Birmingham’s council leader Sir Albert Bore has joined forces with the leaders of seven other big cities to form a “supercabinet”
The alliance is to protest against “morally wrong and unfair” funding cuts being imposed on major cities and demand a fair deal.
They also hope to gain support for measures which will create jobs, such as the planned high speed rail line linking Birmingham with London, Manchester and Leeds.
But Sir Albert focused on the effect of spending cuts in a speech at a conference in Liverpool, where he joined the leaders of Liverpool, Bristol, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield to argue that cuts are hitting big cities unfairly.
He said: “We all know that there is a crisis with our public finances. But that crisis was not caused by the people of our cities and they should not be the ones who shoulder the main burden of paying for it.
“Attempting to reduce the nation’s financial deficit by cutting the benefits of those who are already desperately struggling to make ends meet is wrong.
“Cutting local government funds by 33 per cent in four years, while other departments cut far less is wrong.
“And making the biggest cuts in the most deprived areas of the country whilst prosperous districts in the South East are cut by much less is also wrong.”
Birmingham Council had been forced to cut spending by £110 million this year alone, he said.
But because demand for council services was growing at the same time as funding fell, it would have to make savings of £600 million by 2016-17, he added.
Sir Albert said he praised the Government for giving councils more control over local decisions.
But he added: “We are campaigning for government to understand the damage that will be done to life in our great cities by the cuts they are planning. The damage is to real people and real communities.”
He warned: “In Birmingham we have estimated that the combination of cuts in funding and increases in service needs will create a gap between the money we have and the money we need to spend of £60 million by 2016-17 – about 50 per cent of the budget we can actually control.
“That is the real saving we have to make to balance the books. Just in the year ahead we are making £110 million of savings – 8 per cent of the controllable budget this year.
“It’s a very different picture than the tiny savings the government suggests we need to make.
“So the days when “salami slicing” and efficiency savings were enough to balance the books are over. We cannot achieve those savings without making real cuts in services or decommissioning some services completely.
“And the same story can be told by all of the cities.”
He is a member of a new Cabinet of Core Cities, representing eight major cities outside London, including Leeds and Nottingham as well as those represented at the conference, which is to present a united front demanding the Government help create jobs and support the economy.
Sir Albert will also have specific responsibility for transport issues on behalf of all eight cities as a member of the Core Cities Cabinet.
One of the first acts of the new cabinet was to issue a statement backing high speed rail, and in particular backing plans for phase two of the line, which will run from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester.
The first phase is the section running between London and Birmingham.
Construction of the line is due to begin in 2017 and the second phase could be completed around 2032.
In a statement issued by the Core Cities Cabinet, Sir Albert said: “To climb out of recession, and at a challenging moment for the public finances, we need a commitment to this stimulus to attract more investment into our great cities, to create jobs and boost growth.
“HS2 is set to be that game-changer for regional economies, but we need tangible commitments so that cities can start to attract private investors off the back of the project.
“It is time critical that the preferred route for the northern section is published so we can start putting our plans into action, and start looking to a brighter future.”
The cabinet member for growth will be Jon Collins, leader of Nottingham City Council. Skills and the labour market will be covered by Leeds council leader Keith Wakefield, housing issued will be the responsibility of Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson and the cabinet’s chair is Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council.