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LETTER: Tories aren't standing up for Birmingham

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Birmingham Labour MPs have written to the Conservative Group Leader on Birmingham City Council in an unprecedented call to end the cuts to our city. The MPs highlight the nearly £650m in budget cuts since 2010 and condemn the failure of the Conservatives to stand up to the Government.

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Dear Robert,

We, the nine Labour MPs in Birmingham, are writing to you in relation to our concern regarding the city’s Conservatives’ failure to stand up to its own Party’s Government and put the city first.

Since the Conservative-led Coalition’s austerity programme began in 2010, Birmingham has been consistently treated unfairly by Central Government across a range of public services. We have seen council budgets cut, police budgets slashed, education funding squeezed and the health service in a growing state of crisis as it is starved of the money it needs to properly support the city’s population.

Government funding for Birmingham City Council (BCC) has been cut by almost £650 million since 2010, the largest cuts in local government history. The Council anticipates having to make further cuts of £123 million by 2021/22. While there have been cuts to most councils across the country, they have disproportionately hit Birmingham and other areas of high deprivation hard. Since 2010, the ten most deprived local authorities in the country (including Birmingham) have lost seven times more spending power than the ten least deprived. Yet the alternative Tory BCC budget for 2018-19, including a four-year council tax freeze, would impose £120 million in additional cuts to the services the people of Birmingham rely on.  Labour has fought for seven years for a fair deal for Birmingham and fair treatment on funding. The city’s Tories have simply supported their Government, no matter what.

It is not just council budgets which have unfairly impacted on Birmingham. West Midlands Police has faced huge cuts of £145 million, culminating in the loss of more than 2,000 Police Officers and crime rising once again. Violent crime in particular is causing growing alarm in Birmingham. It has now been revealed that, according to the Home Office’s own police funding formula, the Force is being treated unfairly. If the formula - based on population and level of threat - was fairly applied, West Midlands Police would receive an extra £44 million per year. That would mean an extra 500 Police Officers and 100 more PCSOs, as well as allowing West Midlands Police to keep stations open. Instead, leafy Conservative homelands like Surrey are receiving more than they should. At a time when crime is rising across the West Midlands, the Police being denied the funding they deserve is to betray the first duty of any government, the safety and security of its citizens. The hypocrisy of the City’s Tories, who have failed to join us in arguing for fair funding, to then blame the Police Service for police station closures is breathtaking.

Educating Birmingham’s children is vital to ensure that the city benefits from future prosperity and economic growth, giving all kids the best start in life. Unfortunately, all we have seen from the Tories since 2010 is remorseless downward pressure on school budgets. Nationally, the National Association of Head Teachers has identified that £2bn extra funding per year has been needed since 2015 just to keep up with rising costs, and in Birmingham, 361 out of 364 schools are facing budget cuts. Last year, Head Teachers from 66 Birmingham schools wrote to the Prime Minister warning the looming “fairer funding” formula cuts would further damage their schools. The shortfall in budgets has not been addressed since. 98% of schools in Birmingham are facing budget cuts and our children deserve better. Still, silence from Birmingham’s Conservatives.

On top of that, Birmingham’s NHS is now mired in a financial crisis. The city’s NHS chiefs are being forced to find cuts of £155.5 million this year and £87 million next year. Together, two of the city’s key hospitals, along with the city’s primary care system – which funds GP’s and health visitors – are running in the red to the tune to nearly £23 million this year. In total, the city’s NHS now faces a gigantic £750 million black hole to fill by 2020. This has resulted in the number of people waiting more than four hours in A&E increasing by a staggering 127%. The NHS is one of our national treasures and yet Birmingham’s Tories continue to let the city down, allowing the Government to get away with cuts that harm the sick and the vulnerable.

Despite the Government's continued failure to address the adult social care crisis, Birmingham City Council will spend an extra £30.4m on adult services this year. The Local Government Association (LGA) estimates that Adult Social Care alone will require an additional nationally £2.3bn by 2019/20. Rather than take responsibility for the mess they’ve made of adult social care funding, they’re passing the bill onto already hard-pressed council tax-payers via the Social Care Precept. Even leading Tories are now telling their Government that adult care is in crisis. Izzi Seccombe, Tory chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, described current funding measures, such as the £2bn announced in the spring Budget and the council tax precept, as “sticking plasters” that will not prevent the social care funding gap reaching £2.3bn by 2020. Yet scarcely a peep from the city’s Tories.

Moreover, while failing to stand up for Birmingham, the Conservatives have been telling barefaced lies on their election leaflets, for example about Labour plans for the city’s bin collections. Labour has been forging ahead with the modernisation of the waste and recycling services to keep the City’s streets clean in the face of the scything cuts to the Council’s budget since 2010. And, despite Tory scaremongering, Labour will keep weekly bin collections in Birmingham. Labour has given that commitment and that will not change. You know it. Yet the Tories continue lying to the public.

The UK’s second city deserves far more than the disregard which has been shown to it by the Conservative Party nationally and the Birmingham Conservatives locally. We can only provide public services, protect our citizens, educate our children, treat our sick and care for our vulnerable with fair funding. However, this has been denied. And to add insult to injury, the City is time and again short-changed in favour of the leafy Tory shires. We are calling on Birmingham Conservatives to, for once, stand up for the city and tell its Government that Birmingham cannot cope with further cuts to essential services.

Yours sincerely,

Jack Dromey

Member of Parliament for Birmingham Erdington

Preet Gill

Member of Parliament for Birmingham Edgbaston

Roger Godsiff

Member of Parliament for Birmingham Hall Green

Richard Burden

Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield

Khalid Mahmood

Member of Parliament for Birmingham Perry Barr

Steve McCabe

Member of Parliament for Birmingham Selly Oak

Shabana Mahmood

Member of Parliament for Birmingham Ladywood   

The Rt. Hon. Liam Byrne

Member of Parliament for Birmingham Hodge Hill

Jess Phillips  

Member of Parliament for Birmingham                            

Yardley            

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