Bristol City Council agrees to help fund £91m Arena

Artist's impression of the Bristol Arena The 12,000 capacity Bristol Arena could be completed by June 2017

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Plans to build a £91m entertainment arena in Bristol have won the backing of Bristol City Council.

Councillors will add £38m towards the complex with the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership putting in £53m.

They also voted to back Mayor George Ferguson's budget cuts of £83m but only after Labour's condition that £1.3m be put back into threatened services.

Council tax bills will rise by 2% and more than 800 posts are expected to go over the next three years.

'Concern to Bristolians'

Steve Crawshaw, from Unison, said they were "dismayed by the scale of job losses".

"But we recognise that the council is doing its best to mitigate the job losses through voluntary processes," he said.

Analysis

Four hours into the council meeting and it looked like the mayor was going to suffer a defeat - Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens were all refusing to back his budget. An adjournment was called and half an hour later, a deal had been done.

Apart from the budget, the big outcome of last night was the approval to build the Arena. We know £53m will come from the Local Enterprise Partnership - the rest the mayor hopes will come from the operator, business rates and car parking charges. He says the maximum bill to the Bristol taxpayer will be £15m.

But in the meantime, the council will be taking out a loan for the full cost of the arena - £91m.

Mr Crawshaw added: "We welcome some of the amendments including the retention of sports development, parks maintenance contracts and especially the children's centres budgets.

"But we also recognise that there will inevitably be cuts to services and this should be of concern to Bristolians."

'City milestone'

Independent Mayor George Ferguson said it was one of the "most challenging budgets the city has seen for decades".

Speaking about the arena, which he said was one of his "top priorities", he said work could now begin to "appoint an operator to run the planned 12,000-capacity venue".

Mr Ferguson said: "This is a real milestone for the city region following many disappointments in the past.

"Bristol is the only major city in the UK without a facility of this scale and with the funding package now in place we can at last move forward to make an arena for Bristol a reality."

The venue will be located in the heart of the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone and is expected to open in 2017.

Speaking about the planned budget cuts, Labour's leader Helen Holland said it was an "improved budget".

She said: "It isn't what we want but it's improved and because of our intervention there won't be cuts at children's centres.

"There won't be cuts in grounds maintenance, sports development will still be there, pest control will still be there, so I think we've actually made improvements."

Council tax bills will increase by an average of 50p-a-week for a Band D property.

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