Wednesday, December 19, 2012

West Midlands Fire Service Consultation

The fire service are consulting on their future model of operations - what response times they should set, what their priorities should be, how they should respond to incidents and whether they should continue to prioritise road traffic collision reduction.

They want your views, so you can either watch the videos and comment online or you can complete a paper version and return it for their consideration.

Do have a look.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Planning Applications to 15 December 2012

Nothing last week, but one this week. 

2012/08246/PA - 14 Starcross Road
Erection of detached outbuilding to rear. 

You can find the details by inputting the reference number into the Council online database here

If you have any comments, you can submit them online - feel free to pass your comments on to me.

Budget Consultation 2013

Tonight sees the last of the public meetings as part of the consultation process for the 2013/14 budget for Birmingham City Council. It will be held in Committee Room 3 & 4 in the Council House and the public are welcome. I've been to two of the three so far and they've been lively affairs, but generally well-ordered. We've heard the detail from Albert and the cabinet team, who have answered questions from the floor and spent far more time than was originally allocated to ensure that all those who want to speak get the chance.

Incidentally, if you miss the meeting, there will be a webchat with Sir Albert on Wednesday 19 December from 6:30pm to 7:30pm on twitter using the hashtag #askalbert. Even after that, you can send your comments to or write to Budget Views, Room 127, Council House, Victoria Square, Birmingham B1 1BB.

Youth services and support for the disabled are key issues that keep being brought up. For those that doubt the importance of consultation, Cllr Ian Ward revealed that the consultation into the Council Tax Benefit scheme that we have to introduce next year has raised some important issues and he is minded to adjust our proposal to ensure that the disabled are protected, even if they are moved off Disability Living Allowance onto Employment Support Allowance and he is also looking to protect carers as well. Both of those are directly attributable to responses received from the consultation process.

One thing that comes up time and time again is a demand that we set an illegal budget, as Liverpool did in the 80s - where we plan to spend more than we actually receive.

Councillors can no longer be personally surcharged or jailed for setting an illegal budget. Actually, if that was all it took to sort this, there are several in the Labour Group who would accept it with equanimity, but that isn't the reality. While the council can move small amounts around between years to deal with events, it isn't legal for it to set a deficit budget that spends more than it brings in. The council could set a budget that was in deficit, but the chief finance officer (acting under s114 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 - after the Tories got wise to that trick) would refuse to sign it off. Thereafter, the council would be unable to incur any expenditure, enter into any new contracts or collect any council tax until a lawful budget was set. Services in Birmingham would actually cease to be delivered fairly rapidly. Ultimately, if the council still refused to set a budget, the Department of Communities and Local Government would send in a small team to consult with officers and agree a plan of action, which would result in a budget being set solely to meet financial demands, with no thought for services. As the council had not been able to collect council tax, this would lead to a further shortfall in our budget, meaning deeper cuts still.

I do not believe that residents in Birmingham would thank any council for playing that sort of political game and it would be a dereliction of duty on our part to play it.

Who would you rather take decisions about services that affect you - Pickles' Whitehall mob or your local councillors?

All those who cite Liverpool as an example should remember exactly what concessions the government made when faced with that stand in 1985 when the authority refused to set a budget. Nothing. Not one iota. Just as Gove is spoiling for a fight with the teachers to prove his muscularity, so Pickles would relish putting the boot into Birmingham. We know where it ends - which is why I've included the clip from Neil Kinnock's magnificent 1985 conference speech.

We're taking enough of a beating from this government already. A deficit budget would not work and would actually damage the services that this council is trying to protect.

We were elected in May to run this city and we'll do just that. The budget envelope within which we have to work is not sufficient for the needs of Birmingham, but that is not the fault of this council, but the fault of the Tory and Liberal Democrat government that sets that envelope.

We just have to do the best we can with what we have.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Acocks Green Library Update

Just to let people know - the temporary closure has been delayed for the time being as the contractor isn't ready to start work yet.

Birmingham's Christmas Rubbish Collections

There will be no collections on either Christmas Day or Boxing Day. 

If you are scheduled to have a black bag collection on  25 December, your next collection will be on Tuesday 1 January 2013. Any recycling collection planned for Christmas Day will be completed on Tuesday 8 January.

If you are down for a bin collection on 26 December, the collection will be made on Wednesday 2 January 2013. Any recycling collection scheduled for Boxing Day will be made on Wednesday 9 January.

There shouldn't be any Tuesday collections in Acocks Green - that's the 'fallow' day in this ward, but there are a number of Wednesday collections - including one in my own road.

Please remember that green waste collections are now in their usual mid-winter suspension until the 25 February 2013. 

Don't forget that our Household Recyling Centres - including the one at Tyseley - are open as usual each day (except Christmas Day and Boxing Day) from 8am to 6pm weekdays and 8am to 4:30pm at weekends if you have any recycling that you want to dispose of in between collections.

Also, the police do advise that you don't tempt thieves by leaving identifiable packaging visible outside your home. Take it to the recycling centre if you possibly can.