Birmingham City Council held a public consultation meeting at Bournville College last night. The meeting was to allow members of the public to express any opinions and concerns re the budget cut proposals for 2012/13.

Around thirty people attended the event. Northfield MP Richard Burden, Longbridge Labour councillors Ian Cruise and Andy Cartwright and Northfield council candidate for Labour Brett O’Reilly all attended the meeting. No local Conservative councillors were present, nor were any of the council administration.

Parents from Charles House were in attendance, stating their case once again against the threatened closure of the respite facility for disabled children.

Brett O’Reilly said he had left the meeting after an hour as he felt very disheartened by procedings. He sent us the following:

“For a start, in a Tory led cuts consultation, there were no Tory councillors or candidates to be seen! The meeting was set out in a pre-set agenda decided by…. Birmingham City Council!! I thought this was a public consultation?

Anyway, a presentation was given by a stand in representative as the scheduled presenter had apparently lost her voice (I’m not suprised, had I been delivering it I think I’d have shirked it too!) which talked about various methods of streamlining our services and making them more ‘efficient’. In other words, cutting them.

The first insult is that central government are offering BCC a grant of 2.5% of its budget….. But if they raise council tax the offer is withdrawn!! If with this grant, the council were allowed to raise council tax by an equal amount, that would be 5% of the total council budget without cutting anything! A cost spread over every resident in Birmingham and not on the shoulders of the young, elderly or vulnerable.

What was really concerning was the contradictions on almost every page. Firstly, I challenged the misleading statement issued by BCC every time Charles House is mentioned: “Children in private / family care achieve better outcomes than those in childrens homes….”. This is misleading and simply not true, by admission of BCC, when it comes to children with special needs or disabilities that receive respite care.

A further oxymoron, following a page dedicated to cutting funding for childrens homes (stating clearly that the places will be picked up by foster carers), there is a further page explaining how the fostering service will be ‘streamlined’ as part of the cuts programme. There are not enough foster carers as it is with the childrens homes open, where is the logic in saying cut both and the magical private sector will pick up the slack? (sorry for the sarcasm I am just extremely angry that I even considered that there may be some sort of logicical consultation!!)

I left the meeting around an hour before it finished as I simply could not condone the way in which it was being chaired. It became farcical to the point that when challenged with a motion (whether I agreed or disagreed is not the point) and asked whether it was a democratic forum, the ‘independant chair’ replied ‘this is not a trade union or Labour Party open forum…’ Following this statement we were then ‘told’ by the chair which discussion group we would be part of, at which point me and my wife left.

Overall I feel this was a thinly veiled attempt to justify, what I believe now more than ever, cuts that are politically and not financially or economically motivated.”

Richard Burden sent us the following comments after attending the meeting:

“There was a lot of anger at tonight’s meeting about the cuts Birmingham Council are proposing.

I guess it’s not surprising that tonight, some of the brunt of that anger was born by the people who the council have commissioned to run these consultation meetings but we shouldn’t really shoot the messenger here. It’s the Conservative/Lib Dem administration on the Council that are making these decisions and they should answer for them. Unfortunately, none of them were at the meeting tonight to so.

But it doesn’t mean the questions are going away. The fact is that there are big holes in the logic of the Council’s budget proposals.

For example, in their work to protect  vulnerable children, they say they want to move towards more children being placed with foster parents rather than taken into care. But in the next breath they say they are looking to trim what they spend on supporting adoption and fostering.

In other parts of their document they say they want to make greater use of the voluntary sector but we know that in practice voluntary organisations are being squeezed by the Council.

And there are real concerns that respite care in places like Charles House could be under threat, and that Birminghan could cut the funding for the Supporting People programme – which helps vulnerable adults to lead more independent lives-  by an even greater anount than the Conservative-led Government is demanding.”

Click here to read more about the consultation process and how you can contribute. 

Read Stirchley and Cotteridge Against the Cuts report on the meeting

The Council House, Birmingham (shot 5)
The Council House, Birmingham by Rick Harrison on Flickr

1 COMMENT

  1. Well done to the parents of Charles House who are fighting very hard to keep it open.They put over their views very strongly and with passion and i feel this is a matter to which all Counillors within the Nortfield constituency should get behind and support.If childrens homes like Charles house are part of the cuts what on earth is next no one is safe. one thing that we must all remember is these cuts lead to people losing their jobs and their way of life. Whoever makes these life changing choices should hold their heads in shame they are justpicking on the vulnerable and weak.

  2. Whatever the wrongs and rights about the cuts, the fact that elected Conservative Councillors from Longbridge and Northfield (who are paid to represent our community) couldn’t be bothered to turn up for a meeting aimed at “Consulting” local constituents about the proposed cuts is enlightening. It tells me two things.
    1 They know it’s a “tick box” exercise and that policy will not be changed whatever the views of the constituents(we have all heard before of these “consultation”/ “listening” exercises!)
    2 They can’t even be bothered to turn up to make it appear that it isn’t one!
    Presumably the constituents of B31 will consider this when it comes to the next local elections!!

  3. As labour prospective candidate for Kings Norton i was also present at the budget consultation at Bournville College and would agree with many of the comments regarding the cuts already in force and the ones threatened and specifically was appalled by the proposition to cut Charles House. I was angered at the hypocrisy represented by the Council process of consultation attempting to convince us all that the only way to progress is to make more draconian cuts at the same time as employing consultants to manage the process -two consultants attempted to manage the meeting with council employed officers. What does it say about our ruling Council parties who don’t have the guts to stand up in public for their own proposals preferring to spend thousands of our money to opt out of the process?

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