Waste Management

25.03.19

Birmingham City Council accused of ‘unprecedented levels of financial incompetence’ after receiving its third auditor warning

Birmingham City Council has been accused of “unprecedented levels of financial incompetence” after it received its third auditor warning in four years.

Finance and governance director Clive Heaphy confirmed that the council had been issued its latest section 24 notice which makes two statutory recommendations to the authority, one of which is related to the management of its waste services.

The opposition Conservative Group slammed the Labour-run authority and questioned whether the council’s leader Ian Ward was the right man for the job following the “serious warning” regarding the council’s financial future.

The leader of the opposition group, Rob Alden, said: “These reports are supposed to be very rare, only a handful of councils have ever received one and yet under the financial leadership of Cllr Ian Ward, Birmingham has now had three.

“This isn’t just some dull piece of accountancy practice from obscure legislation, it is a serious warning about inadequacies in the way the council is looking after the billions of pounds of money entrusted to it by taxpayers.”

Birmingham’s shadow finance and resources chief Meirion Jenkins echoed this, stating the council “lurches from crisis to crisis” under its Labour leadership which “simply cannot be trusted with public money.”

The council was previously given a section 24 notice in September last year after it was revealed that it faced a funding deficit of £84m for the Commonwealth Games.

The latest warning follows the conclusion of the long-running bin dispute following strike action which cost the authority £6m.

The council signed a deal to pay each worker £3,500, bringing to an end a dispute which originally started in 2017 during another set of industrial action from a separate union, also costing the council £6m.

Birmingham City Council said it was preparing a formal response to the auditor’s warning notice but stated it was “continuing to work hard to deliver its priorities for the citizens of Birmingham, and to ensure that the city council is put on a robust financial footing.”

The authority proposed £50m worth of savings in November last year with plans to raise council tax by 5%, close down community centres and dim streetlights.

At the time, Ian Ward called it the “most challenging period in Birmingham City Council’s history,” and now the council has said the savings plan and notice must been seen in the context of a £690m reduction in funding since 2010.

“While we know there is still some way to go, the report acknowledges that progress has been made in the last 12 months in our financial management and our commitment to being transparent about how we spend our money.”

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