‘Birmingham will rise again’ - City Council approves ‘bankruptcy’ notice and spending controls
Birmingham City Council members met for four hours on Monday evening (September 25) to approve a plan out of effective bankruptcy after a protest against job losses and cuts from unions
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‘Our city, not for sale!’ were the words bellowed out in front of Birmingham’s council house as around 100 trade union members staged an angry protest at the city’s ever-growing £1 billion financial crisis which has sparked worry and angst amongst public sector workers.
Just a few yards inside, though, councillors spent four hours discussing the authority’s financial recovery plan amid equal pay liabilities with commissioners, headed up by Max Caller, making cut-throat decisions about what needs to happen to help right the wrongs given the triple whammy of two section 114 notices and a section 5 at Birmingham City Council.
Addressing a concerned council chamber on Monday evening (September 25), leader of the council John Cotton said: “This council is at a crossroads. It’s been an incredibly tough month and I apologise that we’re faced with such stark choices. These are worrying times and I’m sorry for that.
“This must be a reset and rebuild moment for Birmingham. For my part, I am committed to seeing this through to overcome current challenges. I was concerned there was a lack of capacity and support to get the budget back on track. We will now work with the Department of Levelling Up. Our collective task now is to transform the council and deliver services for the city we love and where we work.”
Coun Cotton added: “There has been a frustrating delay to close off this long standing equal pay liability. Decisions now facing this council are not decisions we ever wanted to make. No stone will be left unturned. We will ensure the voices of our committees are heard as we rebuild our council. There is no quick fix – the road ahead will be extremely challenging.”
‘Birmingham will rise like a phoenix just as New York did’
In response, leader of the opposition Robert Alden referred to Coun Cotton’s ‘crossroads’ comment as more like ‘The Magic Roundabout’. He said: “It’s a sad day for the city. Tragic, some would say. We’ve seen shameful inaction from the Labour administration this summer. This is a council issue but, now I must stress this, the city of Birmingham has a bright future and the city will rise like a phoenix just as New York did following the bank crisis.
“But this report couldn’t have been clearer: the failure from the Labour government to resolve equal pay. So one has to wonder, how did we get here? The leader said we’re at a crossroads but it’s more like The Magic Roundabout. He never mentioned in his speech, though, the underpaid women workers. Surely a Labour leader would want to make sure they’re paid properly.”
Roger Harmer, leader of the Lib Dems, added: “These past few months have been the most staggering and bizarre but, this year, it’s been crisis after crisis and the impact on our residents will be devastating. There are some Labour backbenchers that are embarrassed, privately at least.
“Again today in councillor Cotton’s speech we’ve seen more blame put on others. This was meant to be a new administration about honesty and transparency. I hope the Labour leadership of this council will treat this as a watershed moment. Change is needed.
“The council cannot afford for these problems to be swept under the carpet anymore. I’m afraid the equal pay bill is evidence of this and, nine years on, we’re still here. Surely, we must do all we can to minimise the time this takes.”