What a ridiculous situation Birmingham’s Labour Councillors have got themselves in!
In a budget the size of some small countries’ budgets, the saving of £2.5 million to scrap the free garden waste collection is chicken feed. However the bad publicity this decision has given the Labour Group is monumental.
But still lead the Leadership plough on with it. Backbenchers and Labour MPs are more panicky though. The press talked of crisis meetings in the run up to the local elections. One Cabinet Member lost his seat and another almost did. The Labour Group Secretary was also beaten.
Then we had from the ridiculous scenario of Labour MPs and Councillors tweeting pictures of themselves outside Lifford Lane watching the queues of people waiting to get rid of their garden waste.
Yes, it made sense for the Cabinet Member and officers to visit the site to work out ways to improve the situation. But when you have MPs and Councillors who have NO executive powers to do anything about it, all jumping on the bandwagon and using it as a photo opportunity, then it smacks of them desperately wanting to be SEEN to be trying to do something, rather than actually solving the problem.
Now, this weekend, the Birmingham Mail carries a story of three Bordesley Green Labour Councillors, including the current Lord Mayor (isn’t he supposed to steer well clear of controversy?), helping to load green waste into skips which residents (completely fed up at the Council’s failure to rid their area of a mountain of green waste) shelled out £600 for. I hope the residents realise those same Labour Councillors voted FOR a green waste charge, and AGAINST a Conservative amendment which would have kept free garden waste collections in Bordesley Green and the rest of Birmingham. What hypocrites they look!
Meanwhile the last Council meeting saw the left wing argument put forward that the free garden waste collection was wrong because single mothers in maisonettes without a garden, were subsiding people in mansions with gardens. This outdated socialist argument completely ignores the fact that Council Tax is based on the size and amenities of your property – so those with a garden pay more than those without. And those with what Labour call a mansion, pay considerably more.
Besides which, if you follow that argument through, you could say that those without children are subsiding those who do by contributing to schools, those who can’t read or don’t want to borrow books are subsiding those who use libraries, etc. etc. etc. Tax doesn’t work like that. We all have to pay according to our income, purchases and property size, and the money goes into a central pot.
I shall wait with interest to see what happens next time there’s a vote on the garden tax in the chamber. Will those Councillors who clearly aren’t happy with the way the issue is playing out in Birmingham have the courage of their convictions and vote against it? Or will they cave in, do what their leadership tells them and make themselves look even more ridiculous and hypocritical?
Meanwhile there’s no denying that when the Lord Mayor, who traditionally remains steadfastly non-political, makes a decision to so publicly back residents who have been let down by the Labour Council, that sends out quite a significant message to the residents of Birmingham.