Birmingham Council is proposing a below inflation Council Tax increase of 1.9%. Birmingham is a Conservative led Council but is constrained by relying on the Lib Dems as junior coalition partners. Action is being taken to cope with an overspend otherwise heading for £14.3 million this year – a serious problem even for an outfit with a billion pound budget.
There is plenty in the media over the last 24 hours about how "drastic" the plans are to cut the Council's workforce by 2,000 and freeze pay. But a bit of perspective would help. The Council employs over 60,000 – more than when it was a Labour council in 2004. Cllr Randal Brew mounted an unsuccessful leadership challenge last May proposing cutting staff by 3,000. He seems to have lost the battle but to be winning the war as the Council faces up to economic reality. In fairness to the Conservative council leader, Cllr Mike Whitby, facing reality would probably be rather easier if you are not obliged to be in bed with the Lib Dems.
Efficiency savings that are planned include £84,000 from "reviews in Regional, European and International Division", £1.36 million savings on Equalities and Human Resources Division, £500,000 on reducing the Marketing Birmingham grant, £314,000 savings on Members Services, £1.4 million streamlining the planning department along with millions of pounds of other admin savings across the Council, Closing residential homes for the elderly is an emotive issue but I suspect this reflects spare capacity as more prefer to be cared for at home – as in Durham.