Planning Birmingham's Future & Budget Consultation 2014-15
Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said:
“This time last year I talked to you about 'the end of local government as I've known it'; and this year I am still talking about 'the end of local government as I've known it', but just to be clear I am not talking about the end of local government
This time last year I spoke to you about the 'Jaws of Doom' and the council having to find £615m from its annual budget by 2017. I am still talking about the 'Jaws of Doom' and they have widened significantly.
Current forecasts are that the city council will need to have found £840m in the six years from 2010/11 to 2017/18 as a result of spending pressures and grant cuts - more than two thirds of the budget we have any choice over how to spend. This year alone, we will be making cuts in the region of £120m.
You have all heard me say that we have pretty much reached the end of the road in terms of 'salami slicing' and/or efficiency savings and that we are very close to a point where we will be decommissioning whole services - stopping doing things completely.
We are however, still working hard on reducing 'back office' costs, for example the biggest single saving we are proposing is to meet our target of taking £20m a year out of the Service Birmingham contract.
However, I am pleased to say we have managed to avoid closing any service in its entirety for next year (2014/15), but there are reductions in some services and some facilities will go. But do not be lulled into a false sense of security, these wholesale cuts will come from 2015/16 onwards.
The White Paper is the result of ten months of the most intensive service review process that the council has ever undertaken. Before that process started we had a gap that needed to be closed, but as a result of the tremendous efforts of officers and members we are able to draft a balanced and lawful budget.
That is good news in itself, but also we have proposed investing £36m capital in building six new swimming pools and leisure centres, though it involves the closure of older, run-down buildings; plus we have found nearly £10m additional funding for children's safeguarding, meeting our commitment to improve the service and protect some the most vulnerable in our city.
We have also been able to extend our commitment to the Living Wage. Building upon the base of our directly employed staff, we will negotiate to extend the Living Wage to those providing social care on behalf of the Council.
But there is also some difficult news. We will have to lose a further 1000 members of staff this year, despite a third of our workforce having already left the city council since 2010/11. And there will have to be further, substantial cuts in staff from the current around 14,000 FTEs, as we move towards 2017/18.
My Cabinet colleagues and I, with the support of officers, are doing our very best to minimise the impact of the most severe cuts ever in Government funding for local councils by protecting as many of the 'frontline' services as we can and protecting those most in need in Birmingham.
However, if central Government continues to squeeze local government harder than any other section of the public sector - with cuts now in the region of 40% – and because of our reliance on funding from London we will have to stop delivering some local services from 2015/16. Up to last year, Birmingham's cut was £149 per head compared to an national average of £79 and just £19 for Wokingham. In effect, politicians in Westminster are systematically dismantling services that maintain the very fabric of culture and community in our city.
Despite the crisis we are undoubtedly in, we will continue to find creative solutions to deliver services as best we can, which will mean that the process to review and prioritise every single one of our services will start up again in the New Year.”
For more details of the budget see – www.birmingham.gov.uk/budgetviews