Birmingham's former bins chief has failed in a bid to block an independent review of the city council's waste service that is set to cost as much as £300,000

Cllr Majid Mahmood (Lab, Bromford and Hodge Hill) argued that tax payers' money would be wasted expressing concerns the review would ultimately lead to the service being outsourced to a private company.

Instead he argued the council needed to invest in upgrading its ageing fleet of bin lorries, which he believes will cost in the region of £60m to £70m.

Cllr Mahmood addressed the co-ordinating scrutiny committee having applied to 'call-in' the decision for an independent review.

He said: "The reason this review doesn't need to take place, the main reason the service is failing is because of the vehicles, that is the lack of vehicles and the condition of vehicles we are currently using."

   

He further criticised the agreement between the council and Unite the union which ended the 2017 bin strike - the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) - arguing it was 'crippling' the bin service.

The MoU imposed major changes including moving from a four to five day working week and the introduction of the controversial Waste Reduction Collection Officers (WRCO) role.

Cllr Mahmood questioned whether the agreement was already under review by the council and argued that there was no point commissioning costly independent consultants until that work was completed.

He added: "All elected members here would agree the MoU is not functioning, the streets are still strewn with rubbish and there are lots of missed collections."

Bin lorries in a line at the Redfern Depot, Tyseley
Bin lorries in a line at the Redfern Depot, Tyseley
 

Cllr Mahmood resigned as bins boss in January this year amid the cabinet's decision to pursue an injunction against striking bin workers in the 'secret payments' row.

His replacement Cllr Brett O'Reilly (Lab, Longbridge and West Heath), denied that the MoU was already under 'formal' review.

But he said talks were ongoing among members of the Joint Service Improvement Board, made up of union and council officials, to address problems with the service stating there was a 'mutual agreement' the MoU could be changed if necessary.

Cllr Brett O'Reilly
 

Cllr O'Reilly said: "I think to put a straitjacket on those discussions and suggest that they shouldn't be ongoing, the inevitability of that, of a service that is not functioning, would be a recommendation [from the independent review] to outsource."

He added: "Actually what we are doing is reducing the chances of a recommendation to outsource and increasing the chances of delivering an effective and efficient value for money service that the people of Birmingham deserve."

Council leader Ian Ward (Lab, Shard End) confirmed the cost of the independent review would be up to £300,000 and said: "It is a large sum of money but in the context of a review of this nature it is not unusual that that sort of money is being spent."

He also stated that the bin fleet would be upgraded in phases with £11.8m committed initially, adding: "It is not sensible to replace the entire fleet in one go because then in a few years' time we are faced with the same huge bill all over again.

"It makes far more sense to do this in a staged way and that is the plan."

Coun Ian Ward
 

Turning to the reason for the independent review Cllr Ward said it was a commitment made as part of the agreement with Unite to end the 'secret payments' dispute earlier this year, as well as the fact external auditors had recommended it in their latest formal warning to the council.

He added: "The council agreed it, the trade unions agreed it, if you wish to reverse this decision what you simply do is put the council at risk of the auditor issuing a public interest report.

"For elected members to put the council at that risk would be somewhat strange to say the very, very least."

The committee voted against the call-in application.