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‘We are more vulnerable’

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In his statement to councillors on 16 September 2014, leader Albert Bore said that Birmingham city council had not given enough attention to how it reduced its workforce. Central government cuts would mean a continuing reduction in employee numbers, and “we will have to explain to people that we’re sorry but we just don’t have the resources to do what they are asking”.

[Albert Bore]

Already our workforce has declined from just over 20,000 full time equivalents to around 13,000. By 2018 we estimate that numbers will have to fall to around 7,000. Our core workforce could be even smaller than that, because some of that 7,000 will be employed by arms-length organisations.

This means we will be operating with a workforce less than one third the size of that in 2010 and one half of what it is today – the equivalent of taking out twice the workforce that lost their jobs at MG Rover, Longbridge, in 2005.
[…]
In addition to the impact on our staff, there are four other key facts we want people to know.

Firstly the cuts are the result of the unfair distribution of austerity measures across public services. It has been estimated that over 50% of the cuts have fallen on local government and welfare benefits.

Secondly the government has distributed this cut unfairly between different parts of the country, with the most deprived areas receiving the biggest cuts.

This will mean a £147 per dwelling cut in Birmingham’s spending power next year, compared to the national average of just £45. Incredibly, some places such as Buckinghamshire, Windsor and Maidenhead, Hampshire and our old friend Wokingham will actually see an increase in spending power next year.

Thirdly, we are reliant on central government for 67% of our spending. The Council Tax provides for just 8%. So, when the cuts come, we are more vulnerable.

Finally, the cuts in funding combined with increased spending pressures mean we will have made cuts of over £800m by 2018 – equivalent to over 60% of the controllable budget. In the next year alone we must find around £200m, on top of the £460m already cut from our services.

Far from austerity being over, as some seem to believe, this is the biggest cut in mainstream funding we have seen so far. And the cuts are planned to continue for at least three more years.

So how accurate is this portrayal? According to the Guardian (1 December 2010) Birmingham city council planned to go from its 2010 staffing level of just under 19,000 FTE posts to just under 12,000, over a four year period. But ‘just under 3,000 backroom roles, mainly in education, would be moved to cooperative organisations that the council plans to create’. So ‘reduction in council headcount’, is not the same thing as ‘reduction in service headcount’.

All the same, overall council headcount has fallen, without obvious deterioration in service quality. Which would tend to suggest that productivity has been (and may still be) quite low.

Measuring Birmingham council productivity, and the fairness of its central government grant funding, is difficult because of the lack of transparency. Most people haven’t the foggiest idea how council tax is spent, how efficient their council is, or how the government allocates money between different councils. If Birmingham council really wanted to save money, the first steps would doubtless involve ‘addressing’ the Service Birmingham contract, and rationalising the waste management operation.

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Written by beleben

September 19, 2014 at 11:35 am

Posted in Birmingham, HS2, Local government

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