Birmingham City Council protests & extraodinary ‘bankruptcy’ meeting - live updates

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Unions protest against Birmingham commissioners taking over Birmingham City Council as a meeting to discuss plans to deal with effective bankruptcy gets underway

We’re at Birmingham Council House where an extraordinary meeting has been called following a Section 114 notice issued by the authority amid financial crisis.

Protesters from Birmingham Trades Union Council are gathering ahead of the meeting at 6pm to demonstrate against council cuts and job losses.

Protests against government take-over of Birmingham City Council

Unions protest against Birmingham City Council cuts and job losses

Members of Unison, Unite and GMB – the trade unions representing council workers - are protesting outside the Council House ahead of the extraordinary meeting. BirminghamWorld reporters Joe Forte and Richard Gullick are at the scene.

Birmingham Trades Union Council has called for a rally on Monday to “oppose Michael Gove and his Commissioners taking apart Birmingham City Council.” They wrote on X (formerly Twitter): “Birmingham is not for sale.

Joe Forte

Demonstrators gather outside the Council House to prepare for their rally

Union members gather for their rally outside Birmingham Council House ahead of the extraordinary meeting due to begin at 6pm - and finish at 10pm - as council members respond to a Section 114 Notice.

The notice followed an alarming admission by BCC earlier this summer that it couldn’t afford to pay its equal pay liability - which is currently in the region of £650m and £760m and continuing to accrue at an estimated rate of between £5 million and £14 million a month.

It has also been revealed that the council needs to stump up £100m to fix its flawed IT system, Oracle, which was intended to help streamline payments across its public services.

Government commissioners empowered to run Birmingham City Council until 2028

A letter from the government to Birmingham City Council’s chief executive outlines “serious” finance and governance concerns – and reveals commissioners could be in place for five years.

It states that government commissioners will take over the running of the council for as long as five years if required and outlines in detail the “severe” situation.

The letter states: “Given the scale of the issues, the Secretary of State proposes that directions to the authority should be in place for five years, noting that the authority’s situation is severe, and the improvement and recovery journey is likely to take a number of years.

Peter - stock.adobe.com

“If the Secretary of State considers at any time that it would be appropriate to change directions or withdraw them, then he will do so. His concern will be to ensure that the directions operate for as long, but only as long, and only in the form, as he considers it should operate.”

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove confirmed the action on Tuesday (September 19) in a statement to parliament. He said: “I do not take these decisions lightly but it is imperative in order to protect the interests of the residents and taxpayers of Birmingham, and to provide ongoing assurance to the whole local government sector.” You can read the full story by LDRS reporter Kate Knowles here: Commissioners to run Birmingham City Council until 2028

‘Our city is not for sale'

Dozens of union members from three of Birmingham’s unions have gathered outside the Council House - with more expected.

Chants of ‘No Iffs no butt’s no private sector cuts’ And our city not for sale can be heard from the demonstrators who are carrying banners and waving flags.

There have been reports that almost 1,000 workers at Birmingham City Council have applied to resign from the authority amid the financial uncertainty.

Union members oppose cuts and job losses at Birmingham City Council.Union members oppose cuts and job losses at Birmingham City Council.
Union members oppose cuts and job losses at Birmingham City Council. | Joe Forte

How much money does Birmingham City Council owe?

Europe’s largest local unitary authority is all but bankrupt after failing to settle equal pay claims amounting to £760m.

The council also has a budget shortfall of £87m for the current financial year – projected to rise to £165m in 2024/25 – and the authority needs to pay £100m to put right a broken IT system.

It’s expected that at least some council assets will be sold to the highest bidder as a way to escape its financial black hole.

Birmingham Conservatives are opposing the sale of key cultural landmarks. Tory leader Coun Robert Alden tweeted last night: “It would be totally unacceptable for Birmingham City Council to sell [its] Council House and Birmingham Museum and & Art Gallery complex. They must not be allowed to flog the city’s heritage.”

Which assets is the council likely to sell amid effective bankruptcy?

Birmingham City Council has not confirmed that it will keep any assets safe. It has only stated that it is reviewing “all assets”. The council holds a large portfolio. including extensive land and buildings around the city. It also has ownership, or part ownership, of some companies.

A council document states: “A Capital Strategy and Assets Review will develop options for generating capital receipts and to reduce borrowing costs. This will involve a review of all assets to assess which can and should be sold (and estimate the potential sale price). This will likely lead to an assets disposal programme.”

Birmingham Council HouseBirmingham Council House
Birmingham Council House | arenaphotouk - stock.adobe.com

The report continues: “Our work to address the situation must be urgent. It will involve hard choices about what we deliver, how we operate, and the shape and size of the organisation.

“The council acknowledges that the current situation will create uncertainty and in some cases disruption, and unreservedly apologises. It is committed to ensuring citizens, partners and our own staff are regularly updated on the current situation and its future implications.”

Watch: Union members chant against cuts

Birmingham Trades Union Council chant ‘Our city is not for sale’ in protest at cuts and job losses are feared.

Watch: We meet Unite regional officer Lee Wiggetts-Clinton

We meet Unite regional officer Lee Wiggetts as a rally against Birmingham City Council cuts and job losses gets underway outside Birmingham Council House. Council members are about to hold an extraordinary meeting to respond to their effective bankruptcy.

Council meeting underway - chaired by Lord Mayor Chaman Lal

Cllr Chaman Lal opens the meeting and calls on the finance officer to update the room on the situation.

Birmingham City Council finance officer addresses the extraordinary meetingBirmingham City Council finance officer addresses the extraordinary meeting
Birmingham City Council finance officer addresses the extraordinary meeting | BirminghamWorld

Journalists watch the meeting at the Birmingham Council House press room

BirminghamWorld reporter Joe Forte joins other journalists in the press room at Birmingham City Council

Press room at Birmingham City Council.Press room at Birmingham City Council.
Press room at Birmingham City Council. | Joe Forte

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