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Clancy confident on eve of Council vote

Clancy confident on eve of Council vote

🕔05.Dec 2016

The Liberal Democrats will add their voice to the Conservative motion of no confidence in the Labour administration as the political pressure on John Clancy and his Cabinet mounts to produce a deliverable Council budget for 2017/18.

The Lib Dems will add its concern that the city is caught in the “jaws of doom.”

According to the third largest party on the Council, the “Jaws of Doom” is the “incompetence of the Labour administration and the neglect of local government by the present Conservative government, which has in itself allowed social services to plunge into crisis nationwide.”

Leader of the Lib Dem group Councillor Jon Hunt said:

Birmingham is indeed stuck in the Jaws of Doom – incompetent management of the council by Labour administrations and a Conservative government that is behaving like an ostrich, with its head in the sand trying to ignore growing crises in social services and health care.

Very soon the city will see the latest round of proposals for the council’s budget for next year. The very timing of it is an indicator that nothing has changed – a budget consultation yet again rushed through over the Christmas holidays. The council leadership faces a tough task, aggravated by its own mistakes – but has failed to involve the city as a whole in tackling it.

Meanwhile the government has apparently abandoned austerity on every front except local government and social services, which are creaking nationwide.

Meanwhile, the Labour leadership is growing in confidence after it successfully passed the proposed budget through its Group by an overwhelming majority on Saturday.

It is believed that there was just one vote against the plan at the weekend’s meeting. Former leader Sir Albert Bore was not present and it is understood will be absent again in Brussels for tomorrow’s full Council meeting.

Over £30M has been saved through reductions in spending on the West Midlands Pension Fund and “additional” projects with Service Birmingham, it is claimed. The Labour Group has therefore been reassured that the “supporting people” aspects of the Council budget will not be affected as significantly as originally feared.

Cllr Clancy will view progress on pension and Service Birmingham savings as a triumph, confounding critics on his own and other benches, fellow West Midlands leaders as well as those watching on from the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel. He will also be more confident of not being opposed for the leadership next Spring by a meaningful bid.

But several hurdles remain for the Labour leader after, in all likelihood, defeating tomorrow’s vote of no confidence. A consultation process on the draft budget will commence later this week and must then achieve Council approval in February. But, in an additional test, the 2017/18 budget will also have to go through an independent review commissioned jointly by the Improvement Panel and the Council. The Panel, led by chair John Crabtree and vice chair Frances Done, will need to be convinced of the budget’s deliverability.

It is still expected that further reforms will be at the heart of the budget plans for 2017/18. Chief Executive Mark Rogers spoke of changes to the “corporate centre” in his address to staff last week.

The Labour leadership will also be looking to reform the annual budget making process. This has been the first year that Cllr Clancy has overseen the process from the beginning, with his leadership only starting on 1 December last year.

Setting the 2017/2018 budget is part of an ongoing series of significant cuts to the Council’s budget alongside increasing service demands, tackling the legacy of past financial administration with the additional pressures of the post Kerslake Review process and the emergence of the West Midlands Combined Authority.

The Lib Dem addition to the Conservative motion is:

Council further expresses concern at the absence of effective governance of the council’s financial management, noting continued confusion over cabinet roles and large areas of council activity that appear to have no or limited accountability and responsibility at cabinet level.

Council further regrets that citizens of the city have borne the brunt of this, leading to salami slicing of many services and constant threats to other services followed by their non-implementation.

Council recognises the significant pressures on finances and the lack of response from the present government to concerns about local government funding, including the fairness of cuts to their financial grant to Birmingham.

Council notes that all -party approaches to the government have had qualified success in recent years and regrets that opportunities for such initiatives have not been taken up in 2016, noting the Improvement Panel’s strong emphasis on all-party working where it provides clear benefits to the city.

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