Birmingham City Council ‘bankrupt’: Who are leader and deputy-leader John Cotton & Sharon Thompson?

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Councillors John Cotton and Sharon Thompson are the Birmingham City Council chiefs in charge of saving the public body from bankruptcy

John Cotton and Sharon Thompson were selected as leader and deputy-leader of Birmingham City Council in May 2023, after former bosses Ian Ward and deputy Brigid Jones were ousted from their positions. However, running the biggest local council in Europe hasn’t been easy and the public body has ‘effectively’ gone into bankruptcy.

Birmingham City Council issued a section 114 notice at the start of September. The decision had been attributed to a £760m equal pay liability which it doesn’t “have the resources” to pay.

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The leader and deputy leader of the Labour-run council, issued a statement on the notice. It read: “Like local authorities across the country, it is clear that Birmingham City Council faces unprecedented financial challenges, from huge increases in adult social care demand and dramatic reductions in business rates income, to the impact of rampant inflation.

“We implemented rigorous spending controls in July, and we have made a request to the Local Government Association for additional strategic support.

“[Tuesday’s] issuing of a Section 114 Notice is a necessary step as we seek to get our city back on a sound financial footing so that we can build a stronger city for our residents.

“Despite the challenges that we face, we will prioritise core services that our residents rely on, in line with our values of supporting the most vulnerable.”

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But who are the leader and deputy-leader in charge of bringing Birmingham City Council out of ‘effective’ bankruptcy and how much do they earn.

Birmingham City Council chamber in session, leader Cllr John Cotton and deputy Cllr Sharon ThompsonBirmingham City Council chamber in session, leader Cllr John Cotton and deputy Cllr Sharon Thompson
Birmingham City Council chamber in session, leader Cllr John Cotton and deputy Cllr Sharon Thompson | LDRS

Who is Councillor John Cotton?

John Cotton is a 49-year-old Labour councillor who holds an honours degree from Birmingham City University, where he studied Government. Prior to assuming Leadership of the Council in May 2023, he was a cabinet member for social inclusion, community safety and equalities.

Cllr Cotton was first elected to Birmingham City Council in 1999, representing the ward of Glebe Farm and Tile Cross. During his time as a public official, he has been a Cabinet Member for many different departments including Neighbourhood Management and Homes and Health and Wellbeing.

He’s spoken out against youth violence, knife crime, racism and violence against LGTBQ+ people. He’s also led intitatvies that include the city’s refugee resettlement projects and led the city’s response to the cost of living crisis.

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Who is Councillor Sharon Thompson?

Sharon Thompson is the Deputy-Leader of Birmingham City Council. She grew up in Birmingham and is of African-Carribean heritage. The council chief’s journey into politics was anything but linear. She left school with few GCSE’s, became homeless at 16 and a single mum by age 19, Birmingham Live reports.

After having her first child Elijah, Cllr Thompson volunteered with a housing project, and eventually got her first job as an admin assistant. During her 20s, she was a community worker and in her 30s, she became a magistrate - a role she did for six years before becoming a councillor.

Birmingham City Council House in Victoria Square, Birmingham, 1962. The home of Birmingham City Council, the building was designed by Yeoville Thomason and completed in 1879. (Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)Birmingham City Council House in Victoria Square, Birmingham, 1962. The home of Birmingham City Council, the building was designed by Yeoville Thomason and completed in 1879. (Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Birmingham City Council House in Victoria Square, Birmingham, 1962. The home of Birmingham City Council, the building was designed by Yeoville Thomason and completed in 1879. (Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Thompson was elected as councillor for the Soho Ward in May 2014. Prior to becoming Deputy-Leader, she was a Cabinet Member for multiple departments including Housing and Homelessness, Vulnerable Children and Families, and Homes and Neighbourhoods.

How much is John Cotton paid?

Councillors do not receive a salary, but instead receive a basic allowance to support them in carrying out their work. According to the Members Allowance Scheme (MAS) published in 2022, John Cotton should receive £56,579 as a Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) for being Leader of the Council.

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This is on top of a basic allowance of £18,876 Cllr Cotton will receive for being a member of the City Council. This takes his annual allowance to £75,455. It is unknown whether Cllr Cotton earns more via additional special responsibilities.

How much is Sharon Thompson paid?

According to the MAS, Sharon Thompson receives an SRA for being Deputy Council Leader, totalling £45,263. Her basic and special allowance combined takes her annual income to £64,139. It is unknown whether Cllr Thompson earns more via additional special responsibilities

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