Council Business Plan and Budget 2014+

By on 12/02/2014 in Budget Views, Leader, News

Council Business Plan and Budget 2014+

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The council has responded to direct concerns from residents, highlighted in the most extensive consultation to date, by revising its savings proposals in the following areas:

  • Parks and Nature: £2m of this budget has been reinstated, allowing the retention of park keepers, avoiding reduction in the ranger service and rationalising, rather than removing, the woodland team
  • Vulnerable and Older People: £1.6m is now available to invest in services via the Health and Wellbeing Board
  • Young People: Additional £1m to foster and promote youth engagement centrally and locally, and to implement a cross-directorate strategy which delivers an integrated offer to young people.
  • Street Cleaning
    • One-off £0.5m has been added back to the budget to assist district teams to deal with heavily littered hot-spots and customer complaints, whilst new mechanical sweepers, proper use of enforcement powers and the introduction of wheeled bins are progressed
    • An ongoing £0.2m provision for the collection of autumn leaf fall, with up to 40 staff employed for three months
  • Two thirds of those who responded to an online survey were in favour of an increase in council tax. Just under half supported a 2% increase in the council tax while one fifth wanted an increase of over 2%. One third wanted a freeze. Therefore, in order to maintain an appropriate level of income from council taxpayers, and to mitigate the need to make savings as much as possible, a council tax increase of 1.99% is proposed in 2014/15.

Foreword by the Leader of the Council, Sir Albert Bore

Cllr Sir Albert Bore

Sir Albert Bore

In last year's Business Plan I set out the enormous financial challenge the City Council was facing in the years ahead. Sadly, the prospects have become even worse in the course of the year and the Government seems determined to press ahead with its planned programme of cuts to council funding right up to 2018.

I also demonstrated last year how the grant cuts have been unfairly distributed across the country, with the areas of greatest need and deprivation receiving the biggest cuts. That unfairness has been repeated in the latest financial settlement for 2014-15 and 2015-16 announced in December. The average cut in Spending Power (as defined by the Government) for 2014/15 across England will be £71.44 per dwelling. In Birmingham it will be £145.33.

But the indicative figures for the next year (2015-16) are even more unfair. Birmingham is due to receive a cut of £147.42 per dwelling, whilst the national average will be just £45.32. There will be many authorities in the South and East of England who will actually receive increased funding in that year, for example Wokingham will receive £54.98 more per dwelling. Counties such as Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorset, Hampshire and Surrey, towns including Poole and Windsor and Maidenhead and shire districts like Mid Sussex and Epsom and Ewell will also see an increase in funding in 2015-16.

As a result, of the grant cuts and other pressures, we have now had to identify a further £85.7m of cuts in our budget for 2014-15 on top of the £375m already made between 2010 and 2014. Next year we will have to make even bigger cuts - currently estimated at more than £200m over and above the £85.7m for this year.

We rely on central government for most of our income – only about a tenth comes from Council Tax – so these cuts have a huge impact. Our flexibility is reduced even further because much of the money we receive is earmarked for specific services like schools, and we have little say on how it is spent. At the same time there are increased pressures for spending on statutory services like social care, which we cannot avoid paying for.

Over the period 2010 to 2018 we currently estimate that the combination of cuts in grant and increased spending pressures in areas like social care will require us to make a cumulative total of £822m per annum of savings. This is illustrated in the “Jaws of Doom” graph in Part 9, Financial Plan. That is about two thirds of the budget we had any control over how to spend in 2010-11.

The City Council has been making radical changes to the way we work and achieving significant efficiency savings for several years, under both this political administration and the last. We have reduced our staff by 33% since 2010 and a further 1,000 jobs will go in the year ahead. However all of this becomes harder each year and in the budget set out in this document we have found it extremely difficult to maintain the full range of services we provide.

Notwithstanding this financial hardship, we have taken the decision to invest £9.2m in 2014/15 into Children's Safeguarding, and corresponding amounts in subsequent years. This has not been easy and has increased the pressure on other services.

It is inevitable that next year we will have to make hard decisions about which optional services to stop providing altogether, and we may even find it difficult to maintain statutory services to the standard expected. The cuts from 2015 onwards will create a financial crisis in many councils across the country.

The scale of the cuts means we need to completely rethink the role and structure of the City Council and how we achieve the outcomes we seek - what I have called “the end of local government as we know it”. We cannot simply carry on doing things as we have always done them or delivering the services we have become used to for decades.

So, in 2013, we set up the most comprehensive review of our services we have ever conducted. The reviews came up with some common approaches to change and we published these in a series of “Green Papers” to support a wide dialogue about the way forward. This was followed by a “White Paper” published in December 2013 which set out the conclusions of that dialogue and our detailed budget proposals for 2014-15 for formal consultation.

But the white paper also outlined how we see the City Council changing in the longer term, so that we can begin to make decisions within a broader framework that can deliver better services in the future. To achieve this we will need government support for some radical changes in how services are funded and how different public sector agencies work together.

The consultation was the most extensive we have ever conducted, with more residents than ever before participating.

This Business Plan presented in this document takes forward the proposals in the White Paper and sets out the final 2014-15 budget. It summarises the feedback from the consultation and how we have adjusted our plans for 2014-15 in the light of your comments.

As set out in this document, we remain committed to our goals of working for a fairer, more prosperous and more democratic city, as set out in my Policy Statements of 2012 and 2013. Despite the cuts, the City Council will continue to spend significant sums of money next year and beyond. We want to make sure this is invested in ways that achieve the best results for the people of Birmingham and protect those most in need of support.

We have been open and honest with the people of Birmingham about the difficult and painful decisions we must take. If we are to defend the most vulnerable in our community and find ways of delivering essential services with drastically reduced resources, then we must work tirelessly with the people and communities of the city and the dedicated staff of the council. At the end of 2013 we launched our “Standing up for Birmingham” campaign to send out a clear message that we welcome your ideas for doing things differently and the contribution that all communities, individuals, businesses and voluntary organisations can make. That campaign will intensify during the year ahead.

I am delighted that all of the political parties were able to support that campaign when it was debated in the council chamber. The parties were also able to unite in calling for a fairer deal for Birmingham and we recently sent a cross-party delegation to meet with the Local Government Minister to call for a fairer system of funding. Birmingham has always been stronger when our parties have worked together for the good of the city.

During the last year we have also joined forces with other large cities in England (the “Core Cities”) to make it clear to the Government that cuts of this scale will undermine our efforts to bring growth and prosperity to our great cities and damage the performance of the national economy. We remain committed to working with government and all the political parties to achieve our shared aims for economic growth and the public service reforms necessary to support it.

In last year's Business Plan I called for people and organisations to come together to find ways of coping with the impact of the cuts and to challenge the government with a united voice to give Birmingham a fairer deal. During the year I believe we have taken important steps to achieve that aim.

I would like to thank all those who took part in the consultations and dialogue over the last year and particularly the many individuals and groups who are already coming forward with ideas and “Standing up for Birmingham”.

We will need all of that unity and sense of purpose in the year ahead.

Council Business Plan and Budget 2014+

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