Star comment: Birmingham City Council allowed to slide for too long
There is a considerable difference between the fortunes of a teetering private business like Wilko and Birmingham City Council.
Wilko, a private company, runs out of money and calls in administrators as it faces the end of the line.
Birmingham City Council, a publicly-funded authority, runs out of money and issues a Section 114 notice that it can no longer balance the books, but will keep operating, with its leaders presumably keeping their jobs.
We have to note the difference in accountability.
Wilko’s bosses have had to be accountable by law. If their business cannot pay creditors, the appropriate solutions must be sought. Birmingham Council, in contrast, has been running on fumes for a long while, with little hope of remedying the situation.
The council will point to the cost of equal pay claims. Its critics will point to a hugely expensive IT revamp.
It is clear, however, that things have gone horribly wrong in Birmingham over a long period of time and now the reality of the situation is being made clear.
Issues affecting Birmingham are hitting other councils, which also face bills for equal pay claims, yet have only limited ways to raise revenue. The issue of austerity is also at play, with services cut to the bone and little room to move.
The process of forcing an ailing council to report difficulties must also be looked at. A council in trouble has a duty to report its problems at the earliest opportunity so that a plan can be put in place to address them.
Birmingham Council was allowed to operate for too long in a position of effective bankruptcy.
Gradually, our wartime generation is disappearing. It is right that fulsome tributes are made to the likes of Margaret Betts, who was one of the last surviving female Bletchley Park codebreakers.
Those who fought in the Second World War or joined the war effort at home are remarkable and have so much to offer us today in terms of the skills, sacrifice and the heroism they showed. We can learn much from the valiance and courageousness they showed, while also taking heed of the make-do-and-mend manner in which they approached life.
The generation that fought was stoic and tough, it was disciplined and community-minded. As we observe our allies in Ukraine, we notice similar qualities today. Those who went before made the ultimate sacrifice and fought for the freedoms that we enjoy today.
They must not be forgotten.