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Greens: scrap City Hall perks and pay foster carers more

A Green amendment to be debated at Bristol’s budget council meeting this evening (26/02) proposes to increase allowances for in-house foster carers at Bristol City Council, funded by scrapping free parking perks for councillors and reducing the size of the budget for the Mayor’s Office.

This will be the third year that Greens have moved an amendment to remove free car parking for councillors – on both previous occasions Labour councillors voted with Conservatives to keep the parking perk.

The amendment, proposed by Green councillor and Group leader Eleanor Combley, seeks to put £130K into funding an increase in foster carer’s allowances in order to better support carers and promote foster caring. Bristol Council’s in-house Foster carers take responsibility for and look after vulnerable children in care on behalf of the council, providing a nurturing and stable home environment.

In order to fund this Councillor Combley’s amendment would cut £100K from the Mayor’s Office, which has increased in cost by £141K over the last 3 years (above inflation or wage pressures). £30K would also be raised by removing the subsidised ‘free’ parking for councillors and senior employees at City Hall and charging for use.

Councillor Combley said:

“We should all value the incredible work done by foster carers and I’m proposing to increase the allowance they are paid by the Council over and above the inflationary rise already budgeted for. In order to fund this I would cut £100k from the Mayor’s Office budget – which could be done without cutting staffing levels (1) – and to raise £30k by scrapping the free parking perk for councillors and senior staff at City Hall. The Labour administration’s budget includes over a million pounds of cuts in Children and Families Services due to come into effect this year, and in this context I’d argue that a relatively small cut to the mayor’s office and scrapping the free parking enjoyed by councillors is a price well worth paying to recognise the work done by our foster carers.

“Foster carers are heroes – they make an extraordinary contribution to this council, to this city, and above all to the children in their care. Being supported and cared for within a family environment where possible is best for children, and that just could not happen without the dedicated work of Bristol Council’s in-house foster carers. Even with this increment, a foster placement still costs less than alternatives such as private children’s homes – so recruiting more foster carers is the single most effective thing we can do to get the best possible value for our children and families social care spend.

“Giving free parking to the best paid and most powerful members of an organisation is a regressive perk and we should not be doing it. Subsiding driving instead of public transport is actively working against our own policy objectives and we should not be doing it. Telling the rest of the city that they should change the way they travel, but that councillors and senior officers are too big and important and shouldn’t have to is just plain hypocritical and we should not be doing it.”

Notes

1)      Finance Officers have confirmed that the cost of the Mayor’s office increased by £141,000 over the last 3 years, well above inflationary or wage pressures. The Mayor’s office includes a £200K ‘discretionary fund’, of which only £70k is already committed for 2019/20, so it should be possible to implement Cllr Combley’s savings without impacting on staffing or reversing any commitments already made.

-          Cllr Combley previously proposed cutting councillors’ free parking in the 2018 budget meeting but it was voted down by Labour and Conservative councillors. Councillor Combley also proposed the amendment in 2017.

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