A major efficiency drive at Birmingham City Council will axe hundreds of jobs – and the possibility of compulsory redundancies is not being ruled out.
The authority’s political leadership has said for the first time that a sweeping business transformation programme may result in staff being forced out. Previously, council leaders were confident that all threatened posts could be identified through voluntary redundancy.
Deputy council leader Paul Tilsley said the ten-year business transformation project, which will generate savings of £1.5 billion largely in investment in IT, was the envy of local authorities throughout the country. But, when challenged about the impact on employment, Coun Tilsley (Lib Dem Sheldon) admitted fewer administrative staff, including clerks and finance officers, would be needed.
He told a full council meeting: “We won’t need so many working in the back office, we won’t need so many accountants. The reality is there will be a change in profile of people we employ over a period of time. There will be a reduction in jobs. What I can’t say is there won’t be any compulsory redundancies. We have been able to manage our workforce looking into the future but can’t give that commitment.”
One area for cuts is finance where the new Voyager computer system has enabled invoices to be paid electronically.
Voyager, which crashed when installed in late 2007 resulting in a backlog of 30,000 unpaid bills, had teething problems but is on course to save £46 million this year and £625 million by 2018, Coun Tilsley said. The council had expected business transformation to lead to at least 700 jobs lost in a ten-year period.
Coun Tilsley defended business transformation: “Birmingham is a leader. No other local authority is committed to such a radical and nationally-acclaimed transformation programme as the one that we are undertaking.”
But Councillor James Hutchings (Con Edgbaston) said language used in reports was “deceitful”. Some savings being suggested were “on paper only”.
Opposition Labour group’s Ian Ward said: “There are problems with business transformation. Budgets are being squeezed, resulting in cuts in services.”