Time is almost up to have your say on council budget proposals which could see further cuts to services – including support services for vulnerable people including the disabled and homeless, parks and museums – in Birmingham.

The consultation on Birmingham City Council’s most recent budget proposals began before Christmas and ends this Wednesday, 18th January.

The city’s finances are already stretched – as part of budget cuts from central government, approximately £590 million has already been saved since 2010. However, Birmingham City Council are required to find a further £50.6 million savings in the year 2017/18, on top of £27.8 million already planned for the year.

As part of the proposals, residents would face a Council Tax rise of 3.99% (2.00% Social Care Precept and 1.99% general Council Tax increases) to help with the savings.

Council Leader Councillor John Clancy said: “Birmingham City Council is facing an extremely tough financial landscape against a backdrop of continuing severe cuts in Government grant. We have already taken around £590 million out of our budget plans since 2010/11 – this includes having had to address an unprecedented 34 per cent reduction in our Government grant – and we expect to have to find around a further £180 million by 2021.

“In such circumstances, the task of putting together the 2017/18 budget posed unprecedented difficulties as dwindling Government funding and unremitting pressure to meet growing demand for adult social care combined to pose the greatest financial challenge ever faced by the council.

“It is inevitable in an age of austerity that unpalatable decisions have to be taken about the services we can continue to pay for, and those areas where the council, reluctantly, must withdraw support.

“Every conceivable saving has been on the table. Some were rejected as being unacceptable, even given the dire circumstances the council finds itself in through no fault of its own.

“We are continuing to invest in our priority areas of children’s services, housing, jobs and skills wherever possible.

“Your feedback is hugely important to us – in fact, we used your feedback from last year’s budget consultation to shape our priorities of children, jobs and skills, housing and health. I want to encourage debate and I want as many people as possible to talk to us as possible.”

There’s still time for you to read through the proposals and submit your objections or support on the budget proposals for five key areas:

Cross Cutting

Proposed savings: £17.9 million

Efficiency savings across the council, including a projected £10 million saving resulting from changes to Information Technology and Digital projects.

Jobs and Skills

Proposed savings: £3.36 million

Weoley Castle ruins

Includes a further half a million pounds cut from payments made to Birmingham Museums Trust. The Trust – which oversees the management of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Thinktank Science Museum, Aston Hall, Blakesley Hall, Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, Sarehole Mill, Soho House and Weoley Castle ruins – has already seen around half its funding from Birmingham City Council cut in the last 5 years.

Fears are that a further reduction in funding will lead to staff cuts, reduced opening hours, increased admission charges and a reduction in events and exhibitions.

Homes & Neighbourhoods

Proposed savings: £7.5 million

One of the main proposals in Homes and Neighbourhoods is a £1.8 million cut in Parks services, a 20% funding reduction.

Photo by Elliot Brown

It is anticipated that this could lead to the closure of some of the city’s 6 ranger hubs. Current hubs in South West Birmingham are Lickey Hills Country Park and Woodgate Valley Country Park, with further hubs in Sheldon, Kings Heath, Sutton and Edgbaston Reservoir.

A reduced ranger service would mean less, or even no, time to support essential volunteer activities and to work with schools and community groups and so on.

It is possible that park keepers, such as at Cofton Park, will no longer be supported and park rangers based at the hubs to close may also lose their jobs.

Cofton Park

A percentage of grass in parks and on the highways will no longer be maintained, giving way to “rank grassland”. There would also be a reduction in the amount of maintained shrubs and flower beds in parks and at the roadside.

Planters and baskets on high streets would no longer be funded unless sponsorship could be secured from other sources.

A group of local organisations, including the Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust,  has come together write an open letter against these proposed cuts, citing the effects on health, wellbeing, the environment and wildlife. Read the letter

Also of note is the proposed halving of the recently announced Local Innovation Fund. The fund is distributed at ward level to groups, organisations and individuals doing work which supports the council’s priorities (Children, Housing, Jobs and Skills, and Health). Initially the fund was to run for two years with £2 million per annum being awarded. It is proposed to halve the fund to £2 million to be administered over a 15 month period.

Health and Wellbeing

Proposed savings: £21.5 million

The largest chunk of savings is proposed in the Health and Wellbeing category. The council hope that some of these savings will come as a result of renegotiating provision and funding of social care services with other partners and stakeholders.

The Supporting People budget supports the city’s most vulnerable residents: young people (including care leavers), victims of domestic abuse, homeless individuals and families, the disabled (including mental health, learning disabilities and physical disabilities), gypsies and travellers, offenders and ex-offenders. It is proposed that the budget would lose £5.2m in 2017/18 and a further £4.8m the following year.

It is proposed that there would also be a £3m cut to the Enablement Service – which helps people be discharged from hospital quicker after a life changing event and supports them at home – and a £2m cut to home care packages, which is expected to be achieved by sending single carers instead of pairs where appropriate.

A further £2.5m saving in proposed by assessing care needs locally and utilising existing local services more effectively.

Children

Proposed savings: £300,000

Understandably, one of Birmingham City Council’s priorities and facing the least cuts.

HAVE YOUR SAY:

Consultation closes on Wednesday 18th January. Still time to send in your thoughts!

Comments: