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Archive « Birmingham Trades Union Council

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BTUC Delegate Meeting Guest speakers 4th april 2019

Young environmental activists speaking about their actions to protect the environment

Councillor Waseem Zafar Cabinet member for Transport & Environment
Councillor Waseem Zafar in Q&A Birmingham TUC 4th April 2019

Spirit of 1868 – 150 years of union struggles


Care Workers Dispute BTUC Press Release

The Birmingham TUC (BTUC) along with Birmingham Against The Cuts (BATC) say enough is enough of the continuing disgraceful treatment meted out to the City’s care-workers of whom 95% are women on low pay.

 Their dispute has gone on for some 15 months unresolved along with 60 days of strike action, whilst the Labour controlled council resolved the Bin workers dispute but has allowed the debacle of care-workers who also suffer changes in their work contracts with cuts in pay to continue.

These care-workers need the fullest public and trade union support to assist in their just claim of returning to their original terms and conditions in order to provide a service to this city’s needy who will be unable to afford private assistance.

The BTUC and BATC call upon Birmingham City Council to resolve this dispute as quickly as possible.

25 March 2019

BTUC Conference on Brexit and its impact in Birmingham and the West Midlands

Jack Dromey speaking on the impact of Brexit in Birmingham and the West Midlands
Jack Dromey in Q&A on Brexit and its impact in Birmingham and the West Midlands

Councillor Fred Grindrod speaking on Brexit and its impact in Birmingham and the West Midlands

David Hearne researcher, Centre for Brexit Birmingham City University

Q&A with David Herne and Fred Grindrod on Brexit and its impact in Birmingham and the West Midlands
Graham Stevenson leading local Trade Unionist speaking on Brexit and its impact in Birmingham and the West Midlands

Tackling the Climate Emergency Presentation Outline for Birmingham TUC 7/Feb/2019

What is the “Climate Emergency” and how can organised labour help to tackle it?  This short presentation by a member of Climate Action Network West Midlands will explain the issues, evidence and consequences of “global warming”.  Some of the approaches and initiatives of labour organisations in the UK and globally will be outlined.  The meeting will then discuss how we can organise at city / regional level to tackle the problem.

The scientific evidence is very clear – our industrial society is damaging the natural systems we depend on to survive.  If we carry on burning fossil fuels, generating vast quantities of waste and ruining our soil and water, then millions of lives are at risk.  Poor and vulnerable people world-wide are already suffering.  Ultimately, there is a risk our civilisation could collapse as all previous civilisations have done.

This dystopian future is avoidable, if we act quickly and decisively.  Organised labour has always worked towards a fairer, healthier and safer society.  Collective action to tackle the Climate Emergency and other threats to our environment will also support our broader goals.

Mike Shakespeare speaking on precarious workers in the 21st Century

Mike Shakespeare speaking on Precarious working conditions including zero hour contracts Jan 2019
Mike Shakespeare in Q&A with BTUC delegates on precarious working conditions

Brief Review and assessment of Councils Budget Proposal 2019

Have your say on the Council Budget – 

How the Council’s Budget will increase inequalities in the city

In their Introduction to the Council’s 61-page Budget Consultation 2019+ document Councillors Ian Ward and Brigid Jones, Leader and Deputy, say:

This continues to be the most challenging period in Birmingham City Council’s history. Funding for vital services to support the people of Birmingham has reduced by more than £690 million since 2010, with a further £86 million reduction to come over the next four years. (p4)

The document contains some shocking facts about the impact of these cuts in Government funding (p10):

  • CHILDREN IN POVERTY 42.3% More than 2 in 5 children
  • INFANT MORTALITY  7.9 Birmingham 3.9 National average
  • 129,000 children (0–15year olds) live in the bottom decile households
  • FUEL POVERTY  Birmingham is ranked 1st for total number of fuel poor households, and 4th for proportion of fuel poor households
  • LIFE EXPECTANCY  The difference between most affluent and most deprived areas: 10yrs less for men 7.6yrs for women

These are the brutal consequences of the Tory government’s policies. For the Tories they are just the collateral damage of their programme of austerity. For the Labour Council they should be the subject of an uncompromisingly damning indictment in its Budget report. But they aren’t. There is not a single word of blame for the Government.

For example, you might expect the page headed ‘The national context for Birmingham’s budget’ to explain that it has been imposed on the Council by a Tory government committed to savage ongoing cuts in public spending as part of its neoliberal agenda of paring local government services to the bone and handing over public services to private companies to make profit out of.

