At Bristol Council’s second budget meeting today (2 March), the Green Councillor Group refused to support the Labour administration’s budget, after the Mayor scrapped amendments passed by a majority of councillors in the initial budget meeting. Some Green amendments were taken on, as the Mayor signalled a U-turn on his opposition to Residents Parking Schemes and agreed to reverse cuts to union support, but overall the Greens felt they could not support the budget, which cuts jobs whilst holding £10m more in council reserves than is required.
The budget proposes cuts of £33m in total over the next few years, more than required to close Bristol’s budget gap of £19.5m. Cuts of over £5m to the councils workforce were condemned by the Council’s trade unions, who submitted statements to the meeting warning of the impact on staff and key services of staffing cuts and outsourcing. (see notes below)
Green Group Leader Heather Mack said:
“Since the first budget meeting two weeks ago, Greens have tried to work with the administration on a budget we could support. There are some positives in the revised budget passed tonight – thanks to work by the Greens it’s a better deal for the city than it was at first. We’ve managed to ensure that union support will be protected, as will disabled parking bays. With our amendments we’ve protected 30 mins parking for small businesses, doubled funding for school streets projects, and found money for new residents parking schemes.”
“However, there remain serious concerns with this budget which required collaborative working from early on to address. Instead of working with us on reducing cuts and delivering public toilets, Bristol’s Labour Mayor chose to work with Conservatives to pass his cuts budget. I believe it is fundamentally wrong to make deep cuts to services like those in this budget while also adding millions to the Council’s reserves – and so while Greens have made a difference to this budget, most of us do not feel able to support it in its current form.”
In total the following changes have been made due to the Greens’ influence on the budget:
Green amendments which were agreed by a majority of councillors in the first meeting – to allocate £4m to parks and liveable neighbourhoods, and to pay for new public toilets – were rejected by the Labour Mayor, as was an amendment from the Knowle Community Party to support the community transfer of Jubilee Pool. In negotiations following the meeting, the Labour Mayor instead adopted Conservative amendments to fund parks work in the North of Bristol and repair Kingsweston Iron bridge in order to secure the support of the Conservative group for his budget.
Speaking at the meeting, the Green Group’s Deputy Leader Lisa Stone called out the Labour Mayor’s collaboration with Conservatives, adding that voters in Bristol should know “in the future when you vote red, you’ll be getting blue”.
“Confusingly, the Mayor has taken some amendments that were voted through and left others out, a bit like a referee on a football pitch, accepting goals they like the look of and disallowing those they do not – Tottenham could have done with a ref like that last night!”
Councillor Martin Fodor added:
“This isn’t a cross party budget, it’s a backroom deal budget where a Labour Tory coalition seeks to bypass the actual representation across the city. The city deserves better than this. Next time there must be a more inclusive and democratic process.”
Green Councillors argued that the deep cuts in the Mayor’s budget, coupled with the administration’s refusal to take on democratically adopted budget amendments from the first budget meeting, meant they could not support the administration’s budget, and a majority of the group abstained on the final budget vote.
Heather Mack said:
“By refusing to work with other parties on the Council’s budget, Labour are depriving Bristol of practical and sensible ideas to tackle our city’s problems. This should not happen again – if the Labour administration wants to deliver a sound and progressive budget for Bristol they have a duty to work with other parties in advance. In a committee system people from all parties and from across the city would have worked on the budget in advance and developed a budget that is good for the whole of Bristol.”
Notable statements submitted to the meeting:
All statements are available online at https://democracy.bristol.gov.uk/documents/b30042/Public%20Forum%20republish%20-%20Statements%20received%20at%2015th%20Feb%20first%20budget%20meeting%2002nd-Mar-2022%2014.00%20.pdf?T=9
It is unacceptable to reduce frontline staffing levels, only to expect them to continue to meet the same targets/service provision when staffing levels have been radically reduced.
“There is not a need to transfer these staff out of BCC and we are asking you to instruct BCC officers to take this seriously and investigate this possibility. Members have made the significant point that they worked hands on throughout the pandemic, and now they are being treated like this. They are upset and angry and deserve a lot better.”
“our overriding concerns are that the full impact of what is being proposed have been ‘hidden’ from public scrutiny…the anticipated level of reduction we are told is 5x more than expressed publicly.”
“we estimate at the very least 8 – 10 people being made redundant but the real number will likely to be considerably more and possibly double. Our staffing levels will literally be decimated, as will the service we provide.”
E.g. Statement PS16 from Rachel Legg:
“ACORN members and the people of Bristol rely on our public toilets for our basic dignity at work, in our leisure time or travelling around our city. They are essential for those of us with disabilities, those with bowel and bladder conditions, those of us without a home, and the elderly. We deserve a city that we can live and work in, without fear of the indignity of being caught short. It is not simply an inconvenience for us – public toilets are a necessity.”