Birmingham landmarks including the NEC could be sold off

The NEC The NEC could be worth "as little as £300m", one finance expert has said

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Landmarks such as the NEC could be sold to pay legal claims over equal pay totalling more than £1bn, Birmingham City Council has said.

The council has agreed settlements with thousands of women who were paid less than workers - mainly men - who did equivalent jobs.

One law firm is said to be dealing with 4,000 outstanding cases.

Council leader Sir Albert Bore said no decision had been taken on any sales - but admitted it was "a possibility".

What else could Birmingham sell?

Chamberlain Square, Birmingham

Birmingham City Council could sell off some of its landmarks to settle part of a £1bn equal pay claim.

Finance professor Richard Taffler believes the NEC is "probably only worth £300m".

So what could the council sell off? Email and we'll feature your suggestions on Birmingham Local Live.

The council has already paid out nearly £500m after being allowed to borrow the money but the Department of Communities and Local Government will not allow it to borrow any more, leaving a shortfall of £550m.

A council spokesman said the authority had assets of about £5bn, and they "continually review all assets within our portfolio to ensure that the best value is obtained for the taxpayer".

Those assets include the NEC group - the National Exhibition Centre, the LG Arena, the National Indoor Arena (NIA) and the International Convention Centre.

A confidential report was circulated among councillors asking them to consider various options, BBC correspondent Phil Mackie said.

"The council remains guarded about how quickly it needs to pay the claims, and which buildings will be offered for sale," he said.

"It doesn't want to create the impression that its hand is being forced and that it's holding a fire sale."

Graphic comparing shortfall to budget

Council leader Sir Albert Bore said the NEC needed "serious investment" so the authority was "looking at the possibility of different ownership that could encourage investment in its infrastructure".

"The council does have freehold ownership of the NEC, NIA and ICC so we could give up part or all of that ownership.

"It's all in the melting pot but not decision will be made for quite a while," he added.

Sir Albert said the council would meet on Saturday to discuss its budget but councillors would not be talking about the selling of assets.

Gillian Whittaker from the GMB Union, who helped to negotiate the settlements, said: "Some of our members are very, very low paid and they should have been receiving this money over the years anyway.

"There is an opportunity to lease some of these properties so they remain within the council... If they have to sell properties then that is a decision they have to make."

'Only worth £300m'

The Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, Gisela Stuart, said selling assets to pay the bill was the only available option left.

What assets do other councils hold?

Manchester City's Etihad Stadium

Manchester City Council said its largest asset was probably its 35.5% stake in Manchester Airports Group (MAG) - which owns Manchester, London Stansted, East Midlands and Bournemouth airports.

The council also leases the Etihad Stadium - which reportedly cost £119m to build - to Manchester City football club.

Bristol City Council said its highest-value asset was its council housing stock, valued at almost £836m in April 2012.

Unlike other authorities it owns 100% of its housing stock.

A spokesperson said: "We would have to put any decision to sell off the housing stock to the tenants.

"The last time we did so they voted to remain with the council as their landlord."

The City of London Corporation held about £1.3bn in assets as of March 2012.

The authority is responsible landmarks such as Tower Bridge and Smithfield Market.

It also maintains the Monument in Central London, the 202ft (62m) high column.

"If you were the leader of Birmingham City Council at this point you have inherited a legacy of a huge legal bill, you're facing financial cuts, you're facing a situation where some of your basic services can no longer be delivered because of the funding formula.

"I think with a very heavy heart you face up to the fact that you're caught between a rock and a hard place, you get the best deal to settle what was a liability that should not have occurred."

Richard Taffler, professor of finance at Warwick Business School, said the process of valuing assets such as the NEC was done by predicting the future revenue and taking away the running costs.

"But it's not as straightforward as that because then you have to discount back to the present, because owing to inflation, £1 is worth less in the future than it is now," he said.

The trouble with valuing a venue such as the NEC, he added, is the uncertainty of its future performance and the amount of investment needed to make it profitable.

"[Birmingham City] council hasn't released a financial appraisal and estimate yet, but it's likely the NEC is probably only worth £300m.

"It is not especially cash-generative."

Chris Benson, from law firm Leigh Day, represented women who are taking equal pay claims against Birmingham City Council.

He said there were a number of ways in which Birmingham could have avoided a £1bn bill.

"They could have settled with the workers they underpaid instead of paying London lawyers to defend the indefensible for two years," he said.

"They could, of course, have paid the women fairly at the time, as other councils did.

"Instead they are now left with so much to pay as they owe these women many years of wages, with interest on top."

The figures being claimed range from "the low thousands" to more than £100,000 for some full-time workers.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 645.

    you are told the wage when you take the job no one would take a job without finding out the rate of pay . if you later find out that another person is receiving more for the same job maybe you should have asked for parity at the interview . when I get my plumbing fixed I employ the cheapest usually I do not expect to pay them more because his predecessor got more money from me for a similar job .

