Birmingham council leader declares cost of living 'state of emergency'

The leader of Birmingham City Council has declared the city is in a 'state of emergency' due to soaring costs of living and has called for urgent governmental support.

Addressing the council committee yesterday, Cllr Ian Ward said a 'perfect storm' of rising inflation, high energy prices and child poverty rates would require a 'pandemic level response'.

He said: "We have been hit by a perfect storm: inflation is at the highest levels for over 40 years and energy prices are rising at the fastest rate in living memory."

Mr Ward said: "Bills will rise again from 1 October with the energy price cap rising to £3,549 per year for dual fuel supply with the average household likely to spend over £1,000 on energy bills between now and the end of the year."

"In January 2023, the energy price cap is due to rise again with bills likely to rise to just under £5,500 per year in January and over £6,500 in April 2023," he added.

'Every person in every part of this city will be affected in some way or another.'

The emergency meeting comes as energy prices are set to soar upwards of £6,500 by April next year Credit: PA Images

It comes as the Bank of England has forecast the UK will enter a recession by the end of the year.

Only a year ago, the Bank expected the headline rate of inflation to peak at 4%. It now thinks it will reach 13.3% in October, the highest level since September 1980.

Sharing startling figures, Cllr Ward said: "In Birmingham, unemployment is running at 11.5% which is twice the national average; the rate of child poverty stands at approximately 43% which equates to over 100,000 children; and we estimate that over 300,000 people are already living in poverty."

He outlined steps the council have taken to tackle the rising cost of living which include:

  • Announcing an additional £1.3m to support the most vulnerable in our cities on top of the £12.6m being spent via the Household support fund

  • Ensuring that over £56m has been paid out in Council Tax Energy Rebates to approximately 376,000 households out of a total of 390,000;

  • The council has begun to issue Healthy Start vouchers to eligible children with the Children’s Trust granting hardship payments to those most in need.

  • Working with third sector partners to promote debt prevention and providing advice on cash management as well as promoting benefits take up – which will be crucial in ensuring that the most vulnerable receive some support as quickly as possible.

  • Last week the council announced plans to look at the feasibility of creating warm banks across the city as we head into autumn and winter.

He warned: "However, given the enormity of the challenge even the above measures will not be enough to fully mitigate the impact of the rising cost of energy, fuel at the pump and food in the supermarkets.

"Every person in every part of this city will be affected in some way or another. The negative impacts of the rise in the cost of living are on a par with the pandemic: and consequently, require a pandemic level of response."

He said a meeting of key officers and partners would take place as the first stage of an emergency response.

"We do not have all the answers, and without knowing what support the government will put in place or how long energy prices and inflation will continue to rise – we will not be able to fully understand the impacts. 

"However, what I can promise is that the council will continue to listen, and work constructively with our communities and partners to do all that we can to limit the damage.

The 'state of emergency' announcement comes just a month after Birmingham hosted the 2022 Commonwealth Games

"Less than a month ago, we were celebrating what many people are calling the greatest Commonwealth Games ever. It was truly bold, it was truly Birmingham

"We will continue to pursue a strategy  of bringing major events to the city as part of the legacy of the Games including Eurovision next year and the European Athletics Championships in 2026 – which will act as a form of economic stimulus – a shot in the arm for local businesses and those looking for work."

Levelling up plans for Birmingham include proposals to retrofit over 60,000 homes to make them more energy efficient and creating thousand of jobs.

The council leader said: "In July, we committed to investing £27m on a pilot to retrofit 300 homes – this is just the beginning.

"And of course, there is the arrival of HS2 by 2030.

"The last two-and-a-half years brought some of the most challenging times that Birmingham has ever faced and sadly there are more difficult times ahead.

"But we are a resilient city and a resourceful set of people."