A £1 billion Birmingham City Council efficiency drive has been poorly communicated to staff by paperwork which uses bureaucratic and complex language, the man in charge of the project admitted last night.
Glyn Evans said he would embark on a new drive to sell the business transformation programme to senior officers and councillors. He accepted that staff could often not see the point of the project because they did not understand the benefits that would flow to the council in terms of better public services and improved job satisfaction.
His comments came amid claims that the high-profile initiative, which aims to cut costs through the use of better IT systems and a more flexible workforce, had left workers disillusioned, demoralised and under the impression that business transformation is merely a device to cut budgets and slash services.
Risk management issues were reported to the council audit committee yesterday, some of which had been kept from councillors for a year.
n Paperwork showing the cash benefits to flow from business transformation projects not completed.
n Staff responsible for pushing through individual projects unaware of their tasks.
n No proper analysis of communications channels.
n Decisions by business management programme boards not properly recorded, minutes of meetings unavailable.
Mr Evans, corporate director of business change, admitted: “Not everything is going well. But we have a process whereby we can track where things are going wrong and report on it.”
He said he “held his hands up” to poor communication with staff, whose support and co-operation was vital if business transformation was to work.
Mr Evans added: “I have committed to doing a lot more communication with constituencies and key members and officers. We have never properly come up with a compelling vision of what the future will look like, and this is something I am working on.”
Audit Committee member Carl Rice said staff morale was at an all-time low.
Coun Rice (Lab Ladywood) added: “The biggest risk that I can see is the demoralisation and disillusionment among the majority of staff who are relentlessly working their way through these savings and cannot see any reward at the end of the line.
“A lot of managers I speak to can only see negative consequences from business transformation, they can’t see the results of their efforts.”
Labour have accused the council’s ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat group of hiding business transformation weaknesses by making it impossible for the opposition to properly scrutinise the project. Coun Rice said he feared the scrutiny process was in danger of being “emasculated”.
Deputy city council leader Paul Tilsley (Lib Dem Sheldon) said: “I hope business transformation is not going to become a political football.”