Residents in one of Birmingham’s most deprived areas react to huge council tax hike

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Residents and business owners in Nechells have mixed views on the council tax rise which was announced this week

Residents, business owners, and employees in one of Birmingham’s most deprived wards have given their views on the huge council tax hike confirmed by city leader Ian Ward this week.

Within the context of soaring inflation and the Cost of Living Crisis, Cllr Ward said in a press conference on Wednesday that he “accepts” people are struggling but that the council “is not immune”.

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He said that increasing demand for council services and the authority’s own rocketing energy costs meant a tax increase was necessary if it wants to continue “protecting the worst off”. Nechells was recently named one of Birmingham’s five most deprived wards in the latest Census data so the LDRS visited the area today to chat to people about the council tax rise.

Inside Desirable Drinks on Bloomsbury Street, the owner who goes by Mr Desirable, aged 40, spoke about the issues his customers regularly talk about.

“There’s lot of discomfort there’s a lot of concerns about the prices of things or products, you know”, he said. “Just normal day to day things; the prices have gone up, the tax levels have gone up, it’s crazy. You can’t expect these people to even live under these circumstances when the price of food goes up but the wages stay the same, literally stay the same.

“So how are you supposed to survive? If you’ve got kids, you know, it’s ridiculous, it’s absolutely ridiculous.”

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He pointed to a broader lack of trust in local and national politicians and outlined what he thinks needs to happen for conditions to improve.

He said: “There’s been no faith in the last – how many years? “There’s a lot of lies being told.

“You’ve got money for defence budgets, wars, to send bombs and missiles and when it comes to the basics of, you know, health care and people’s survival and food, you can’t find the money for that. We’re not hearing that no more it’s pathetic, ridiculous, and we’re not stupid, you know?

“Basically we need much more of a voice in the community. We need diversity in the government and the government to be in touch with what’s happening out here on the ground level.”

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Tahir Mahmood, 42, with his friendTahir Mahmood, 42, with his friend
Tahir Mahmood, 42, with his friend | LDRS

‘I want better servies, even if it does cost more’

Tahir Mahmood, 42, told the LDRS he is happy to pay more for services – if they work properly.

He has been frustrated with the way public services have been run recently especially the refuse collection which he said regularly does not occur.

He explained that in his area they do not have plastic bins but leave the rubbish out in bin bags. When it isn’t collected, it builds up and rats appear which is especially disturbing as there are a lot of children living there.

“From my point of view, I want better services, even if it does cost a little bit more”, he said. I just want a good service level for the money that I’m paying.

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“Keep the area clean; hygeine’s really important factor for us. And I guess, my biggest issue is going to be refuse collection and the lack of refuse collection.”

Lisa, 29, who was on her way into town to work in a shop in the Bullring, said she wasn’t aware of the council tax rise yet but hearing about it “worried” her.

“It’s just another thing isn’t it? I’m already paying more for my energy; every time I get a letter or a call from them I’m scared stiff they are going to raise the price again. My food shop is more expensive, now the council tax.

“It just feels like we are living to survive and there’s less joy to be honest.”

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Mr Vasathamohan Arulsamy, 41, behind the counter at the Lifestyle Express shop on Nechells Park Road.Mr Vasathamohan Arulsamy, 41, behind the counter at the Lifestyle Express shop on Nechells Park Road.
Mr Vasathamohan Arulsamy, 41, behind the counter at the Lifestyle Express shop on Nechells Park Road. | LDRS

Inside the Lifestyle Express shop on Nechells Park Road, Mr Vasathamohan Arulsamy, 41, also hadn’t heard about the council tax rise.

He was concerned at first, but checked his bill which showed he is in band C which is currently £1,607.34 a year and will rise to £1686.54.

This means he will pay an extra £79.20 a year which he said is “not too bad”.

“I will manage”, he added. “Prices have gone up in general but I will be ok.”

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