Controversial changes to Birmingham's bin service which ended last year's strike have been branded 'an absolute mess' that will lead to spiralling costs.

The waste department is expected to cost the cash-strapped city council £5.5m more than budgeted by the end of 2018/19 the Resources overview and scrutiny committee was told yesterday (Thursday, October 18).

A large chunk of that is down to the six-month delay in restructuring the service from a four-day to a five-day working week - costing £1.8m - which was a key feature of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the council and union Unite.

Another £1.6m is still owed to 'external contractors' who were required during the lengthy industrial action.

Uncollected refuse in Birmingham.

But opposition councillors on the committee claimed the new arrangements, which also include shorter shift times and revised routes, have led to a spike in complaints about missed collections.

Cllr Ewan Mackey (Cons, Sutton Roughley) said: "What we are seeing on the ground makes me very concerned. Since the MOU has been implemented suddenly my mail box is full of complaints about general waste not been collected."

He added: "When you complain they say 'no problem, we'll send a mop-up wagon'. That causes a boom in costs.

"If you don't do the job the first time round and have to go out a second time that eventually costs more money. We are probably looking at more costs coming our way very soon."

Cllr Paul Tilsley (Lib Dem, Sheldon) said: "It has been left in an absolute mess. The new working model has been introduced and it is not going well.

"I think there has been rebelling taking place in the ranks judging by the complaints.

"We have had waste which hasn't been collected for four weeks.

"This is unacceptable. I don't think we can gloss over it."

A bin lorry on the Solihull/Birmingham border
A bin lorry on the Solihull/Birmingham border

He calculated the service needs to make savings of £250,000 a week to recoup the money lost adding: "I am very concerned that council tax payers are going to pay for a bad political decision."

Cllr Meirion Jenkins (Cons, Sutton Mere Green) echoed the criticism saying that after a 'somewhat quiet period' complaints about missed collections had started to 'ramp up'.

The Labour-run council needs to make around £100m worth of cuts by the end of 2019/20 but the authority is already staring at a £13.6m budget overspend this year.

Steve Powell, assistant director for corporate finance, said a large proportion of that was to due to 'timing' reassuring that some savings could not be brought forward into the current financial year but would be achieved in the next one.

However he was not in a position to comment on the specific claims regarding the performance of the waste department.

Last month when the waste service restructure commenced, bins chief Cllr Majid Mahmood (Lab, Bromford and Hodge Hill) warned there would be a 'transition period'.

He said: "A citywide programme of change and modernisation like this will understandably require some time to bed in."

The council expects the changes to improve recycling rates eventually saving £1.6m a year in landfill costs and also reduce annual spending on agency workers by £3m.