Solihull Council is looking to increase collaborations with neighbouring authorities to make savings in its upcoming budget.

The authority said rather than hiking up council tax levels, it is to investigate ways to improve efficiency in order to balance out levels of funding needed to cope with increasing demands on its social services.

Council tax in the borough is tipped to be raised by 2.25 per cent next year, equating to £25.78 a year for a Band D property.
The amount is still £63 less than the average for all metropolitan councils.

Council leader Ken Meeson said: “We are very conscious that people are suffering out there and a lot of people have lost their jobs or have had to take a reduction in hours or in pay.”

Officials stressed the budget plans would not result in redundancies among staff, although employees could experience more “flexibility” about the areas in which they work to help balance out workloads.

The council has long complained of being the lowest-funded metropolitan authority in the country, receiving just half of the average government grant per capita, amounting to £266 per person.

Birmingham receives an average £665 per person, while Dudley – the next lowest-funded authority – comes in at £411 per head.

“The distribution is extremely unfair and doesn’t reflect the needs of the borough,” said Coun Meeson. “We have to collect 63 per cent of our budget from council tax. Why is it that people living in Harborne or Sutton Coldfield only have to pay one third and in Solihull they have to pay two thirds?”

Solihull Council already works with local authorities in Lichfield and Coventry to provide services including ICT, procurement and insurance.

It is set to build a new waste burner in Coventry in collaboration with Warwickshire and Coventry Councils.

Coun Meeson said the authority had seen its child protection referrals doubled in the space of a year after the Baby P scandal and was experiencing “tremendous pressure” on services for its ever-increasing elderly population.

“We don’t get any extra money as a result of that,” he said. “As much as possible there are savings from improved efficiency or reducing costs, particularly with some of the larger contracts.

“Our argument, with whatever colour government that comes through the election, will be it’s no good just tinkering around the edges. We really need a complete overhaul of grant distribution so that we get a fairer distribution in Solihull.”