Bristol City Council slipped further into crisis today as all non-essential spending was halted by the Council’s CEO issuing a spending freeze across the Council. Green Party Councillors responded to the news slamming both the Tory austerity agenda and the lack of any real opposition to it.
Green Councillors have previously highlighted how Tory cuts to local government will impact on the core services and Green mayoral candidate Tony Dyer highlighted the huge spending gap in Bristol back in May of this year.
The spending freeze means that all non-essential spending will be halted. Maintenance of buildings, roads and parks will be stopped unless it poses a risk to health and safety, recruitment of council staff will be halted and no new contracts for goods or services will be approved without CEO approval.
The news comes ahead of next week’s Cabinet meeting, where the finance report will outline that despite further cuts, there is still a £27.5m financial gap if the Council is to balance its books for 2016/17 - which are predicted to be reduced to £16m if proposals to cabinet next week are accepted.
Leader of the Green group on the Council, Charlie Bolton commented:
“It seems this Tory government has no plan - and possibly even no interest - for how local councils like Bristol are meant to be able to afford even basic services. For example, the crisis in adult social care did not even get a mention in the Autumn Statement. At the same time the local Labour run administration seem to have no coherent plan about how to respond to these challenges. Nationally, Labour have failed to oppose austerity in any meaningful way. Neither seem to grasp the severity of the impact of what is proposed on people's lives.
Council funding is now at crisis point and it’s the most vulnerable in Bristol who rely on essential council services who are going to suffer the most. We have seen year on year cuts – a slow chipping away of this funding may not seem dramatic, but the impacts it has are brutal. Now we are seeing cuts of a size and severity that are likely to leave tens of thousands without the support they need. We will see the impacts in the inability to care for our ageing population, in the growing number of homeless on our streets and the slow disappearance of our libraries and services. This council is heading into chaos.”
Tony Dyer, the Green Party spokesperson for local government said,
“The government has, and is, pursuing an ideological campaign against local government and the poor. A recent report from the IFS clearly outlines that those councils serving the poorest communities have been hit the worst by Tory cuts. £187m has been cut from service spending by local authorities in the West of England, but 70% of these reductions have been borne by Bristol City Council. You cannot expect to take out that level of financial support without it having an impact on the ability of councils like Bristol to deliver the public services that so many of us rely on.
Whilst Conservative Councils like Hampshire and Surrey have seen cuts of just 1%, and the City of London has even seen a slight increase, England's major provincial cities have seen an average cut of 28%. The Core Cities – which includes Bristol – have seen £1.4bn worth of annual spending removed from their budgets since the election of the Coalition government in 2010. The reality is that all the Core Cities are run by Labour - we need to see real examples of them working together to provide proper opposition and demand an end to the Government’s systematic dismantling of local government in this country - it cannot be left to Bristol alone to challenge central government. The implementation of a spending freeze can only be a temporary measure which may allow us to dodge the bullet this year, but the financial problems facing the council are likely to worsen rather than improve under the current government."