Cuttings cost

The Birmingham Mail has reported on Birmingham budget cuts: How YOU will be affected  with news that among the cuts required to save £100 million there will be no free bin bags for residents and that green waste, previously collected free of charge, will incur a charge for collection.

The cuts includeChildren's Centres £3 million
Youth Offending Service £400,000
Early Years Support Service £1.3 million
Youth Service £475,000
Free school travel £1 million
External services including short breaks for vulnerable children £4.43 million
Supporting people housing scheme £1.9 million
Children's homes closures £1.3 million
Cancelling black sacks £1 million
Street cleaning £540,000

Council tax will be frozen for the third year in a row although families on low incomes may face charges for the first time as a result of benefit cuts,  The cuts are part of a cost savings that must total £600 million by 2017, Counting the cost - City Council Budget Consultation.

As I noted in my previous post on the budget consultation, the question of where cuts can be made and what the council does for it's citizens and what the private sector or other parties can help fund or run is a fundamental one.  

This consideration is perhaps intrinsically linked to the fabric of Birmingham in it's history as an authority that established municipal administration.  The 1950 edition of The City of Birmingham Handbook, a guide to the city's current and historical administration and it's departments, notes the committee system of local government administration which was established in 1851 and which saw the city have powers which were permitted by the rest of England in 1933.

The committee system of local government administration indeed was established in Birmingham as long ago as 1851 when the Birmingham Improvement Act of that year provided that "the Council may appoint out of their own Body, from time to time, such and so many Committees, consisting of such number of Persons as they shall think fit, for all or any purposes of this Act, which in the Discretion of the Council would be better regulated and managed by means of such Committees...
And since 1851 the municipal administration of Birmingham has operated through committees under this or similar powers, and in an apparent vindication of the system the Local Government Act of 1933 gave a general power to local authorities to appoint committees and delegate any functions exerciseable by the local authority except that of making a rate or borrowing money.  Thus for all intents and purposes what Birmingham did in 1851, the rest of England was permitted to do in 1933.

An example of the rate fund income and cost of rate service for Birmingham in 1948-9.

With local authorities taking over the control of Public Health from PCTs when they are abolished the role of the local council is almost returning full circle returning to the public health of it's citizens,, but this places considerable responsibility when considering specific services such as sexual health in terms of both prevention and treatment for example,

Indeed further to health, the Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership could see transport powers and other funding from central government in Whitehall returned to the local area,,  and this could offer a local approach to the city-regions' issues.
The idea of municipalism developed in Birmingham could then return with these increased  powers and funding through the local city-region which would enable the local authority to achieve economic prosperity for it's citizens and it's traditional civic roles.

Perhaps what is needed is a debate, albeit a more substantial one than on budget options that I reported previously, Counting the cost - City Council Budget Consultation, on what the role of the council and Whitehall should be and how much as citizens and businesses we pay and for what.  The LEP has started this from the focus on development, transport and job creation.  Localism has been a big theme in the political parties discussions and moves to devolve powers in Birmingham within the wards presents exciting opportunities for targeting healthcare prevention and treatment for example.  A healthy educated population as part of a city that encourages job and wealth creation should encourage investment and raise the aspirations of the city together with performing the civic municipalism that Birmingham was so successful at historically and which made it regarded as the best run city in the country.


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