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Council leaders struggle to deliver Birmingham’s £124m cuts plan

Council leaders struggle to deliver Birmingham’s £124m cuts plan

🕔16.Jul 2013

accountsAlmost a third of the £124 million budget savings approved by Birmingham City Council this year are yet to be identified or are at risk of not being delivered on time.

The latest budget monitoring paper shows that £75 million of the savings have been fully achieved, leaving almost £50 million to be found.

Of the £50 million, actions are in place to save £26 million but the council accepts “there may be some risk to delivery”. Ways of finding a further £17 million are still to be found.

The accounts reflect the position at the end of May and council leaders were quick to point out that a similar potential overspend was identified at the same stage a year ago but it still proved possible to deliver a balanced budget at the end of 2012-13.

This time, however, the savings target is higher and the small print of the balance sheet indicates that some tough decisions are coming up for the controlling Labour group, council leader Sir Albert Bore and his deputy Ian Ward.

A number of the cuts, or savings, approved in this year’s council business plan have proved to be over-ambitious or simply cannot be delivered in the way envisaged without damaging services.

One of the most sensitive areas is the Children, Young People and Families directorate where proposed social services savings are proving as difficult as ever to achieve.

  • Planned closures of children’s homes are running behind schedule, at a cost of £1 million, while a strategy to save money by reducing the number of young people coming into care has not succeeded, leaving an £832,000 shortfall.
  • Predicted savings from a new customer information and advice service are £80,000 compared to an initial target of £400,000.
  • A plan to disband the hospital social work team to save £488,000 has been shelved.
  • Plans to save £2.4 million by reducing the length of time children spend in care “have not materialised”, according to the accounts.
  • The amount of additional funding the council expected to receive from the NHS has fallen short by £1.7 million.

Birmingham’s 10 devolved district committees are finding it increasingly difficult to remain within budget and meet the savings required of them. Almost £8 million of the districts savings programme is at risk of not being met.

More than half of the potential overspend, £4.4 million, is accounted for by the sports and leisure service. Council leaders are consulting on the future of sports and community centres and have admitted that some may have to close and others could be transferred to private sector management to save money.

Savings planned for youth services and the Connexions service are running £3 million under target.

The district committees, which are to be given new powers and increased budgets to run local services, failed to deliver a total of £1.3 million in savings last year and have been told to balance their books in 2013-14.

Deputy council leader Ian Ward told a meeting of the cabinet that he was confident of delivering all planned savings and producing a balanced budget at the end of the year.

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