Every February, Bristol City Council sets its budget for the next year, detailing how much we will be able to spend and what our priorities are. This year that task is made even harder as we look towards post-pandemic recovery and enter this next phase with a backdrop of increasing costs and reducing UK Government funding.
We are seeking your views on our approach to setting a balanced budget and the level of Council Tax for next year (2022 to 2023).
Councils are facing acute and unprecedented financial pressures. Across the major core cities in England, budget shortfalls are currently estimated to range from £7 million - £50 million. Bristol is no different, and we face a potential gap in our core budget of around £23.1 million next year. We therefore must find a way to protect the services you value the most and continue supporting as many people as possible.
The council provides a wide range of essential services to your local area that you use every day, such as recycling and waste collections, education, running our libraries, and maintaining our roads. We also offer services that are less visible, such as public health, providing homeless people with the support to prevent or end their homelessness and specialist care to people of all ages, and the post-recovery period indicates we will see more demand for many of these services. In addition to these challenges, we need to plan services to reflect the increases in Bristol’s population.
Our Corporate Strategy
sets out how we work with other service providers and organisations and how we are planning to meet the challenges of a growing and ageing population, increased demand for care services and make sure people have the services they need, regardless of background.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been far reaching, with a lasting impact on our people and our economy. Our finances are stretched to the limit, and the UK Government has stopped funding local COVID-19 responses. Up and down the country councils are facing this funding crisis with less money to keep services going. This is because more money is needed to:
- help citizens with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
- support low-income households and local businesses in need of support post-COVID-19
- support more people than ever with mental health and social care services
- meet the rising need and cost of home to school transport for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)
At the same time, the pandemic saw us receive less income from business rates, commercial rentals, parking, sports facilities, and our museums, shops and cafes. Despite these challenges, we continue to be one of only a small number of councils that provide a fully-funded Council Tax Reduction Scheme. This means that discounts of up to 100 per cent are available to households with low income to pay their annual Council Tax bill if they can’t afford to pay.