Workforce, Pensions and Training

29.08.17

Council faces more strikes as waste staff cuts could be key to ‘lawful budget’

Birmingham residents and council workers could face further strike misery as a row between the authority’s senior management and its waste collection employees shows no sign of slowdown, despite a seemingly mutual agreement having been reached a couple of weeks ago.

In a report presented to the city council’s Cabinet at a meeting late last week, its interim CEO Stella Manzie and corporate director of place, Jacqui Kennedy, emphasised the importance of “operating within the allocated budget and within the council’s policy objectives” – a move that would be impossible without pressing ahead with planned staff redundancies.

The dispute between Unite and Birmingham City Council kicked off in June when the authority announced its intentions to make 106 employees redundant as part of a reorganisation of its waste management service to curtail spending.

After balloting its members on potential action, the union announced in August that the refuse worker strike could continue until Christmas if the decision to axe jobs was not scrapped.

But just a few days later, Unite called off the strike and “hailed victory” after meaningful talks had taken place between the council’s management and the union’s executives at Acas. Birmingham, however, maintained that these talks did not necessarily represent the council’s official position until matters were considered by the Cabinet, with the redundancy package still in place in the meantime.

During the Cabinet meeting last week, councillors considered both a report from the authority’s CEO and a private report that contained more detailed and commercially sensitive information.

In her report, Manzie showed no signs of a shift in position, with the document making clear that the Cabinet should endorse the progression and implementation of the waste management reorganisation and discuss its next stages, “including issuing the redundancy notices to 106 employees currently designated as Grade 3 Leading Hands”.

A decision not to proceed with the proposed shake-up would lead to an increase in costs of £600,000. The delay in implementing the reorganisation, which was originally scheduled to start on 1 July but is now planned for 1 October, will already result in an overspend of £2m.

“Any additional on-going full year financial implications will need to be evaluated and incorporated in the budget for 2018-19,” noted the report. “There are additional costs associated with the contingency plans that have been put in place in response to the industrial action.

“The estimated weekly costs have ranged between £21,000 per week in the early stages of the industrial action in July to the current weekly estimate of £311,000 as external contractors have been mobilised. This will be an additional pressure on the Council’s finances for 2017-18.”

Potential threats to a lawful budget

Manzie also revealed that the “most significant potential financial implications” as a result of not pressing ahead with the staff cuts would arise from a “significant increase in the risks in relation to further equal pay claims”.

Given the low probability of the council “being able to mount an effective defence to such claims”, the CEO explained, meeting these liabilities would “more than wipe out available headroom in the equal pay contingency, any uncommitted sums for capital investment and all available revenue reserves”.

“This would still leave a significant gap which would lead to the need for very significant and urgent reductions in both revenue and capital commitments and would also lead to the statutory chief financial officer having to consider whether the council was in a position to set a lawful and balanced budget,” she warned.

The local authority’s apparently firm commitment with implementing the cuts – especially in light of an alleged lack of alternative proposals put forward by trade union representatives – will likely trigger a return to strike action. Unite has already confirmed that it will not negotiate any further unless the planned redundancies are taken off the table altogether.

“A deal has been reached to end this dispute and to ensure that Birmingham has the effective refuse collection service the second city needs,” a union spokesman said in a statement. “We call on the opposition parties not to undermine the Acas process or the council leadership or to cause further disruption for local people, but to honour this settlement and support the return of the refuse service.”

(Top image c. Andrew Skudder)

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

related

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

November too late for pay cap decision, GMB says

25/09/2017November too late for pay cap decision, GMB says

The GMB has criticised the government’s choice to defer the decision of ending the public sector pay cap until the Autumn Budget on 22 Nove... more >
LGA: TfL Uber decision shows need for ‘urgent reform’ of outdated taxi laws

25/09/2017LGA: TfL Uber decision shows need for ‘urgent reform’ of outdated taxi laws

Councils have this week declared that outdated taxi laws need to be urgently reformed following Transport for London’s (TfL’s) decisi... more >
Councils falling short of preventive care obligations

22/09/2017Councils falling short of preventive care obligations

Councils are failing to meet their obligations to prevent, reduce or delay the need for care as set out in the Care Act 2014. New research p... more >

editor's comment

14/08/2017Time for reflection

A lot has happened since the last edition of PSE was published. In particular, the snap general election delivered an astounding result that many of the pollsters and political experts could not have predicted when Theresa May initially called for it back in April. Chris Painter, Professor Emeritus at Birmingham City University, provides ... read more >

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 o... more > more last word articles >
South Yorkshire devolution in doubt as councils clash over next steps

19/09/2017South Yorkshire devolution in doubt as councils clash over next steps

South Yorkshire’s devolution deal took a serious knock today after a statement from the Sheffield City Region (SCR) revealed that two councils, Barnsley and Doncaster MBC, have refused to b... more >
Male LCR cabinet urged to give up their seats for female nominees

15/09/2017Male LCR cabinet urged to give up their seats for female nominees

The entirely male cabinet at the Liverpool City Region (LCR) have this week been urged to give up their seats by the Women’s Leadership Group (WLG) in a drive towards a more gender inclusiv... more >

the raven's daily blog

How would local government look under a Labour government?

25/09/2017How would local government look under a Labour government?

Few will disagree with the statement that the current landscape of local government is one that has been shaped by seven years of Tory influence. Harsh austerity measures have seen pressures on council-run services, as well as the NHS, mount sharply as demand increases. The resurgence of the Labour Party in June’s snap election... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

comment

Support for councils following Grenfell

04/09/2017Support for councils following Grenfell

Ian Moore, CEO of the Fire Industry Association (FIA), discusses the wider lessons of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire and what measures and assess... more >
A quiet revolution

04/09/2017A quiet revolution

Dermot Ryan, programme director at NHS Digital for the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN), talks to PSE about the importance of moving to the ... more >
Effective leadership in uncertain times

04/09/2017Effective leadership in uncertain times

Dr David Beech, lecturer in people management at Salford Business School, argues that continuous renewal and progress is fundamental to effective... more >
Refocusing professional development

04/09/2017Refocusing professional development

Graeme McDonald, managing director of Solace, discusses the importance of taking time out to focus on learning, especially in the ever-changing l... more >

interviews

‘The HSCN is the realisation of industry best practice’

30/06/2017‘The HSCN is the realisation of industry best practice’

Keith Smith, public sector business development manager at Virgin Media Business, tells PSE’s Luana Salles that health and social care orga... more >
HSCN: The enabler for a more joined-up public sector

26/06/2017HSCN: The enabler for a more joined-up public sector

Mark Hall, Chief Assurance Officer at Redcentric, discusses NHS Digital’s project, the new Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) and what b... more >
Maintaining the momentum for further devolution

25/04/2017Maintaining the momentum for further devolution

Ahead of this year’s mayoral elections, Lord Kerslake, the former head of the Civil Service, tells PSE’s David Stevenson why the argu... more >
New social care funding misses the point

13/04/2017New social care funding misses the point

Clive Betts MP, chair of the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee, reflects on the social care funding released in this year’s ... more >

public sector focus

View all News