Birmingham in Crisis Over Commonwealth Funding | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Birmingham in Crisis Over Commonwealth Funding

Birmingham City Council has been in crisis talks after it was revealed that they have spent £117m of emergency reserves in just two years

After Durban was stripped of hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games due to financial issues, Birmingham’s finances are now being put under the microscope.

The Council, the largest local authority in Europe, has an annual budget of £3bn and is responsible for providing services - from transport to the city library - for millions of residents. Experts have suggested that in order to balance the books in this ‘very poor’ situation, saving money is the only option. This is highlighted by the fact that at one point in the year the Council had just £72m left - equivalent to just eight and a half days' funding.

At one point in the year the Council had just £72m left

In a recent debate, councillors criticised the situation, with one calling it ‘a total and absolute disaster’. The local Conservative leader, Robert Alden, said that the city was facing a ‘last chance saloon’ scenario. Conservative councillor Meirion Jenkins blamed the situation on a lack of leadership, stating that the Labour council has not 'grasped the significance' of the situation.

In a report obtained by The Sunday Times, there is a gap of £84m in the budget for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. In order for the Games to go ahead, there are a several projects that need to reach completion. The Alexander Stadium needs to be upgraded to a 50,000 seat capacity, the swimming pool and athletes' village still needs to be built, with a new metro and bus service also necessary to be put in place.

While the national government will pay 75% of the estimated £750m costs, £180m still needs to be raised locally. A report by accountants Grant Thornton states that the council must save £117m by 2022 in order to break even. In order to pay for the Games, residents of the West Midlands will pay up to £180m in taxes, with taxpayers across the UK contributing to a £560m national budget.

A key way Birmingham won the bid was by showing that they could raise part of the revenue to pay for the Games by introducing a hotel tax. This would add a small percentage onto each hotel bill, going directly to the local government. As well as this, a consortium of local institutions - including the University of Birmingham - will be involved in funding and supporting the Games.

A consortium of local institutions - including the University of Birmingham - will be involved in funding and supporting the Games

Just this week it was confirmed that hockey matches at the Games will be taking place at the University of Birmingham. The water-based synthetic pitches have undergone a £2m update and, during the Games, temporary seating for 5,000 spectators will be installed. UoB’s Edgbaston campus will also be the venue for the squash competition.

The University's recently-built £55m sports centre, however, will not host the Commonwealth Games swimming as, despite the pool being Olympic length (50m), it is too narrow to allow for the 10 lanes required for official competitions. Instead, a new £60m aquatic centre will be built in Sandwell to cater for the swimming and diving events in 2022, which will become the city's first Olympic-sized pool.



Published

28th October 2018 at 12:00 pm



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