Monthly Archives: December 2013
Just a quick post in between the last minute shopping and wrapping to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
For those of you who are planning to use public transport over the festive period, you might find this guide to the holiday bus and train services useful.
As today is Christmas Eve, please note that my advice bureau at St. Peter’s Church won’t be taking place this evening. My next advice session is at Shard End Community Centre on Tuesday 14 January. However, I can still be contacted in plenty of other ways in the meantime – see here for details!
I hope you all have a wonderful festive break.
You can read the latest weekly report from the Shard End Police team by clicking here.
Winter can be an expensive time, especially for hard-pressed households faced by rising bills and other challenges.
Birmingham’s Financial Inclusion Partnership, working with the England Illegal Money Lending Team have put together a handy short guide to the help available to local residents to keep them financially safe during winter. Click here to download your copy.
This year alone, Birmingham has received a cut equivalent to £149 for each person in the city. Nationally, the average cut is just £79 per head. In some places, for example Wokingham, the cut is just £19 per head. This is starving our city of its fair share of money to fund services.
The unfair funding means that we will have to take some tough decisions. Current forecasts are that the City Council will need to have found £840m in the six years from 2010/11 to 2017/18 as a result of spending pressures and grant cuts – more than two thirds of the budget we have any choice over how to spend. This year alone, the Council has to make cuts in the region of £120m.
The scale of the cuts means that some services will change substantially over the coming years. Others may well cease altogether. The Council will lose another 1000 staff this year, in addition to the one third of the workforce that has left since 2010.
Last week, the Council launched a public consultation on the budget proposals. You can read the detailed proposals by clicking here. Despite the challenges, we are determined to protect as many front-line services as we can and defend the most vulnerable and hardest pressed residents. We’ve ensured that money is available to secure the future of important local leisure facilities like Shard End Community Centre. We’re investing extra into the vital children’s safeguarding services and extending our commitment to fighting poverty pay by extending the Living Wage to those providing social care on behalf of the Council.
You can make your comments on the proposals on-line by following this link.
We’ve also launched a “call to arms” to demand a fairer deal for Birmingham and to bring together residents, voluntary organisations and community groups to help us meet this challenge. Standing Up For Birmingham is about all of us working together for the future of our neighbourhoods, our communities and our city. To find out more and to get involved, please visit the website here.
Back in October, I blogged about the launch of Birmingham Fair Money, a new campaign against illegal money lenders and legal high interest lenders in our city.
Rising prices and pressure on wages is creating a cost of living crisis for many households in the city. Borrowing from payday and other high cost lenders to bridge the gap can seem like a quick solution to the shortfall between income and essential outgoings. But loans at such high cost can be extremely damaging to households, trapping them in a spiral of increased borrowing and making a bad situation much worse.
Birmingham Fair Money has already been a real success, helping hundreds of residents across the city with debt and other financial problems. So, Birmingham City Council is now stepping up the fight against payday loan companies and other high cost lenders with the publication of the Fair Money Manifesto. Click here to download a copy.
The manifesto sets out a clear commitment to challenging high cost loans, helping people to tackle unaffordable debt and to ensure that Birmingham residents are able to access fairly priced and ethical financial services.
The Fair Money Manifesto has four key commitments:
- To call for better regulation of high cost lenders
- To support the expansion of credit unions and responsible lending
- To engage with banks so that they widen their services to residents
- To seek powers that would allow the Council to manage the growth and operation of high cost lenders in neighbourhoods
The development of the Fair Money Manifesto received unanimous backing at the November City Council meeting, where representatives of all parties united to support the call for tougher measures and action to help those in need. To see a recording of the Council debate, please click here.
The Manifesto is also backed by other leading organisations campaigning for fairer finance.
Angela Clements, CEO of Citysave Credit Union, one of the organizations involved in Birmingham Fair Money says: “This is a significant step forwards, and I am so proud that Birmingham is leading the way on this agenda in taking a holistic view of making affordable and ethical lending widely available in our city. We have seen a huge growth in personal indebtedness this year, with so many having fallen prey to predatory tactics from high cost lenders, including misleading promotion and sales process with unclear costs that are extraordinarily high.
“Wherever we can help, we naturally are trying to do so, and we are lending more than ever this year. However, we are also seeing a large growth in the numbers of new applications that we have to decline and we are pleased to be working with high quality, free debt advisers and other benevolent organizations who are supporting more and more Birmingham residents.”
Damon Gibbons, CEO of Centre for Responsible Credit, added: “The publication of Birmingham’s Fair Money Manifesto is an extremely positive development and we urge other cities to follow their lead and do the same. Later this year the banks will publish details of their lending at a postcode level basis.
“Our great cities need to use that information to call the banks to account and obtain commitments to scale up credit union and other affordable credit services to meet the needs of low to middle income households. Birmingham will clearly be in the lead and we urge other cities to follow its example. We also welcome Birmingham’s determination to address the misery caused by the expansion of payday and other high cost lending. Government should give Birmingham and other cities the power to stop the proliferation of predatory lenders on our high streets.”
There’s a weekend of exciting events planned to mark the opening of the Welcome Change Community Centre in All Saints Square.
The centre is based in the wonderfully renovated All Saints Church Hall and will provide an excellent new facility for local residents. Drop in on Friday 6th, Saturday 7th or Sunday 8th December to see what’s on offer!