Gill Kirk writes
Published on: 08 Dec 2017
Bristol residents get asked to fill in a lot of surveys and consultations and must wonder sometimes if their input makes any difference to decisions made in the council. I would say that, yes, decision makers in the council are listening to individuals and communities and do get the message about the strength of feeling on issues of great importance to the public.
At November’s full council meeting there were many passionate questions and statements from the public about the future of libraries and of parks, and lots of heart felt debate on these issues. The Mayor and cabinet are facing major challenges of increasing local needs and reduced funding from central government, and have to make some hard decisions with diminishing resources. But the consultations that go out to the public are genuinely open and decisions have not been made in advance. Politicians do listen to and reflect on public opinion, and the feedback to consultations and are willing to look at where adjustments can be made, within the budget constraints they face.
So at the full council meeting on November 14th we learnt that the outlook has improved for parks. They will no longer be expected to become cost neutral by 2020, and 1.69 million has been knocked from their budget cuts, with an assurance that none of the city’s parks will be sold off. Our mayor and cabinet member Cllr Craig will continue to seek alternative funding and more investment from the government in our much valued parks and green spaces.
On libraries, in the face of a proposed funding cut of 1.4m, many residents have signed petitions to show how much they value their local library. Although the Council won’t have the resources to run all library services in exactly the same way they have been in the past, some new ideas have come forward from community groups willing to take on the running of their libraries with volunteer help and expand what they can offer to their communities. This may be by running alongside other services and becoming more widely used community hubs. However this is not possible in all communities, not everyone has time to volunteer and although volunteers can help enormously, they cannot do everything that library staff do. There is still a need for professional library services, particularly access to computers. So it is the job of councillors to listen to residents, represent their views to the mayor and cabinet members, and try to find ways where it is possible for the council to support the communities that most need the help. This is an ongoing debate and discussions take place at open meetings, both cabinet meetings and full council meetings are open to the public and a good opportunity to hear more detailed debate about big decisions being made for our city.
Estella and I as councillors frequently present questions to the Mayor about issues affecting Lockleaze (In November these included parking problems in Aurora Springs, Cheswick Village, and the future of library services in Lockleaze). Members of the public can also submit their own questions and statements to the Mayor that will be heard at cabinet or full council. Questions do not need to be long or ‘academic’ . Much better to put them in your own words, short and to the point, to show what you care about and what matters to you in your area. Submit questions by post to Democratic Services, City hall, PO Box 3176, Bristol BS3 9FS, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to, you can come down to City Hall and speak about your question in the meeting, but if you prefer just to put them in writing, that is fine! The most important thing is having your voice heard... and you will always get a response in writing from the Mayor.
As Christmas approaches I want to express once again my appreciation to David Thomas and the team that publish and deliver this magazine which has really helped keep our community in touch with what is going on locally. Over the past year it has shared some wonderful stories about the successes and achievements of local people and organisations, as well as some of our challenges. I hope everyone will enjoy the Christmas events taking place locally over December, I very much hope to meet you at some of them! Have a happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year.
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