Middlesbrough Council apply to government for £15m emergency funding to avoid bankruptcy

Middlesbrough has some of the highest deprivation in the country, meaning the council is relied upon by many vulnerable adults and children. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Middlesbrough Council will apply to the Government for £15m of emergency funding to avoid effective bankruptcy.

At a meeting on 17 January council leaders voted unanimously for the bailout.

The authority says it has a £6.3m shortfall that cannot be filled, despite already proposing a raft of cost-cutting measures, including selling off public buildings, to try and balance the budget before March.

Further proposals to save around £14m are currently out for public consultation, including job cuts, reduced waste collection and a council tax increase of 4.99%.

Under the plans, the Captain Cook birthplace museum is earmarked for closure.

Paul Charlton, who manages Cook's Cafe onsite, says closure would be devastating.

"We have disability groups coming to us, we have local autism groups, we have bereavement groups", he said. "We're also supported by the local hospital so we have groups coming in from the spinal unit that use us, so it would be a massive blow to the local community and not only that, to our staff as well, that would be devastating".

In its latest budget report, the council blamed "persistent high inflation", greater need for social care and a lack of government funding for its financial situation.

Mayor Chris Cooke told ITV Tyne Tees: "What we've asked the Government for is a tool to be able to enable us to properly flesh out the transformation and make sure that we can get ourselves into a more financially stable place.

"What we need to do is stop the focus on big, shiny buildings and have that focus on people. Get the people and the people services right.

"I would absolutely love for the Government to open up and give us more money. If they want us to solve the multi-generational, deep-rooted deprivation and health inequalities, they will need to fund us appropriately".

Mr Cooke says the decision to apply for government funding will protect the vulnerable adults and children of the town.

Labour took control of the authority in May 2023. It had previously been run by an Independent-Conservative administration, with both sides blaming each other for the financial difficulties.

In December, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and Simon Clarke, Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, wrote to Simon Hoare, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Local Government, requesting commissioners step in and take over the running of the council, in a letter which Mayor, Chris Cooke, said was "littered with inaccuracies" and a "call to abandon Middlesbrough".

Simon Clarke has now requested immediate government intervention, saying: "Enough is enough.

"It is plain for anyone to see that the situation at the council is now completely untenable.

"Now it is time for independent professionals to be brought in to deliver stability and a plan for recovery for the people of Middlesbrough who deserve so much more than this ridiculous mismanagement of their tax money".

A Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities (DLUHC) spokesperson said: “We have been engaging with Middlesbrough Council around the financial challenges they face, and we will continue to work with them closely.

“Councils are responsible for the management of their own finances, but we remain ready to talk to any concerned about its financial position.

“We recognise councils are facing challenges and that is why we have announced a £64 billion funding package - a real terms increase at an average of 6.5% - to ensure they can continue making a difference, alongside our combined efforts to level up.”

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