Pourquoi Birmingham, la plus grande administration communale d’Europe, est en faillite

Un agent d’entretien communal en face de l’hôtel de ville de Birmingham (Royaume-Uni), le 5 septembre 2023.

Every hour, standing in the heart of New Street, the main train station in Birmingham, Ozzy waves his huge mouth, much to the delight of passersby. This 10-meter-tall articulated metal bull was the mascot of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, held in the capital of the West Midlands (with a population of 1.1 million) in the United Kingdom.

The sports event, gathering athletes from the fifty-six nations of the Commonwealth (mostly former colonies of the British Empire), was seen as a popular success in a typically dull metropolis. At the time, the Labour Party’s Ian Ward, leader of the city council, praised the start of a “golden decade” for this former industrial city now focused on commerce and financial services.

“I cannot reword”

« Le conseil a consacré trop d’énergie aux Jeux au lieu de se concentrer sur les problèmes financiers. Il a dépensé 500 millions de livres pour un village des athlètes qui n’a pas été utilisé et qui a été reconverti en des appartements trop chers pour la plupart des habitants », précise Ewan Mackey, qui reçoit dans son bureau de Council House, la mairie de Birmingham, imposant bâtiment du XIXe siècle, témoin de la prestance de la ville durant l’ère victorienne. Pour autant, explique l’élu, la crise financière est surtout due à « une somme d’incompétences », notamment au « fiasco » d’un logiciel de gestion Oracle, qui devait coûter 19 millions de livres, mais dont le déploiement à tous les services municipaux devrait s’établir à 100 millions.

There is a long-standing conflict between the city hall and the unions regarding wage equality, the resolution of which could be very costly. Approximately 3,000 municipal employees – such as school assistants or kitchen aides – have filed complaints for discrimination, demanding to be paid the same as men for equivalent responsibilities. They have a strong chance of winning in court, and the city council has had to acknowledge that the compensations could reach £760 million.

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