But there is not a hint of this. Instead there is a paragraph listing the increases that the government has been forced to make to compensate for the crises in local government provision resulting from  government cuts where the private sector hasn’t thought it profitable enough to step in:

The Autumn Budget announcements on 29 October 2018 saw additional £650 million in grants to local authorities for social care – recognising the ongoing pressures on services to some of the most vulnerable in our society. Along with increased investment for local authorities to tackle fly-tipping; meeting air quality obligations; deal with flood prevention and £420 million of additional funding for local authorities for addressing road maintenance plus other smaller sums for local road improvements. (p11)

You might also perhaps expect some mention in a Labour Council budget document that a Labour government would end austerity and begin to restore the proper funding of local councils. But there is none.

The explanation is that the Council’s budget document is a marketing strategy aimed not just at voters but at business. It is designed to present a rosy picture of the future of Birmingham to convince voters and business that even if one in three children live in poverty, business prospects are good and some of the wealth will trickle down eventually. As Councillors Ward and Jones say in their Introduction, “However, there are reasons for optimism in Birmingham and this city is currently attracting record levels of investment”. They don’t say where the investment is going – city centre office blocks and expensive apartments, not regeneration of the run-down suburbs.

In the meantime what will the Council do? The page headed ‘Meeting the challenge: purpose, priorities and service redesign’ says that “Key roles identified for the Council include: Concentrating resources in areas where there is the greatest need, in partnership with others.” (p8). 

The impact of the budget cuts

The Council carries out an ‘Equality Analysis’ of the impact of budget cuts. The Council says “It is important to fully understand the impact of the budget proposals on equality groups. The Council, working with others, will need to take action to mitigate the collective impact of any such proposals.” (Birmingham City Council Report to Cabinet 13 November 2018. Item 6 BUDGET CONSULTATION 2019+). Here are the details:

9.6 Public Sector Equality Duty

9.6.1 Each service area is required to undertake the Council’s Equality Analysis on each of the budget proposals, and to have ‘due regard’ to their duties under the Equality Act 2010 before a policy decision is taken by both Full Council in February 2019 and before a decision to implement that policy is then taken by Cabinet/Cabinet Member/Corporate Director which might affect those with relevant characteristics.

9.6.2 An initial high level analysis of the budget proposals has identified that these proposals are likely to impact on particular groups with protected characteristics. Further assessments will be undertaken through the budget consultation process to support detailed impact analysis including exploration of mitigation measures.

9.6.3 The Equality Impact Assessments will be considered by Members before any decisions are made as to the final proposals to be included in the final Budget report to Council. A cumulative equality assessment of the impacts across proposals will also be available with the final budget report for cabinet and full council.

What are these’ protected characteristics’? They are listed in the BUDGET SAVINGS PROPOSAL 2019/20 High Level Initial Cumulative Equality Impact Assessment:

• Age

• Disability

• Gender reassignment

• Marriage and civil partnership, but only in respect of the requirements to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination.

• Pregnancy and maternity

• Race – ethnic or national origins, colour or nationality

• Religion or Belief – including lack of belief

• Sex (Gender)

• Sexual orientation.

There is one startling omission from this list: social class. One in three Birmingham children live in poverty, but this is not a ‘protected characteristic’ of equality. But bearing in mind the Council’s commitment about ‘Concentrating resources in areas where there is the greatest need’, let’s examine some of the proposed cuts to see who they impact on most.

Withdrawal of Funding from School Crossing Patrols

The provision of School Crossing Patrols will depend on the decisions of individual schools, and over time the pattern of staffed crossings will vary across the City reflecting schools’ (and parents) ability and willingness to pay for the service.

School Crossing Patrols tend to be concentrated in more urbanised areas of the City, which are likely to correlate to significant minority ethnic populations, including newly arrived communities and those with support needs.

Schools in wealthier areas may more easily raise funding to voluntarily pay for Wardens and this may mean that children in more economically deprived circumstances may be disadvantaged (although poverty is not in itself a protected characteristic there are correlations with disability and the City’s ethnic demographics). The rate of fatal and serious injuries  to children (aged 5 to 9) living in the 20% most deprived areas is nine times higher than in the 20% least deprived. 170 of the 189 P1 sites are located in the worst five quintiles of deprivation in the country (IMD 2015) with almost half of those in the worst 10% and a quarter in worst 5% ie the most intensely deprived communities. (Cumulative Equality Impact Assessment, pp11-12)

So stopping funding of crossing patrols will hit the poorest areas most – working class areas mostly with substantial ethnic minority populations, where the risk of injuries to children are far higher than well-off areas, and where schools and parents are much less likely to be able to afford to pay for crossing wardens.

