Services could be stripped to bone ‘Jaws of Doom’ back as council admits it may resort to ‘minimum criteria’
BIRMINGHAM City Council could be stripped down to its bare bone services as it looks to make £100 million cuts in less than two years.
The situation has prompted former leader Sir Albert Bore to repeat his infamous ‘Jaws of Doom’ phrase which he coined in 2012 referring to a basic graph which shows demand for council services rising year-on-year against a declining level of government funding.
Finance and governance director Clive Heaphy told the Resources scrutiny committee, of which Cllr Bore is now chair, that the council could resort to its ‘ minimum criteria’ which would mean it only provides the services it is legally required to do such as social care, waste collection and road maintenance among a host of others.
He stated the authority was now ‘priority budgeting’ for next year and said: “We are doing that now for 2019/20.
“We are looking at the council’s priorities and what services we do have to provide. That discussion is going on now. There will be a big consultation in November.”
He added: “What we are finding is a double whammy for statutory services. They are growing in demand and at the same time resources go down.
“As a council it is a constant challenge to look at how we can deliver those statutory services.”
This year – 2018/19 – the council is making £53 million worth of cuts and will still need to raid its reserves of £30.5 million to balance the budget.
But the latest financial reports revealed the authority was set for a £12.1 million overspend this year largely due to spiralling costs in waste collection and travel assist services.
The overall cuts figure rises to £88 million in 2019/20 although that is more likely to be closer to £100 million due to £5.7 million worth of savings which have been identified as ‘not fully deliverable’ and a ‘one-off ’ use of the Improved Better Care Fund worth £5.8 million this year.
Although the specific amount is far from certain at this stage and Mr Heaphy said he would provide a ‘base-line’ cuts figure for the com- mittee in the near future. He also remained optimistic about the current outlook and stated money could be moved between departments to make sure the council hit its budget targets, adding that he even aimed to use less reserves if possible.
Cllr Bore admitted he was ‘worried’ about the fact the latest finance reports stated there were ‘no implementation plans’ identified to deliver savings in the current or future years in the key areas of adult social care, children’s services and the place department (waste management).
But Mr Heaphy confirmed proposals were under way, adding: “It is a discipline as an organisation we are trying to get in the habit of to get these plans in place from the outset.
“We have now got much more progress on these plans. Some are quite developed, some are not so developed but we have started all them.
“We need to change our culture around savings.
“It is not just about putting numbers on a spreadsheet but making sure there is evidence so that we can deliver them.”
> Former council leader Sir Albert Bore coined the phrase the ‘Jaws of Doom’