Bristol budget chaos shows Mayor must be honest with residents, says UNISON
The deeper than expected hole in Bristol City Council’s budget means a different approach is needed if public services in the city are to survive, UNISON has said.
Over £100 million of cuts – 25% of the budget – could leave the Council unable to fulfil its legal duties, particularly around social care for elderly and vulnerable people. After six years of “salami-slicing” budgets, UNISON is calling on Mayor Marvin Rees to state upfront the services Bristolians can expect to see if Central Government cuts keep coming.
As the online Council Budget Calculator showed, even the previously-announced £60 million of cuts would mean the city council denying care to people in need. With an extra £43 million now needed after the council failed to meet its previous savings plan, UNISON is warning that there can be no more business as usual.
Steve Crawshaw, branch secretary for UNISON Bristol, said:
“This dire financial situation is not the fault of public service workers who’ve gotten a tough deal for years now. It is a result of reduced funding from the Government that has left cities to pick up the pieces from Ministers’ lack of a sensible plan. In the city council and contracted services we’ve pulled together and worked with councillors to protect frontline services from the cuts. Good planning has also minimised compulsory redundancies; this is something that must continue.
“Slicing more and more off budgets while expecting the same service to be delivered is not realistic any more. We are seeing the beginnings of a crisis in social care and you only have to look around the city streets to see the homelessness that results.
“Real political leadership is needed from the Mayor. Firstly to decide what kind of public services he wants given the lack of money, and second to unite with the leaders of other core cities and say to Theresa May: give us the funding we need – or we risk failing our residents”.
“These extra cuts are partly caused by the city’s failure to meet savings targets in the previous financial plan. Is it a coincidence that several senior management figures have jumped ship in the weeks before this information became public? People in the city have a right to know what happened and who was responsible.
“Costs from consultants and agency work are still too high. We need to spend every pound wisely, so funnelling money towards big accountancy firms or agencies who never fail to take their cut just isn’t acceptable. We hope the new Mayor will avoid the vanity projects of the past and get on with delivering for working people in Bristol.”