Members of the Coventry Citizens Party were demonstrating outside the Council House before the full council meeting on Tuesday (17/10/23).
Local campaigner and Keresley Parish Councillor Tony Middleton greeted city councillors with a megaphone in good humour as they arrived to ask if the city is really bankrupt.
Unfortunately, Tony fell ill during the council meeting and required medical attention. The meeting was adjourned as several councillors and staff rushed up to the public gallery to help.
We would like to thank councillors and staff for their assistance including Cllr Rachel Lancaster who drove Tony to the hospital.
We are happy to report that Tony was checked over and sent home. We know he will be back on his feet to challenge local decision making again soon.
Some of the costs Tony was highlighting outside the Council House include executive salaries, commercial acquisitions, legal disputes, City of Culture and the closure of local leisure centres.
Tony also asked Cllr John McNicholas (Lower Stoke) some questions:
Are we really bankrupt?
“We’re close to the wire. There’s a £20m gap that we’ve got to address.”
How are we going to get out of that?
“That’s a good question. There’s going to be some very, very difficult decisions.
“All the discretionary stuff will go but obviously we need to do the statutory stuff.”
So the council tax will definitely go up?
“It’s going to go up, yes. By how much we’re having a look.”
The council can’t increase it more than the government allows.
“Yes, unless we go to a referendum so your guess at this moment is as good as mine.
“But I will be totally against calling a section 114.
“That means administrators come in and slash spending and that’s even worse.”
Tony also spoke to Cllr Christine Thomas (Binley & Willenhall) who said: “We will not be bankrupt because of the fiscal plans we’re following.”
Cllr Thomas also responded to criticism over the money put into City of Culture saying it was “not a huge loss.”
“We put a very small amount of seed money in it and the money was lost by City of Culture Trust which is nothing to do with the council.”
In addition, Cllr Thomas said council tax will go up but whether or not councillors will get a pay rise is “debatable”.
“It depends on whether the staff get it – if the staff get it we’ll get it.”
In response to the closure of local leisure centres Cllr Thomas argued that: “Livingstone baths was too expensive to maintain the same as the city baths”.
However, it is currently costing Coventry taxpayers half a million every year to keep the old sports centre empty.
What’s more, over 800 people signed our petition to turn it into a new arts centre but the council decided to borrow millions to buy the former IKEA building instead.
This is a prime example of the type of reckless spending the council should be held accountable for.