Birmingham sector urges city council to reverse planned grant cuts

The city's Voluntary Service Council says that £2.7m of cuts will mean the end of prevention services and increased pressure on Birmingham City Council-run services

Birmingham City Council
Birmingham City Council

A group of Birmingham charities has called on the city’s council to reverse plans to cut all its grant funding for charities, which is worth approximately £2.7m a year.

The Birmingham Voluntary Service Council, which represents charities in England’s second-largest city, said that Birmingham City Council had proposed removing £5m of spending from its supporting people and third sector grants programmes, changes the BVSC said could adversely affect 20,000 people in the city.

The council is running a public consultation on its proposals until 10 May.

The council originally proposed cuts of £10m to the two programmes, but has halved this after a campaign by local charities, the BVSC said.

But the BVSC claims that the new proposals include a cut to all grants for the third sector and specifically targets cuts at the most vulnerable groups in society, such as the elderly, the disabled and people with mental ill-health.

The BVSC’s consultation response claims that the £2.7m cuts to third-sector grants will be a "false economy", leading to the loss of prevention services and thus increased pressure on council-run programmes.

The consultation response calls on the council to release information on the services affected and to remove an "arbitrary financial link" between cuts to the two programmes.

The BVSC wrote to the Prime Minister, Theresa May, earlier this year to warn about the impact the council’s cuts would have on vulnerable people in the city.

Brian Carr, chief executive of BVSC, said: "These voluntary organisations provide valuable and cost-effective services to some of our city’s most vulnerable residents, and the work they do often keeps people from falling into crisis.

"The worry now is that if these services are lost – and they will be if this proposed cut goes ahead – then not only will vulnerable people be at increased risk, but we’re also likely to see increased pressure on other services, including A&E departments.

"The only proposal on the table is a full cut to these services. The sector is asking the council for a more sophisticated conversation to explore efficiencies and new ways of working, rather than a wholesale cut that will hit hardest those who most need the support."

A spokeswoman for Birmingham City Council said: "The financial challenge we face has been well-publicised. We have cut spending by almost £600m since 2010 and expect to make a further £170m of savings by 2021. There are no easy decisions to be made.

"We have listened to the concerns raised in the consultation process and we’ve responded by making significant changes to our initial spending plans, reducing a forecast £78m cut to £70m.

"We are proposing to halve the cuts we were planning to make in the supporting people budget in 2018/19 and significantly reduce planned cuts in 2017/18 so that we can better protect vulnerable and older citizens."

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