Legal Entitlement & Advice Service (LEAS)

The proposal is to cease the Legal Entitlement and Advice Service budget, used to commission Third Sector partners to deliver independent advice relating to welfare benefits, debt management and employment through open door access at Saltley Advice Centre, the Citizens Advice Birmingham service point in Corporation Street, Birmingham Settlement in Aston and Spitfire Advice Services in Castle Vale.

By the very nature of the service it is accessed by some of the most vulnerable people of Birmingham.

Proposal to cease LEAS budget, which is a non-statutory service, would lead to a reduction in the level of provision available which would have impact on local advice provider’s capacity to meet the demands for services to children and vulnerable older people affected by the Welfare Reform Act. . (Cumulative Equality Impact Assessment, pp15-16)

Who is hit hardest? It’s ‘some of the most vulnerable people of Birmingham’ including ‘services to children and vulnerable older people’.

Travel Assist

Birmingham’s Travel Assist Service was established to fulfil the Council’s statutory duty to make transport arrangements for eligible children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and to provide free transport to eligible children based on distance, safe walking routes and low income.

The majority of the children using the service have requirements related to SEND but the service also supports looked after children; children in temporary accommodation and other vulnerable groups.  (Budget Consultation 2019+ Children and Young People document pp10-11)

The aim is to shift responsibility as much as possible to the children and young people themselves and their families. While these alternative arrangements will be assessed, it is inevitable that they will disadvantage many children with vulnerable children and young people.


When the proposed saving of £0.234m is removed this will leave £182,000 to spend on new books a 56% reduction.

* Approximately 25,000 new books purchased each year compared to the current 50,000 new books purchased each year at a cost of £0.182m p.a. (Budget Consultation 2019+ Place, p46)

Again, it is the least well-off families who will be most affected because they are less likely to be able to afford to buy books that the libraries will no longer supply.

These cuts will increase the already wide equality gaps that divide the city

These are just some of the cuts that will increase the already wide equality gaps that divide the city. There is one more that isn’t part of this year’s budget – the decision was made in 2017 – but is being implemented right now: the sell-off or closure of the Council‘s 14 Day Nurseries, serving some of the poorest areas of the city.

The Council says ‘Further assessments will be undertaken through the budget consultation process to support detailed impact analysis including exploration of mitigation measures.’ But the assessment the Council has already made in the examples above, all of which admit damaging increases in inequalities, demonstrate that the Council has made the wrong choices about where to save money. 

According to the Budget Consultation 2019+ document the Council has a controllable budget of £1.1billion. There must be savings that can be made in less damaging areas, such as support for business, or the Council subsidies to the Commonwealth Games. It’s a question of priorities. And if the Council can’t find them, they should open the books to a Public Inquiry into the Council’s finances and let the citizens of Birmingham decide the priorities.

Where you can find the Council documents

Budget Consultation 2019+ and Lists of cuts by directorates


Budget Consultation 2019+ https://www.birminghambeheard.org.uk/economy/bccbudgetconsultation2019/supporting_documents/BCC%20Budget%20Consultation%202019%20Nov%202018%20FINAL.pdf

BUDGET SAVINGS PROPOSAL 2019/20 High Level Initial Cumulative Equality Impact Assessment


Council’s Report to Cabinet 13 November 2018


Birmingham City Council Report to Cabinet 13 November 2018



The Birmingham City Council led by the Labour Group claims its vision for the future of Birmingham is for a city ofgrowth, in which every child, citizen and place matters – a great city to growup and grow old in, where people are healthier, communities grow stronger, anddecent housing provides a strong foundation in which to raise families andbuild careers. We as citizens of Birmingham needs to hold our council to its proclaimed vision that delivers for our diverse communities in Birmingham. 

Birmingham Council claims it need to make big savings – because of the unprecedentedfinancial challenges we face – as well as big plans. So we want to know ifwe’re making the right choices for you and your family. We as citizens need to give our view on the neccesity to make big savings and we need to demand that the savings should not be made in areas that have most detrimental effect on those most vulnerable. 

The budget consultation launched on 13 November 2018, and itwill run until 31 December 2018. We need to have more interctive public consultations that we use to have few years ago. Just one public consultation which is already over subscribed is totally inadequate in the one of the larget council, if not the largest cuncil in Europe.  

