Category Archives: Birmingham City Council

Bore’s call for a citizen army of volunteers

Bloomsbury Library in Nechells was recently closed following the theft of lead from the roof, the Birmingham Mail reported that an anonymous employee, said: “We were told the library was closing down for good and that staff would be transferred to other libraries.'' (Birmingham Mail 28th October 2013)

Bloomsbury Library in Nechells was recently closed following the theft of lead from the roof, the Birmingham Mail reported that an anonymous employee, said: “We were told the library was closing down for good and that staff would be transferred to other libraries.” (Birmingham Mail 28th October 2013)

At Tuesday’s Council meeting Sir Albert issued his call for the citizens of Birmingham to come forward and to volunteer to run local public services that otherwise will be closed as a result of future budget cuts.

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Campaign to Save Laurel Road Community Centre.

Laurel Road Community CentreBirmingham Council are considering putting the centre under asset transfer, which we believe puts the future operation of the Centre at threat. We are campaigning to keep the Centre within the council as a properly funded, properly staffed public service.

What do we do?

Ideas and Discussion session – all welcome

7pm Tuesday Nov. 12th

Laurel Rd Community and Sports Centre

Laurel Rd, Handsworth, Birmingham

Accessibility information

Called by Handsworth Against the Cuts

Sue 07818068856

Alistair 07846490408

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An open letter to Unison Birmingham Branch Regarding Sheltered Housing Cuts

Following is an open letter regarding how cuts are affecting sheltered housing, from a resident of sheltered housing in Birmingham.

Dear Brothers and Sisters

I am a service user who lives in Sheltered Housing and also a member of the Unite union.

I have recently received a notice from the managers of the Services for Older People department which has responsibilities for Sheltered Housing (or Supported Accommodation, as it is sometimes called). The notice said there would not be a Support Officer (Warden) on site on Tuesday, 22 October because staff would be attending a training course. Training courses are obviously important but they should surely be staggered and run over two or three different days to allow for some Support Officers to be onsite as they always have been between Monday and Friday. Tenants surely have the right to know their Support Officer visits to their homes will take place.

A year or two ago it would have been unthinkable for there to be a situation where no Support Officer was on site on any week day to attend to the needs of Service Users but this now seems to be creeping in more and more. The Careline pull cords which tenants have are important but they only link us to a switchboard several miles away and despite their best efforts, the staff there CANNOT provide the face-to-face presence of a daily on-site Support Officer.

This absence of Support Officer coverage is very worrying and the situation seems to be getting worse the more the city council cuts back on financing its services.

Unison organises and represents many of these Support Officers (who work in isolation and must find it very difficult to properly liaise with their workmates) and it would be greatly appreciated to know what steps the union is taking to challenge what is increasingly looking like a worrying run-down in frontline support services.

Many thanks

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Birmingham City Council Service Reviews – Green Paper: Safe, Clean and Green Neighbourhoods

Another service review green paper is out for consultation – Safe, Clean and Green Neighbourhoods – which covers, amongst other things, refuse collection and street cleaning. These service reviews are where the council starts to details how they will be cutting council spending as a result of cuts from central government.

You can download the green paper here: https://app.box.com/s/sre6gf3p3mghvi2xxyg9

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Library users will sit on new Strategic Library Board

library privatisation godzillaThe Cabinet member responsible for the new Library of Birmingham has conceded that the new Strategic Management Board is unrepresentative of the people of Birmingham and needs to be more inclusive. The Board has recently been set up by the Council to lead the development of the new Library into the future.

Cllr Ian Ward conceded that it should include seats for library users and will urgently consider ways to appoint them to the Board. This concession was an apparent victory for the Friends of the Library of Birmingham who had been challenging the composition of the Board.

The idea of user representation was originally dismissed by Sir Albert Bore at July’s cabinet meeting, claiming that it was unnecessary as one of the Councillors sitting on the Board of eleven had a library ticket!

The move came at a meeting held last week between Cllr Ian Ward and campaigners from the Friends of the Library of Birmingham. The meeting with Cllr Ward took place in response to a request from the Library campaign to ‘call in’ the Cabinet decision to set up the strategic management board.

The Library Campaign has sought to challenge the composition of the new Management Board due to the presence and weight of business representation upon it. Five of eleven seats are reserved to ‘five Library of Birmingham Development Trustees with connections to Birmingham businesses’.

The Development Trust was set up as a charitable body to draw in funding for the Library which would not be directly available to the Council. Trustees have been appointed to the Development Trust with a businsess background and include a member of the Birmingham Post ‘Rich list’ and the CEO of Aston Villa.

