Clive Walder, Birmingham South West Socialist Party
Birmingham City Council traditionally holds public consultations on its annual budget, but for 2022 it has decided to change the format. Gone are the public meetings where ordinary people can actually challenge councillors.
Instead, they are to be replaced by a computer game that will allow the player to increase council tax by 5% and then divide up the remaining budget between the various services. Strangely, there is no option to set a needs budget using reserves and borrowing, or campaigning for the return of funds stolen by central government.
The council leader says that they have introduced this game so that taxpayers can see how difficult it is for the council to prioritise services against its income.
But the real reason for this change is that the old-style public consultations were dominated by people opposed to cuts, and often workers or service users who would be affected.
The council has said that it will consider suggestions from the public. But its track record has been to ignore anyone who opposes cuts.
This stunt is a cynical waste of money aimed at telling council taxpayers that there is no alternative to austerity. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) will be standing candidates in the local elections in May to fight the cuts by the council and the government. We won’t fool the public into believing that there are no legal alternatives to austerity.