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Birmingham manifesto - finance

May 1, 2014 4:16 PM

Finance:

Labour's narrative of 'cuts, cuts, cuts' conceals the vast sums tucked away in various contingency budgets and reserves within the council together with a spend, spend, spend approach to capital budgets.

We will maintain the council's reserve policy while ensuring that other contingency funds do not duplicate its purpose. This year we have identified at least £12 million that is being held back for dubious reasons.

We accept the council continues to face challenges in the coming year. We believe these problems are aggravated by Labour's priorities which put ideology ahead of basic services for residents.

As well as restoring services such as green waste collection this year our alternative budget would have:

Frozen council tax for all residents by accepting the £3.3 million grant on offer from the government;

Prevented council tax charges being levied on those who receive council tax support. Labour's failure to take action on this has led to more charges being levied on some of the city's most hard-pressed families.

The council needs to do vigorous forward planning to identify sources of funding and efficiencies. It is simply not good enough to accept that basic services can be withdrawn

1 /Liberal Democrats in the coalition, through the post of deputy leader, championed the drive to improve the efficiency of the council through the Business Transformation project. This has realised at least £618 million worth of savings for the council.

We would restore this programme, which should improve efficiency at a rate of £10 million a year by continuing to seek efficiencies in procurement.

2/The council needs to raise capital and cash, both to pay debts, to invest in efficiency and to sustain services. We will evaluate the return on all commercial property and dispose of those properties which do not bring significant income. This programme will begin in 2016, when we anticipate the property market will be recovering.

3/We will take a rigorous approach to the end of the Veolia waste disposal contract in 2018, allowing tens of millions of pounds to be released.

4/ We will not take an ideological approach to whether the council should provide services directly or whether it is better to use private or voluntary sector contractors. However we will seek to strengthen the contracting process to ensure the council does not sign deals which leave it with hidden costs or inflexible contractors.

Technology and working practices will continue to evolve and we will ensure the council uses the best and most modern working practices to keep costs down and improve the quality of service.

Council organisation:

Labour's cross portfolio cabinet posts have been a disaster. There has been an absence of accountability and most cabinet members have simply acted as political commissars, adding their signatures to approve reports already signed by senior officers.

We will restore budget accountability to cabinet members, creating clear lines of responsibility. In particular we will restore the post of cabinet member for housing.