The dire warnings about the jaws of doom and the end of local government as we know it have been a regular feature on the Birmingham City Council calendar for the last few years.
But this week’s announcement seemed to up the ante, with the predictions of cuts now being upgraded.
Leader Sir Albert Bore told us that the total job losses at the council throughout the period of austerity would be equal to twice those lost during the 2005 Longbridge Rover collapse – which give some indication of the scale of the problem.
From 2011, when the then-deputy leader, Lib Dem Paul Tilsley, signed a letter warning of the ‘draconian’ cuts from the Department of Communities and Local Government, there has been a recognition from all sides of the council chamber that, in common with other big cities, Birmingham is not getting a fair deal.
Traditionally the cities have been given more government funding. This is because there are high levels of unemployment and deprivation which not only mean a lower council tax take and income, but also mean a higher reliance on the kinds of services provided by councils.
Thus the cities are disproportionately impacted by government cuts – even if those cuts are of the same proportion as a shire county council or district.
Team Birmingham, a delegation of city politicians from all parties, met with Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis earlier this year and attempted to negotiate a better deal, with staff from government and the city council asked to go through the numbers in detail.
This obviously fell on deaf ears as the Government has now indicated that the level of cuts demanded of Birmingham will increase in 2015/16.
Sir Albert’s Labour administration must now decide where the axe should fall – and it seems likely that 6,000 jobs will go, with as many as 3,000 going next year.
Back offices have been cut, buildings closed and sold off and much council activity, including care homes, road repairs, park maintenance and leisure facilities have been outsourced at lower or no cost to the taxpayer.
Many other departments have been pared down. So after four years of cuts Sir Albert rightly says they cannot go on as they have, some things will have to close or be severely cut down.
But at a press conference, he appeared reluctant to consider outsourcing the refuse collection department and, with stability being the order of the day at children’s social care as it tries to recover from its deep-seated problems, there seems little chance of cuts there.
What is more bizarre is that, far from defending the cuts from the Coalition Government, the local Tories and Liberal Democrats seem to have some sympathy with Sir Albert.
As Robert Alden says, this issue should be about Team Birmingham versus Team Westminster.
Amid all the talk around Scottish independence and devolution, Birmingham’s political leadership will be looking for similar powers and freedom from central Government as well as an end to their annual trip to Whitehall with the council begging bowl.
Having seen what the SNP are achieving north of the border, perhaps now the time is right to consider a Birmingham, or Birmingham and Black Country first political movement.
It used to be the case that journalists who dared to say anything negative about Cliff Richard would be inundated with hate mail from his legion of fans – even in the days of written letters (with green ink of course) before email and Twitter made complaints cheap and instant.
But now it appears their status as the most quick-to-anger lobby group has been superceded by the aggressive pro-cycling lobby.
Whether or not you agree with the comments made by Coun Deirdre Alden, critical of the investment of £23 million in cycling promotion in the city, she did not deserve the level of bile and spite which came back, amid the more reasoned arguments, from a large number of people.
She did say cyclists on our streets are predominantly young, white men and it was pointed out on the Birmingham Post’s Facebook page that the overwhelming majority of those responding were, in fact, male – perhaps proving her point.
Cyclists have the ear of policymakers and are getting massive investment in this city, so they don’t need to jump on every criticism.
Eyebrows have been raised over a Tory Party Conference fringe event taking place at the Lord Whitby Room in the Library of Birmingham.
Few would have realised that there was a room named in honour of the former Tory council leader – and, I have discovered, they were right to be in the dark.
It appears that Mike Olley, the manager of Broad Street BID which is hosting the event, also attended by Andrew Mitchell MP, had forgotten which room he had booked while submitting his listing for the conference brochure and so named the Lord Whitby Room.
He said: “If anyone deserves something naming after him at the library it is Lord Whitby. We are putting up a sign, so it will be the Lord Whitby Room for the two hours at least.”