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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    17:50: Cathedral rids itself of pigeons Amy Cole Reporter, Midlands Today

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    Lichfield Cathedral

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    17:42: Morutuary mix-up: 'dreadful, distressing, shocking' Gareth Ford-Lloyd BBC WM

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    Philip Bradbourn

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    17:30: The scale of Crufts Bethan Bell Journalist, BBC News

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    17:22: 'Extra time' for airport journeys

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    17:12: Plans for 50-storey skyscraper in Birmingham are ditched Birmingham Mail

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    17:00: News on the hour BBC WM

    Two hospital trusts and a mortuary have launched an investigation after it was found that the wrong body was cremated at the funeral of former MEP Phillip Bradbourn from Wolverhampton, who died late last year.

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    16:50: Crufts 2015: Dogs take to the catwalk Bethan Bell Journalist, BBC News

    The famous green carpet has been rolled out Oscars-style in Birmingham as canine competitors arrived for what is billed as The Greatest Dog Show on Earth - Crufts.

    Dogs arrive for day one of Crufts 2015 at the NEC, Birmingham

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    16:40: Wolverhampton fears bankruptcy Jennifer Harby Journalist, BBC News Online

    A Black Country council that said it feared becoming "bankrupt" has agreed to make a further £46m of cuts by 2019.

    Wolverhampton Civic Centre

    Wolverhampton City Council said in 2014 the authority faced the prospect of "becoming insolvent", unless it made "very deep and very fast cuts".

    The Labour-run authority approved plans yesterday to cut a number of services, including neighbourhood wardens, and increase council tax.

    Unions say they fear service standards will drop.

    16:32: Hospital investigations held Jerry Chester BBC News Online

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    Good Hope Hospital, Sutton Coldfield

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    16:20: Methadone to 'knock him out' David Lumb BBC News, West Midlands

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    Kelly Emery and Fenton Hogan

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    16:10: Petrov returns to Villa as coach BBC Sport

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    Stiliyan Petrov returns to Aston Villa as coach

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    15:59: News on the hour Chris Blakemore News editor, BBC WM

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    Fenton Hogan

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    15:40: Commonwealth Day

    Birmingham's Lord Mayor Shafique Shah will be launching the city's Commonwealth Day events next Monday, the council has said.

    Lord Mayor Shafique Shah

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    15:30: BBC announces 5,000 digital traineeships

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    Make it digital logo

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    15:13: Redditch vegan fair

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    The vegan fair

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    14:58: News on the hour BBC WM

    In the 15:00 news bulletin: The wrong body was cremated at the funeral of a politician from Wolverhampton, the BBC in the Midlands has exclusively found out.

    14:43: Exclusive report on Midlands Today Peter Wilson West Midlands Home Affairs Correspondent, BBC News

    An investigation has been launched into how the wrong body was cremated at the funeral of Philip Bradbourn.

    The conservative MEP died in December. But a mix-up meant Philip Bradburn's body was released to the family and cremated instead.

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    14:34: Investigations launched Stephanie Barnard BBC Local Live

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    Memorial service for Philip Bradbourn

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    14:18: Mortuary mix-up: 'Incredibly distressing' BREAKING NEWS

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    MEP Philip Bradbourn

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    14:10: BREAKING NEWS

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    Media interviewing David Cameron

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    11:59: News on the hour BBC WM

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    More details in the news at 12:00

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    Andrew Shinnie

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    Clark was back at the Blues for the first time since being sacked in October and desperate for a first away win of the season.

    11:29: PM in Cannock Ben Godfrey BBC Midlands Today

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    That's one reason why the Prime Minister is in town today as he showcases the Government's Help to Buy scheme.

    Tory incumbent Aidan Burley (pictured) announced last month he won't be contesting the seat he won in 2010.

    Conservative MP Aidan Burley

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    11:14: Barking mad! Stephanie Barnard BBC Local Live

    Crufts 2015 kicks off at the NEC today.

    Old English Sheepdog and a spaniel in a onesie

    I've been taking a look at some of the photos - I have to say I was torn between using one of a dog wearing shoes, and a dog wearing a onesie. So thought... I'll share both with you!

    The Express and Star newspaper is running a live page on events - keeping you up to date with the latest.

    11:00: News on the hour Chris Blakemore News editor, BBC WM

    In the news at 11:00 on BBC WM: A petition signed by 2,500 people to save a pub in the Black Country has been presented in Parliament.

    10:40: Election TV debates

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    Labour MP for Selly Oak Steve McCabe tweets: "David Cameron knows he can't possibly agree the same TV debate format he demanded in 2010 as it would expose his woeful record. Not up to it"

    Richard Burden, Labour MP for Northfield tweets: "Cameron 'final offer' on TV debates: Cowardice projected in a way that displays utter arrogance"

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    10:21: Rubber stamped budget

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    Wolverhampton Civic Centre

    Leader Roger Lawrence said £88m of that has already been identified, in a full council meeting last night.

    Last year the council said up to 2,000 jobs could be axed as it looks to make savings over the next five years.

    09:59: News on the hour Steve Hermon Journalist, BBC WM

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    More details in the news at 10:00

    09:42: Birmingham finally bouncing back after 70 years says Centre for Cities Birmingham Post

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    The rise of the city in the immediate years after the Second World War led to fears at the top that it was becoming too powerful at the expense of the rest of the country.

    09:32: Paving stones for bravery

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    Laying the memorial slabs

    Specially designed slabs have been laid at the Arboretum in Staffordshire to mark each of the 145 VCs awarded .

    Each stone includes the name, rank and regiment of the recipient and the date the medal was won.

    09:18: Short supply of minibuses in Walsall as Saddlers fans organise Wembley trip Express and Star

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    09:05: Trains delayed Stephanie Barnard BBC Local Live

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    08:45: Alcohol patients on the increase

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    08:33: Crufts starts today Birmingham Updates

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    08:04: Today's forecast

    Variable cloud with some bright or sunny spells likely, particularly towards the south and east.

    Weather map

    Staying dry for many although the cloud maybe thick enough in places to give a little light rain, mainly in the west. Fairly mild with a high of 10C (50F).

    08:00: Good morning Stephanie Barnard BBC Local Live

    I'll be bringing you the very latest news, sport, travel and weather for Birmingham and the Black Country today.



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