Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham City Council's leader has 'exaggerated' cuts, says MP

Sir Albert Bore
Image caption Sir Albert Bore needs to be "more honest" about cuts, says John Hemming MP

Birmingham City Council's leader has been accused of "exaggerating cuts to blame ministers for 6,000 job losses".

The Labour-led authority has said 6,000 of its 13,000 workers must go by 2018 to save £362m.

John Hemming, Liberal Democrat MP for Yardley, has written to council leader Sir Albert Bore asking him to be "more honest" and argued just as many of its financial problems were "home-grown".

The council said its government grant was "massively decreasing".

A spokesman for Sir Albert said he would respond to Mr Hemming personally.

'Equal pay shambles'

The council's equal pay liability of £1.15bn, to compensate female staff historically paid less than men, was a significant factor in the savings needed, said Mr Hemming.

The authority's business plan includes £50m to cover equal pay costs next year, rising to £109m by 2018.

A further £27.97m is coming from the council's housing revenue account over the same period as well as contributions from schools.

It means in 2018, equal pay payments make up more than an eighth of the £822m savings needed by the authority from 2010-2018.

Image caption "Pretending all of these problems arise from government is misleading Birmingham," wrote Mr Hemming.

The business plan includes a £10m provision in case savings are not achieved and £398,000 to pay workers the "living wage", said Mr Hemming.

He said: "To pay people more is a nice thing to do, but this is firing thousands of people at the same time as putting the wages up for others.

"To blame the government for the equal pay shambles is also a nonsense. Sir Albert is being quite misleading."

Since 2010, the council has saved £460m.

Proceeds from the sale of the NEC group are also expected to be used to fund equal pay costs.

The authority said "no further permissions are expected to be granted" from Whitehall for the council to borrow money to settle equal pay.

Mr Hemming called for the council to identify more assets it could sell off to satisfy the bill.

Council tax

A council spokesman said: "The balance of the savings are required because, unlike what happened previously, government grant is not rising in order to fund other budget pressures such as meeting the costs of inflation, increasing demands for services, changes in the law, and so on - this all means the grant is massively decreasing in cash terms."

He added that would be offset by a "small amount" of income from a council tax rise.

"Members have taken a policy decision that employees should not be paid less than the living wage," the spokesman said.

"It was considered prudent to include some contingency funding."

The authority is inviting responses to its spending proposals throughout November before finalising plans.

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