At the public meeting of the Birmingham Improvement Panel on 11th June 2015 Panel members challenged the Council leadership as to how they planned to make further substantial cuts to Council services over the next two years.
The Kerslake Review, which led to the creation of the Birmingham Improvement Panel, criticised the Council’s Long Term Financial Planning for being insufficiently strategic and that it needed to be more effective in reducing services in line with future financial cuts imposed by Central Government.
This is part of the brief of the Birmingham Improvement Panel:
‘The Panel was interested in the development of the long term financial strategy, its links to the future role and operating model of the council, and how the council would achieve this against the backdrop of planned budget reductions this year and in the future.’
Here is the exchange between Frances Done of Birmingham Improvement Panel and the Leader and Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council.
Question from Frances Done to Cllr Ian Ward
‘One of the most serious financial issues facing council are the very large budget reductions required over the next two years. The council is committed to completely transforming the way in which it delivers its services and you have already made some reference to the cultural changes that will go with that.
Can you give us an outline of progress made so far and just respond to our concern that in the progress report that we have seen that you are running behind time.
This is a very big complex project and the panel can see huge good quality work going on here but I would like just address the risk that you will resort to salami slicing services for 2016-17 because of the delay.
Can you just respond to that and give us an update of where you are up to?’
Cllr Ian Ward in reply:
‘We are absolutely determined to avoid going through a salami slicing exercise for the 2016-17 budget.
So we have started to work to look at mapping out the city council budget and where it is going for the next five years. So we have a complete picture to we can present to people as to where the end game is going to be in the short term.
We have engaged Deloitte’s as consultants to help us with this work and we have also recruited an internal team to help take this work forward focusing on how we might reduce demand in the future. To reduce the demand on services that have to implement.
On the partnership work we are engaging with our partners on these future plans on how we might take them forward and we will be updating our resource forecasting following the Chancellors budget which is due on 8th July so are we are clear about the numbers we have to achieve in 16-17.
And we will be embarking on a different process from the one that we had last year in setting the 16-17 budget. That will be very much focused around looking at all of the services that we are currently delivering and understanding where the level of demand is, where we might be able to reduce demand, and maybe even take-out those services altogether because we can deliver them in a different way, or because partners can pick up some of that demand.
We will be looking to reshape the services that we are going to delivering in 16-17 around the areas that council needs to focus and that the demands that we actually need to meet rather than to spread the jam to thinly across the areas where we are currently delivering services.’
Sir Albert Bore in response:
‘Frances asked the question earlier about salami slicing. There will be no further salami slicing – this is now a very different scenario into the future. Unless the Chancellor in his mini budget and in some weeks time changes the relationship between Government and local government in regard to funding, a further £250 million will be taken out of the budget of the city council over the next two years
This means that salami slicing is not the order of the day and what the council has to do is actually take out services. That is why in the future council program one of the ways in order to help us in the predicament is that we have to reduce demand for services so there are less revenue consequences.… There will be a discontinuation of services that the council currently provides.’
The webcast of Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel on 11th Jun 2015 can be viewed here: http://www.birmingham.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/179391