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Linked to a £760m bill to settle equal pay claims, as the largest local authority in Europe, Birmingham City Council issued a Section 114 notice preventing all but essential spending to protect core services.

It followed the council's financial pressures also said to be due to problems with the implementation of its Oracle IT system. Intended to streamline council payments and HR systems, the flagship system was expected to cost £19m but after three years of delays it was revealed in May it could cost up to £100m.

The Section 114 notice, which means that a local authority has judged itself to be in financial distress and can no longer balance its budget, was said to have set out to be able to build a stronger city for its residents, with a promise to protect the, what they describe as “the most vulnerable". This follows a 2012 Supreme Court ruling, which found in favour of mostly female council employees, where a bonus scheme that was handed out to staff in certain roles favoured those which were mainly taken up by men.

The council added that its interim director of finance, Fiona Greenway, had issued the Section 114 notice, which confirmed there were insufficient resources to meet the equal pay expenditure and there were no other means of meeting the liability. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of 174 mostly female employees - working in roles such as teaching assistants, cleaners and catering staff - who had missed out on bonuses which were given to staff in traditionally male-dominated roles such as refuse collectors and street cleaners.

The leader of the Labour run council said he only learned of the financial crisis at the same time as other councillors during Tuesday morning's cabinet meeting. In a statement, Council leader, Councillor John Cotton and the deputy leader, Sharon Thompson, described the move as “a necessary step” as they went on to say that they were seeking to get the city “back on a sound financial footing."

In the statement, Mr Cotton and Ms Thompson said: "It is clear that Birmingham City Council faces unprecedented financial challenges, from huge increases in adult social care demand and dramatic reductions in business rates income, to the impact of rampant inflation,"

"We implemented rigorous spending controls in July, and we have made a request to the Local Government Association for additional strategic support." The authority went on to say that a further extraordinary meeting will be held on 26 September, and negotiations with the government's Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) will continue over the coming months to determine an approach to financing the liability.

The statement read: "Birmingham City Council has issued a s.114 notice as part of the plans to meet the council's financial liabilities relating to equal pay claims and an in-year financial gap within its budget which currently stands in the region of £87m.

"In June, the council announced it had a potential liability relating to equal pay claims in the region of £650m to £760m, with an ongoing liability accruing at a rate of £5m to £14m per month. The council is still in a position where it must fund the equal pay liability that has accrued to date [in the region of £650m to £760m], but it does not have the resources to do so."

It added: "The council's senior officers and members are committed to dealing with the financial situation and when more information is available it will be shared. Mr Cotton said: "My priority now is ensuring that we have a financial recovery plan in place that can meet the great demands that are placed upon the council and continue to provide the services that the city relies on."

The leader confirmed that the council was working with the union to introduce a thorough job evaluation scheme to settle the equal pay row by April 2025. He insisted that despite the bleak outlook, Birmingham still had a bright future ahead with "an economy that is growing and creates great opportunities for everybody".

In his response, Conservative opposition leader on the council, Robert Alden, stated that the authority had failed to show the proper speed and urgency needed to tackle equal pay.

He said: "Labour's failure in Birmingham has become clear for all to see. What Labour pledged as a golden decade ahead to voters in 2022 turns out to be based on budgets in 20/21 and 21/22 that did not balance and were unfunded.

“Combined with Birmingham Labour's refusal to deal with equal pay over the last decade this has created this mess where residents will now lose valuable services and investment." Liberal Democrat group leader Roger Harmer added: "Every one of Birmingham's citizens will feel the pain of this decision as we move into unchartered waters." Also in response, the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, described the news as deeply disturbing for residents, before calling for an inquisition into what has happened.

"It is no secret that local authorities up and down the country have faced significant cuts over the past decade - even if the funding from Government has been improving in recent years - and it has been a real challenge to keep services running to the standard that people expect," he said. "However,” he went on: “the huge majority of councils of all political colours are managing to achieve this, with bankruptcy extremely rare."

Professor Tony Travers, a specialist in local government at the London School of Economics, said Birmingham City Council faced financial difficulties for more than a decade due to equal pay and other challenges.

"Birmingham is a very important city within Britain and it is essential for the whole country that its services are good and that the city is seen to be motoring forward," he said. "The risk is that the city council's provision of services will be trimmed further and further back and that has consequences not only to what the city looks like and feels like to live in, but also the reputational hit to the city as well."

He added: "People around the city don't need to worry that their bins aren't going to be emptied or that social care doesn't carry on.

"It will mean that no new spending can be committed, so there's nothing additional from here on. But it also points to the fact that the budget for next year, 2024/25, will be terrifically difficult and it is not a problem that is going to go away."

The council has paid out almost £1.1bn in equal pay claims since the landmark case was brought against the authority in 2012. The authority said that the cost of the pay claims was increasing at a rate of £5m to £14m per month and it must fund the liability accrued to date but did not have the resources to do so.

Council leader, Cotton, insists that they would continue to deliver on essential services like children's safeguarding and social care, social care for adults, education, waste collection, road maintenance and library services for the city's 1.1 million taxpayers.


