The Budget Consultation 2018+ lists the “Savings Proposals for 2018/19”. It presents them not as reductions in service provision but as positive new developments which also save money. But there is no assessment of what impact they are likely to have. Without that information consultation is largely meaningless.
Let’s take just one example of many:
Adult Packages of Care
This proposal aims to:
Enable vulnerable people, such as those with learning disabilities or mental health problems, to access services in the community, e.g. homecare/day care, rather than being in residential care. It aims to meet needs locally, providing support close to home rather than out of area.
Help older people by working more effectively with the NHS, to avoid admissions to hospital in the future. This work coupled with the intention to move to Community focussed Social Care teams and investment in the community will improve older people’s resilience and move to a ‘last resort’ scenario for residential services. The motto will be ‘Home First’.
Increase income from charges to clients by introducing a range of new charges on services. (p17)
It is claimed that this proposal will produce savings starting with £5.5m in 2019/20, £13m the year after and £20.5m the year after that.
The Budget Consultation 2017+ survey asks for your opinion about these “Adult Packages of Care” proposals:
To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposals
What are your reasons for disagreeing with any individual proposals
What impact do you think this would have on you and your family?
But how can you possibly give a meaningful answer without any information about their likely impact? It might be a good idea in principle to provide support in the community. Many people would rather have “Home First” support than residential care. But it depends entirely on what properly funded quality support in the community is provided. Yet no information is provided to enable you to judge.
What do we mean by Impact Assessment?
The Council is capable of producing an Impact Assessment before consultation if it chooses to do so. A recent example is the Review of Council Run Day Nurseries for the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 12 December. The Council report admits the damaging impacts of closing all 14 of its Day Nurseries:
4.4.2 The potential impacts to closing the nurseries are:
Loss of provision locally for children under five and their families in the named wards across Birmingham if the childcare market does not see a sustainable model for delivery;
Accessibility of services to existing families if they are moved or relocated to other nursery providers;
One hundred and twenty staff redundancies across the fourteen nurseries if the childcare market does not see a sustainable model for delivery;
Potential for not meeting the sufficiency duty – which requires the Local Authority to secure sufficient early years provision;
Implications for other services currently co-located in council buildings currently delivering nursery services.
If the Council can provide this Impact Assessment of its nursery proposals before consulting on them, why can’t it do so for its Budget proposals?
But there is another possibility – that the Council has already carried out an Impact Assessment of its Budget proposals but is keeping it secret. There are two good reasons for thinking this is the case.
The first is that is it would be gross incompetence of the Council to publish Budget proposals without analysing their likely impact on service users and providers – just plucking them out of thin air.
The second is that when the Budget goes to Cabinet for approval on the 13th of February it will not be the 33 page Budget Consultation 2018+ document, it will be a much more detailed Financial Plan 2018+ (the 2017 Financial Plan was 200 pages) which will include, by law, an Equality Analysis.
The 2017 Financial Plan spells out the “Public Sector Equality Duty”.
The public sector equality duty drives the need for equality assessments (Initial and Full). An initial assessment should be prepared from the outset based upon available knowledge and information…
A full assessment should be prepared where necessary and consultation should then take place.
Consultation should address any possible adverse impact upon service users, providers and those within the scope of the report… (p10)
Note that “An initial assessment should be prepared from the outset”, “A full assessment should be prepared where necessary” and then consultation should take place which “should address any possible adverse impact upon service users, providers…”. First assessment of equality risks, then consultation about them. This is the exact opposite of what the Council is doing today.
So the question is: where is the Council’s Equality Analysis of its 2018+ Budget proposals?
There are only two possibilities:
Either they haven’t done one, devised the Budget proposals without taking impacts on equality into account, and will quickly knock one up over the few weeks before the 13th of February.
Or they have done one and are keeping it secret, presumably because they don’t want the citizens of Birmingham to know just how much their Budget plans will further deepen inequalities in the city at the expense of the poor and vulnerable.
We say: the Council must make public a full Impact Assessment of its Budget proposals to enable an informed, open and democratic consultation process before any decisions are made.
You can find the documents here:
Budget Consultation 2018+, BCC December 2017. https://www.birminghambeheard.org.uk/economy/bccbudgetconsultation2018/supporting_documents/Budget%20consultation%202018%20%20summary%20%20FINAL%2012%20Dec%202017.pdf
Budget Consultation 2018+ survey. https://www.birminghambeheard.org.uk/economy/bccbudgetconsultation2018/
Review of Council Run Day Nurseries, Cabinet 12 December 2017. Cabinet Agenda Pack – Public – 12122017
Financial Plan 2017+, Cabinet 14 February 2017. https://birmingham.cmis.uk.com/birmingham/Meetings/tabid/70/ctl/ViewMeetingPublic/mid/397/Meeting/9382/Committee/2/SelectedTab/Documents/Default.aspx