The Friends group wrote to Sir Albert Bore before the Cabinet decision objecting that ‘the selection of trustees with such a narrow range of business interests and ethnic backgrounds cannot take forward an inclusive vision of the Library of Birmingham as a cultural resource for all of the citizens of Birmingham.”

The Library campaign requested a scrutiny call-in to investigate the recruitment of the ‘Great and the Good’ to the Development Board to consider possible discriminatory bias. The call-in was refused.

During last weeks meeting Cllr Ward claimed that the Trustees sitting on Library of Birmingham Development Trust had been appointed under the previous Council administration and he could not explain how they had been selected.

But that business people had been deliberately appointed to provide ‘traction in drawing in the money for Library’. Cllr Ward conceded that it was open to question as to how successful the ‘great and the good’ had been in attracting new funding.

The campaigners expressed their concern that the Board might in future propose a future procurement to outsource the Library.

Cllr Ward accepted that the Board could recommend a privatisation but that the decision lay with the Council. He advised such a decision would be ‘hugely controversial’ due in part to the possibility that a private contractor could successfully bid for contract through an open procurement process.

The Friends of the LoB concluded by saying they wanted an unequivocal answer from Sir Albert Bore to the question ‘Can you give a commitment that the Library of Birmingham will remain publicly run and publicly owned for the forseeable future?’ The question which was originally asked at the July Council meeting by a member of the public and followed up in writing, has not yet been answered by Sir Albert.

A spokeperson from the campaign commented “The fundamental facts havent changed, the Mangement Board remains packed with private business people. We will continue to campaign for a ‘citizen-led’ Library with professional leadership from qualified librarians.”

Stand up for Public Libraries in Birmingham

As the Library of Birmingham gears up for its ‘Grand opening’ on 3rd September the Library campaign is preparing for an Autumn of activity
Join us for the following activities:

31st August – Street stall from 11am to 1pm outside the ‘old’ Central Library

3rd September – Street stall in Centenary Square during the opening day

Our next meeting will take place on 29th August at 7pm at The ICC cafe area and is open to all who support our campaign aims.

Please contact and get involved with the Friends of the Library of Birmingham:
E-mail @ friendsoflibraryofbirmingham@gmail.com
‘Like’ our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/friendsoftheLoB
And ‘follow’ us on Twitter @FoLoB_

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Adult and Communities service review – Neither a Green Paper nor a Dialogue

dec 5th draft B council house gradientThe problem confronting Sir Albert Bore is how to cut even deeper into social care services where he knows that pound by pound he will hurt the most vulnerable in our city. An existing £46m is being cut annually from the adult social care budget and from 2016-17 Bore wants to increase this total to £75m.

The Labour leadership has embarked on a series of fundamental service reviews across all the services run by the Council and is publishing the results as a series of Green Papers. The Adult and Communities Green Paper has now been published and the Council has embarked on a series of ‘Dialogue’ meetings with service users and carers over the summer to sound out these latest cut proposals.

Anyone who has read a Government Green paper will know it is a substantial document with detailed discussion of policy options. Apparently Sir Albert doesn’t want us to be bogged down in details, the specific proposals involving £29m worth of cuts consist of just half a page of a very short seven page paper.

Members of the pubic attending the dialogue meeting struggle to understand what is being proposed by the council, and most importantly what it means for the services they use and how it might affect their lives. But what Council officers have been told by service users at these meetings is how much the existing cuts are already adversely affecting their lives.

Carers, often elderly, have repeatedly complained about the increasing difficulty of accessing short breaks for the adult children they care for. Contacting social workers and the time involved in waiting for assessments and for care services was again a familiar concern. One carer complained about finding a home carer employed by a private home care company contracted by the Council asleep on his mothers sofa.

The proposals themselves involve yet more privatisation of care services where the Council will no longer directly provide any services and move to that of a commissioning authority only. Birmingham has closed and outsourced all its residential homes for adults in recent years, it is now proposing to ‘externalise’ its remaining specialist care services and to stop providing all respite care.

The Green Paper refers to a ‘demand management’ approach where it identifies the most expensive groups of service users requiring the most expensive care, referred to in the Green Paper as ‘high cost, high end care’, with the objective of reducing the costs of care for that group.

The Green Paper and ‘Dialogue’ meetings are an attempt to prepare the public for ‘bad news’ ahead of setting the Council budget for 2014-15, which will begin in earnest in the Autumn. The Green Papers are to be discussed at Council Ward Committees in August and September and it is important that people attend and raise their concerns.

