- Massive consultation and modern efficient services help meet council’s budget challenge for year ahead
- Council delivers a 0% Council Tax increase for the second year running
Modern, efficient services making the best possible use of taxpayer money are the focus of this year’s Birmingham City Council budget, due before Cabinet on Monday (February 13).
Almost £3.5billion will be invested through the budget into improving the lives of citizens – providing the services they most need and want, as identified during a recent three-month period of public consultation on how to best make the £61.9million of new savings required for the 2012/3 financial year.
As a result of the consultation, the council is responding to the opinions and views expressed of citizens in many ways by:
- Proposing to reduce the savings from the Supporting People Programme from £3.8million to £1.9million
- Savings from the child placement strategy will now NOT focus on disabled children and young people. Instead a focus will be on children in care. This means Charles House will remain open and the council will look at improving occupancy levels where appropriate
- Not making a proposed further reduction of £0.5million to the Youth Service
- Proposing to continue underwriting important community events, levering in funding to also support them
- Ensuring community development and play grants are awarded through a robust commissioning process and targeted according to priorities
- Not proceeding with a change to the eligibility criteria for adult social care, which means those with substantial and critical needs will continue to receive care
Cllr Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “The nation still faces an unprecedented financial challenge as efforts to tackle the structural deficit continue, and Birmingham will play its full part in meeting the challenge head on.
“But we are also mindful that we have to deliver the best possible services to a city of a million people – it is massive task but we are presenting a budget that protects the vulnerable, encourages investment, improves job prospects and makes sure that Birmingham continues to be a clean, green and safe city.
“Our zero per cent Council Tax increase – delivered now for the second year in a row – in particular protects those on low and fixed incomes, pensioners and the vulnerable. For all Birmingham people this will mean, effectively, more money in their pockets to spend on their priorities.
“We have a proven track record for delivering value for money in a low taxation environment, as confirmed last month by our independent auditor and our recently-awarded Moody’s triple A and S&P AA+ credit ratings. Our latest budget will reiterate this.
“Over the last eight years we have provided better services and improved citizen satisfaction levels, by coming up with innovative and creative ways of taking the cost out of local government – the creation of the wholly-owned Acivico company, and development of the Library of Birmingham Trust are just two recent examples of this.
“Our plans for the year ahead build on ensuring Birmingham is a regional centre of growth. We have a proud history of innovation, entrepreneurship and resilience in times of hardship, and the budget for the year ahead will ensure the city is in the best possible position for this to continue.”
Between 2005/06 and 2011/12, the council’s element of Council Tax has reduced by 7.4 per cent in real terms. Overall, the same time period has seen a £98 annual saving for Birmingham’s Band D taxpayers when compared to the national average.
And in recognition of the economic challenges that people continue to face, it is proposed to freeze the council’s share of Council Tax bills for the second year running, after 87 per cent of consultation respondents said they supported the move.
The Fire & Rescue Authority meets on February 13 and the Police Authority on February 16, to approve their respective shares of the Council Tax bill for 2012/13.
This information will be factored into the final report that goes to a Full City Council meeting on February 28.
Cllr Paul Tilsley, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council, added: “Drawing up a budget in such challenging times is not an easy task, but the savings we need to make next year are comparable with what we expected when we set our last budget 12 months ago.
“But by staging the most extensive period of budget consultation ever undertaken in Birmingham, we have sought to identify the things that people value the most, and present a package of proposals that best serves those needs and wishes.
“As a result it is hugely encouraging that our four key priorities have attracted overwhelming public support and that we have been able to assemble a package of savings and efficiencies which do not resort to drastic measures, as experienced elsewhere in the public sector.
“Put simply, the city will continue to be provided with quality services. The eligibility criteria for receiving adult social care will remain the same, bins will still be emptied weekly and no libraries are to be closed – indeed the new Library of Birmingham will be completed in 2013.
“In addition, leisure centres and swimming baths will remain open, roads will continue to be repaired and children will still be educated at our schools.”
