Birmingham’s council tax has been frozen for the second year running in a move hailed as a boost for those on low and fixed incomes by city chiefs.
The average band D council bill for council services in Birmingham will remain at £1,113 before fire and police charges are added, even though the council is still grappling with a £62 million cut in spending
Tory city leader Coun Mike Whitby said that Birmingham now has the lowest council tax rate among the West Midlands authorities and major UK cities.
He said: “Local people are working hard, but seeing a reduction in living standards. So we are keeping council tax low to protect those on low and fixed incomes, pensioners.
“This means more money in their pockets.”
The council budget, he argued, was still providing value for money despite £212 million of cuts this year, followed by £61 million next. Next year will see 1,144 jobs go at the council - although it was claimed that most would be found work elsewhere within the authority.
But it was stressed that no libraries, swimming pools or leisure centres will close and the council has rolled back a number of proposed cuts following a public consultation exercise - including £38 million of cuts in care for the elderly and disabled.
Last year the council attempted to cut funding packaged for those rated as in ‘substantial’ need, but this was blocked by the courts who said that there had not been adequate consultation. If allowed to go through it would have seen 4,000 less people receiving council care.
Coun Whitby (Cons, Harborne) said: “Last year we looked at reform of our care services, but now have decided it is right to reinstate the care packages and provide services for a larger number of people.”
Another reform will see proposed cuts in youth services cancelled, cuts in the supporting people fund for those in housing need reduced from £3.8 million to £1.9 million and proposed cuts in funding for disabled children abandoned which means respite care places, like those offered at Charles House in West Heath.
Instead council chiefs claimed that they were making efficiency savings through the Business Transformation project including new efficient offices and a TeleHealth Care scheme which will see more elderly and vulnerable people monitored remotely - needing less residential care and less frequent health checks and care visits.
Ravi Subramanian, the regional secretary of the council’s largest trade union Unison, said that the cuts would still affect on jobs and communities.
He said: “I am shocked at the impact this will have on services for local communities and the staff who will lose their jobs. It will also have a massively destructive effect on the local economy.”