The British economy is facing a tough time, as residents of bankrupt Birmingham have observed: “It feels like everything is being taken away from us.”

The British economy is facing a tough time, as residents of bankrupt Birmingham have observed: “It feels like everything is being taken away from us.”

The UK economy is not doing well. Councils everywhere are on the verge of collapse. England’s second-largest city, Birmingham, is now bankrupt. “It’s scary. Everything we are proud of is being taken away from us.”

In September 2023, Birmingham City Council announced it was running out of money. Women, who had been paid less than their male colleagues for years, were demanding equal pay from the city. This £700 million demand ultimately killed the council.

Birmingham is bankrupt

In fact, this was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, as the UK economy had been in decline for over 10 years. Since Brexit, fewer and fewer companies have been investing in England, leading to lower tax revenues.

Partly for this reason, municipalities are receiving less and less money from the national government, sometimes as much as 40 percent less than budgeted, while the costs they have to bear to maintain cities and neighborhoods are only increasing.

Scary discounts

Two months ago, Birmingham City Council announced further cuts. They want to fill the gap by selling off city-owned buildings. “It’s really scary,” says Birmingham primary school teacher and lobbyist Kate Taylor. “It feels like everything we’re proud of has been taken away from us.”

But it doesn’t stop there, as Kate explains: “A total of 20 of our 36 libraries will have to close, social facilities will close. Day centres for people with disabilities will no longer be able to exist.” Many people in Birmingham are already struggling, living in deprived areas and barely making ends meet. “The impact on these vulnerable groups will be huge,” Kate predicts.

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“Where should they go next?”

One victim of the cuts is Maureen, 82, who cares for her 60-year-old daughter, Allison, who has multiple disabilities, day and night. “It’s like taking care of a little girl,” she says, tying her daughter’s shoelaces. Together they wait for the bus that takes Allison to and from the day center each day.

The day centre is now in danger of closing. “I’m angry, I’m so angry,” Maureen cried. “It’s like a second home for Alison, where she can see her friends and organise activities for them. If they can’t come here anymore, where will they go?”

troubled

Maureen doesn’t know what to do if the daycare does close. “It’s important not only for Alison, but for the caregivers,” she says.

“I really need these few hours a day. I can relax, have a cup of coffee, or lie down for an hour.”

“I feel abandoned”

The election is on July 4 in England. Maureen will vote, but she has no faith in the election or the new government. “It won’t change anything, I’m really disappointed,” she says. “I’d rather write a letter to the king, I hear he’s a kind person.”

According to her, the current state of England can be blamed on Brexit. “When we were still part of Europe, we could help and support each other. Now, as a small island, we are completely on our own.” Great Britain was once “great,” but Maureen no longer sees it that way. “If my circumstances allowed me to emigrate, I would.”

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Gleam of hope

But lobbyist Kate remains defiant, if a little hesitant. “I’ve been looking forward to this election for years,” she says. “I’m glad to see this Conservative government finally come to a halt. It’s been the most brazen government we’ve seen in decades.”

At the same time, Kate doubts whether the Social Democratic Labour Party, which according to opinion polls looks set to win the election, will do better. “Labour has not promised any more money for local authorities,” she explains. This means that her lobbying activities will not stop. According to Kate, you simply cannot provide social services with such a limited budget. “The government must realise this and give local governments more money.”

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