You spoke, we listened: Council to set 2018/19 budget

Birmingham City Council will increase investment in housing, social care and cleaner, greener streets despite having to make a further £53 million in cuts for the 2018/19 budget.

And, in response to the budget consultation, residents face a lower than anticipated council tax increase.

The proposed 2018/19 budget will be taken to Cabinet on 13 February, with changes to the original proposals including:

  • Reducing the Council Tax increase to 3.99%, including 1% through the social care precept
  • No increase to burial and cremation fees
  • No longer proceeding with plans to charge for library book reservations

The proposed budget also includes additional investment of £70.7 million in 2018/19, including £30.4 million for adult social care and a £468 million Council Housing Capital Programme over the next four years, including £196 million for new homes and regeneration. There are also proposals to invest £0.2 million in measures to tackle fly-posting across the city.

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.

“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.

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

“We have to make cuts of £53 million 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 now be taken to Cabinet on 13 February, before going to Full Council on 27 February for final approval. The Cabinet report and draft budget document can be read here.

The Business Secretary must urgently review GKN takeover bid

GKN flag

Yesterday Cabinet Member for Jobs and Skills Cllr Brett O’Reilly and I wrote to Business Secretary Greg Clark, urging him to review the proposed takeover of GKN by Melrose.

As one of the city region’s anchor employers, GKN plays an important role in the Midlands and Birmingham economy. It employs large number of workers, sources components from supply chains that benefit the economy, delivers exports for the region and the country, supports key assemblers like JLR, and continues to invest heavily in the future driveline technology needed by electric cars.

GKN operations in the city region include not only GKN head office at Redditch but also GKN Freight Services (Redditch), GKN Aerospace Services (Birmingham), GKN Driveline (Birmingham), GKN Driveline Services (Sutton Coldfield) and – not far away – GKN Wheels & Structures (Shropshire).

You can see our letter here.

Northamptonshire crisis highlights the need an urgent rethink on local government funding

The disturbing news that Northamptonshire County Council has issued a section 114 notice, banning new expenditure, should act as a wake-up call to the Government that local government austerity has gone too far.

As The Guardian explained over the weekend, a section 114 notice is effectively an admission that a council does not have resources to meet current expenditure, that its financial reserves are depleted and that it has little confidence that it can bring spending under control in the near future.

The Conservative leader of Northamptonshire County Council Heather Smith said the local authority had ‘been in what you might call a perfect storm of huge increases in demand for our services at the same time as significant reductions in funding from central government’, adding that she had repeatedly warned the government about the growing crisis.

It’s important to note that this damning indictment of the situation local government finds itself in after eight years of Tory austerity does not come from a Labour administration, but from the leader of a Conservative county council.

Surely now the Government has to realise that local government cuts have simply gone too far. As Jeremy Corbyn said at Labour’s local government conference in Nottingham this weekend: “Austerity is unleashing chaos across our country, squeezing our local authorities and putting jobs, and the vital services they deliver, at risk.”

The vital services he refers to are services that support many of the most vulnerable in our society. Thanks to austerity, the safety net is threadbare and councils across the country – of all political persuasions – have made it clear that enough is enough.

Council spending power has fallen by almost half since 2010 and, rather than coming up with a sensible and workable plan for areas like social care and children’s services, the Government continues to kick the can down the road.

In Northamptonshire they’ve run out of road and editor of the Local Government Chronicle Nick Golding has warned that other councils will follow.

Surely now the time has come for the Government to admit once and for all that austerity is a failed and costly policy.