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POLITICS EXPLAINED

Brum deal: how many more councils face financial peril?

Local councils of all sizes face rising wage bills and other cost inflation, with limited options left to save money or raise revenue. The long-suffering taxpayer can expect more Brum-style implosions, writes Sean O’Grady

Wednesday 06 September 2023 21:18 BST
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As with other public services, Whitehall is prone to ask councils like Birmingham City to do more with less money
As with other public services, Whitehall is prone to ask councils like Birmingham City to do more with less money (PA Archive)

News that Birmingham City Council has run out of money – or “gone bust”, as the headlines have it – has focused attention on the plight of many local authorities facing unprecedented financial pressures.

Coventry, West Oxfordshire, Bradford, Middlesbrough, Kirklees, Guildford and Southampton have all made ominous noises about their immediate future, and the Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities (Sigoma) suggests 26 councils could follow Birmingham over the next year.

Meanwhile, Transport for London, under the control of the city’s mayor, recently had to be rescued by the Department for Transport (additional funding for which was conditional on the expansion of Ulez). Politically, such events add to the general feeling of malaise about crumbling public services, symbolised by the school buildings scandal, and the sentiment that nothing seems to work any more. Blame is a ping-pong game between the councils involved – mostly, but not exclusively, Labour – and the Conservative government. One thing we may be sure of is more crises in our council chambers.

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