  • rate this

    Comment number 552.

    Astonishing to hear that Birmingham Council thought they could get away with paying women less than men on the same grade, and then spent more council tax pointlessly fighting this tooth and nail in court. Also shocking to hear on the Today programme this morning that this might not be the only council that did this and that now might have to pay up. NB: The Equal Pay act came into law in 1970.

  • rate this

    Comment number 550.

    People really need to stop mixing up issues here.

    This case is about women who were doing exactly the same job as men and not receiving bonuses. This is illegal, quantifiable and morally wrong.

    The "gender pay gap" is a political talking point based on the fact that some professions get paid less than others. This is unquantifiable nonsense, is not illegal and is not a moral question.

  • rate this

    Comment number 474.

    Whilst I support equality in pay, the big issue with this as in many contentious rulings is the changing times. If you go back 20+ years the bread winner was the man and it was a necessity to pay him enough to feed the family. Anything the woman earned was a bonus. Times have changed for the good, but it's wrong to apply modern thinking to historic situations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    I do sympathise with the claimants but the payments will ultimately have to be met my the council taxpayers. The proposed payout is £500 per Birmingham citizen, many of whom will be worse off than the claimants already are.


Comments 5 of 13


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BBC Local Live

    18:00: Good evening

    BBC Local Live will be back from 08:00 on Friday with the latest news, sport, travel and weather for Birmingham and the Black Country.

    17:50: Tonight's forecast Shefali Oza BBC Midlands Today Weather

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    17:43: Coming up on Midlands Today Mary Rhodes Presenter, BBC Midlands Today

    Drivers have been queuing to fill up at the pumps, with some petrol prices in this region among the lowest in the country.

    The price hit 140p a litre in September 2012. Today one garage in Birmingham was selling at 109p.

    Petrol station

    Joanne Writtle reports for us tonight from a petrol station in Birmingham. Join us for Midlands Today on BBC One at 18:30.

    17:31: Villa's injury crisis BBC Sport

    Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert says his squad is "down to the bare bones" ahead of four games in the space of 12 days.


    Tom Cleverley, Kieran Richardson and Alan Hutton are suspended for Saturday's visit of Manchester United.

    Joe Cole, Ashley Westwood, Nathan Baker and Philippe Senderos are all also out through injury.

    17:26: M6 breakdown Alex Homer BBC Local Live

    One lane is closed and there is slow traffic on the M6 northbound between J6 at the A38 Aston Expressway and J7 for Great Barr because of a broken down vehicle.

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    Andrew Leigh

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    16:59: News on the hour Alice Rosenthal Journalist, BBC WM

    A Birmingham man who drugged and strangled his estranged wife because she wouldn't take him back has been found guilty of her murder.

    More on this in our 17:00 bulletin.

    16:49: West Midlands councils braced for funding cuts Patrick Burns Political editor, Midlands

    Next year's £117m savings proposed by Birmingham City Council mean 1,100 more job losses.

    View of Library of Birmingham from the amphitheatre

    For more analysis over what the funding cuts mean for our region, read my blog.

    16:39: Charity funding cut Robin Chrystal Political reporter, BBC News

    The government has stopped funding a Birmingham-based charity because it says it has extremist links.

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    The tree next to the bus
    16:08: Breaking News

    Andrew Leigh has been found guilty of strangling his wife in Pype Hayes earlier this year, says West Midlands Police.

    More to follow.

    15:58: News on the hour Alice Rosenthal Journalist, BBC WM

    The jury in the trial of two people accused of murdering their son in Birmingham has retired to consider its verdict.

    That's our top local story at 16:00. Listen in for more.

    15:50: Levi-Blu: 'Lies' told by accused Tom Richardson BBC News Online

    The judge has told jurors in the Levi-Blu Cassin murder trial they will have to give careful consideration to "lies" told by the defendants.

    Both Mark Piper and Danielle Cassin, Mr Justice Goss said, admit having lied "or certainly not revealing the truth in relation to this case" at various times. Mr Piper admits lying to cover up Ms Cassin's drug use, the judge said, while she admits lying "out of fear of her co-defendant".

    15:41: Wolves team news BBC WM Sport

    Wolves head coach Kenny Jackett says Nouha Dicko (pictured) has a chance of making the bench for Brighton - if not, he's expected to be back for Boxing Day.

    Nouha Dicko

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    15:10: Levi-Blu: Jury sent out Tom Richardson BBC News Online

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    Before sending the jury out to consider their verdict, Mr Justice Goss recounted both defendants' accounts of Levi's last 24 hours alive.

    He told jurors "at least one of them is not telling the truth," he said. "Depending on your findings, both of them may not be telling the truth. This is all for you to resolve."

    14:59: News on the hour Alice Rosenthal Journalist, BBC WM

    The shadow communities secretary, Hilary Benn, says reductions in government funding to councils will have a severe impact on services.

