Budget Consultation: Let’s work together to plan for the future
My Cabinet colleagues and I launched the latest city council budget consultation earlier today and there’s no way to sugar-coat this: the cuts are far from over and the challenging times continue.
The grim news is that we’re looking at another £250 million in cuts over the next four years – and remember that’s on top of the £560 million that has already been cut from the city council budget since austerity began in 2010/11.
We anticipate the need for £90 million in cuts for the next financial year and the budget consultation outlines some very stark choices for the city.
Inevitably, much of the coverage will focus on services that are under threat but I’d also like to reflect on the consequences for city council staff.
Sadly, this budget consultation outlines plans for around 1,200 job losses from the current workforce of 12,400 – that’s down from 20,194 in April 2010. So we’ve shed almost 10,000 jobs over the last five-and-a-half years.
That’s alarming enough as a headline but I’m acutely aware of the individuals and families behind the job loss figures. This continues to be a very difficult time for staff and I feel for people who have endured the ongoing uncertainty in recent years.
You’ll see a lot of headlines of the coming days and weeks about job losses, service cuts and more. The headlines will not make for comfortable reading, because this is yet another challenging budget. Shrinking finances and a dramatically reduced workforce mean we face some very tough decisions and we have to be upfront with people.
We need to recognise that we’re not quite the heavyweights we once were. We don’t have all the answers. We must accept – and help others to accept – that Birmingham City Council in 2020 will in many ways be unrecognisable from the Birmingham City Council in 2010.
Put simply: We can’t do as much as we used to do.
That’s a fact of life, so we have to look up from the ledger sheet and be cleverer. We have to re-imagine and remodel how we do things.
Yes the capacity has dramatically shrunk, but the demand has not. So our challenge now is to work more closely with partners, community groups and residents. We’re going to have to find together new ways of delivering services and developing new relationships.
I’ve been very clear in my first week as leader of the council that I want us to work with the people of this city as we make these tough decisions. And that’s definitely the case with the budget consultation. This is not a case of ‘doing things to the city’ but more a case of ‘doing things with the city’.
That’s what our Future Council programme is all about.
We all have an interest in redesigning council services to best serve people across Birmingham. So I would urge everyone to take part in this consultation – either online or by attending one of our budget events. Let us know your thoughts and work with us to make decisions that will affect people across Birmingham.