Birmingham Council Crisis - We Won't Pay!

September 6, 2023

A Birmingham City Council Worker

Birmingham City Council’s state of “effective bankruptcy” hit the headlines this week, issuing a Section 114 notice on 5 September halting all new expenditure. On the surface, the financial “black hole” comes primarily from a £750 million equal pay claim. Naturally, the council has been quick to pass off the blame onto the primarily women workers who have fought for equal pay with male-dominated roles. However, these issues have been long in the making and could have been avoided – and certainly aren’t the fault of workers in male-dominated roles such as the bin service, who have seen their pay and working practices come under attack by the Blairite council in recent years!

Equal pay claims have been an ongoing issue for the Labour-led council with a total of £1.1 billion being paid out over the last decade. However, the council made it clear that their plan was to cover up the issues as quickly as possible when they arose to prevent further claims from being made. In other words, the council knew other workers were being underpaid but would rather brush the issue under the carpet!

The further £100 million bill to fix a failing IT system, Oracle, could also have been avoided by listening to trade unions and front-line workers when they raised concerns about the new system. Yet, this value does not capture the true cost of the failed system as countless hours of staff labour time have been lost fighting to complete basic payments and recruitment tasks. And that’s not to mention the £184m spent on the Commonwealth Games, while community sport and culture have been cut to the bone!

This crisis is also a result of a decade of underfunding. Since 2010, Birmingham’s funding from central government has been cut in half! When the Labour Party took control of the council in 2012, they could have set a no-cuts budget and started a mass campaign to demand more funding – much like the Liverpool Council in the 80s under the leadership of Militant (the Socialist Party’s predecessor). Instead, they implemented the Tory imposed cuts at the expense of their residents.

Now Birmingham’s residents, already living in one of England’s most deprived cities, will face further cuts and potentially council tax rises, as the council announces a freeze on all payments it deems “unessential”. Instead of demanding support from central government, council workers receive near-daily emails begging them to resign as part of the council’s “Mutually Agreed Resignation Scheme”. The council has so far refused to share the details of this settlement with unions, so it’s fair to say it will likely be a rotten deal!

We need a mass campaign involving unions and community organisations to fight back against cuts to frontline services, to pay workers fairly, and to stop our city being run by unelected commissioners. The council still had £668.4m in reserves as of March this year, and extensive borrowing powers that could be used to buy time while fighting for the funding our city needs. Starmer is expecting to win the general election and we demand he pledges now that an incoming Labour government will reimburse all councils that have had to use borrowing powers to prevent cuts to jobs and services.

This crisis has come from a council with a Labour super majority. Therefore, it’s clearer than ever that working-class people need a party of our own.

This is why Socialist Party members will continue to stand in elections as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. We want to work with all genuine working-class forces to build the fightback against austerity in Birmingham, including standing as an alternative at the ballot box to capitalist parties that put profits before workers!

Public Meeting

Come to our open meeting to discuss how we can build a campaign to fight further attacks on jobs and public services and build a political alternative for working class people – all welcome!

7:30pm, Monday 2nd October

Top floor, The Wellington

Bennetts Hill

Birmingham City Centre

B2 5SN

For more info/to join the Socialists, get in touch

0797 449 3525

Instagram: @brumsocialistparty

Facebook: Birmingham Socialist Party

Twitter: @brumsocialists

Written by workers for workers.

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