Notes to editors
Public consultation responses
Over the three months to January 8, the city council staged a period of public consultation on its budget proposals. The consultation was the most extensive ever staged by the council for a budget, and more than 3,000 responses were received. The consultation activity and responses can be broken down as follows:
- 378 people attending 11 public meetings
- 497 survey responses from the People’s Panel and 70 attendees at People’s Panel forums
- 1,436 responses to an online survey
- 17 written responses from partner and external orgs
- 547 individual responses sent in to budget views
- Meetings with staff and Trades Unions
- Regular consultation with stakeholder and special interest groups such as businesses, young people, BME communities and people with disabilities
- Two Chief Exec webchats and four blog entries
Birmingham’s response to the economic situation
The challenging economic situation is an international and national problem but its impact has been felt locally and the rise in unemployment rates are a clear example of the challenges local people are facing. The council’s response to this has been to help stimulate job creation in the local economy and support the people of Birmingham. This is being achieved through projects such as:
The formation of a Local Enterprise Partnership to support economic development and enterprise as well as encouraging job creation and skills growth
The creation of an Enterprise Zone which will boost jobs in the city and generate millions of pounds for Birmingham (£875million of public sector investment, levering in £10billion of private sector monies, which is forecast to lead to the creation of 40,000 new jobs)
The introduction of the Birmingham Energy Savers scheme, a multi award winning project to improve city homes by making them more energy efficient
High profile projects such as the £600million regeneration of New Street Station
Support for the High Speed Rail project which now has government backing
Transforming the council – how savings have been made
Since 2006 Birmingham City Council has made some major changes to the way it operates in order to make massive savings. Millions have already been saved through cutting management and back office costs and re-designing services to improve them and make them more efficient.
Financial systems, procurement, people management, the use of property and customer services have all been transformed. Spend on contract has risen dramatically to 86 per cent, the office space occupied by staff has reduced by 17 per cent and the number of customer enquiries resolved on first contact has risen by 30 per cent.
This transformation programme continues and it will lead to even more savings and improvements in how the council operates, however these savings alone are not enough.
Notable service improvements and achievements delivered since budgets set by the city council since 2004
- Percentage of council’s housing stock meeting the Decent Homes standard: up from 34% to 99.11%
- Rent arrears reduced by 42%
- Percentage of school pupils achieving five good GCSEs up from 51% to 86%
- Adult social care inspection rating moved from “poor” rating to “performing well overall”
- A 33% decrease in recorded crimes
- Percentage of household waste sent for reuse, recycling and composting up from 15% to 31%
- Resident satisfaction up from 55% to 71%
Acivico Limited is a new Birmingham City Council wholly-owned company (WOC) that delivers various specialised transactional services to the council and other local authorities through subsidiary Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs).
The first two SPVs, launched last year, cover what were the council’s Urban Design and Building Consultancy teams.
The Acivico model offers both service areas greater flexibility to focus on income generation and to develop shared services with other local authorities.
Urban Design delivers construction and property services including facilities management, while Building Consultancy delivers the council’s statutory Building Regulation service and associated legislation (which includes the management of demolition contracts, fire risk assessments of council premises, health and safety for outdoor events and party wall surveying).
The approach to savings and service improvements
The council’s Business Plan sets out the authority’s priorities. They remain unchanged from last year, as follows:
- Protecting vulnerable people (children and adults)
- Helping people into work
- Improving education and skills (employability)
- A clean and safe city
The council’s leadership has created a strategic framework for the way Portfolios and Directorates should approach their saving and service plans. Described as the “seven principles” these guide the approach to service delivery, which should capture the need to:
- Continuing Transform our efficiency – using all the tools available to protect and deliver priority outcomes, at a reduced price.
- Preventing problems to avoid big costs later – ensuring today’s choices are strategic and avoid creating future problems
- Reducing dependency and enabling self sufficiency – as an “enabling and empowering” council we need to help individuals and communities to become more self-sufficient and to take more responsibility for their communities.
- Collaborate between service areas and public agencies – whatever label you give it (Total Place, Community Budgets) there is an eminently sensible, but difficult to achieve, goal of truly aligned spending across the public sector. It is now imperative that we realise this goal.
- Personalisation such as moving to individual budgets giving more choice to service users – moving away from a “one size fits all” approach, and unlocking the savings that derive from people having greater say about the services they want to use.
- Maximise income streams – sensitively, and with the public’s interest at heart, maximising the returns from the assets we have and the activities we undertake by being more commercially minded.
- Levering in funds from the private sector – recognising the role of the Private Sector, and the increasing importance of sophisticated partnerships, where risk and reward are shared equitably.
Government funding for Birmingham – a summary
The financial year 2012/13 will be the second of a two-year government grant settlement. The council will receive a Government Formula Grant of £646.5million, a decrease of 7.2% (the same as the national average). This follows a 10.2% reduction in 2011/12.
For more information contact Kris Kowalewski on 0121 303 3621