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‘OAPs are frightened to go out’: Birmingham locals warn crime will soar and slam plan to make them pay MORE for fewer bin collections, dimmed street lighting and cuts to highway maintenance – as desperate council moves to balance the books


Birmingham residents fear they’ll be too scared to go out at night as the city council plots to dim street lights in a desperate bid to save £300million across the next two years.

The cash-strapped Labour-run local authority issued two ‘section 114’ orders last year – effectively an admission of bankruptcy – and plans to impose a 21 per cent council tax rise on residents over the next two years even as it plans cuts to services.

Among the measures proposed are dimming street lights to save £900,000, a £12m cut to highway maintenance and a move to fortnightly bin collections – prompting fury from locals who spoke to MailOnline about the proposals.

City council leader John Cotton says the authority has ‘no alternative than to face these challenges head on’ – but residents say they have been left with a ‘horrible’ situation, fears of more crime, a rise in fly-tipping and growing numbers of potholes.

Dissent from residents will only add to the headache faced by council leaders, who are already dealing with an £815m equal pay settlement, the threat of strike action by GMB-affiliated workers and a need to sell off assets to repay government bailouts.

Birmingham City Council is searching for ways to save £300 million over the next two years after effectively declaring itself bankrupt (pictured: its headquarters in Victoria Square)

Birmingham City Council is searching for ways to save £300 million over the next two years after effectively declaring itself bankrupt (pictured: its headquarters in Victoria Square)

Robert Suffolk, who lives in central Birmingham, has branded the 21 per cent council tax rise over the next two years ‘wicked’ and ‘disgusting’

Sayed Hashemi, owner of the Top Tailor shop in Birmingham's Piccadilly Arcade, expects the city's rubbish problems to get worse with a reduction in bin collections

Sayed Hashemi, owner of the Top Tailor shop in Birmingham’s Piccadilly Arcade, expects the city’s rubbish problems to get worse with a reduction in bin collections

Michael Walsh, roprietor of

Michael Walsh, proprietor of Onyx Workshop Jewellers, says he is ‘disappointed’ in Birmingham City Council for not managing its money better

John Cotton, Labour leader of Birmingham City Council, says the authority has 'no alternative' to facing its financial problems head-on with tax hikes and cuts to services

John Cotton, Labour leader of Birmingham City Council, says the authority has ‘no alternative’ to facing its financial problems head-on with tax hikes and cuts to services

Lifelong Birmingham residents John and Jackie Booth, both 77, are among those fearing a rise in crime in the dimmer streets of nighttime Birmingham.

Mr Booth said: ‘It’s horrible, isn’t it? I think it’s quite simple: why did they get into this mess in the first place?

‘The downside is that there will be more crime which is what happens everywhere else. Some other councils are about to find this out for themselves. Old people particularly are frightened to go out of their houses.’

How Birmingham residents will suffer as they pay more tax 

Birmingham City Council proposes to hike council tax by 9.99 per cent this year, with a further hike in 2025/26.

Budget papers detail how council services will face cuts this year and next even as bills rise for residents, as the authority seeks to plug a nine-figure hole in its finances.

Adult social care: -£76.57m

A scythe will be taken to care packages for vulnerable adults, including home care services and the council’s own care centres. 

Children & families: -£115.45m

Among the services set to suffer are those supporting vulnerable children, school transport and the Birmingham Children’s Trust, which will lose £19m.

City housing: -£15.77m

Increased service charges, staff cuts and a reduction in new properties.

City operations: -£96.38m

Dimmed street lighting, huge cuts to road maintenance, fortnightly bin collections, increases to bereavement service fees and fewer cleaning staff. 

Place, Prosperity and Sustainability: -£19.51m

Job cuts, the closure of council offices and an increase in planning fees.

Strategy, Equalities and Partnerships: -£5.04m

Job cuts and internal reorganisation.

Council management: -£40.91m

The end of crisis payments for food and energy bills, a clampdown on those behind on council tax bills, the addition of an automated voice system for customer services and job cuts.

Cross-cutting: -£6.21m

Other savings anticipated through overall hikes to service charges and cuts to external contracts.

Source: Birmingham City Council 

Birmingham plans to move from weekly to fortnightly bin collections in a bid to save £4million each year.

Mr Booth added: ‘It’s very contentious. But there are a lot of councils that only do it once a fortnight. There will be rats too.

