A guide to what the city’s planning to spend and save next year.
If you’re one of Birmingham’s million residents or have business in the city, it’s time to have your say about how the city’s funds are spent next year. Birmingham City Council is currently consulting on its plans to make savings, and is asking for residents’ views on proposed council tax increases.
Birmingham City Council has flagged up a need to make savings of £50 million next year. It’s found some of those savings already, and is now consulting on how to find the last £18 million.
We’ve just battled our way through the online consultation exercise, and many pages of budget saving proposals. Be warned that it’s not the best piece of consultation work we’ve ever seen – and we’ve been involved in a lot of them – as you don’t get to give a view on individual points, just a summary of the issues affecting each department. So if you agree four of the five departmental proposals but really disagree with the last, you’ll have to say you disagree overall to have any chance to explain why you don’t think something is a good idea. We’re not very impressed, Birmingham City Council, and we think you should be doing better.
We can tell you that citizens’ priorities to date are clean streets, refuse collection, child protection and safeguarding, road and pavement repairs and care and support for older and disabled people. The consultation gives a much longer set of choices, but you can only choose five in your response. Beyond that there’s no opportunity to recognise what else is most important to Birmingham.
There’s a lot of sensible stuff in the consultation document about making economies in purchasing, and in sharing more services across departments, although this is hardly earth-shattering stuff. More centralized services are planned for departments such as Transport, again making complete sense. There are proposals to use council-owned buildings more efficiently, and also staffing reductions for the leadership teams.
We’re looking forward eagerly to the new online account – named BRUM – which will hopefully allow us to access services without feeling as though Pacman might be lurking in the ancient arcade-level structure of the current online provision. New Finance and HR systems are proposed, and some management functions will be combined. There’s work outlined on the council’s property portfolio, to provide better value for the investment made.
Then there are some specific proposals, which will have a big effect on some Birmingham residents and companies. There will be less funding for white goods and furniture for residents in need, economies in interpreting services, and the use of just one training provider for all apprenticeships paid for under the Apprenticeship Levy.
There’s a proposal to end support to the West Midlands Growth Company – which provides support to companies considering relocation to Birmingham – and to help relocation in other ways. Streetlights may be dimmed, or operate for less hours. It is proposed to cease funding the Tourist Information Centre. Funds will be targeted to buy larger pieces of equipment to help people remain at home. You need to read this. It matters that we understand what the city is signing up to.
After the detailed proposals in the consultation document – during which you may have lost the will to live – you’ll get to the other significant questions. How much more are you prepared to pay next year? When you add in the social welfare extras, that’s a substantial increase of just under 5% proposed on your Council Tax.
Don’t forget to have your say. You’ll find Birmingham City Council’s proposals here. There’s a public meeting on 19th December, and two webcasts on 19th and 20th December. You may be having fun, but if you have something to say, you need to do it now. You’ll find details of the consultation on Birmingham City Council’s website.