Sir Albert Bore has told us that his raison d’être is ‘protecting the most vulnerable’, what he needs to told loud and clear and by as many people as possible that the cuts to adult social care are hurting not protecting the most vulnerable in Birmingham!

The Adult and Communities Green Paper can be found here:

http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/servicereviews

There is a discussion paper on making an alternative response to the Adult and Communities Green Paper see here:

http://communitiesagainstthecuts.com/2013/08/15/the-future-of-care-services-in-the-city-time-for-a-real-debate/

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Growing threat of a two-tier library service in Birmingham

library privatisation godzillaYesterday’s Cabinet meeting saw the appointment of Cllr Ian Ward, Deputy Leader, and the Tory Leader Cllr Mike Whitby as the Council representatives to the Strategic Management Board to direct the development of the new Library of Birmingham.

The only dissension came from opposition Councillor, Paul Tilsley, who proposed that the Board be increased from eleven to twelve to allow the inclusion of an elected Library user. This was rejected by Sir Albert Bore on the grounds that Cllr Ward holds a library ticket and can represent Library users.

Councillor’s Ward and Whitby join the select ranks of the Strategic Board which includes five members of the Development Trust who were appointed for their business expertise. Birmingham UNISON has pointed out ‘that none of the proposed board members have a library background or hold a library degree.’

The other issue at Cabinet was the movement of responsibility for the Library of Birmingham from the Local Services to the Development and Culture Directorate.

This leaves a complicated situation where the Community Libraries remain in a separate directorate and under the political responsibility of the District Committees in which they are geographically located. While the Library of Birmingham has strategic citywide functions for the Community Libraries.

To remedy this problem Cllr Holbrook requested that Chairs of the District Committee are involved in the Service Level Agreement for the Library of Birmingham.

This separation of the new Library and Rep as prestige projects, represents a further threat of a growing divide between the Community Libraries and the new Library, and the development of an inferior two tier level of service.

Senior Library Managers have been recently criticised by UNISON in a letter sent to Councillor’s for overloooking the disruptive impact of the implementation of a new Library software system for the new LoB on the Community Librarires.

The Friends of the Library of Birmingham is campaigning for our new Library of Birmingham as a public service and public space.

We can be found on Twitter and on Facebook

We will be meeting on Thursday 1st August at 7pm in the Cafe area of the ICC.

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A response from BATC to ‘Transforming Place – A Neighbourhood Strategy for Birmingham’

dec 5th draft B council house gradientIn May 2013 the city council published the consultation draft of ‘Transforming Place – A Neighbourhood Strategy for Birmingham’. (It can be found on the agenda of the Selly Oak District Committee (DC) for 30 May.) Here is BATC’s initial response. We look forward to taking part in the consultation process. You can download a PDF of the strategy document by clicking here.

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Birmingham City Council Green Papers Start To Detail The End Of Local Government As We Know It

dec 5th draft B council house gradientAs a result of cuts to funding by Pickles and Osborne, and inflation & increased needs pushing up cuts – what Albert Bore has termed the Jaws Of Doom, Birmingham City Council is embarking on a complete review of all their services. Albert Bore has described this as being “the end of local government as we know it”, and things are only going to get worse, as Osborne announced in his spending review further cuts for local government funding after 2015. Some of the green papers and strategy documents are starting to emerge:

Education Services Green Paper (PDF)

Strategy – Spot and Physical Activity (Doc)

Green Paper – Adult Services and Communities

Birmingham City Council will be discussing the adult services green paper, whose intention is to pave the way to make further budget cuts to care services, additional to the cuts already budgeted for. at the following meetings:

Wed 7th Aug @ MAC 11-12.30 0r 19-20.30
Tues 13th Aug @ Handsworth Community Fire Station 11-12.30 or 19-20.30
Tues 20th Aug Beaufort sports and social club, 89 Coleshill rd, Hodge Hill 11-12.30 or 19-20.30

Or people can respond by email to greenpaperconversation@birmingham.gov.uk

Finally, the overall strategy document – Green paper – the future council

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Birmingham City Council Adds £2m To The Bedroom Tax Discretionary Housing Payment Fund

Bedroom Tax Demo April 20th (6)The bedroom tax is leading to a huge increase in arrears – expected to cost the council £1.4m in 2013/14, houses being left empty and a massive increase in cost for councils. Birmingham City Council, like every other council, has far too few smaller properties for people to move to, and in addition to that worries about increased homelessness. This week a cabinet report revealed that they have decided to add £2million to the Discretionary Housing Payment fund (DHP) for 2013/14, earmarked for people affected by the bedroom tax.

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