Today was Birmingham City Council’s Annual Budget Day. Once again the Conservative led administration has brought in a Council Tax rise of just 1.9%. These are difficult economic times for the whole country, but even so we recognise the importance of keeping the Council Tax rise as low as possible because it is the pensioners and people on fixed incomes who get hit hardest when Council tax rises are high – as they were during the 20 years Labour was running Birmingham.
Back in those days, when the Conservatives were the opposition, we always produced an alternative budget and said what our priorities would be in the different portfolios.
Councillor after Councillor (including me) today said what a dereliction of duty it was for the current Labour opposition not to bother to produce their own budget. If ever there was an admission that you don’t think you’re going to win at the forthcoming elections, it’s not producing a budget to show what you would do if you were in control.
We can therefore but guess what Labour priorities would be. Would they be as determined as the Conservatives to keep the weekly black bin bag collections? I doubt it! Labour in Birmingham proposed moving to fortnightly collections (with Quinton singled out as one of the areas for the pilot scheme) when they were last in control in 2004. And with the Labour Government still pursuing this idea vigorously, I do wonder how long Labour locally would hold out if ever they took control of Birmingham again.
The meeting began with me being presented with the LGiU’s Scrutineer of the Year award again, by the Lord Mayor. Oral questions then followed, and I took the opportunity to ask for clarification about the City’s Housing Liaison Boards (see yesterday’s post).
Cllr Lines, the Cabinet Member for Housing, confirmed that there are 33 with over 600 volunteers involved, as I posted yesterday. He also pointed out that only weeks ago a report to Cabinet for new contracts was delivered by tenant and leaseholder representatives working with officers which is saving us £30 million over 5 years to reinvest in our homes.
Councillor Lines pointed out the recent recognition of the CAA of 3 stars for housing, and the Green Flag we received (one of only two housing authorities in the country). Birmingham collects the rent, has a tenant satisfaction rate of 95%, and another of our magificent Extra Care retirement villages is going to be built in Edgbaston, on the Hagley Rd.
All in all, Housing in Birmingham is in a good state – compared to the complete mess it was in when Labour were running Birmingham. But we don’t know what Labour’s plans would be should they ever take over again of course – because at today’s budget meeting, they didn’t present any.