You can read details of the proposals, and please fill in a short survey online.

You can also read factsheets for individual directorates below:

Adult Social Care and Health – all proposals

Children and Young People – all proposals

Chief Executive and Assistant Chief Executive – all proposals

Cross cutting – all proposals

Economy – all proposals

Finance and Governance – all proposals

Human Resources – all proposals

Place – all proposals

Strategic Services – all proposals

Budget Savings Proposal 2019-20 EIAs overview summary

Public meeting

We will hold a public meeting on 19 December.

There are no places available and you are put onto a waiting list f you try and register.

In the previous years, there used to be several public budget consultation meetings across the city where the Council Leadership was questioned on its budget proposals and hold accountable. This has now been reduced to just one in the city centre and id already oversubscribed. There is an obvious demand for these public consultations. Should the Council reconsider these.

Funding for vital services to support the people of Birmingham has reduced by more than £690 million since 2010, with a further £86 million reduction to come over the next four years.

One of the biggest shifts we must make is to move from  directly delivering services to a position where we use our resources to enableand facilitate others. This means a much greater focus on collaboration andpartnerships.

Projects such as the fast-emerging £700 million Paradise Development, the exciting Smithfield Development and the £1 billion Curzon Investment Plan will create jobs and opportunities for the city’s young and growing population. In four years we will host the 2022 Commonwealth Games which will showcase Birmingham on an international stage; we also want it to be a catalyst that brings everyone together to focus on making this city the best it can be. It is a tremendous opportunity for all sectors to benefit and will bring investment and jobs into the region as well as improvements in infrastructure. We know that it will be a festival for Birmingham of culture and sport.

How you can have your say: The formal budget consultation for 2019+ closes on 31 December 2018. To let us know what you think fill in our online survey at www.birminghambeheard.org.uk. You can also join the conversation online: #BrumBudget19.

Yet funding cuts and significant local expenditure pressures will have required annual savings totalling over £690 million over the eight years to 2018/19.

Our forecasts of future Council Tax include: • An increase of 2.99% in Council Tax in 2019/20 and 1.99% in later years • The continued take up of the ability to raise a “Social Care Precept” by increasing Council Tax by a further 2% in 2019/20 to provide extra funding to meet the costs of social care. This would result in a combined increase in Council Tax of 4.99% in 2019/20.

Taking all these factors together, the further savings that we now need to make (on top of the annual savings totalling about £690 million that the Council has already made from 2010/11 up to 2018/19) are £86 million, as summarised in the table below. This will mean that we will have reduced spending on services to residents and businesses by total annual savings of around £775 million over the twelve year period. We have previously consulted on some of the savings which are already included in the Council’s financial plans.

The proposals generally has following emphasis.

  1. Get the third sector to engage in some of the services the Council provides.
  2. Centralise some of the services reducing costs.
  3. For example, Petrol crossing will only be supported where schools or other third parties agree to pay the cost.
  4. There will be a third reduction in grant support to the major arts and cultural organisations and community programmes.
  5. New book purchases for the Library are being reduced by 50% from 50,000 to 25,000 books.
  6. Travel Assist programs for children with special needs will be reduced. Children will be made to travel independently at younger age than they do now and made to get to pick up points independently. While these may be appropriate in some cases, inevitably some families and children might not be able to cope with the rationalisation of Travel Assist proposed as part of the cost cutting.
  7. Adult Service users can be made to contribute towards their care costs. This has the potential of people not seeking support where they need it.

The following link summarises the proposed budget cost reductions.


I will encourage people to contact their councillors and ask why there are not more consultations across the city as used to be the case over several years. Only one public consultation meeting for a second city in the country with possibly the largest city budget in the country is grossly inadequate.

BTUC Delegate meeting Sharon Thompson Cabinet member for Housing speaking

The Magic Money Tree

BTUC October Delegate Meeting Thursday 4th October 7:30 pm Council House, Victoria Square Birmingham B1 1BB

The October delegate meeting will hear Paul Kelemen discussing Where does the Labour party adopting the IHRA definition on antisemitism leave the politics of anti-racism?

What has unfurled this vehement denunciation of the left for antisemitism? Only late last year, the largest survey on attitudes in Britain to Jews and Israel published by the Institute of Jewish Policy Research (IJPR) concluded that a ‘relatively small group of the general population can justifiably be described as antisemitic’ and that ‘the very left-wing are, on the whole, no more antisemitic than the general population, but neither are they less antisemitic’. A still more recent YouGov survey showed that since Jeremy Corbyn has been the Labour party leader, antisemitism has declined among Labour voters.

