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From Total Place to Total Neighbourhood: the Resident-led Renewal of Balsall Heath in Birmingham

Costs and Savings

The private sector's customers in the High Street can influence the quality of the product they are interested in possessing because of the purchasing power of their purse. Until now, the public sector customer has had no purse with which to purchase public services in the High street - or in the back streets where people live. So, residents in Balsall Heath began to ask:

  • What does our neighbourhood cost?
  • How much of that cost can, along with services, be devolved to the local Neighbourhood Partnership to help residents to purchase and drive the Neighbourhood Plan?

The Balsall Heath of yester-year could not help itself or mend its broken windows. So, service providers had to vainly try to mend them and tidy the environment and arrest prostitutes, cure the mentally ill and tend the elderly etc, etc. That was a very expensive uphill battle. The vice squad of the police alone cost £350k/year. Each arrested prostitute cost £5k. As 200  were arrested every year, this cost the system £1m + £350k/year = £1.350m. Yet, each arrested prostitute was back on the street corner raising the money to pay her anticipated fine before the arresting officer finished their paper work. That is, at great cost, the problem remained. It was only solved when, at no cost, residents shamed the kerb crawlers away by re-occupying their street corners.


Today, neither of these costs need now be paid. That is, the transformed, new, vibrant village prevents a whole range of expensive-to-solve problems such as these from arising. And, as the saying goes: 'Prevention really is better – and cheaper – than cure'.


So, once identified, just how much of both the neighbourhood's centrally retained and devolved budget can either (1) be saved or (2) diverted into the funding of preventative, cost saving measures?


Initial research suggests that Balsall Heath costs the Welfare State:

  • £100m per year
  • That £60m of this can be devolved
  • That 20% of the total £100m can be saved by prevention

Two exciting questions immediately arise:


  1. What should we do with the £20m which is saved?
  2. How do we replicate the above steps in the renewal of many neighbourhoods?
About this case study
Main Contact

Dick Atkinson

Balsall Heath Forum

0121 446 6183

Dick Atkinson provided Governance International with this case study on 15th May 2010.

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