Monday, February 14, 2011

Business Plan 2011 - Goodbye to all that

It may be Valentine's Day, but there's no love on display at the Cabinet meeting.

In headline figures, Birmingham's formula grant will take a 10.2% cut in this financial year. Once all the other grant and council tax income is taken into account, the final loss compared to last year is expected to settle out at around 9.7% - a drop of £128 million. These cuts do not take into account any inflationary changes, so the change in real terms will be worse. 2012/13 will bring a further drop, cutting 14.4% off Birmingham's 2010 spending power (inclusive of all indicative budgets). Beyond that, things are a little hazier, but the forecasts are rather bleak. It is expected that the 2013/14 settlement will be only slightly less than 2012/13, rendering that year's income just 15% lower than 2010, but the 2014/15 grant income is (following the assumptions in place from the council) going to see the formula grant drop by 23.6% on 2010 levels and an all-in cut of 18.3% from this current year.

That is going to mean swingeing cuts in local services and this looks exceptionally bleak. Leisure Services is badly hit, losing 17.5% on last year (Andy Howell writes about the whole budget scene on his blog - detailing the tribulations affecting Cllr Mullaney, who is in charge of that particular portfolio when he isn't being offensive). Adults and Communities gets a whopping cut of 15.8% on last year, Children and Young People (a service area under tremendous scrutiny) is rewarded by being slashed by 10.7% and the Housing team will lose 11.5%.

This is going to hurt. A lot.

Detailed within the Business Plan are the policy changes coming down the line and however you cut this, this will affect front line services, despite the ineffectual and misleading promises from central government.
I warn you not to fall ill. I warn you not to get old.

Adults and Communities will be battered. Essentially, 11,000 service users across Birmingham will have their care packages reassessed to find cheaper options or other support mechanisms, as the service reverts to a basic signposting service for the vast majority, with funded support only for the poorest with the most critical needs. Programmes previously funded by specific grants which have now been removed from ring-fencing and rolled into general funding face cuts - so mental health, learning disabilities, learning and development and carers will suffer. Third-party service providers - outside the local authority - will see their costs targetted and funding for that will be cut.


I warn you not to be young.

Over at Children, Young People and Families, cuts will be made to the costs of looked after children and we can expect the social service team to be 'remodelled' - or cut. The Education Welfare Service will be reduced and savings will be ripped from Special Educational Needs, Disabilities, Day Nurseries and Children's Centres will all face spending cutbacks. A common pattern is that schools - funded by the direct schools grant and not through this funding stream - will be expected to 'contribute' more to these centralised operations and part of the Early Intervention Grant has been snaffled to support this new Future Operating Model. This has already been started with things like school swimming and museum visit costs now being charged to schools. Youth services will also have the begging bowl out to school governors, but given that school funding is legally restricted to being spent on educational needs, this may prove difficult to support. Buildings are expected to be transferred across as part of new community, charitable or private sector offerings to cover some 40 existing operations.

School transport will be shredded - including transport for children with special needs - and all those benefitting from assistance will be reassessed against new and tougher criteria to deliver hefty savings.

Schools cleaning, catering, music services, outdoor services and health education are being forcibly outsourced to a new co-operative and support cut for health education. School improvement partners have been scrapped and most of the professional advisors previously employed by BCC have already left to join a private company which currently has a monopoly in the city. Schools will no longer even get free briefings on policy from the city council - these have been removed and will be available through the private sector at a price.

I don't know where all this money to support services provided from outside the school is going to come from. School budgets are under huge pressure and I can't see them being able to offer much help.

I will return to this, but there's a sample of the headline cuts. There is much more, but the detail will be worked out over months, not days, as the Conservative teeth dig into our City and the Liberal Democrats watch and cheer on the destruction of services we once valued.

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