The Council budget papers show the Council are getting more than £88m extra in funding this year than they were anticipating when they set their 4 year budget in 2016, a budget the Labour Leader said would balance over those 4 years. Funding will also continue to increase over the next four years. Birmingham has a higher spending power per dwelling than any other core city and more than eight of the nine other ten most deprived local authority areas.
Despite this the Labour Administration are proposing £47.6m of new savings over the next four years and increasing council tax in that period by more than the consulted on in the draft budget in December. In addition the Council plan to use £30.5m of reserves in the next 12 months on top of the £80.9m they have used since 2015. That figure only includes reserves held corporately, individual directorates have also routinely used their own reserve pots to cover their overspends. The Council’s external auditor has raised serious concerns about both the way reserves have been used and the transparency with which this has been reported. Reserves are in place to cover for genuine emergencies or as an investment pot to generate further savings or income rather than has been the case in Birmingham of them being used to cover for a failure to deliver their own budgets.
Cllr Randal Brew, deputy leader of the Conservative Group, said "Council Directorates overspent by £71.9m in 2016/17 leading to the requirement to have independent oversight from better managed councils such as Newcastle to set their 2017/18 budget. Despite this they are forecast to overspend again this year and will only deliver 58% of their savings programme. As the Council’s auditor put it “The budget in simple terms consists of two things, getting your budget right and delivering it. Last year you got neither right.”
Cllr Robert Alden, Leader of the Conservative Group, said "Today we put forward our plan to clean up our streets, a dedicated clean up crew for each neighbourhood, the return of free bulky waste and garden waste collections, increased mobile CCTV to tackle fly tipping and anti-social behaviour, and extra money for keeping weekly refuse collections. On top of that we out lined how we could freeze council tax and invest in our suburbs to improve high streets and road safety amongst many other things. This would be funded by changing the way the Council works, sharing services with our neighbours, cancelling large contacts like that with Capita, and scrapping Labour's extension of delegated powers that allow officers to spend up to £10m without cabinet approval".
Robert added "The Conservatives are offering a bold and aspiration vision for our City. A plan that will clean up our air, a plan to support vulnerable people delivering modern services, a plan to support our staff, all with a plan to deliver frozen Council Tax and importantly a Plan that will clean the rubbish off our streets. That is the vision the Conservatives will be taking across the City in the next 10 weeks. In Birmingham it is clear it’s time for a change and on May 3rd Birmingham has the chance to deliver that change and deliver a cleaner, greener and safer Birmingham for everyone".