Headlines: June 29th, 2010

A local authority is following the Coalition Government and beginning its own public debate on spending and the future of public services. Bristol City Council has launched a major consultation which will run over the next several months.

The council said the extent of financial pressures on the public sector was becoming ever clearer as more details emerged from the Government. Further information would come in the autumn with the publication of the Comprehensive Spending Review.

The Bristol exercise will look at the same areas as the Government’s debate, asking how the public sector can achieve better value for money, what areas of work could be more efficiently delivered by other bodies and what public services could usefully be cut back or scrapped.

The City Council is posing those challenges in three stages. Having begun the conversation it will tests ideas put forward, starting next month, and will then consult on its full package of budget proposals from December. In the first phase it aims to set out the scale of the constraints it is facing. It has launched a Bristol budget blog as the home for all updates on the budget situation and to assess how Government announcements will affect the city. The Council is also installing suggestion boxes at libraries and other public buildings and it will stage local discussions through 14 newly-established Neighbourhood Partnerships.

It also has plans to involve its 15,000 staff and major partners across the public, voluntary and private sectors. Council Leader Barbara Janke said: “By launching so open and genuine a debate, we want local people in their thousands to tell us their ideas, and to help inform those that we take forward and develop further. When we publish our full package of proposals towards the end of the year, I want the public to see that their ideas and views are reflected.”