Last year some 45,000 migrants crossed the English Channel and landed on the southern coast of the country, in search of better life chances. Despite the government’s promises and rhetoric of taking control of it borders, the last two years have seen a steady increase in the number of migrants and a corresponding spiralling number of asylum cases needing to be processed. Brexit was supposed to tackle this. The Rwanda plan was supposed to address this. The latest government strategy is the arrival of the barge. This large vessel will be able to accommodate about 500 people. The central concern however, is whether this latest strategy will significantly help to reduce the number of migrants crossing the Channel and, as the Prime Minister says. ‘stop the boats’, or simply be ignored by those seeking to enter the country.

Britain’s difficulties in significantly reducing the number of illegal migrants crossing the Channel, and simultaneously processing the back log of asylum seekers appear to be worsening. The government claims it needs to prioritise strategies that limit the pull factors attracting asylum seekers to Britain. The government is trying to make the crossing of the channel less attractive, because there are more than 50,000 people currently living in hotels after they made the final part of their journey in small dinghies across the English Channel. For the migrants, Britain seems like a soft touch. If they can get into this country they will be treated better than in France, Libya or Tunisia etc.   

The government claims that part of its strategy must involve making Britain, in theory at least, less attractive to economic migrants entering the country illegally. To this end, the latest plan involves moving some asylum seekers onto a large residential barge on its southern coast, as part of plans to employ cheaper alternatives to hotels. This should be a temporary accommodation while asylum claims are processed. This will represent a significant step down from the luxury hotels many were living in at the tax payers’ expense. The government argues that the Bibby Stockholm Barge will only house single men and provide basic accommodation, along with healthcare provision, catering facilities and onboard security.

That the government needs to tackle the illegal migrants coming into the country, goes without saying. Making it increasingly difficult for those arriving in small boats to stay in Britain is a start. The problem is, however, whether this barge is merely symbolic or the beginning of a genuine process of solving this problem. To address the issue of processing the 50, 000 asylum seekers, as well as the tens of thousands entering each year, we might need more than 100 barges operating simultaneously. The humanitarian side of the debate says we should process each person and then make decisions about who stays and who is returned. The more hardliners claim, that once the illegal migrants arrive, they should be returned immediately or certainly within a matter of days rather than months or years.

My suspicion is, that having one or even a few barges dotted around the country, might not prove to be an effective deterrent, as desperate people determined to leave their own countries, risking their own lives to get to Britain, will continue to do. In the end, it might not be the case of either or, but rather a need for both. More centres are probably needed to process the migrants as well as the simultaneous and significant increases in staff numbers, to process the both illegal migrants and legitimate asylum seekers and refugees. I would be very surprised if one barge could rescue this situation.

With thousands of UK holidaymakers having their flights home cancelled in recent days, many are worried if their extra costs will be reimbursed.

Families have reported forking out for food, accommodation and in some cases, alternative travel, due to the chaos. Rules exist for expenses to be claimed, but there appear to be some grey areas.

Figures suggest almost 2,000 flights to and from the UK have been cancelled due to a data glitch which hit the UK's air traffic control system. National Air Traffic Services (Nats), which controls most aircraft in UK airspace, said a rare system failure on Monday led to hundreds of flights being cancelled.

A family from London, spoke of how they are currently stranded in Turkey after their EasyJet flight from Antalya to Gatwick was cancelled on Monday. Samina Ahmed (in pic with family) is a school administrator and is missing out on work and a training course because of the delays.

The earliest flight home EasyJet initially offered the family was on 8 September - two days after her sons are due to return to school.

They were in Turkey for a family holiday but Samina, who is 17 weeks pregnant, feels "overwhelmed". She also says she has run out of medication she needs to take for her blood pressure.

She said that she was aware of another family who have rebooked a flight with a different company, but is worried she would not be reimbursed. "I just don't have that kind of money lying around," she said.

The Baker family are another among thousands of holidaymakers who have been affected. They were stranded in Palma, Majorca, when their EasyJet flight home to Brighton was cancelled on Monday.

They said that they were offered accommodation and a new flight in a week's time, but due to work and one of their daughters starting secondary school, they could not wait that long. Instead, the family embarked on an overnight ferry from the Spanish island to Toulon in France, where they are hoping to take three trains and another ferry to get back to Brighton by Thursday night.

Mr Baker said that he was unsure if they would be able to claim for the alternative travel. Excluding food costs, the family of four has forked out just under £1,000 so far on credit cards.

EasyJet has since offered Samina's family a flight back on 4 September, which she says is still too late. EasyJet apologised for the disruption in a statement and said that it was providing customers with assistance and hotel accommodation.

It added that it was advising anyone who has needed to make their own hotel or alternative travel arrangements that they will be reimbursed. It said due to it being a busy week for travel traditionally, its options for returning people to the UK were more limited on some routes so it was putting on five repatriation flights, as well as using larger aircraft with additional seats.

Rob Ward estimates that he is more than £2,000 out of pocket after his and his girlfriend's flight from Ibiza to London Heathrow on Monday was cancelled.