By Will Charley, Comment Editor
Growing student numbers will cause £1.6 million of council tax revenue to be lost in the next financial year, it was announced at City Hall in a recent meeting.
More privately-rented accommodation is being occupied by students, who are exempt from paying council tax, due to increased numbers at both of Bristol's universities. This has led to Bristol City Council’s predictions that it will lose over one and a half million pounds in the next financial year, 2019-20.
This news follows in the wake of an online backlash against students, after the long-established Italian restaurant Vincenzo’s announced it was shutting its doors and being turned into student accommodation.
Aside from the former restaurant on Park Street, Bristol’s universities are expanding elsewhere, with the University of Bristol currently building a new £300m campus in Temple Meads.
@bristolpaul @KyeDudd @ThangamMP @MarvinJRees— Shane Morgan (@MrShaneMorgan) December 28, 2018
Is this actually happening? If so, how can we object?
You realise that the gradual conversion of BS1 / the centre into a giant student hall reeks of £££ and the council selling off Bristol to the highest bidder? Via @bristol247 pic.twitter.com/MsutOXwfN1
With growing numbers of students, some councillors have stated that whilst the universities' prestige and importance must be recognised, these institutions should support Bristol City Council by making financial contributions.
Cllr John Goulandris stated: ‘I don’t expect them [students] to pay council tax… But universities could make a financial contribution to the city’.
Goulandris reflected that since universities charge home students £9,250 and international students even more, the world of higher education is ‘big business’.
Cllr Stephen Clarke added that students ‘directly lost us about £12.9m in lost council tax.'
‘The government won’t give us any money, the students have not got any money. It has to come one way or another from universities. Just about £200 per student would make up the shortfall’.
However, other politicians have suggested alternative means of addressing the financial issue that students have caused.
Cllr Tim Kent proposed that the government should compensate the council, whilst Deputy Mayor Craig Cheney suggested that students’ financial impact could be lessened if more purpose-built accommodation was built.
In light of the criticism that students are a financial burden, both universities have defended their attendees and the financial - and wider - contributions that they bring.
A University of Bristol spokesperson said:'We have had constructive meetings with Bristol City Council to develop a strategy for student accommodation in the city.'
'Delivering purpose-built student accommodation in the right areas, will enable the city to avoid further unplanned proliferation of student houses in the private rented sector.'
In an article by Bristol 24/7, it was estimated that Bristol University’s students spend £250 million per year on local services and goods, whilst students from the University of West England (UWE) spend over £200 million.
In total, this was estimated to support some 700 jobs.
Whilst the debate over students’ contribution to Bristol continues, Bristol City Council’s finalised budget proposals- including council tax income- will only be approved by the full council in February.
Featured Image: Bristol University
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