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Birmingham council proposes job cuts and dimming street lights to make £50m savings

Birmingham City Council is proposing dimming its streetlights overnight, closing community centres, and a 4.99% council tax hike as it tries to find up to £86m in savings in the next four years.

Publishing its 2019-20 budget proposals, the council said it needs to make £50 savings in the next year alone and called it the “most challenging period in Birmingham City Council’s history.”

The plans propose £18m worth of new savings including closing council-owned community centres, reducing the number of customer service staff, halving the number of books at Birmingham libraries, and dimming street lights overnight.

The city council has said it will not use reserves to help it balance the books after it received heavy criticism and a formal warning from auditors after it was revealed the council had used more than £116m in the last two years.

The budget proposal also considers the maximum possible rise in council tax, and will likely see the cost for pest control, garden waste and bereavement services going up.

A consultation will launch on 13 November to seek the views of local residents on the budget proposals for what is Europe’s largest local authority.

Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council, said that a decade of cuts to local government funding has led to the most challenging period in the council’s history, altering many public sector services and leading to an increase in the need for others to support where “we are no longer able to.”

He said: “We know that the decisions we are proposing will affect the lives of many people across the city, which is why it is so important for us to hear from you, and that you take the time to engage with us.

“We want to work with you to help us make these difficult but important decisions. Last year’s budget was shaped by your feedback and we will of course listen to you again this year.

Birmingham council has already made savings of around £690m since 2010, and the council rejected claims from the prime minister that austerity was at an end.

Ward continued: “While we do have some fantastic opportunities ahead of us, including the 2022 Commonwealth Games and the significant economic boost that will bring to the city, we are not shying away from the challenges we currently face and that’s why we need as many people as possible to have their say on these budget proposals.”

In September, the council was given a section 24 notice as it was revealed that it faced a gap of £84m in funding for the Commonwealth Games.

An audit report found that the council was spending £75m more per year that it could afford and was struggling to come up with the money to fund the 2022 sporting event.

The council was told in July that “time was running out” for it make sufficient changes to get out of its serious financial situation.

 Image credit - ChrisBaynham

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