Bad news coming at Birmingham council - commissioner

Save our libraries signs in a bag, with protesters in the background demonstrating against cuts to services in Birmingham
Campaigners in Birmingham have called on the new government to make more money available to local authorities [BBC]

The commissioner appointed to oversee major cuts needed by Birmingham City Council after it effectively declared bankruptcy has warned there is "more bad news to come".

The authority has to make at least £300m in savings and sell off assets worth £750m before April 2026.

Max Caller said it was "slow progress" and the council was behind target.

Campaigners want the new government to intervene and save services that are under threat.

The council has already announced the sale of community centres and is considering how many libraries and day care centres it will have to close.

Lead commissioner Mr Caller, appointed by the former government to oversee the authority's recovery, said the council had to go faster to meet its goals.

"They've got a lot to do to generate next year's savings proposals, but we think there is the opportunity for them to promote savings where that will improve services rather than reduce them," he said.

"It takes time for all the bad news to come out, but they're on that right path."

He said in the past there had been a lack of honesty within the council, which had prevented its problems from being addressed.

"Now that is starting to change, now we are starting to find what's really been going on," he added.

"The council has got to balance its books - that's what the law requires."

Max Caller, the lead commissioner for Birmingham, wearing a pink tie and standing in a street flanked by buildings
Birmingham's Lead Commissioner Max Caller was appointed after the council declared effective bankruptcy last year [BBC]

Protesters gathered outside the council house on Tuesday as the campaign against the proposals continued.

Full-time carer Jean Cross, 64, is fighting to save Harborne Day Centre from closure.

Her brother Robert Mason has been going there for 43 years, since it opened.

Ms Cross, from Edgbaston, said: "If Robert doesn't go to another day centre that's my life finished. It's a 24-hour job, seven days a week. I only get five hours a day as it is."

The 62-year-old is severely disabled and attends the centre five days a week. Not only does it get him out the house, he gets to meet other people and is taken on trips, his sister said.

"It's very stressful and I'm pretty young. I've got 80-year-old carers on the phone to me crying because they are that stressed out at their time in life," she said.

"They are picking on the most vulnerable. Robert is peanuts. Carers are cheap labour. The silent army that trundles on day after day, under the radar and we just get on with it."

She called on the new Labour-led government to do more for the "unsung heroes".

"It's about time they started looking after us."

Jean Cross in her living room, with a dark brown sofa behind her and photos of family on the wall
Jean Cross called the proposals "cruel" and "thoughtless" [BBC]
Robert Mason in his wheelchair in his home, with floral wallpaper and a tv in the background
Robert Mason has been going to Harborne Day Centre since it opened [BBC]

Ramandeep told the BBC in February of her fight to keep her son Harry's school transport.

The 16-year-old has Down's syndrome and special educational needs and has relied on a council-funded taxi to get to school since he was four years old.

She has since found our Harry will instead be given a free disabled person's bus pass.

Ramandeep, from Sutton Coldfield, said: "I don't see that it's going to work. The expectation is that he will use that pass to get to and from school, which would involve two buses and travelling on his own along busy main roads.

"Harry doesn't have the ability to do that. He can't travel alone. He would not be safe at all without an adult being with him.

"I can't put my child's life at risk."

Ramandeep and her son Harry sitting on a bench in their garden, with the lawn behind
Ramandeep says she will appeal to keep Harry's school transport [BBC]

If the council rejects an appeal, the options for Harry are to leave school or for Ramandeep to give up work so she can take him to the specialist school 10 miles away from their home.

She described the issue as a "national crisis" and a "scandal".

"It is happening up and down the country. Politicians not paying attention to it. This is scandalous what is happening to youngsters," she said.

"It feels like these tiny little cohort of students are the ones who are facing the axe.

"Harry has a right to an education and it's being taken away from him."

Kate Taylor, organiser of campaign group Brum Rise Up, standing in front of fellow protesters, some holding flags, demonstrating against cuts to services
Kate Taylor said service cuts would have the greatest impact on some of the most vulnerable people in Birmingham [BBC]

Kate Taylor, organiser of campaign group Brum Rise Up, called on the new government to make more money available to local authorities.

She said: "We've got a huge amount of people who are really seriously impacted by the cuts.

"We are hoping the government recognise this is a national crisis. I don't believe we can't find the money. These people who use these services are absolutely at the bottom, there's nothing left for them. We've got families falling apart.

"The money has to be found."

Birmingham City Council said it faced a significantly challenging financial situation and has to make "considerable budget savings" across its services.

Libraries need librarians sign
Protesters gathered outside the council house on Tuesday [BBC]

More on proposed council cuts

Related internet links