Beleaguered Birmingham City Council workers have been given the Gareth Malone treatment – with the formation of a morale-boosting choir.

The council is one of five workplaces taking part in the new BBC2 series The Choir: Sing While You Work.

Next Monday’s episode features choirmaster Malone auditioning hundreds of council workers, from grave diggers to pest controllers and even the chief executive, to form a choir of 22 singers.

They range from a traffic warden to the director of families and young people services.

And he soon realises that for some of the members whose jobs are at risk, it could be their swansong.

He learns that the biggest local council in Europe employs more than 40,000 staff but is in the middle of reducing its budget by £650 million.

Malone chooses children’s social worker Siobhan Patton as the soloist when they perform the 1988 hit The Only Way Is Up by Yazz and the Plastic Population.

She finds the lyrics particularly poignant and appropriate to her job and to the situation the council workers are in.

Malone tells her to wear her heart on her sleeve as she sings: “We’ve been broken down to the lowest turn and being on the bottom line sure ain’t no fun.”

Siobhan starts to cry as she talks about the pressures of her job.

“If I’m going to sing this song, I have to tap into that part of my mind where all those horrible things I see at work are kept,” she says.

 

“You can save children just before death, I’m not exaggerating when I say that. We see some horrible things and it’s very, very upsetting but you don’t have time to deal with those emotions.

“You have to stand in hospital with children with broken limbs and fill in forms and liaise with people. You don’t have time to have a good old cry.”

Malone is filmed reading of the council cuts in the Birmingham Post’s sister paper, the Birmingham Mail.

He says: “It’s so miserable reading this. I’ve seen articles like this for the last couple of years and not batted an eyelid. But now I know people who work in leisure centres and are at risk of having their job cut, it feels rather different.

“I didn’t really understand the human cost of the cuts until I came to Birmingham.

“It’s so difficult, how do you bounce back from that and still come to work and be cheerful. It’s pretty awful.”

The choir’s first rehearsals, in the banqueting suite of the council house, do not go that well and Malone has to tell them off for not practising enough.

But their first performance in front of the three judges, held at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in front of colleagues, friends and family, is hailed a triumph.

“It really worked as a moment in Birmingham City Council’s history,” says Malone.

The next step for the choir is to go forward into a knockout competition, against P&O Ferries, Sainsbury’s, Citi bank and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service.

The Choir continues on BBC2 on Mondays at 9pm.