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Failing departments can't 'pass the buck' warns councillor

Council watchdog chief Carl Rice has backed the decision to take over the Capita-Service Birmingham contact centre

Birmingham Council House

Failing departments at Birmingham City Council will no longer be able to 'pass the buck' to authority's privately run call centre after it is taken back in house .

Council watchdog chief Carl Rice has backed the decision to take over the Capita-Service Birmingham contact centre to join up with council services.

Service Birmingham is a partnership between the city council and out-sourcing firm Capital which was launched in 2006 and saw the latter take over the authority's IT, call centre and revenue collection services.

Coun Rice (Lab, Ladywood) says he is inundated with five or six complaints a day from residents who have not had rubbish collected to find the council's waste management department and call centre blaming each other.

"I should not have to deal with this," he said.

The call centre is being brought under council control to improve customer service and cut costs.

There have been complaints that the Capita-run centre does not link well with council services, as well as issues with charges of between £2.60 and £4 for every call, meaning they are more interested in volume rather than quality of service.

Coun Rice said: "This week we have had cabinet member Lisa Trickett apologise for the poor service from fleet and waste management and promise to get it right.

"But I have emails blaming the contact centre for problems, passing the buck. It has been easy for senior managers in failing departments wanting to blame people other than themselves.

"I hope that now there won't be any ambiguity about where problems lie."

Two years ago, consultants reviewing Service Birmingham found a lack of trust between the council and its out-source partner.

Several departments, including housing, tried to set up their own call centres to bypass the Capita-run facility.

The committee heard that the call centre, which has 500 staff, will be transferred by November 1.

It is also already moving from its Fort Dunlop base to council-owned offices next to the Aston University campus.

Changes being introduced include allowing call centre staff to spend a day with frontline staff and vice-versa to understand each other's jobs.

Committee member Coun Mike Leddy (Lab, Brandwood) said: "The people of Birmingham won't forgive us if we bring this in house to provide a better service and do not."

Concerns were raised by Coun Jon Hunt (Lib Dem, Perry Barr) that Capita-Service Birmingham was still responsible, under its IT contract, for the expensively maintained software used by the call centre.

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