Latest Public Sector News

31.05.17

Birmingham faces strikes after claims of £10m service overspend despite budget cuts

Birmingham City Council could be facing strikes from its refuse collection workers who have today started voting in a ballot to decide whether to take action against their employers.

The dispute is over accusations of financial mismanagement by council leaders who, according to union officials, have overspent in this area by £9.7m.

This has stirred up anger amongst the membership of the Unite union, which believes that this overspending is to blame for proposed cuts to jobs by the council.

Unite also stated that it is talking with Birmingham City Council’s waste management department about the cuts – which the council has stated are down to shrunken budgets and austerity measures.

The ballot will close on 14 June, and if the vote is passed, strikes look likely to take place over the busy summer period.

“We engaged with waste and refuse bosses in a constructive manner only to learn that it was a massive overspend which is driving these cuts and not austerity measures,” said Unite regional officer Lynne Shakespeare.

“To date, despite repeated requests, we have not been given any information as to how and why such a huge sum was overspent in a year. Instead bosses are ploughing on with their cuts leaving workers to pick up the pieces for their financial mismanagement and taxpayers out of pocket.

“We would urge management to begin listening to the workforce and to start talking meaningfully with Unite to avoid the prospect of industrial action in the coming months.”

And Jacqui Kennedy, corporate director for Place at the Council confirmed that due to "pressures and demand" the authority would have to find savings of around £10m annually, and said that "doing nothing was not an option". 

"The proposals we are consulting on will achieve all of these objectives and bring the council’s waste management service into line with many other councils nationally," she said. 

“For some staff this could mean taking up a different role, and there are sufficient vacancies within the new structure proposal to ensure that all affected staff have this opportunity. We are also looking at how we can make promotion opportunities available for those potentially affected.

“What we have developed is a carefully considered and informed model that will ensure our services are on a sound and affordable footing for the future."

And Kennedy also added that the council remained focussed on ensuring that all its services made the best use of public funds and were high quality for the public. 

“It is evident that there are more cost effective ways of working in refuse collection. The consultation period has already been extended twice at the request of the trades unions to enable them to develop some alternative proposals," she also stated. 

“Management are committed to working closely with union colleagues to help them produce alternative proposals. It is therefore disappointing this action is being encouraged whilst we continue to work so closely.”

This comes after a number of warnings about overspending from the Birmingham local authority. At the start of March, the council admitted that financial challenges remained “difficult” despite projections that aimed to balance the books over the next few years.

And back in February, an independent review stated that though plans were robust, any overspending at all in 2017-18 or 2018-19 could put the council’s financial sustainability at serious risk.

Top Image: Cristian Bortes

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become a PSE columnist? If so, click here.

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

related

public sector executive tv

more videos >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the open more > more last word articles >

public sector focus

View all News

comment

Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Bei... more >
How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

19/06/2019How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

Tom Chance, director at the National Community Land Trust Network, argues t... more >

interviews

Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

17/12/2018Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

It’s no secret that the public sector and its service providers need ... more >

the raven's daily blog

Northern Powerhouse Partner aims to connect the North once again

02/09/2019Northern Powerhouse Partner aims to connect the North once again

In February this year, official Northern Powerhouse Partner, Cognitive Publishing, delivered EvoNorth 2019.  The two day event was designed to amplify and highlight futur... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this feeling of imminent change than the article James Palmer, mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, has penned for us on p28. In it, he highlights... read more >