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The End is nigh… well, nearly nigh: Sir Albert paints bleak outlook for future of services as council white paper is launched

The End is nigh… well, nearly nigh: Sir Albert paints bleak outlook for future of services as council white paper is launched

🕔09.Dec 2013

Birmingham’s Labour party leadership believes that some public services may be at risk of collapsing by 2017 as the city council struggles to deliver £460 million of savings over the next four years.

Council leader Sir Albert Bore and his deputy Ian Ward painted a doom-laden picture of the future and warned the wholesale decommissioning of services was inevitable if the Government continued with its austerity programme.

Sir Albert told a press briefing that he had managed to avoid closing down entire services for another year, but added that no one should be “lulled into a false sense of security” and that “wholesale cuts” would definitely follow in 2015-16.

Publishing a budget consultation document for 2014-15, Sir Albert said: “last year I talked about the end of local government as I had known it. This year I am still talking about the end of local government as I know it, but I want to be clear that I am not talking about the end of local government.”

Sir Albert has previously warned of “Armageddon” – the discontinuation of all but statutory services that the council has to deliver. Cllr Ward went one further, claiming that even some statutory services would be at risk by 2017.

Earlier this month the District Auditor revealed that he had to consider whether Birmingham City Council could remain a “going concern” and would remain solvent. He concluded it could, for the time being.

The document talks about “building a new local government”, but there is no real indication about how this might happen, other than  a proposal for a single budget allocation for Birmingham, effectively lumping together the £7.5 billion a year currently handed to all the city’s public sector organisations.

Such a move, leaving the council to oversee health and police budgets as well as its own, would cut out duplication of service delivery and save money according to Sir Albert. He admitted however that “place based settlements” would require government approval, which seems unlikely at the moment.

The council leader has spoken consistently for over a year about being unable to find the necessary savings through a “salami slicing” approach, However, many of the savings set out involve imposing efficiency savings on departments and do not propose radical restructuring of service delivery.

The document – Planning Birmingham’s Future and Budget consultation 2014-15 – brings together a series of green papers covering spending plans for each council department. It outlines £87.2 million of direct service cuts next year.

Department have been told they must also make allowances for inflation in 2014-15, effectively increasing the required savings to £120 million.

This comes on top of £375 million of savings over the past three years.

A further 1,000 council jobs will disappear next year, on top of about 8,000 redundancies since April 2010. Sir Albert warned that the next tranche of voluntary redundancies, with enhanced payments, would be the last and that the workforce would in future be reduced through compulsory redundancies.

Politically sensitive areas in next year’s budget include proposals to look at reducing opening hours at the new Library of Birmingham and introducing charges for all bulky waste collections as well as dimming street lights at night to save money.

Other ideas would see all 32 of Birmingham’s park keepers lose their jobs and grass in parks left to grown into “meadows”.

The main proposals for budget cuts in 2014-15 include:

Adult Social Care £143.3 million

  • Cut staffing at care centres.
  • Make more use of day care centres rather than expensive residential care.
  • Reduce packages of care “by increasing independence”.
  • Reduce number of younger disabled adults in residential care.
  • Look after more frail elderly people at home instead of residential care.

Safeguarding, Supporting and Educating Young People £13.3 million

  • Partial or complete decommissioning of outdoor learning service.
  • Review city learning centre service.
  • Transfer early years and children’s centres to voluntary sector.
  • Cut staffing in Connexions service and Education Welfare Service.

Developing a Successful and Inclusive Economy £6 million

  • Make Digital Birmingham self-funding.
  • Reduce cost of climate change and environmental team.
  • Cut management jobs and reduce back office services.
  • Renegotiate contract with Marketing Birmingham.
  • Cut grant to Integrated Transport Authority.
  • Transfer Old Rep theatre to another provider.
  • Increase parking charges.
  • Renegotiate Amey Highways PFI contract.

Developing Successful and Inclusive Economies £14 million

  • Cut staffing at care centres for homeless people.
  • Cut substance misuse housing support.
  • Cease funding for housing support services for older people.
  • Cease to provide sexual health services and teenage pregnancy support to schools.
  • Reduce mobile library service by one-third, reduce Library Service at Home, reduce Book Fund.
  • Consider changes to Library of Birmingham operating arrangements, including possibility of reduced opening hours.
  • Get rid of park keepers, cut grass less often, reduce the parks Ranger Service.

Safe, Green and Clean Neighbourhoods £6 million

  • Charge for all bulky waste collections.
  • Reduce the level of street cleaning.
  • Save electricity by dimming street lights.

Support Services £33 million

  • Reduce senior officer staffing levels
  • Cut strategic research by 20 per cent.
  • Cut 15 jobs in Property Services.
  • Efficiency savings on post/scanning and printing.
  • Renegotiate Service Birmingham contract.

Cover Image: Uncyclopedia

Birmingham City Council,

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