Council Tax: Government’s Proposed Increase

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:49 pm on 25th January 2021.

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Photo of Gary Sambrook Gary Sambrook Conservative, Birmingham, Northfield 5:49 pm, 25th January 2021

Unfortunately, in Birmingham, we see examples every day of why Labour councillors in the city will choose to put up council tax yet again this year. It seems like we see examples of waste and incompetence every single day. Let us take the Perry Barr bus depot as an example. Because of the Commonwealth games, it should be moved to make way for the athletes’ village—which, by the way, will no longer be the athletes’ village—with the cost to move it 300 metres down the road initially being put at £2 million. It will now cost £16 million. That is incompetence. The leader of the council assured the city council that hosting the Commonwealth games would not impact on its revenue budget. Now, years down the line, we see that it will impact on the revenue budget to the tune of £2 million every single year for the next 40 years, affecting the council’s ability to plough the money into services, which people want to see in their local communities.

We see an example in the form of business grants. The Government have provided millions of pounds-worth of assistance to companies struggling during the pandemic, but is being sat on because of incompetence in getting it out to local businesses on the frontline, which has led to the delays that we have seen in that assistance.

We see an example in the Bristol Road South bus lane, which nobody wanted. The council has tried for years to install it, but it did not have the guts to do a proper consultation and has now imposed it on local people, wasting thousands of pounds. A couple of years ago, the bin dispute put Birmingham City Council on the front of all local and national papers. That cost millions of pounds to fix, and, unfortunately, we are still paying for it.

We see the home to school transport service, which looks after some of our most vulnerable citizens. We see severely disabled children being dropped off at the wrong school and parents being kept in the dark over what time their children will be picked up. That is incompetence. What is the solution to all that we see? It is yet another tinkering around the system, another restructure, another review, and another report to be put on a shelf.

Last week, we saw proposals to spend half a million pounds on new directors in the city council. This restructure will cost £3.6 million—this after the council spent no less than £2 million on non-disclosure agreements, or gagging clauses, for city council officers who have left. It is funny, Madam Deputy Speaker, how it is never Labour councillors running the council who get restructured out of the council; it is always the council officers who have to bear the brunt. So, unfortunately, all the noise from the Opposition Benches today rings hollow. When people’s council tax bills land on their doormat later this year, they will know that they have gone up because of incompetence, bad financial management and waste.