Birmingham Council to vote on wave of budget cuts

1 month ago 22

An exterior view of Birmingham City Council House

By Christy Cooney

BBC News

Birmingham City Council is set to vote on a wave of cuts to local services and a 21% rise in its rate of council tax.

The council, the largest local authority in Europe, declared itself effectively bankrupt last year and is now trying to make £300m worth of savings.

Libraries, parks and cultural projects are among the organisations that could be affected.

Members of the council have described the situation as "devastating".

It comes amid concern over the finances of councils around the country which expect to face collective deficits of £5.2bn by 2026.

On Monday, Nottingham City Council approved hundreds of job losses and cuts to social and youth services as part of attempts to balance its books.

According to the Local Government Association, by the 2024/25 financial year councils will have seen a 27% fall in spending power for local services since 2010.

The fall has been attributed to cuts in grants from central government, rising inflation, higher energy costs and increases to the National Living Wage.

Birmingham City Council's difficulties are in part due to payouts totalling more than £1bn to settle equal pay claims brought by underpaid workers.

In September, it issued a section 114 notice, meaning it was unable to meet its costs with existing revenues, and said its projected deficit for the 2023/24 financial year was £87m.

By law, the council will have to continue to provide certain services such as social care and bin collections, although social care will face cuts and bin collections are set to become fortnightly.

Other cost-cutting measures are expected to include the dimming of street lights and reduced spending on highway maintenance.

Up to 600 jobs could also be cut.

Last month, ministers granted the council permission to raise council tax by 10% in each of the next two years, a jump that would normally require a local referendum.

Footage from a meeting of the council's cabinet last week showed one councillor, Labour's Liz Clements, brought to tears by the withdrawal of funding for arts and creative projects in Birmingham.

"Arts aren't a luxury," she said. "They are actually what makes life worth living in this city and they are a reason to keep going. So I, personally, I'm really devastated about that."

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