Birmingham plans for £340m cuts to meet ‘greatest financial challenge ever’

Council services in Birmingham are set to suffer cuts of nearly £340m as the local authority warned it is facing its greatest financial challenge ever.

Birmingham City Council has opened a six-week public consultation into the plans, which involve cutting services by £50.6m in 2016-17 and £337.7m cumulatively by 2019-20.

The council has already taken £590m out of its budget plans since 2010-11, partly due to an unprecedented drop in its central government grant by over a third.

Cllr John Clancy, the council’s leader, said: “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

“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.”

Birmingham is the latest in a string of councils, including Newcastle, Wolverhampton, Kent and Liverpool, to announce unprecedented cuts as local services struggle to cope with a national reduction in funding.

For example, the consultation showed that Birmingham City Council intends to cut health and wellbeing services by £21.5m in the next year.

Other savings measures include reviewing all the Supporting People contracts for services for groups including domestic abuse victims, disabled people and care leavers, with an aim to achieving £5.2m savings; delaying introducing the Birmingham Care Wage of £7,50 an hour for social care staff until 2018; and making greater use of community services to help people with social care needs.

Children’s services are due to be cut by over £50m. The proposals include cutting child protection services by £200,000 a year, which the report admits will lead to staff cuts, longer waiting times for assessments and a less flexible service. Children’s service leaders warned this week that social care referrals are “at a tipping point” because of increasing need combined with reduced funding.

Other proposals include reducing funding for educational psychologists; reducing the number of places in homes for disabled children in order to establish community-based solutions; and reducing transport to education services for children over 16.

Council tax is set to rise by 3.99%, incorporating both the 2% social care precept and a general increase of 1.99%  – although ADASS recently warned that the precept is not enough to make up for the funding shortfall.

The consultation also included plans to cut the parks and nature services budget by 20%, and reduce the council’s levy to Transport for the West Midlands.

(Image c. Rudolf Schuba)

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