Among Conservative voters, the decline over the same period to this question was much smaller and the overall levels of prejudice much higher: 31 percent in 2015, and 27 percent in 2017. Opinion polls give, at best, a rough assessment and opinions are fluid but the decline of antisemitism among Labour voters probably results from younger people, more at ease with multiculturalism, indentifying, in greater numbers, with Labour since Corbyn has become leader. Whatever the reason, it belies the ideological assault to drum into public consciousness that the party and its supporters released from the grip of New Labour’s rightwing agenda are descending into antisemitic bigotry

The frenzied campaign that purports to have detected a tidal wave of leftwing antisemitism has another objective. It is aimed at closing down debate on Israel’s continuing settlement expansion and military occupation aimed at preventing Palestinian self-determination by fragmenting the Palestinian population into ghettos, fenced off behind walls, barriers and army checkpoints and deprived of adequate land, water, housing, medical services and opportunities for work.

On 18th July of this year, in the midst of the media frenzy over Labour’s alleged anti-semitism, the New York Times reported that after over five decades of illegal occupation of the West Bank, ‘Israel has marked out hundreds of thousands of acres as public land, and it has allocated almost half of them for use. But only 400 of those acres 0.24% of the total allocated so far – have been earmarked for Palestinians… the other 99.76% of the land went to help Israeli settlements.’ The process of dispossession that is taking place in the West Bank replicates what occurred in the land area that now constitutes the state of Israel. On the eve of the 1948 war that led to the foundation of Israel, 93% of the land was in Palestinian ownership. Currently, Palestinians living in Israel, forming 20% of the population,

own just 3%. In addition, Israel has seized from the Palestinians: 10,000 shops, 25,000 family houses, 95% of olive groves and 50% of citrus groves.

The allocation of Palestinians resources to an incoming Jewish population, whether in Israel or in the West Bank, follows from the principle of building a ‘Jewish state’, the essence of which is to prioritise the needs of its Jewish population over those of the Palestinian inhabitants. The discrimination between Jewish settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank is still more blatant. Since 1967, this has been a new frontier of colonisation where the two populations are governed by different laws and where the Israeli state promotes settlement expansion for its Jewish citizens while concentrating the Palestinians into ever smaller enclaves. The Israeli geographer, Oren Yiftachel, writing in 2006, pointed out that the Israeli state has built, since 1948, over 700 housing development areas for its Jewish population but not a single one for Palestinians under its rule. Israel, he argues, is an ‘ethnocracy’. Unlike the South African apartheid system, Israel does not operate the petty forms of separation in public spaces such as on buses, in restaurants and entertainment venues but it discriminates on grounds of ethnicity in the state’s allocation of resources, be that in land, state jobs, housing or regional development. In every sphere Palestinians are marginalised and have second class status.

Given these realities, why should left-wing criticism of the Israeli state elicit such controversy? In part this is the product of the Labour party’s historic support for the Zionist movement. This dates back to the 1920s, when the Zionist movement along other forms of European expansion into the unindustrialised world, was seen as a ‘civilising’ force and one that for many socialists seemed to have the added advantage of introducing trade unionism and co-operative agriculture. Few in the Labour party, in this period, objected to these labour organisations excluding Arabs in order to develop a separate Jewish economy. For the Zionist movement, nationalism trumped socialism. Its project was not to have Jews live alongside Arabs but to remove the indigenous people as European colonisation had earlier, for example in north America and Australia.

The Labour party’s historic support for the Zionist project was given added force by the Holocaust. Israel’s establishment was widely seen as Western civilisation’s atonement for the Nazi mass murder of Jews, though it was at the expense of the Palestinians who had paid no part in the genocide. But if Israel is meant to symbolise atonement for the worst crime of modern racism it can be rightly expected to represent the negation of racism. Instead, the Israeli state is based on ethno-nationalism, also propounded by the governing elites of Hungary and Poland, which define national belonging as rooted in ‘blood’ relations,

from which then derive political and economic privileges denied to those deemed to be of a different origin.

Ethno-nationalism is the main ideological seedbed of contemporary racism in all its forms and, yet, the bizarre consequence of adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism is to make more difficult calling for the Israeli state to be transformed into a multi-ethnic state, with equality for all its citizens. Without that, however, there is no prospect of realising lasting peace in the Middle East.

Paul Kelemen is the author of The British Left and Zionism,History of a Divorce (Manchester University Press, 2012)