Bankrupt Birmingham must fight back - we can’t let council cuts define our city

Birmingham City Council has announced huge tax rises and budget cuts to services as it aims to make up a £300m budget shortfall - but Birmingham cannot be written off
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It’s a far cry from the glory days of the Commonwealth Games.

Less than 18 months after Birmingham was showcased to the world in all its glory, our city is now labelled as bankrupt - but it can’t define us.

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In response to some of the harshest cuts a local authority has ever made - along with the highest tax rises - Labour Leader John Cotton has claimed: “We have no alternatives”. He has repeatedly cited a lack of funding from central government as a key cause for the council’s financial crisis.

But with £760 million in equal pay claims due to alleged discrimination against women, and £46.5 million bill to fix a new IT system affecting payments - it's a bit difficult to drum up sympathy, or agree that central government cutbacks are the sole root of this crisis.

Barely a decade has gone by since Birmingham City Council was shedding out millions in equal pay claims for the last time it discriminated against women, for a start.

But the blame game isn’t going to get us anywhere. Birmingham and its people are now facing some of its darkest days - literally, because the street lights are going to be dimmed to save £1 million a year.

Birmingham skylineBirmingham skyline
Birmingham skyline
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Then there’s the £12m highways maintenance cuts to save up to £12 million - as if the potholes weren’t already bad enough. Investment in Birmingham’s world renowned cultural sector - with flagship organisations including the Rep theatre, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Birmingham Royal Ballet - facing a 60% drop in investment this year and 100% in 2025. 

No wonder there are fears we are facing cultural deprivation - the soul of our city being put at risk along with the creative opportunities that make us human. 

Then there are cuts to adult social care, pencilled in at £23.7m ahead of a meeting to ratify all these horrors on March 5. And the biggest cuts are falling on the Children’s, Young People and Families Department facing £51.5 million savings, so that’s the future generation left to bear the brunt too. Not forgetting the 600 jobs that are going.

Max the Axe has waded in. That’s Max Caller, the lead commissioner appointed by the government to oversee the Birmingham City Council following its Section 114 ‘effective bankruptcy’ notice - at a cost of £1,200 per day.

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Cheery Max reckons Birmingham’s “very painful” budget cuts will affect our lives for some years, writing to Secretary of Levelling Up Michael Gove: "What is clear is that the leadership is willing to try, and we will support, guide, and challenge them over what will be a very painful process extending for some years."

Birmingham can’t be written off by ‘effective bankruptcy’. There is much to celebrate in our city. There’s billions of pounds of investment in transforming the city centre. We’re home to some of the most successful businesses and universities in the world.

Our hospitality industry is second to none - from our flagship Michelin starred restaurants to incredible street food. The Brummie creative flair is stronger than ever with the new film studios from Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight among the highlights.

We’re set to the new home of MasterChef later this year and we’ve already hosted Joe Lycett’s Channel 4 chat show live from Digbeth. A new outdoor music festival called Centenary Square Summer Series from Metropolis Music with major concert promoter Live Nation is another huge boost.

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The council cuts are catastrophic but the Brummie spirit will power through and BirminghamWorld will be shouting loud and clear about these successes - while shining a light on the issues raised by the cuts overseen by the eight central government commissioners and their leader by Max Caller, collectively paid £10,000 a day.

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