Birmingham’s opposition Tory and Lib Dem parties have claimed they would have frozen the Council Tax and kept free garden waste collections for every household as they presented their alternative budgets to the city council.
Their calls came Birmingham’s ruling Labour group confirmed the package of £86 million cuts to council spending – including reductions in street cleaning, libraries, bulky waste and green waste collections and reductions in community services.
The city council’s annual showpiece meeting, the first attended by new council chief executive Mark Rogers since taking up the role, was twice interrupted by anti-cuts protesters calling for a deficit budget from the Labour leadership.
Two protesters had to be forcably removed from the council chamber as they shouted slogans at Labour council leader Sir Albert Bore during his budget speech.
It was a repeat of protests which disturbed last year’s meeting and the council leader was barely put off his stride.
Coun Bore (Lab, Ladywood) warned that already difficult cuts had been made under both Tory-Lib Dem, and Labour run councils, and more would follow in future years under current Government spending plans.
“If we we are honest, we will all admit that we had to make difficult decisions, for example reducing street cleaning or funding the arts. I hope that all parties now recognise that these cuts pose a serious threat to our public services from next year onwards.”
He vowed to ‘prioritise the services to the most vulnerable and fight hard to protect people from the impact of cuts and benefit changes.”
Social care for the elderly and children would remain a priority he added. The Labour group also approved a two per cent council tax rise – or £23 a year for the average household.
But the opposition parties chose cuts to refuse collection and pothole repairs with which to target their attacks.
Conservative deputy leader Coun Robert Alden (Erdington) said: “This budget will leave us with more litter on the streets, more holes in our roads and less libraries and leisure centres for our citizens to use.”
Instead he proposed a £10 million saving on the council’s £1 billion procurement spending and the acceptance of a £3.3 million Government grant to freeze council tax.
The Lib Dems proposed a similar package saying that money could be used from council reserves of £223 million, and by cutting the roll out of wheelie bins to keep free grass cutting and bulky waste collections, as well as restore funds for local committees to spend on leisure centres, parks and libraries.
Ahead of the meeting about 150 protesters gathered in Victoria Square to call for the cuts to be withdrawn.