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Birmingham Council to consider selling its NEC Group shareholding

Birmingham Council to consider selling its NEC Group shareholding

🕔15.Jul 2013

 

NECBirmingham City Council’s financial crisis is now so acute that the controlling Labour administration is considering raising money by selling shares in the NEC Group.

Council leader Sir Albert Bore privately briefed councillors on an options paper setting out ways in which emergency funding could be raised, which included the possibility of disposing of the local authority’s shareholding in the National Exhibition Centre, the International Convention Centre and the National Indoor Arena.

No decision has been taken but shocked Labour councillors were told that funds were required urgently to meet an equal pay compensation bill which now stands at more than £1 billion.

It’s understood that the council has been hit by fresh demands for payment from no-win no-fee lawyers acting for thousands of female former employees who were underpaid compared to men carrying out the same job and that meeting the claims is now a matter of urgency.

The equal pay bill has doubled in size in little more than a year and the council has been barred by Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles from borrowing more than an additional £100 million to meet the cost.

Financial problems are also continuing to mount in the form of a £615 million shortfall, the gap between reduced government grant and demand for additional spending on social services.

Even considering selling the NEC is a huge U-turn for Sir Albert, who said in April this year that it wouldn’t happen. Councillors were sworn to secrecy when given the news.

The matter is particularly sensitive for Sir Albert who played a major role in establishing and enlarging the NEC. Any decision to dispose of the shareholding is likely to be described as safeguarding the future of the NEC Group by levering in substantial private investment for future expansion.

It’s understood that the council intends to retain ownership of the land upon which NEC buildings stand.

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