No white flag of surrender in Birmingham budget challenge
Birmingham City Council leader John Clancy has declared he won’t be “raising the white flag of surrender” despite the local authority facing the seventh successive year of significant spending cuts.
In a defiant message to business leaders, Cllr Clancy said he would “go anywhere in the world” in an effort to secure investment for Birmingham in a drive for jobs, homes and inclusive economic growth.
Describing the city council’s draft 2017+ budget as “depressing and tough”, with £78 million of cuts to be delivered on top of almost £600 million achieved since 2010, Cllr Clancy said there was little point in getting depressed about the acute financial difficulties.
On the eve of a visit to Qatar, where he will be meeting potential investors, Cllr Clancy said he was determined to make the most of the city council’s land and property assets and reminded his audience that the council still owns 60 per cent of the developable land in Birmingham.
The Qatar trip follows a successful visit by the council leader to China, Hong Kong and Singapore last September which resulted in a £2 billion deal with Chinese property development company Country Garden to deliver housing and other infrastructure in Birmingham.
Cllr Clancy was talking to Birmingham business ratepayers as part of the council’s formal consultation on the draft 2017+ budget.
Looking ahead, Cllr Clancy said he expected the council would have to reduce planned spending by a further £180 million by 2021 based on proposed cuts in Government grant.
He added: “We have lost 40 per cent of the council workforce in the past four years. But we are not just going to sit back and let Birmingham City Council continue to shrink.
“If we just get depressed then things would spiral and be worse.
“We are not going to be waving the white flag of surrender on our mission to promote inclusive economic growth across Birmingham.
“We as a council have to look to see how we can use our assets to promote growth and deliver on priority areas of housing, jobs and skills and health.
“If Birmingham was a city in the USA it would be the tenth biggest city in the country, while Manchester would be the 43rd largest city. We are a player on the world stage.”
Formal consultation on the council’s draft 2017+ budget closes on January 18.
Final budget proposals will go before the city council on February 28.