Delays in implementing reforms to Birmingham City Council’s waste management service as a result of a long-running industrial dispute have cost the council more than £6m.
A report to Birmingham’s cabinet yesterday said the cost of the bin dispute, which saw refuse workers take more than 100 days of industrial action, is “estimated at £6.6m”. This includes the cost of continuing the four-day shift patterns the council is seeking to abolish as part of reforms to the service, as well as “contingency plans” and “additional landfill tax as a consequence of more diversion to landfill”.
The reforms are intended to reduce running costs of the service by £5.2m a year. The strike is currently suspended pending a High Court hearing later this month at which the council will defend union claims that it acted unlawfully in issuing redundancy notices.
The cabinet report also warned that 37% of savings planned for 2017-18 across the council had been deemed undeliverable, equivalent to £31.9m. This includes £14.6m of missed savings from the council’s ‘future operating model’ restructuring programme.
A further £9.4m of savings in adult social care are also on course to be missed, but the report said this could be offset by “additional income” of £8.4m through the improved better care fund. This was announced by the chancellor in March so had not formed part of the council’s original budget plans for 2017-18. The council is also forecasting an overspend on children’s services of £2.1m.
Overall the council needed to find £85m of savings this year on its £821m net revenue budget. It is forecasting an overspend of £13.6m by the end of the year, once mitigating actions are taken into account.
The report said this presented a “major challenge to the council”.
Speaking at the meeting, leader Ian Ward (Lab) said that was a “£2m improvement on month four”.
He added: “There is still a way to go and we must continue to bear down on that number ot bring it to a balanced position.”