Did Common Purpose bring down Birmingham City Council?

Birmingham skyline featuring Bull Ring Rotunda
Birmingham skyline featuring Bull Ring Rotunda by Julian Osley is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

On 5th September 2023, news broke that Birmingham City Council was effectively ‘bankrupt’.

Birmingham City Council has admitted ‘defeat’ in its efforts to manage its financial crisis in-house – and has today issued a Section 114 notice. It means it cannot see a way forward in its battle to balance the books.

The news is a massive blow to the council, its staff and the city’s residents. It comes after a desperate attempt by officers to resolve the catastrophic financial straits the Labour-run council finds itself in. A massive equal pay liability – thought to now top £1 billion – along with the costs of putting right a disastrous IT implementation programme, and the rising costs of meeting demand for adult social care, the housing crisis and children’s services, have all taken their toll.

Attempts to stave off government intervention have included a recruitment freeze, a non-essential spending ban and a call to staff to apply to quit to cut wage bills. A Section 114 notice is the equivalent of a white flag surrender that officers cannot see a way out of the mess without support and intervention.

“‘Broke’ Birmingham City Council faces takeover threat as equal pay crisis triggers ‘bankruptcy'” – Birmingham Mail, 5th Sept 2023

Now, there have been all manner of hand-wringing exercises, with numerous news articles exploring “what went wrong”.

Birmingham City Council (BCC) has been Labour controlled since 2012. So naturally the first finger of blame gets pointed at the Conservative government for ‘underfunding’.

Yes, local councils probably have been underfunded, but the trick is to ensure that whatever funding you do receive is allocated and spent wisely.

And you should also ensure that all outstanding council tax owing is duly paid. In 2019, it was reported that BCC was owed £115.6m in outstanding council tax.

In March this year (2019), Birmingham council was owed a total of £115.6million in outstanding council tax.

This was a rise from £111million in 2017/18, and is up by almost a fifth compared to £98.5million in 2012/13.

This is a cumulative figure and includes arrears that may stretch back to the introduction of council tax in 1993.

Birmingham estimated that it could collect £382.6million last year – if everyone paid the council tax they were supposed to.

However, non-payments in 2018/19 totalled £21.4million – meaning an overall collection rate of 94.4%.

This was down from 94.5% in 2017/18 and is the council’s worst collection rate since 2007/08.

Most councils when they set their budgets do not expect to collect 100% of the council tax for which they bill residents, but lower than expected collection rates could leave a hole in the budget.

“Revealed: Birmingham City Council owed record amounts of council tax” – Birmingham Mail, 2nd Jul 2019

That was from 2019, so one can only imagine that figure is even higher now in 2023.

Common Purpose?

I have mentioned and written about this nefarious organisation here before, and you’ll find a wealth of information just by searching on Google.

If you’ve never heard of this sinister ‘charity’ before, the above link is a good place to start.

One of their ‘tricks’ is to misuse public funds, and local government is a great way to do that. Whether it is setting up a ‘charity’ offering community services, or winning contracts to carry out highway repairs or construction projects, money just simply flows out of the public purse into private hands.

Siphoning or ‘leeching’ as it is best called. Don’t worry about delivering best value for taxpaying residents, just ensure the recipients of tenders are being handsomely rewarded. One example of this I saw in the comments section earlier that is worth sharing here:

It’s nice work if you can get it. I’m reminded of a similar SEND fiasco at Sandwell council.

While I can’t prove that anyone at BCC is directly involved with Common Purpose, the signs are so obvious, that CP graduates have infested this local authority – as well as numerous others around the country – and are seriously undermining local democracy as well as wantonly misusing public funds for their own ends.

What happens next?

I don’t believe some of the claims being made by the Labour leadership at BCC.

I believe there WILL be a ‘firesale’ of assets owned by BCC. Yes, while statutory services will be ‘protected’, I fully expect a large number of assets and properties owned by BCC will end up having to be sold off.

Lets face it, this is how Common Purpose works? Selling off publicly-owned assets ‘on the cheap’ for the benefit of private ‘investors’.

Leisure centres and recreation facilities will probably be high on the list. BCC also owns a vast amount of housing.

At least there’s no more money for ‘vanity’ projects. Focus on getting the ‘basics’ right, like collecting the bins and fixing the potholes.