Labour parks sale shock slammed by Tories

Claim that sell-off is needed to help cover up city’s finances.

Birmingham City Council’s plans to sell off park land to cover an £18 million black hole in its annual budget has come under criticism from the opposition Conservative group.

It’s claimed that papers due to be presented to next week’s Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee will show that the council is forecasting an £18 million overspend on its budget this year. This comes just months after a damning report from the city’s external auditors raised severe criticisms of its financial management.

Part of the response to the overspend contained within the report is to increase the amount of park land the council intends to sell off. There is already an existing and controversial budget proposal to sell eight acres a year, which risks some Birmingham residents not having access to public green open space.

Cllr Meirion Jenkins (Con, Sutton Mere Green), Shadow Cabinet Member for Resources said: “This is a council that has repeatedly shown itself to be incapable of looking after tax payers’ money. Despite several warnings from the auditors, it continues to mismanage its budget to such an extent that just two months into the new financial year, it is already failing to fully deliver nearly 60% of its own savings programme.

Residents, who have been hit with a 5% increase to their council tax bill this year, will have had to make financial adjustments to their own spending but the council, whose own budget has actually increased, lacks any such financial discipline.“

Cllr Debbie Clancy (Con, Longbridge and West Heath) the Leader of the Opposition Conservative Group, added: “Under the financial stewardship of Cllr Ian Ward, this council has continually failed to get a grip of its finances, with residents increasingly picking up the bill and paying the price through dirty streets and inadequate services.

“The latest plans, buried in a financial monitoring report, to sell off our city’s parks to compensate for this failure, are a slap in the face for the people of Birmingham. These parks belong to the city, not the city council and should not be used to cover the tracks for incompetent political leadership.”