Coun­cil tax bomb­shell

4.99% rise, 120 job losses and £50m in cuts needed as Brum chief warns: No end to aus­ter­ity

Solihull News - - NEWS -

BIRM­ING­HAM City Coun­cil has an­nounced that £ 50 mil­lion in cuts need to be made next year – and fam­i­lies will face an in­fla­tion- bust­ing Coun­cil Tax in­crease.

City leader Ian Ward re­jected the Prime Min­is­ter’s claim that aus­ter­ity is com­ing to an end as the au­thor­ity re­vealed that its 2019/ 20 bud­get pro­pos­als will in­clude a huge 4.99 per cent coun­cil tax hike, more than 120 coun­cil job losses and £ 18 mil­lion of ‘ new cuts’.

The Coun­cil Tax in­crease is the max­i­mum rise al­lowed be­fore trig­ger­ing a ref­er­en­dum, and also in­cludes a two per cent so­cial care pre­cept.

But cru­cially the coun­cil will use no re­serves to bal­ance its books next year fol­low­ing se­vere crit­i­cism and a for­mal warn­ing from au­di­tors af­ter it burned through more than £ 116 mil­lion in the last two years, and will plun­der the rainy day fund to the tune of at least an­other £ 30 mil­lion this year.

Coun­cil­lor Ward ( Lab, Shard End) said: “Al­though the Prime Min­is­ter has claimed aus­ter­ity is over, it is not over from a lo­cal govern­ment per­spec­tive – cer­tainly not from the num­bers we are pre­sent­ing.

This is still the most chal­leng­ing pe­riod in Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil’s his­tory.”

The Coun­cil Tax pro­posal means res­i­dents liv­ing in Band D prop­er­ties in Birm­ing­ham could likely pay around £ 65 more per year, and that does not in­clude the ad­di­tional pre­cepts for other ser­vices such as po­lice, fire and res­cue ser­vices.

The lat­est bud­get will go out to pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion on Tues­day Novem­ber 13 but makes grim read­ing.

Coun­cil­lor Ward says that, by the year end:

The coun­cil will have lost £ 690 mil­lion of its fund­ing since 2010;

Up to £ 86 mil­lion needs to be slashed over the next four years, in­clud­ing £ 50 mil­lion in 2019/ 20;

That fig­ure in­cludes £ 32 mil­lion of cuts pre­vi­ously an­nounced, and £ 18 mil­lion of new sav­ings pro­pos­als;

Since 2010 the work­force has shrunk from around 25,000 staff to 10,000.

And the job cuts fig­ure quoted for 2019/ 20 and be­yond was 122 ris­ing to 204. Coun­cil­lor Ward paid trib­ute to em­ploy­ees who have ‘ kept the coun­cil go­ing’ in re­cent years.

He also stated he was ‘ un­der no il­lu­sions’ that many res­i­dents will be af­fected by the de­tail in the bud­get pro­pos­als but vowed to lis­ten to feed­back, point­ing out that the Coun­cil Tax in­crease was re­duced last year fol­low­ing pub­lic con­sulta- tion. He said, how­ever, that the bud­get would ‘ take the coun­cil in the di­rec­tion’ of the ‘ cul­ture change’ re­quired.

The bud­get for the cur­rent fi­nan­cial year is fore­cast to be £ 12.9 mil­lion over­spent af­ter just six months.

But Birm­ing­ham is not in the same po­si­tion as Northamp­ton­shire County Coun­cil which ran out of money and had new spend­ing blocked, the leader says.

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