Another tough budget but good things are still happening in Birmingham
— LeaderofBirmingham (@BrumLeader) December 8, 2016
Birmingham City Council’s spending plans for 2017-18 do not represent the budget that the controlling Labour group wanted to present. Unfortunately the proposals, which amount to £78.4 million of savings, boil down to the budget we have little choice but to present.
The cumulative effect of six years of the Government’s austerity onslaught against local authorities continues to be felt at the sharp end in Birmingham where public services are under attack as never before.
Birmingham City Council has had to take almost £500 million out of budget plans since 2009-2010 – following an unprecedented 34 per cent reduction in Government grant – and we expect to have to find about a further £178 million by 2020.
The council’s workforce has shrunk by a third over the past six years and, unless the Communities and Local Government Secretary recognises Birmingham’s justifiable case for a fairer funding settlement, more jobs are certain to disappear in the future, which inevitably will make it even more difficult to provide the level of public services the citizens of Birmingham expect and deserve.
We have sought to protect front-line services by working hard to identify real efficiency savings. Spending on the council’s ICT services will be reduced by £10 million. A successful renegotiation of deficit top-up contributions to the West Midlands Local Government Pension Fund has cut our bill by £24 million from an additional ask of £151 million.
This will generate £34 million more for the vital public services that matter most to Brummies.
Because we have been able to identify sensible efficiency savings Birmingham has not been forced down the route taken by some local authorities. We are not proposing the wholesale closure of libraries, children’s centres and leisure centres.
This is an active budgeting process. We must constantly refine and improve our savings plans in a more agile way through the course of the next year, reacting to events and taking advantage of changed circumstances as they occur.
Looking forward, I intend that the council should engage with communities in a more meaningful way from a much earlier date next year, outlining our priorities and seeking public buy-in for the next steps as Birmingham City Council reinvents itself and adapts to a rapidly changing local government landscape.
While, understandably, the council’s financial difficulties continue to focus minds, we should not forget that many good things have happened in Birmingham this year as we push forward with bold plans to generate inclusive growth, build the homes, and create the jobs citizens’ so desperately need:
- Professional services firm PwC became the first business to sign up to the £500 million, Paradise development by agreeing to relocate its 1,400-strong Birmingham team to the landmark One Chamberlain Square office building.
- M&G Real Estate, one of the country’s largest property investors, announced it was to fund the construction of Three Snowhill, a 420,000 sq ft office city centre development. The £200 million scheme is the largest speculative city centre office scheme to be built outside London.
- The council launched the £500 million Smithfield development scheme, one of biggest regeneration opportunities in the country, which will provide 2,000 homes and 3,000 jobs, as well as new retail markets, leisure uses, cafes, independent shops, restaurants and hotels, space and buildings for cultural events and activities. Smithfield alone will add £470 million in value to the Birmingham economy.
- During a trade mission to China, Hong Kong and Singapore, I signed an agreement with Chinese development company Country Garden, which will deliver huge investment in new housing stock. The agreement is worth up to £2 billion to the Birmingham economy.
- Building began on the new HS2 College that will offer fantastic training opportunities to our young people. The college will open next year and is another example of how Birmingham is already benefitting from HS2.
- The council cabinet approved plans to build more than 500 houses and apartments for sale and rent at a cost of £64 million. The scheme, through the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust, will deliver the redevelopment of the Bromford estate, near the Fort shopping centre, to provide 225 new homes at a cost of £28 million.
- Details were published of plans to build 1,000 homes at Connaught Square in Digbeth, one of the biggest residential developments in the city, and a £400 million 5,000-homes development straddling the Birmingham-Sandwell border at Greater Icknield and Smethwick. A £45 million scheme will see 230 apartments built on the site of the former Birmingham Science and Industry Museum in Newhall Street.
- My trade mission to China resulted in a second major housing development with a consortium of investors from Hong Kong and Macau agreeing to fund a £55 million scheme with the construction of 214 apartments on a brownfield site at 21 William Street, off Broad Street, in Ladywood.
- The former Municipal Bank in Broad Street, out of use for a number of years, is to be restored and re-opened for public use thanks to a deal between Birmingham City Council and the University of Birmingham.
Please have your say in our #Brumbudget17 consultation
Responses to the proposals can also be made by visiting birminghambeheard.org.uk.
People can also have their say at two public consultation events:
- Tuesday, 13 December 2016 – St Barnabas Church, High Street, Erdington, 6.30pm-7.30pm.
- Friday, 13 January 2017 – Stirchley Baths, Bournville Lane, Stirchley, 2pm-3pm.
Both events are free to attend, but places must be booked first. This can be done by visiting BrumBudgetDec.eventbrite.co.uk for the December meeting and BrumBudgetJan.eventbrite.co.uk for the January meeting.
Details of the budget proposals can be found at birmingham.gov.uk/brumbudget17 .
Follow the debate on Twitter by using the hashtag #BrumBudget17.