Councillors have criticised Service Birmingham after it emerged that taxpayers were charged £52 for a single Birmingham resident to have his bin bags collected.
The cost was said to have risen because the householder had to ring the city council’s “state of the art” call centre 13 times before his rubbish was taken away.
Now an investigation is to be launched into the performance of the Service Birmingham centre, which boasts on its website of providing “world class information systems”.
A joint venture involving the council and customer service firm Capita, it takes more than a million calls a year at a cost to the authority of £4 a call.
But the probe, by the council’s co-ordinating scrutiny committee, will focus on value for money.
Labour group deputy leader Coun Ian Ward (Shard End) said: “The payment per call issue is key.
“Someone made 13 calls to have their black bags collected and it takes three or four minutes to speak to someone.”
Significantly, performance is judged only on the number of calls, the speed at which the phone is answered and the politeness of the operator – not the quality of service or outcome.
Service Birmingham has performed well on all the current indicators.
Coun Ward pointed to an independent report by accountants Grant Thornton which said the council should renegotiate the contract based on performance rather than call volume.
The state of affairs at Service Birmingham was also attacked by Coun Deirdre Alden (Con, Edgbaston).
“I have told my constituents to contact me to have their rubbish collected and I will call the depot because there is no point in going through the call centre,” she said.
“It was poor several years ago and little has changed. Progress has been slow.”
There was an outcry last year when Capita revealed plans to hire 55 IT specialists in India to work on the Service Birmingham contract.
The furore prompted a U-turn and the jobs were returned to Birmingham – but councillors were told in January that the whole episode could cost the taxpayer £12.6 million.
Service Birmingham chief executive Stewart Wren said: “For many customers the contact centre is only the first step in dealing with their issues.
“That’s why we intend to work closely with the council to find ways of improving the whole customer experience from beginning to end.
“If a review of the contract will also lead to better service then, of course, we will support this.”