Alan Rudge, the Birmingham City Council Cabinet member accused of steamrollering through mass redundancies among the local authority’s workforce, is fighting back.
A new IT system at Birmingham City Council that stores information about the working records of thousands of employees – from salary and days off sick to disciplinary proceedings and holiday entitlement – could be offered to other local authorities as a money making venture.
The People Solutions software enables the council to keep track of 50,000 staff, replacing a time-consuming paper trail spread across many departments.
For the first time managers can follow the day-to-day activities of employees and use computer projections to work out future trends.
Alan Rudge, the cabinet member for human resources, says the Excellence in People Management (EIPM) project will save about £300 million by 2016.
Last week, Coun Rudge went on the offensive, fighting back against union claims that the council is panicking by seeking to axe 2,000 jobs over the next year in the light of expected government public spending cuts.
It emerged that he has taken to hiring his own private sector media advisers, rather than rely solely on the council’s in-house press office.
Computer tracking has already enabled the council to reduce its requirements for hiring expensive agency staff by 23 per cent, equivalent to 764 jobs.
In addition to that, about 80 jobs in the human resources and equalities division have been dispensed with.
The new system should also enable council managers to weed out persistent malingerers and reduce the authority’s absenteeism record, which stands at an average ten days off sick per person each year.
Coun Rudge (Con Sutton Vesey) is planning now to lease the new IT systems to other councils.
He said: “By April this year we will have created one of the most efficient ways of running human resources of any organisation in the UK. EIPM has been delivered on time and on budget.
“I consider there is every opportunity for other local authorities to use our payroll system, at a charge of course.
“We can instantly track days off sick and staff absenteeism. There is no hiding place now.”
The council is also working with Aston University and Birmingham University to develop computer programmes to better predict the authority’s future employment needs.
Coun Rudge said data provided by the research would be vital in helping the council to make sure that it did not waste money by hiring expensive agency staff to cover for a lack of in-house expertise.
He promised to do everything possible to avoid compulsory redundancies as the council begins the process of trimming its 25,000 non-schools workforce.
“We have an annual turnover of about ten per cent so a number of people will leave anyway.
“There will be early retirement and voluntary redundancy, we will do everything we can to be fair and reasonable,” Coun Rudge added.
He rejected union claims that he was back-tracking on a promise to find alternative employment within the council for people who are in danger of losing their jobs.
The so-called Employee Bargain, which promises to try to re-train staff and identify alternative roles within the local authority, was never meant to be a cast-iron guarantee of work, he said.
Coun Rudge added: “I attended all of the meetings with the unions and made it perfectly clear that we could not promise a job in all cases.
“Anyone who says otherwise is misrepresenting what I said.”
Downing Dunmore Public Relations, a private sector firm hired to promote Coun Rudge’s image, is eager to put the positive side of the human resources changes.
A briefing note for journalists reads: “Councillor Alan Rudge has been the subject of much press comment as the cabinet member responsible for human resources and equalities.
“His endeavours to modernise and re-focus Birmingham City Council’s approach to people management with new practices and management tools to increase performance and productivity have kept him in the firing line from disgruntled staff, the unions and the media.
“Many of the programmes that Coun Rudge has initiated have long been recognised as good practice in the private sector, but the economic climate has elevated them to essential practices for all organisations that want to manage their most expensive cost centre, that is staff costs,” it added.