A progressive vision featuring better partnership working and more involvement from local communities is needed to help meet the financial challenge ahead, according to the new Birmingham City Council Business Plan.
In his foreword to the document, due before Cabinet on February 16, Council Leader Sir Albert Bore says the council has”reached the end of local government as we know it”.
The budget, which proposes a Council Tax increase of 1.99 per cent for 2015/16, addresses a need to make £112.9m of further savings as a result of central government cuts to the money the council receives to deliver day-to-day services to citizens and the need to fund local spending pressures.
Following a period of public consultation after the publication of a budget white paper in December 2014, a number of changes have been made to the plans now going before Cabinet. They include:
- We are increasing our further investment in child protection services from £19.9m to £21.5m
- A reduction in savings proposed to Third Sector Commissioning by £618,000 and the savings proposed to Supporting People by £400,000; consultees were concerned about these proposals, and in particular the risks of reducing preventative and early intervention services, so we have responded to these concerns by reducing the level of savings made
- Retaining the home adaptations service for all; following responses on BeHeard (our on-line consultation portal) that stressed the importance of the support provided to people in arranging these, we have removed the proposal for cuts to this team
- A reduction in the proposed cuts to staff in collection management and services for children at the Library of Birmingham, with an increase in support to child literacy and photo collection archives, compared to the initial proposals, and plans to introduce charges for the music service, in order to keep some specialist staff
- More modest increases in fees proposed for bereavement and parking services than initially suggested
- Retaining funding for some district services that were earmarked for cuts
Overall, the savings proposed have been reduced by £3.8m.
Council Leader Sir Albert Bore said: “We’ve been open and honest with the people of Birmingham about the unfair financial situation we face when compared to other councils across the country.
“By 2018, we’ll have seen a need to make savings of £821m per year from the budget we had back in 2010. That’s roughly two-thirds of the budget we have direct control over. So far we have managed to achieve £462million of this.
“We always aim to put residents first and offer excellent services – and the efforts we are making at a council level are making a positive difference, but each year this is more and more difficult.
“The government cuts that are being handed down to us mean we now really have reached the end of local government as we know it. We’ll work closely with our communities and partners but things will undoubtedly need to be significantly reshaped in the years ahead.
“However, we’ve shown with the budget we are proposing that we are a listening council – and where we can refine our initial plans through extensive public consultation, we will. There is not much room for manoeuvre, but the budget consultation process, which we enhanced with online webcasts this year, does give people a genuine chance to have their say, within the financial constraints we face.
After going to Cabinet, the final draft of the budget will be presented to the full city council on March 3.
Notes to editors:
Four-fifths of online survey respondents supported an increase in council tax for the 2015/16 financial year. Half supported a 1.99 per cent increase (the maximum allowed by central government before a referendum is triggered), while approximately a third supported an increase above the referendum limit.
The budget consultation process included:
- Two public meetings attended by 200 people, led by the Council’s Leader and Cabinet
- Contributions from 54 strategic and delivery partners at a stakeholders’ conference
- 1,108 responses to an online survey
- 629 comments via email, letter and text along with two petitions (on the Library of Birmingham and Birmingham Museums Trust)
- A Disability Budget Forum attended by 42 people
- A meeting aimed at the business community, attended by 120 Birmingham business representatives
- A workshop with 43 members of the Birmingham People’s Panel
- A consultation meeting for voluntary organisations
- Two webcast Q&A sessions with the Cabinet. They were viewed live by 1,735 people with a further 6,157 views of the online archive. 73 questions were submitted live
- 26 money saving/revenue raising ideas submitted via a new Birmingham Speaks section on the council website
For more media information please contact Kris Kowalewski on 0121 303 3621