Latest Public Sector News

10.12.14

Birmingham council announces massive cuts and 6,000 jobs to go by 2018

Birmingham City Council has announced plans to cut a further 6,000 jobs by 2018 and reduce a wide range of services as it scrambles to make savings of more than £300m.

The UK’s largest authority said that it expects its workforce to be down to 7,000 by the end of the 2017-18 financial year, compared to 20,000 in 2010. Around 1,100 of those jobs are to go next year.

Sir Albert Bore, the leader of the Labour-run council, said: “We now need to make £117m of savings next year, rising to £338m by 2017-18, although we do not yet know what the full implications of the chancellor’s Autumn Statement will be. This is on top of the £462m we have had to save so far.”

However the council is committed to investing extra money in its services to protect children following a series of abuse cases, but Bore described the consequences of the cuts as “quite dire”. He said most citizens had probably not seen the effects of cuts so far but would now.

Among the proposed cuts is a dramatic rollback in opening hours at the new £188m Library of Birmingham, which only opened September 2013.

The library will cut back from being open 73 hours per week to 40. More than half of the library staff face redundancy as council bosses look to lay off about 100 of its 188 staff.

Cabinet member for culture Cllr Penny Holbrook said: “It is with a heavy heart that we go out to consultation on budget cuts for the Library of Birmingham, that could impact on opening hours, staffing numbers and the variety of services offered.

“We are proud of the building and the warm welcome it has received locally, nationally and internationally since opening in September 2013. However, the financial position of the library leaves us with no other feasible option but to put forward these proposals.

“There is a huge burden of debt on the library service, so we have to stop doing some things. But core functions of the library such as archives, research, literacy and loans will be maintained.”

In addition community libraries across the authority face closures and scaled back opening hours. More savings the council announced include the city's 250 CCTV cameras no longer being monitored around the clock, a 50% funding cut to services for those with physical and sensory disabilities, and a range of care services, such as sheltered housing, are to be contracted out.

The council is also withdrawing support for public events including the Pride march, Birmingham Carnival, St Patrick's Day and the Sikh New Year celebration of Vaisakhi.

Bore said: “It’s been a difficult budget to deliver, we’ve managed to draw on resources we have been able to create for ourselves to help us reduce the level of cuts we are making.

“But we are making cuts and not just about reducing service delivery, but stopping altogether some provision we have made.”

And he issued a further warning for the years ahead: “The cuts we have envisaged for 16-17 and 17-18 will be greater.”

The announcement of the cuts comes the day after the publication of a review into the authority’s governance and culture, which said it must make fundamental changes and that residents and businesses are not getting the best from a council that “lacks a clear vision” for the city and has failed to tackle “deep-rooted” problems such as low skills and economic growth.

The report from the DCLG’s chief civil servant, Sir Bob Kerslake, states the council has too often looked to central government bail outs or to blame others for its problems, and that Birmingham needs to collaborate more with partner authorities and business leaders if it is to avoid falling further behind competitors. 

Local government secretary Eric Pickles backed the report fully and gave Birmingham council a year to “improve its performance” or face further intervention.

(Image: Birmingham skyline c. Steve N)

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