Unprecedented Birmingham council cuts plan ‘doesn’t go far enough’, warns Sir Albert Bore
Sir Albert Bore has ordered a major rethink of Birmingham City Council’s austerity programme after declaring that unprecedented budget savings proposed so far don’t go far enough.
The council leader said his colleagues would to go back to the drawing board and come up with more effective ideas for cost-cutting.
Service review green papers covering the future of social care for adults, education services and sport and leisure were described as radical when launched in the summer on the grounds that they avoided the traditional local government ‘salami slicing’ approach to spending cuts.
The documents suggest saving money by transferring some services to the private and voluntary sectors, while scrapping entirely the provision of other services traditionally provided by the council.
But Sir Albert believes the plans drawn up by cabinet members and officials won’t deliver the scale of spending cuts demanded by the Government.
Sir Albert told a media briefing that further reductions in local government grant announced by the Chancellor meant that the council had to find savings above those already proposed.
He expects the amount the council has available to spend will have reduced by £825 million between 2010-11 and 2017-18 – a reflection of grant cuts and growing demand for social services.
About £375 million of that figure has either been delivered or earmarked, leaving £450 million to find, according to the council leader.
Sir Albert said: “These first service reviews don’t realise the budget savings that we know think we need to make. They are in the process of being reviewed.”
Two further green papers were issued today, setting out proposals for savings over a wide area.
Ideas out for consultation include:
– Reducing Service Birmingham’s £12 million contract to run the council contact centre.
– Moving the contact centre out of Fort Dunlop.
– Raising income by introducing new on-street parking zones.
– Levying an administration fee on every planning application.
– Increasing charges for public services, possibly including higher fees for burials and cremations.
– Transferring civic catering, building cleaning and Council House security staff to the arms-length company Acivico, enabling them to trade with the private sector.
– Selling advertising on the city council website.
The proposed planning administration fee would be imposed on all applications but returned in most cases once approval is granted. The council would keep the fee if proposals were withdrawn by developers before coming to committee.
New on-street parking zones are likely to be sited just outside of the city centre, particularly in areas like Digbeth where commuters are leaving their cars in residential areas and walking to work.
Sir Albert has faced criticism from within the Labour Party for his tough approach to council spending. But he was not in a mood to back down, declaring: “This is not doom and gloom rhetoric. It is reality.
“It would be irresponsible of me not to make absolutely clear to the business community and individuals the severity of the financial situation we are facing.”
He said the latest service reviews looking at the future of civic catering, building cleaning and security staff would inevitably lead to further job losses.
The council has shed a third of its workforce in six years, down from 21,000 in 2007 to 14,000 today.
Sir Albert said firm budget proposals are likely to be launched in November and repeated his claim that some services currently provided by the council will have to be scrapped entirely.
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