    Hear more in our 15:00 bulletin.

    14:47: Fathers 4 Justice action Phil Mackie News Correspondent

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    More than 30 firefighters tackled the flames at a factory in Coventry Road, Bordesley, near St Andrew's.

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    Cyclists in Colombian capital Bogota

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    14:12: Levi-Blu: Accused of violence before Tom Richardson BBC News Online

    Jurors in the Levi-Blu Cassin murder trial have been told by the judge they must decide whether witnesses who said Mark Piper, Levi's father, was violent towards his other son.

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    13:59: News on the hour Alice Rosenthal Journalist, BBC WM

    At 14:00 the deputy leader of Birmingham City Council, Ian Ward tells us latest government cuts are not fair on Birmingham.

    Join us on BBC WM shortly.

    13:49: Roadworks before Paradise Alex Homer BBC Local Live

    A warning is being issued about significant travel disruption in Birmingham city centre from 5 January to allow the so-called Paradise development to become reality.

    A map showing the diversions

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    12:30: Hagley Road disruption

    Thanks to Tom Packer, who captured this picture of the tree branch falling onto a bus on Hagley Road.

    Tree falls onto a bus
    12:07: 'No passengers injured' BBC WM

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    11:37: Levi-Blu: Judge summing up Tom Richardson BBC News Online

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    Both Ms Cassin, 27, of Frensham Close, Chelmsley Wood, and Mr Piper, of no fixed abode, also deny causing or allowing the death of Levi and causing him suffering.

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    Dr Anthony Marsh

    The BBC also uncovered in August that Dr Marsh claimed up to £30,000 in hotel and transport expenses over the previous 16 months. The ambulance services previously said this combined role actually saved £130,000 in public money.

    11:00: News on the hour Steve Hermon Journalist, BBC WM

    The Chief Executive of West Midlands Ambulance Service is to carry on doing two jobs.

    More on this on BBC WM.

    10:48: Father 'may not be killer' Caroline Gall BBC News

    A father was not responsible for killing his one-year-old son because he was not with him when the fatal blow was inflicted, a court has heard.

    Mark Piper, 31, is jointly accused of murdering Levi-Blu Cassin along with his mother Danielle Cassin.

    Levi Blu Cassin

    Levi, from Birmingham, died from "horrific" internal injuries in 2013.

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    Sue Smith and Sonny

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    09:56: News on the hour Steve Hermon Journalist, BBC WM

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    More on this and other stories in our 10:00 bulletin.

    09:46: 'Crude' cutbacks for police Amy Cole Reporter, Midlands Today

    "Crude, inequitable and unfair" - that's how the police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands described funding cuts which will see the region's force miss out on a further £5m on top of the £18m he said the force had expected.

    David Jamieson said the cuts meant the force would need to find savings topping £100m again after previously slashing £120m since 2010.

    PCC David Jamieson

    Forecasts show the officer numbers serving in 2016/17 will be around 6,765 compared to 8,835 in 2010/11.

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    Crews were called to the site on Coventry Road that now contains pallets and paper at 19:45 GMT, West Midlands Fire Service said.

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    The crash happened at the junction of Farndale Close and Hillfields Road at 22:05 and left the car with this damage.

    The damage to the car

    The driver was treated and taken to Russells Hall Hospital, Dudley, on a stretcher and wearing a neck collar.

    08:58: News on the hour Steve Hermon Journalist, BBC WM

    We hear from the organiser of a candle-lit vigil in Birmingham for the 132 children and 9 staff who were murdered on Tuesday in Peshawar.

    Listen live to our 09:00 bulletin.

    08:44: Castle Bromwich road closed BBC WM

    Coleshill Road in Castle Bromwich is closed and there is slow traffic in both directions near The Fox and Goose because of a multi-vehicle accident - one of the vehicles has overturned.

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    08:31: Black Friday lessened footfall drop Birmingham Post

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    08:19: Pakistan school attacks vigil Caroline Gall BBC News

    Two events have been held in Birmingham to remember the 141 people, mostly children, killed in a Taliban attack at a school in Pakistan.

    A prayer service was held at Birmingham Central Mosque and about 80 to 100 people gathered in the city centre for a candlelight vigil.

    Vigil. About 80 to 100 people gathered in the city centre from 19:00 GMT

    Shah Jehan from Wolverhampton, said it was "the darkest moment in my life" when he learnt his cousins were dead.

    08:02: Today's forecast Charlie Slater Weather Presenter, BBC Midlands Today

    Exceptionally mild in the West Midlands today with highs of 14C (57F) but there are plenty of showers around and it'll be windy too.

    Check out the outlook for the next few days here.

    08:00: Good morning Alex Homer BBC Local Live

    Another mild morning today. I'm back in the BBC WM newsroom bringing you today's news, sport, travel and weather.

    Get in touch with us during the day about our updates over email, Twitter or Facebook.



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