We expect most readers are familiar with our leaflets and some of you might get our e-newsletter but we welcome this new forum, which we will use to keep you up-to-date on Clifton and city news.
We’re sure we don’t need to tell you that Bristol City Council is in financial hardship, like many other councils around the country. By being obliged to set a balanced budget each year over the last thirteen years of austerity, BCC is now spending most of its budget on purely statutory needs (about 75% of the budget is spent on social care), leaving very little discretionary funding.
Cuts led to a recruitment freeze, which means that the ‘back office’ in BCC has been reduced by 40%. We now see that there are not enough planners to deal with applications, leading to long delays. Not enough drivers at Bristol Waste Company, means missed waste collections. Street cleansing is reduced due to staffing issues. The list goes on.
And all the while, residents are paying higher council tax – in fact, council tax has increased by 57% over the last 20 years in real terms.So, residents quite rightly feel that they aren’t getting enough for their tax contributions. It’s a tough time for citizens and it’s hard for us to support our residents, as we want to, with these financial restrictions.
Working within this tight financial budget, we’ve had to be innovative to find alternative ways of funding projects and delivering services. Here are some examples:
• We started a crowdfunder for the repair of the Observatory Playpark which led to a donation from local philanthropist, Community Infrastructure Levy money and a grant from a landfill company, raising the £133,000 needed for the project.
• The shine has been slightly dinted by the spoil-heap which remains on Christchurch Green. It remains because it was found to be lead contaminated, which means that the original plan to spread it on the Downs cannot be done, as the Downs is an SSSI. Disposal costs (£60,000!) exceed the original quote budgeted for and the contractor refuses to remove it. BCC legal department are challenging the contractor and we await the outcome. In the meanwhile, we are using contacts from the Downs Committee to have the work done at cost price. We hope a much-reduced bill can be split 50/50 by the Council and the contractor. Let’s hope we can reach agreement.
• When BCC put Jacob’s Wells Baths o nto the list for disposal in February, we worked hard behind the scenes to support applicants to take it on as a Community Asset Transfer. We are now working closely with Trinity Community Arts, who have the building now and who aim to open it again in 2025 as a place for dance and youth engagement. So, instead of losing the only public building in Clifton (apart from the library), it has been saved for public use.
• We are working with the Friends of Clifton Library to host the Warm Spaces programme and the Clifton LitFest to bring culture to Clifton;
• Establishing and working with residents who maintain Birdcage Walk, as Bristol Waste Company doesn’t have the resource to spend the hours needed to keep it looking so good.
• We are taking a pro-active lead on reducing pesticide spraying on streets in Clifton, but this does mean engaging the help of residents, as we need to have a ‘named-person’ for each street, so do let us know if you are interested in getting involved.
• We are liaising with the owner of the site at Clifton Down to explore the possibility of a community buy-out of a portion of the site.
As this is our first column in the Clifton Voice, we wanted to catch you up with activities in the Ward. However, much of our work is done city-wide. We sit on several committees but we will have to tell you all about that next month!
If you see us out and about, do feel free to say hello!
Thank you for reading our first Councillors’ column and we hope it is the first of many.
Paula and Katy