Thoughts on 2010/11 council budget

By on 11/02/2010 in Blog

Stephen HughesStephen Hughes, Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council, blogs on the issues surrounding the authority’s 2010/11 budget, which was published yesterday…

This is a budget for a million people that live in Birmingham, which is setting a Council Tax increase of 1.9 per cent for the fifth year in a row, which means the typical household in the city pays £100 less than the English average over the same period.

As well as achieving this, we are protecting and putting extra resources into services for the most vulnerable.

To do this we have had to make efficiencies in what is a very difficult public sector spending context. This does mean we will have to reduce the workforce total but we believe we can achieve this without resorting to wide scale compulsory redundancies.

We have already done this in the current financial year, as we have reduced our headcount by over 500 and agency staff by a further 430. Only a very small number of redundancies that were made were compulsory.

Every effort will be made to keep compulsory redundancies to an absolute minimum – there are a host of ways that this can be done. Natural wastage, early retirement, voluntary redundancy and a mutually agreed reduction in working hours are just four options we have used in the past and will use again in future.

This latest council budget also has to be set in the context of where public finances are as a whole. The Government has borrowed around £175billion this year and has said that it is looking to cut this figure over the next four years, which means finance for councils will most likely be significantly reduced in that same period.

What we are trying to therefore do, in addition to protecting services for the most vulnerable, is to keep the city clean and safe, while mitigating the number of compulsory redundancies.

It is imperative that we ensure the services provided to the people of Birmingham remain at the level they are currently at, or improved. This means we have to make better and more efficient use of the resources what have got.

It is not a “deficit” of £70million as has been reported that we face. We have pressures on our services so we need to find £70million of efficiencies to meet these requirements. It is something that we do as part of the budget process every year. We are always trying to find better ways to use the resources we have.

Linked to this, national negotiations that are being carried out on behalf of local councils have led to an offer of a zero per cent increase on employee pay for the forthcoming financial year. This is something we have been calling for over several months and our budget is based on this award being agreed.

A pay freeze is needed so we don’t have to make further workforce reductions or alter our spending plans in other ways.

On the issue of workforce numbers, we have been reducing our overall headcount for some considerable time. There has been a focus on job numbers but I think that most people in Birmingham want to know what the Council Tax rise will be for them and the services that they will get in the year ahead.

The 1,300 jobs within children’s services that were recently the focus of much media coverage are “at risk” and have not been cut. Staff that are within a service area that is subject to a restructure that may lead to 20 or more redundancies legally have to be given what is known as a Section 188 notice, that informs them of this fact.

It is also important to consider that any jobs lost as a result of the children’s service s188 do not relate to children’s social care, which is one of our priority service areas. Any job losses from the recent s188 will also form part of the 1,500 to 2,000 posts that will need to be removed in 2010/11.

We value the contribution made by our workforce as part of our effort to provide citizens with first class services and they have played a key role in improving what we do. That is why we will consult fully with staff and unions at every stage when service structure reviews have to be undertaken.

I hope that this clears up some of the key points that have been raised in the last 24 hours on this topic.

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There Are 6 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Paul Mohr says:

    Thank you for clarifying some of the contradictory stements in the mdeia reports.
    If members of the public have any ideas for reducing costs or increasing council income it would be great if there was a channel where they could submit them.

  2. David Gaussen says:

    I see then ….Stephen Hughes above is saying that “A pay freeze is needed so we don’t have to make further workforce reductions or alter our spending plans in other ways” – could this be coming from the same Stephen Hughes who’s pay has increased from £175,000 in 2006 to over £200,000 in 2009 ?
    Source : http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/media/2009/06/birmingham-mail-birmingham-city-council-chiefs-pay-hits-200000.html

  3. Dave the Binman says:

    How can you call getting rid of agency workers natural wastage, I have been working for the council 3 years via an employment agency with no pay increase since I started. Do you think its right to get rid of me.

  4. zoe says:

    OMG i know people who are being made redundant and they have taken it well really consideirng they have families and billsto pay. But i am sure they would be angry about his pay rise. It is shocking that these people at the top look after themselves yet say they care about people and the city in that we live!!!

  5. susan says:

    my husband has worked on the bins for four years on the agency,even longer than some of the permanent staff and his attendance and workrate have been acceptional, shouldnt agency workers who have been with the company this long be made full time.

  6. hannah says:

    I agree with dave these employees who probably work harder than the fulltime staff cant be refered to as natural wastage, and i think it is terrible that susans husband and dave have been there for more than three years on agency and are not employed yet, i think these things should be looked in to.

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