges. Our ambition is to make sure everyone, regardless of background or where they live, receives the services they need and will have a home from where they can achieve their aspirations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on the city and on the council’s financial resources. In responding to the public health, social and economic crisis the council has taken steps to support its residents, businesses, suppliers and the wider community.

In October, Bristol’s One City partners launched a City Strategy for Recovery and Renewal which sets out the city’s roadmap to recovery from the pandemic; addressing the emergency needs of our economy and building resilience within communities.

The full impact of COVID-19 on the council’s spending and income, including Council Tax and Business Rates which together account for about 35% of the council’s income, is not yet fully known. The budget shortfall in 2020/21 is currently estimated to be £77 million. This is due to:
  • the additional amount we’ve spent so far in our response to the pandemic;
  • the difficulty we face when trying to make planned efficiencies in areas such as social care;
  • the loss of income that came from the temporary closure of services like museums and libraries;
  • the significant reductions in commercial rental and parking income.
We are expecting to receive approximately £68 million (as at October 2020) of additional funding from Government, which will leave a shortfall of approximately £9 million. We have tried to avoid cuts to services and not charge service users any more than originally budgeted. If no additional funding is forthcoming from the Government we will need to balance the 2020/21 budget by moving money that was set aside for other purposes such as funding our capital plans and future contract payments.

There is much uncertainty as to what will happen in the future and the associated long term impact of COVID-19 on public finances. The council’s plans and priorities need to marry up with our budget; we have to make sure we have enough money to support the city to recover and become stronger.

Next year (2021/22) the council faces additional budget pressures due to: 
  • the potential ending of one-off grants e.g. the social care grant;
  • potential changes to the level of Business Rates that the council can retain locally (i.e. rates that are not collected by the Government);
  • the price of our contracts; including payments to social care providers for the costs of paying the increases in the National Living Wage;
  • population growth and a rise in demand for many of our services; particularly social care;
  • additional spending in our response to the pandemic and the loss of income which will continue into next year and beyond.
We estimate in our Medium Term Financial Plan 2021/22 – 2025/26 a funding gap* of £28.3 million next year 2021/22. With such a significant challenge the budget cannot be balanced without additional funding, making greater efficiencies (doing the same for less money) and / or transformation (by doing things differently). We are still waiting for confirmation from the Government of the actual funding that will be available to help cover this.
 
The consultation on our 2021/22 budget starts on 16 November and is open until 28 December 2020. Please read the information below, provide answers to the questions that you would like to respond to and submit by 28 December to ensure your views are taken into account.

You can request alternative formats of this document by contacting the Consultation and Engagement Team on consultation@bristol.gov.uk or by calling 0117 922 2848.

All responses to the consultation will be analysed and included in a report that will be published on the Bristol City Council website in early 2021. Your responses will help inform final proposals which will be considered by Full Council at its budget setting meeting in February 2021.

*Funding gap includes non-COVID-19 and COVID-19-specific pressures