Birmingham City Council’s deputy leader has spoken of his frustration and exasperation at the “draconian” budget cuts forced on the city by the Government.
Coun Paul Tilsley is among 91 Liberal Democrat councillors to sign a letter accusing Tory Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles of gunboat diplomacy and “shaking a stick” at councillors.
Coun Tilsley, deputy leader in Birmingham’s ruling Tory-Lib Dem partnership, said that those signing the letter had decided to go public after weeks of unsuccessful lobbying behind the scenes.
He said: “Eric Pickles has been very disparaging about the work of local government. It’s exasperating and frustrating when you are not being listened to.
“I have had meetings with Government ministers, up to the Deputy Prime Minister (Nick Clegg) and have been explaining that Birmingham is hit hard by the cuts because we are more dependent on central Government funding.”
Coun Tilsley (Sheldon) said that he had made a number of ‘helpful’ suggestions to ease the cuts burden, including allowing councils to borrow against the non-domestic rate value of future commercial development in the city, but these had been blocked.
It is thought Coun Tilsley would not have been able to sign the letter without the support of his Tory coalition partners.
The scathing letter was signed by 17 Lib Dem council leaders, including those from Newcastle, Milton Keynes, Hull and Warrington. They believe councils could absorb a seven per cent cut in central government grant, but would struggle with the 12 per cent reduction planned for the coming year.
The letter states: “These cuts will have an undoubted impact on all frontline council services including care services to the vulnerable.
“Rather than assist the country’s recovery by making savings to the public in a way that can protect local economies and the front line, the cuts are structured in such a way they will do the opposite.”
Lib Dem communities minister Andrew Stunell called on the party not to fall out over “pointless debate”.
He said the “woeful” deficit inherited from Labour meant “very tough times” for all public services.
“Whilst I fully understand the real challenges councils face I think it will be much better to direct all our energy to solving these problems rather than falling out between ourselves,” he said.