‘We were on the train down here this morning and we could see all the mattresses and fridges and beds dumped, and that’s now. You could go on with all the issues, you could write a book with it all, there’s that many.’

Mrs Booth said: ‘I do think there will be fly-tipping, or an increase of it. You see the rubbish here, all along the streets, so it will only get worse.’

Robert Suffolk, 76, from the inner-city area of Bordesley Green, branded the council tax increase ‘wicked’ and ‘disgusting’ – and said weekly bin collections were already struggling to keep up with demand.

‘The bin collections are going to be fortnightly… where I live the bins are always full. It’ll be piling up. There’s always rubbish all over the pavements. There’s already rats everywhere in my area,’ he said.

‘We need street lighting here. It’s all crime as it is. There’s drug deals all around us.

‘It’s terrible. We have potholes everywhere, there’s more in the pavement than the road. You try and tell them but I stopped trying with the council.’

Local man Andy Cole, 49, added: ‘We already have bins overflowing here, more rubbish, littering. I live in an apartment block and our waste always overflows on regular basis, so I don’t know how we’ll manage on even less collections. 

‘It’s not good. There’s going to be repercussions from that for sure. (The pending two year rise in council tax by) 20 per cent is a lot, especially when you realise they aren’t doing a lot with it. It will affect anyone.’

Pensioner Sheila Ward, 66, felt the dimming of the lights will discriminate against women, who already feel unsafe walking alone at night.

She said: ‘It’s a very big deal. It’s disgraceful. I think it discriminates against women. I know everyone is at risk on a dark street, I think we do feel more vulnerable.’

Business owners are similarly concerned about the impact the council cuts will have on the city where they have chosen to set up.

Sayed Hassiem, 39, owns Top Tailor in the Piccadilly Arcade shopping centre and says the city centre is ‘messed up for bins’ – but only expects the situation to get worse with a reduction in collections.

Mr Hassiem said: ‘I drive into work – I park in Chinatown and there’s a lot of road issues around there. A lot of holes.’

He added: ‘A lot of my customers have been saying it is all very bad. It’s a difficult time for all.’

Elsewhere in Piccadilly Arcade, Onyx Workshop Jewellers proprietor Michael Walsh was cynical about the council’s attempts to balance the books.

‘Why are they hiking it, really?’ the 65-year-old asked. ‘They ran up a big bill and now they’re trying to find the money for it. Anyone can do that – when the facts are obvious, why don’t they just be honest?

‘I’m no great politician, but I look at Birmingham city council as a business. You need business brains involved.

‘Looking at the area where I live in Edgbaston, I’ve never seen a street cleaner around there. The only time they come out is when it’s a local election.

‘I’m so disappointed with Birmingham. I’ve been working in the city centre since 1982 and it’s really scuzzy. It’s really disappointing. It’s a frightening scenario really.

‘It’s going to be another cost of living (crisis). They’re recouping what they’ve wasted.’

The authority has faced fury from residents face having to pay more for fewer services as their services are set to be reduced

The authority has faced fury from residents face having to pay more for fewer services as their services are set to be reduced

Locals have been left despairing as they are left to pay for a mess caused by their council

Locals have been left despairing as they are left to pay for a mess caused by their council

One man fumed that the state of the city was 'not good' - as he said it had been made into 'not a nice place to live'

One man fumed that the state of the city was ‘not good’ – as he said it had been made into ‘not a nice place to live’

Earlier, residents had told the BBC of their frustrations at the mess created by the local authority – which is scurrying to find £1.2billion of assets to sell off.

‘We pay our taxes and it’s not our fault that it’s gone up, and we feel like we’re getting penalised for it,’ one woman said.

Another added: ‘Why should we be penalised for their misdemeanors? We’re getting less service over the years – we don’t even get bin bags anymore – less service, but now we have to pay for the things that they have done?’

And a further man fumed: ‘It’ll get better eventually but it’s not good at the moment. Not a nice place to live.’

As many as 600 council workers could lose their jobs in the cuts and residents will face further bills – including the cost of burying their dead.

Adult social care will also be slashed by £23.7million in the coming financial year while crisis payments needed to afford food, gas bills and white goods will stop.

The children’s young people and families department will also be forced to find more than £50million in savings as the council battles for survival.

John Cotton, Labour leader of Birmingham City Council, said: ‘Birmingham City Council is facing a number of financial challenges and I want to apologise unreservedly for both the significant spending reductions and this year’s substantial council tax increase.

