Central Library could relocate as part of plans by Bristol City Council to cut millions from its budget next year. The historic library on College Green would be moved elsewhere, while the library service across the city would be reduced, saving £1.38 million from the budget.
Parks, transport and care homes could also face major budget savings next year, according to a new consultation asking how the council should try to balance its books. Council tax will likely go up next April, adding further pressure on people struggling with the cost of living.
Sky-rocketing inflation means everything the council pays for is now much more expensive than it used to be. Meanwhile, the government is expected to launch a second wave of austerity next year, slashing how much money councils across the country receive.
Bristol mayor Marvin Rees said: “Councils are underfunded and the government shows no partnership with city leaders to design services and places that support a financial crisis. As a result, we have to balance a substantial shortfall in our funding and we must make the council smaller, do less and focus on our priorities, while making yet further efficiencies.
“Over a decade of austerity and failing Westminster financial policies have landed a situation at our door that we cannot entirely shield the city from. These savings proposals put forward the harsh reality of that challenge.
“If we are to continue to meet out statutory obligations including providing housing, delivering care for the elderly and disabled, creating school places and helping people through the cost of living crisis, we are going to have to be prepared to let go of some of the things we’ve fought hard to protect over the past six years.
“There is still plenty that we will continue to do, and our priority of building a city of hope and ambition remains within focus. We’ve built the foundations of a resilient city that has the ability to overcome these challenges and the potential to support communities to prosper.”
It’s not clear where the Central Library would be relocated to. Bristol’s main library has been based in College Green for more than a century in a Grade-I listed building, which is now shared with Cathedral Primary School. Many libraries in the city previously faced the threat of closure, as part of budget proposals in 2018 which were later scrapped after public opposition.
Elsewhere, council chiefs are consulting on saving £1.5 million from the parks service over the next two years with a plan to hand over park management to community groups. £840,000 is also planned to be saved from the transport budget over the next two years.
Care homes also face huge savings, including the potential closure of the East Bristol Care Centre, which would save £900,000 over two years. A further £1.5 million could be saved next year by cutting agency staff and managers.
Deputy mayor Craig Cheney said: “This consultation sets out the full scale of the challenge we face. Despite what some may think, we cannot borrow our way out of this situation. We have carefully built-up savings that are available should we need them, and we may have to use these to bridge gaps in our finances, but these must be paid back.
“If this year has proven anything, it’s that you don’t know what’s coming next and when you’ll have to spend those savings to meet a necessary need. The only sensible and sustainable route forward is to shrink as a council, and focus our limited resources where they’re needed most.”
The consultation runs until December 23, and can be completed on the council’s website. Alternative formats of the consultation can be requested by calling 0117 922 2848. More details about how much money councils will receive from the government will be available on Thursday, November 17, when the chancellor announces the new autumn budget.
More details about what the council’s budget will look like should be revealed in January next year, when the cabinet approves the draft proposals, before councillors sign off the final budget in February. The new budget then takes effect in April, at the start of the next financial year.