10,000 new city centre homes show we’re not surrendering to austerity

There’s an old saying: don’t let the facts spoil a good story.

To judge by what some people have been saying, Birmingham city council really doesn’t need to make cuts to public services because we could avoid difficult decisions by simply being a bit smarter.

I’m sorry to intervene with a few facts, but the truth is that this council has been under a financial cosh for almost a decade, and the pressure shows no sign of easing.

Huge cuts in central Government grant have forced us to take almost £600 million out of our budget since 2010, and we expect to have to cut a further £170 million by 2021.

Ten thousand city council jobs have disappeared in six years – slashing the workforce in half. And I must pay tribute to the remaining staff, who are working harder than ever to serve the people of this city.

By the end of this decade, nearly two-thirds of the council’s revenue budget as it existed in 2010 will have been removed.

Imagine if over the course of seven years your household budget fell by two-thirds. How would you cope?

This year alone, we have had to deliver £92 million of savings, and a further £71 million will be stripped out in 2017-18.

And all of this at a time of soaring demand for adult social care and a crisis in the NHS.

Despite the immense financial pressures we face, this Labour council won’t surrender to austerity.

All across Birmingham there are signs of a new beginning and I remain optimistic about the future of a city beating with the noise of regeneration.

I know we have to do more to deliver the houses our citizens desperately need and deserve. This is an absolute priority for me and the cabinet. We are already building at a scale unheard of for decades and delivering the housing this city needs.

Regeneration schemes at Curzon, around the new HS2 terminus station, and at Smithfield and Snow Hill alone will provide 10,000 new homes for Brummies.

This promises to deliver housing growth at pace and will breathe new life into the city centre, creating housing for all communities.

Over the next three years we’ll spend £360 million on new kitchens and bathrooms, improved central heating systems, new doors, windows and roofs to 20,000 council properties.

Good quality housing has to be in the very front line of our fight to tackle poverty. Families living in warm, decent homes tend to be healthier, happier, better educated, and have better jobs, higher wages, and brighter prospects.

When you invest hundreds of millions of pounds in housing you are also investing hundreds of millions of pounds in health and education because these areas are inextricably linked.

Poor quality housing isn’t only a moral issue, it’s an economic issue too and that’s why building decent homes is right at the top of my agenda along with protecting children.

Birmingham is facing the toughest ever choices about public services because all of the easy savings have been achieved.

Almost a decade after the global financial crash, one thing is clear: austerity isn’t working.

Cities like Birmingham, with the greatest needs and the greatest spending pressures, continue to suffer the greatest cuts. And that’s just not fair.

The Government’s only answer to the social care crisis is to allow councils to levy a social care precept – three per cent on top of every council tax bill in this city, raising just under £9 million in Birmingham.

We will spend £338 million this year on adult social care and Supporting People. So an extra £9 million isn’t going to go very far. It’s a sticking plaster solution to a gaping wound.

With the limited resources at our disposal, this Labour-controlled council has taken a frontline first approach – protecting as far as we are able the services citizens most rely on.

Council tax will rise by 4.99 per cent, including the three per cent social care precept – that’s an increase of £60 for a Band D property, or £1.16 a week.

We’ve avoided some of the dreadful cuts seen in other parts of the country by identifying alternative sources of income. And we’re still able to invest an additional £110 million to meet the growing demand for services.

If we hadn’t worked hard to identify new revenue streams, if we hadn’t used reserves, we wouldn’t be cutting £71 million in 2017-18, we would be cutting £163 million.

We’ve cut and will continue to cut the cost of the council’s ICT services. We’ve renegotiated contributions demanded by the West Midlands Local Government Pension Fund and will seek to make more savings in this area.

We’ve reduced significantly the cuts we were planning to make in the Supporting People budget to better protect vulnerable citizens.

The huge importance Brummies place on parks and museums has been recognised and we have been able to halve or remove entirely the cuts initially planned in these areas.

An additional £2 million has been put into our spending plans to help meet the travel needs of children from low income families or with special educational needs, and we are investing more in adult social care and child protection services.

There are plenty of signs that Birmingham as a city is on the way up.

  • Almost 1,000 foreign direct investment projects over the past four years.
  • A business growth rate higher than all UK cities.
  • An economic growth rate of 13.5% in the past five years.
  • The most enterprising city outside of London…..again…..with 17,473 new companies registered last year.
  • The number of foreign visitors coming to Birmingham doubled in three years.
  • The most popular conference and event destination outside of London.
  • The most popular destination for Londoners relocating from the capital.

This council does not expect to be bailed out by the Government. Birmingham has to generate its own prosperity and growth for all citizens. And it will.

But any growth is worthless if it does not spread to all communities, to all citizens.

Too many people are being left behind. They may hear about recovery, but they are not part of any recovery. Too many people in this city cannot even say, in the words of the Prime Minister, that they are just about managing.

They are not managing at all.

So the biggest challenge facing us now is to make sure economic growth in Birmingham is inclusive and reaches every ward in this city.

A bold vision for the future forms the bedrock of our ambition.

  • A healthy city and a great place for children to grow up in.
  • A great city to live in with decent homes for all.
  • A city where every child, every citizen, and every place matters.
  • A welcoming city, comfortable with its many communities.
  • A city that celebrates its diversity.
  • A city where citizens succeed because they have skills required for the jobs on offer.

That is our vision. These are the principles that drive us forward. This is the Birmingham we will build.

Posted on March 3, 2017, in Blog. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: