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Adult social services to bear brunt of ‘drastic’ £90m Birmingham council cuts

Adult social services to bear brunt of ‘drastic’ £90m Birmingham council cuts

🕔09.Dec 2015

Five years of financial misery at Birmingham city council will continue into 2016-17 with a further £90 million cut in spending proposed and the loss of about 1,200 town hall jobs.

New council leader John Clancy launched a budget consultation document which he said contained “drastic” measures including a £30 million reduction in the authority’s social services spending.

Cllr Clancy said the council had already reduced spending by £560 million since 2010 in response to the Government’s austerity grant cuts and a further £250 million will have to be found over the next four years.

Five years ago, the council employed 20,000 people. Today the figure is down to 12,400 and is expected to fall to less than 8,000 by 2020

It was no longer possible to “cut a certain amount here and a certain amount there” and the council had to “remodel and re-imagine” the way it does things, Cllr Clancy said.

The council is now aiming its savings plans squarely at the areas of highest expenditure, which are care for the elderly, care for younger adults with disabilities and looking after a fast-growing population of children with special educational needs.

Older people will be encouraged to live independently, day centres and residential centres are likely to close, and home to school travel for youngsters will be cut back to a minimum.

One of the most controversial aspects of the budget is likely to be a plan to save £10 million by 2019-20 by moving away from a “high dependency” approach to looking after children with special educational needs, potentially “decommissioning” council-run services.

And in a radical move the council plans to pool its entire spending on older adults with NHS budgets in a partnership move that is expected to generate £60 million savings by 2018-19.

The council leader warned of a move away from an “all-purpose council” to a “strategic council working with others to deliver fewer, predominantly targeted services.”

There was an admission for the first time confirming years of speculation that the Labour-controlled council will look at privatising the city’s refuse collection and street cleaning service from 2019.

Cllr Clancy said: “This is a very challenging budget and we will have to work with the people of Birmingham, our partners and communities to make some very difficult decisions.

“We have to look at preventative methods to reduce demand for services. We have to look at how children come into care. We want to target support for families so that when they are struggling we can help them with parenting skills.

“Some of the biggest hits in this budget will be in adult social care. Tens of millions of pounds will be coming out of that area.”

He rejected a suggestion that the draft budget proposals will be scaled back following consultation, thereby enabling the council to present a better than expected final settlement.

“We are not at the stage where backtracking is an option. There isn’t any money down the back of the sofa. We have to make these changes now.

“Everyone who works in this city is going to have to get used to the city council being different.

“People have to step up and say how do we deliver what this city needs? We have to rethink the way we do things.”

He insisted however that Birmingham’s booming economy could produce new funding streams for the council, which will be able to keep and spend the business rates uplift from new firms moving into the city.

He added: “We have to have hope. We have to see that there are ways forward for this city working together to bring economic growth that will counter the tough decisions we have to make.”

Other key council budget proposals include:

  • Investigating the possibility of privatising street cleaning and refuse collection services in 2019, saving £17.6 million.
  • Reducing opening hours at the council call centre and diverting calls at night and on bank holidays to outside contractors to save £600,000.
  • Reviewing terms and conditions of council staff, reducing holiday and sick pay entitlement and increasing weekly working hours to save £18 million.
  • Improving workforce efficiency by introducing “modern working practices” enabling multi-skilled staff to work across departments to save £16 million.
  • Phasing out funding for school crossing patrols to save £881,000.
  • Withdraw funding from leisure centres and close three community swimming pools to save £2.5 million.
  • Charge non-Birmingham residents to use council recycling facilities, and increase garden waste collection charge to £40 a year from 2017-18 to save a total of £860,000.

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