National and Devolved Politics


Birmingham City to make cuts of £53m in next year in bid to balance books

Birmingham City Council has revealed its plans to invest in housing and social care despite needing to make savings of £53m in its 2018-19 budget.

In its proposed financial plan for next year, England’s biggest council has said that it will invest £30.4m into adult social care.

Over the next four years it also plans to invest £468m in a Council Housing Capital Programme, including £196m for new homes and regeneration.

The budget has been announced during a difficult financial period for the council. In March, the authority admitted that its budgetary challenges would be “difficult” in 2017-18.

In September, the government improvement panel that had previously been removed was reinstated amidst fears that another financial downturn was imminent following Birmingham’s leader stepping down.

As part of its efficiency targets, the council has proposed a council tax increase of 3.99%, including the 1% social care precept, which the Birmingham Post claims is being “stored up” until after May’s local government elections.

The council proposes to make savings by helping vulnerable people, such as those with learning disabilities or mental health conditions, to access services in the community rather than being in residential care, and working with the NHS to avoid admission of older people to hospital, and introducing a range of new charges on some care services, such as where an individual “overstays” in enhanced assessment beds.

Although this proposal is not expected to yield any savings in 2018-19, it is expected to save £39m by 2021-22.

Following a consultation of council support services in October 2017, the council proposes a full service review and redesign, which it says will streamline activity and require “re-prioritisation and focus on delivery of key areas enabling support services to support frontline services.”

Over time, this will see a reduction of around 67 posts and is expected to make savings of over £2.7m a year.

In 2018-19, over £5m savings are expected to be made through a reduction in Children’s Trust contract payments due to savings which have been made by the trust.

Other proposals include amending parking charges, stopping using bed and breakfasts to provide temporary accommodation for households, and increasing revenue from advertising contracts.

Council leader, Cllr Ian Ward, said: “We have listened and, even at a time of continuing government cuts, we are investing in the services that matter most to the people of Birmingham.”

Speaking of the proposed council tax increase, he added: “It's also clear that many households are struggling with the increased cost of living, so the council tax increase will now be lower than the one we consulted on.”

He continued: “Government funding for the services that people across Birmingham rely on has been cut by almost £650m since 2010 and sadly we anticipate having to make further cuts of £123m by 2021-22.

“We have to make cuts of £53m for 2018-19 and inevitably that has meant having to make some difficult decisions.

“Those decisions have been informed by the people of this city and I would like to thank everyone who took time to have a say in our consultation.”

The budget will be taken to the cabinet today, before going to full council on 27 February for final approval.

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