A £100 million package of cuts has been revealed at Birmingham City Council, as a council tax freeze was rubber-stamped by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition.
Revealing his eighth – and possibly final – budget as city council leader, Conservative Coun Mike Whitby said it was a budget for the “million people of Birmingham”.
He hailed the second consecutive council tax freeze and highlighted the fact that no swimming pools, libraries or golf courses would close as a result of the cuts.
“We are still spending billions on quality services for local people,” Coun Whitby said.
He added that a further £33 million was being spent on care for the elderly and disabled as a result of a court challenge last year and said another £8 million would be invested in the struggling children’s social care department.
Each of the council’s 40 ward committee will also be handed an extra £25,000 to spend on local projects – although it was not clear exactly where the budget savings would come from.
But opposition leader Sir Albert Bore (Lab, Ladywood) said the budget was unclear, hard on disadvantaged communities and would do little to support jobs and young people.
He proposed a package of amendments which would have shifted £6 million towards supporting the youth employment service Connexions and the council-owned window and door maker Shelforce which employs disabled people.
Sir Albert also backed a jobs fund for young people and projects to cut smoking and obesity. The level of cuts in Government funding makes it impossible to produce an alternative budget.
“Instead we have looked for ways to make the budget fairer.”
Sir Albert also tore into Coun Whitby’s claim that Birmingham was a global city – claiming many European cities were ahead in terms of green agenda, investment and profile.
Most strikingly, he accused the coalition of keeping Council Tax “artificially low” for several years so that it remained lower than comparable cities.
“Birmingham last year raised £70 million less than the average of the other metropolitan districts,” he said.
“This means the council does not have the financial means to protect locally-delivered services.”