At the beginning of September Birmingham City Council declared itself bankrupt. Co-op Futures is proud to be working with Co-ops West Midlands on the Save Birmingham campaign. We don’t know what tack the Government appointed Commissioners will take to raise money or cut costs but it could be a fire sale (a sale at extremely discounted prices) of assets so, rather than stand by bemoaning their fate the campaign is giving people a voice.
#SaveBirmingham has been hugely successful in rallying communities around the things they hold dear, everything from local libraries to cemeteries and from war memorials to community centres. We’ve set up a website, printed leaflets, built a strong partnership with grassroots organisations, been interviewed on the TV and radio, met with local politicians, raised some funds and much more, all in the space of a few (exhausting) weeks. There’s more to be done, we need to move beyond voice to action. We are working with communities to take control, to own and run their local places. We need to find the levers that can make that happen, everything from the legal options like registering assets of community value to demonstrating the groundswell of local support.
Yes, mistakes were made but Birmingham is not the first council to declare bankruptcy and it won’t be the last. Every day we see things in the press about councils staring into a financial abyss over their responsibilities such as child protection or homelessness. After years of councils being underfunded who can be surprised. So, who’s next? It could be you!
In interviews people are often asked, ‘what advice would you give your younger self?’. In my case (i.e. in August!), I would say: You know it’s coming, be prepared, get off your arse and do something before it’s too late!
Jo White, Executive Director, Co-operative Futures