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Taxpayers' Alliance accuses city of an 'immoral' waste of cash.

Byline: Sam Lister Special Correspondent newsdesk@birminghammail.co.uk

THE Taxpayers' Alliance has accused Birmingham City Council of wasting cash.

The organisation made the claim as it launched a wide-ranging attack on local authorities it alleged were racking up liabilities instead of cutting costs.

The Alliance found the long-term obligations faced by councils, such as pensions and loans, soared by eight per cent in the 2012/13 financial year.

Its study found 62 local authorities had liabilities worth the same or more than their long-term assets, including Birmingham.

The group cited the Birmingham Mail's story from March last year that the city council was paying its highways contractor Amey PS2,000 for every sapling planted on the roadside.

It claimed cash was being wasted as the authority ran up PS6 billion in liabilities.

Alliance chief executive Jonathan Isaby said: "It is nothing short of immoral for councils to pile further debt on the next generation.

"Britain's public finances are in real trouble, and local authorities can no longer avoid tough choices by putting the bill on the taxpayers' credit card.

"Councils must look again at overgenerous pensions and wage a war on waste, or Britain's debt burden may soon become too heavy to bear."

A Birmingham Council spokesman called the Alliance's tree-planting cost claims "misleading".

He said: "As the largest local authority in the country, it is inevitable we will come at the top of tables based on such research.

"The pension liability, dictated by the financial markets, makes up a significant share of the overall liability.

"This share is the sum that would have to be paid out if every single member of the pension scheme was paid their whole pension on exactly the same day.

"The pension liability is falling year on year.

"The claims on the cost of trees are wholly misleading. The figure quoted relates to the cost of a tree over its entire life cycle, covering all aspects of its maintenance.

"We have not paid the amount quoted for a tree.

"Prior to our current highways contract, the cost of a tree was not budgeted for in this 'whole life' way, meaning our long-term financial planning now takes this into account more accurately."

And local government representatives said council borrowing was used to fund major infrastructure projects, such as building new transport links.

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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 27, 2014
Words:403
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