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Birmingham City Council approves £300m cuts and 21% rise in tax over two years

Birmingham City Council has approved plans to hike council tax by 21% over the next two years.

More than 50 councillors also voted in favour of £300m in cuts over the same period.

The Unite union described the move as "devastating for Birmingham council's workers and the entire city" - while anti-cuts demonstrators held a protest through the city.

It comes after the local authority effectively declared bankruptcy last year after being hit with an estimated £760m bill to settle equal pay claims.

In September, town hall officials issued a section 114 notice, confirming that all new spending, with the exception of protecting vulnerable people and statutory services, must stop immediately.

During a debate on the plans, council leader John Cotton apologised to residents for the "unprecedented" cuts.

The Labour councillor said: "It is not a budget I ever envisaged for our city. Sadly, however, it is a budget that reflects the significant challenges currently facing this council.

"Because the harsh reality is we must make cuts of over £300m over the next two financial years in order to receive exceptional financial support from government, and to meet the challenge set by commissioners.

"As the report before us states, that is unprecedented in scale and, for that, I unreservedly apologise to the people and communities of our city."

Conservative group leader Robert Alden said it was a budget "that shows just how badly Birmingham Labour have made a mess of the council's finances".

He added: "All Birmingham Labour have to offer is a double whammy of higher taxes and fewer services."

Under the measures, council tax will rise by 9.99% in the first year alongside a string of cuts to front-line services.

Street lights will also be dimmed to save £900,000, rubbish collections will become fortnightly to save £4m a year and highway maintenance spending will be slashed by £12m.

The five-hour council meeting was told the cuts were needed to secure £1.3bn in exceptional financial support (EFS) loans from the government.

In a post on X, Communities Secretary Michael Gove wrote: "Many more councils are not in the same position as Birmingham. The people in that great city have been terribly let down by Labour mismanagement."

Following the vote on Tuesday night, Unite's national officer for local authorities Clare Keogh said: "Vital public services are on the brink of being all but destroyed.

"This is the culmination of years and years of brutal budget reductions by central government.

"Birmingham council's workers, who have already suffered well over a decade of falling wages and whose efforts have ensured increasingly depleted services functioned, must not pay the price for a crisis they didn't create."

The Labour-run council is the largest local authority in Europe.

Fears over impact of cuts

The Gilgal women and children's refuge in Birmingham is among those under threat from the cuts.

The centre, which is for victims of domestic abuse, receives 80% of its funding from the council.

Chief executive Sanja Kalik said its contract with the authority was up for renewal this year and there are worries the refuge will lose its funding.

She told Sky News: "Our services are not cheap, but one day at a mental health institution costs between £1,000 to £2,000 per day, and we don't want them [the women] there. They've had years of rape and abuse. They deserve better."

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Gilgal resident 'Sarah' came to the refuge with her young child after leaving her abusive partner.

Asked what would have happened to her without it, she said: "I think I'd be dead, in all honesty.

"I was in denial, but coming here... it's helped me face the truth and I've learnt more about myself and what I can do.

"The support is something that was really needed. [It's] a safe space where I can be myself and face the trauma that I went through."

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Katie Ghose, chief executive of Kids, which runs nurseries nationally for children with special educational needs, said she was also concerned.

The charity does not get the bulk of its funding from the council but is still worried about how the cuts will affect children and families in the region.

She said: "The cuts that are to come could mean we see no services at all in our local communities. And we worry about the devastating impact that will have on children now and in the future."