Ser­vices could be stripped to bone ‘Jaws of Doom’ back as coun­cil ad­mits it may re­sort to ‘min­i­mum cri­te­ria’

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Carl Jack­son Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porter

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’

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