‘We have no alternative than to face these challenges head on.

‘And we will do whatever is necessary to put the council back on a sound financial footing.

‘Our situation has been made much worse by a national crisis in local government finance.

‘A combination of austerity and underfunding, Birmingham has lost over £1billion in funding since 2011, added to a rising demand for services and inflation mean that, across the country local authorities are facing some of the biggest budget challenges in living memory.’

The council also needs ‘exceptional financial support’ due to the scale of the council’s financial distress. 

Commissioners led by Max Caller, who were drafted into the Labour-run council last year, warned the money ‘is really nothing more than a loan from the government that must be paid back through asset sales’.

The report says the support will cover equal pay liabilities over the previous three years estimated at £815 million and should enable the council to set a balanced budget up to 2025/26.

Budget papers published overnight confirm the authority is planning to raise council tax by 9.99 per cent this year and next, cut the cost of services by £367million and initiate redundancies costing £100 million

Budget papers published overnight confirm the authority is planning to raise council tax by 9.99 per cent this year and next, cut the cost of services by £367million and initiate redundancies costing £100 million

Commissioners led by Max Caller (pictured), who were drafted into the Labour-run council last year, warned the money 'is really nothing more than a loan from the government that must be paid back through asset sales'

Commissioners led by Max Caller (pictured), who were drafted into the Labour-run council last year, warned the money ‘is really nothing more than a loan from the government that must be paid back through asset sales’

Without the additional funding, the council does not have cash reserves to cover costs and ‘would not be a going concern’, it adds.

The GMB union is further balloting its members for strike action as they call on the council to create a plan for settling equal pay within the authority.

Robert Alden, leader of the Conservatives on the council, told The Telegraph: ‘Birmingham Labour have hidden the details of their devastating cuts until the last possible moment.

‘For an administration that had promised to be open and transparent, this is sadly exactly the kind of behaviour we’ve come to expect from Labour in Birmingham – symbolically underscored by the constant refusal to publish the draft budget and the letters they have sent saying they are not going to set a balanced budget without selling the city’s assets.

‘The Labour group has been discussing their plan to gut the city’s services for a year and yet have left it until the last two weeks to tell Brummies of their plan.’

£1.25bn amounts to almost £1,100 for every one of the 1.14million people who lived in Birmingham at the time of the 2021 census.

Birmingham intends to fund the support ‘loan’ through the use of capital receipts from planned asset sales totalling £500 million by the end of 2024/25, with the programme expected to continue for three years.

The 9.99 per cent council tax increase will see the average annual bill for a Band D property in the city rise from £1,630 to £1,793 in April, excluding precepts to be applied by police commissioners and the fire authority.

However, residents are facing significant reductions in the provision of frontline services across the city.

The proposed savings programme includes a spending reduction for adult social care of £77 million over two years, with planned reviews of day centres, care centres and services supporting adults to leave hospital and regain their independence. Care packages will also be reviewed.

The budget for services supporting children and families will be reduced by £120 million over the period.

This includes cuts to early help, assisted transport and support for children not in education, employment or training.

Bereavement fees will also be increased and cultural grants will be cut off under the plans.

Birmingham City Council issued two section 114 notices declaring effective bankruptcy in September 2023.

In a report published alongside the budget proposals, Fiona Greenway, the council’s director of finance and Section 151 Officer, said: ‘Financial mismanagement is deep-rooted within Birmingham City Council, with overreliance on the use of reserves, growing liabilities, imprudent estimates in relation to financial planning, a historical inability to deliver savings, and a number of open prior year accounts back to 2020.’

She added the flawed implementation of the digital enterprise planning system ‘eroded the fundamentals of prudent financial management, resulting in a lack of financial clarity in decision making’.

In his introduction to the report, Mr Caller said: ‘The council is in an extremely serious financial position as a result of the past decisions it has taken, both in deciding to take specific actions and failing to recognise and take proper corrective action.

‘All local authorities are facing significant pressure in service delivery costs and the failures of the past have eroded the council’s room for manoeuvre.

‘There is a narrow path to financial sustainability that will require both discipline and pace from both members and officers.’

The number of councils which have requested exceptional financial support is not known because the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities does not make them public.

However, the number of councils is believed to be in double figures.

Birmingham City Council has been approached for comment.



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