The huge scale of the financial crisis facing Birmingham City Council has become clear after plans to shed at least 10,000 jobs over the next four years were unveiled.
Almost 40 per cent of the non-schools workforce will disappear, either through redundancies or transferring to new arms-length companies, as the local authority battles to deliver £308 million in public spending cuts.
Responsibility for providing a range of services, from home care to running leisure centres and libraries, is expected to pass to an army of volunteers with council leaders signing up to the Government’s Big Society initiative where friends and family are expected to chip in and help those in need.
One of the biggest changes, saving £69 million, will see the council opt out of providing social services to all but the most severely disabled adults.
Thousands of people requiring help will be “signposted” to private and voluntary service providers instead.
Back office functions, the council’s pen-pushing administrative arm, will be cut by 30 per cent to save £103 million.
More than 7,000 posts across the non-schools workforce will be lost by 2014. But when part-timers are taken into account, the jobs cull is likely to hit about 10,000 people currently employed by the council.
Proposals are contained in a consultation paper, with the council insisting it wants to hear opinions about its plans from all people in Birmingham.
The largest public service union blasted the proposals as “a bleak day for local government”.
Rob Johnson, campaigns director for Unison West Midlands, said: “We have been warning about this for months and were accused of scaremongering.
“But what is being proposed is at the worst end of our fears.
“These cuts will threaten the very concept of public services in Birmingham, put some of our most vulnerable citizens at risk and throw thousands of Brummies on to the dole queues.”
Leaders of the city’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition are attempting to put a brave face on the proposals.
Coun Randal Brew (Con Northfield), cabinet member for finance, said: “We are giving people the opportunity to help themselves.”
Coun Brew told a press conference the country’s severe financial problems made it inevitable that local government would have to cut back.
He added: “We think it is right to take the medicine, get the pain out of the way and look forward to happier times.
“But this does involve taking painful decisions.
“Our aim is financial stability and providing better quality services on a 21st century basis fit for our citizens.”
City chief executive Stephen Hughes denied that the council was “washing its hands” of the most vulnerable people.
Mr Hughes said anyone objecting to the proposals would have to identify where they would find more acceptable alternative cuts.
The consultation document states: “We are not proposing to do this just to save money.
“We are proposing it because we believe a vibrant community is one in which everyone plays their part.
“This is our version of the Big Society. We believe this will require new ways of working to support local volunteers and the people who organise their work in the community, and potentially provides a valuable option for businesses in fulfilling their corporate social responsibility.”