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Blame Whitby’s coalition for the council’s black hole, says Jilly Bermingham

Blame Whitby’s coalition for the council’s black hole, says Jilly Bermingham

🕔14.Nov 2012

On election night on May 3rd, 2012, it was a surprise to no-one that the administration changed and Labour took back control. While the celebrations continued, the former ruling parties retreated to their offices, not as some may think to lick their wounds but perhaps to consider what they knew, that sooner or later the budget figures would reveal a greater than feared deficit.

It is no secret that this is largely due to decisions the Coalition made knowing projects could not be completed after the Election because the money just wasn’t there.

Sure enough, an independent report by Birmingham University in October revealed that the black hole left by the Coalition amounted to £605m, a scary figure for any council to deal with.

The facts that have come to light from that report show that the overall cuts that will be needed for 2013/14 amount to £123.9m. Deep breath needed before we carry on.

Birmingham City Council is leading from the front and is consulting the people of Birmingham in November and December on how they see the cuts being achieved.

Do not underestimate the power of consultations and having your voice heard. The final decision will have to be made by those who lead us but the considerations can be shaped by the results of the consultations. If you, like me, glaze over at the mention of profit and loss sheets and balancing the books, think of it as you do your household budget. You know how much you have to begin the week and what you have to do to ensure there is something over to start the next week.

Thinking of it in terms of your weekly shop maybe an over-simplification for a budget the size of Birmingham Council’s but it still does not explain how the old coalition can justify their methods which could leave the black hole at a figure of £605m.

No-one wants anything in their area closing or jobs to be lost but this is a reality and affects us all. If we do not fill this black hole and change the practices of the previous coalition leadership, we will face a much harder task in the years to come.

The coalition Government has ensured the word austerity is now firmly embedded in the English language and nowhere more so than those councils who have had their grants cut but costs rise. The word never means good news. There are Government initiatives that don’t help such as Gove’s introduction of free schools which has seen cuts to the funding in the council’s education budget.

If the budget is a black hole, then the £757m payment for equal pay claims has to be what you find at the other end of a black hole. No-one can deny the principle is right of equal pay for men and women for equivalent work. However, the question has to be asked why the settlement resolution has taken until now … and that can only be answered by the previous administration.

So now we know the state the coalition left Birmingham in and we have to move forward. Yes, we will have to think of new ways to achieve what we want, but don’t let it just happen to you, have your voice heard while you can and work with the council, after all things can only get better.


  • Alderman Jilly Bermingham was a Labour councillor for Erdington from 1995-2008


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