The financial challenge we face

By on 18/08/2010 in Blog

Cllr Randal Brew blogs about his first three months as a member of the City Council's Cabinet and the financial challenge that Birmingham faces…Cllr Brew

Following the local election in May, I was asked to become Birmingham City Council's first-ever Cabinet Member for Finance.

It is an honour to be given the role and I am using my “right to roam” brief to ensure we are a lean, efficient organisation that makes any necessary changes in the most responsible way as we have a duty to spend our £3+billion budget as effectively as possible for citizens.

To some, it may seem that I have been handed a poisoned chalice, given the council's need to make £69million of efficiencies during the current financial year.

Those same people would surely have thought they were right when it became clear that further efficiencies would be required as a result of the new Government's need to wrestle with the huge public deficit it inherited.

However, this is a challenge we need to tackle positively, and one that I am relishing.

For Birmingham, we estimate by 2013/14, we will need to get to a point that we are able to save £230million per annum.

In order to do this we need to come up with solutions that are radical, cross-directorate and involve joint working with partners.

The proposals must and will take account of the clear priorities established in the Council Plan – including our top three priorities of protecting vulnerable people, employment/employability, and ensuring a clean and safe city.

Earlier this month senior managers presented their approach to the work required and their intended areas of focus. Outline business cases will then be considered in November.

What we won't do is impose simple fixed-level efficiencies for all services. We need to be much more strategic than that.

Services funded from specific grants which are highly cost-effective in delivering top priorities will not automatically be reduced simply because their specific funding stream is reduced - instead, we should look at shifting available resources from less effective interventions.

There is certainly no expectation that savings will be made on a simple pro rata basis across all services.

Many other issues and considerations also have to take on board such as community engagement in developing and delivering the savings proposals, the personalisation of services and the implications the Government's vision of Big Society will have for Birmingham.

The months and years ahead will be tough, but we are committed to ensuring that the savings plans we ultimately develop are structured and strategic, and ensure that the best possible services are provided for the citizens of Birmingham.

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