Community projects hit by council freeze on spending

December 22 2016

GRANTS to worthy causes in the Fishponds area have been hit by a Bristol City Council freeze on spending.

GRANTS  to worthy causes in the Fishponds area have been hit by a Bristol City Council freeze on spending.

The authority has called a halt on all “non-essential” spending as it works to balance its annual budget and prepare for a five-year £92m financial gap from next April.

The move will affect people across the city as maintenance of buildings, roads and parks is stopped  unless there is a risk to people’s health or safety. The council will also stop recruiting any permanent or temporary roles unless they provide legally-required services, and will severely restrict new or extended contracts for goods or services. 

All new plans and projects are “on hold” including projects supported by the Greater Fishponds Neighbourhood Partnership. 

Members were told  at their December meeting that although they still had more than £17,000 to give away in grants from the Wellbeing Fund, they were not permitted to distribute it.

This meant they could not make decisions on applications from nine organisations:

Bristol Noise - for a fun afternoon in Eastville Park;

ParkWork - to support the Friends of Eastville Park’s volunteer sessions;

Eastville Park Methodist Church - to improve lighting at the New Place;

Begbrook Retirement  Club - Funding for trips, equipment and expenses;

Holy Trinity Church, Stapleton - to replace rotten railway wagon toy store with shed and fencing for outdoor play space;

Freemantle Road Resident Association - street carpeting and bike hangars for road safety;

Crime Prevention Group - to encourage parents to change their approach to young people at risk of being drawn into street gangs;

Snuff Mills Action Group - replace dilapidated picnic bench;

In the Pink - fitness project for women aged 60 plus.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol said: “The current process is painful but necessary. The cost of not balancing our budget would be far higher and I do not just want to store up problems. We must be financially responsible and challenge our spending.

“This isn’t just a council issue. As a city we need to step up and look carefully at the roles we all play. We need to be clear about what the council will provide, what it will pay others to provide and what it will let go of and help other people run instead. We need to reinvent city government and have begun this conversation in our current Corporate Strategy consultation. I welcome everyone contributing to it because the change has to happen.”

Hillfields Councillr Craig Cheney, who is Cabinet Member for Finance added: “This has got to be a ‘no stone left unturned’ exercise. We have a problem which we take seriously and which won’t solve itself. We’re genuinely sorry for any inconvenience and short-term issues this causes, but I would ask anyone with concerns to come and be part of the solution. We need a city which pulls together in tough times and we welcome having that conversation together.”

People can read the council’s savings proposals, have their say and submit new ideas now at www.bristol.gov.uk/corpstrategy. A public consultation on the draft Corporate Strategy is open until Thursday January 5. Information and paper copies are available in local libraries or available on request by calling 0117 922 2848.