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City Centre: Birmingham Town Hall and Council House

Photo: CARL RECINE / REUTERS

The conservative British government wants to subordinate Birmingham to a commission in order to bring the practically insolvent city on a consolidation course. The local council, which is led by the opposition Labour Party, had not adequately fulfilled its duties, said the responsible cabinet member Michael Gove in Parliament in London. He also announced an investigation into how the financial difficulties could have occurred.

Birmingham is the second largest city in the United Kingdom after London, with more than 1.1 million inhabitants. According to the BBC, there is a gap of 87 million pounds (the equivalent of more than 100 million euros) in the municipal budget.

Emergency sale of the library?

The city had declared itself de facto bankrupt at the beginning of September. All expenses, except for the most necessary, have been stopped with immediate effect. A statement at the time said the city was facing unprecedented financial challenges. These included significant additional expenditure on adult care, a decline in income from trade tax and the high inflation rate. In addition, according to the head of the city administration, John Cotton, a new IT system of the city is so problematic that follow-up costs of 100 million pounds would be incurred.

However, the city is also facing claims in the hundreds of millions of dollars from mostly female employees who claim that they have been paid less than their male colleagues for years. Due to a court ruling, more than one billion pounds have already had to be paid, the other claims are said to amount to 650 to 750 billion pounds.

Next Monday, the municipal council is to discuss a rescue plan in an extraordinary meeting. There has already been speculation in the media that the city could be forced to sell buildings and land. The Birmingham Library, the Birmingham Museum and the Art Gallery are being discussed. Back in 2015, the city had sold assets, including the National Exhibition Centre for £307 million.

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