Birmingham’s council leader has promised a radical overhaul of the way Britain’s largest local authority works as he grapples with further government cuts.
With at least £340 million of savings needed by 2017 and increasing burdens on social services, Sir Albert Bore has warned that the council will need ‘to do things very differently’ if services are to be maintained.
And he wants to start a ‘dialogue’ with citizens, staff and service users which will shape services for the years ahead.
Over the next few weeks a series of ‘green papers’ outlining proposals for the future of council functions, starting with adult care services and education and school support services, will be launched.
Instead of telling departments to make certain numbers of cuts, the leader has instead conducted a top to bottom review of all their activity and asked them to prioritise services.
He said: “We are turning this on its head. In the past we have salami sliced services. Now I have provided them with clean sheet of paper. This is unlike anything any council has done before.”
He said that councils have been working the same way since the Victorian era.
“We have never been faced with this scale of budget cuts before so we have to do something very different. But I want to bring people with us.”
Senior officials have been asked to look at all services and those they are obliged by law to provide – such as social services, refuse collection, homeless provision or school admissions – will continue, although perhaps in a more efficient way, and then other services will be ranked against council objectives such as protecting the vulnerable, or increasing prosperity and job creation.
He warned: “We will have to stop providing some services, even though they are valued.”
It also inevitably means that council staff face further redundancies, and many more will see their roles change.
In particular cuts will be made where the council believes that the private sector, charities or communities will step in – such as where a private gym could replace a council leisure centre, or where residents organise their own community clean ups.
Other services could also be targeted to those most in need, rather than offered on a universal basis.
Sir Albert hopes that by the end of the ‘dialogue’ the organisation will have a clear direction ahead of the next round of budget discussions in the autumn and winter.
• Did you know the Birmingham Post has launched a daily tablet edition? Find out how to download it here: http://www.birminghampost.co.uk/business-daily/