Coun Mahmood, a member of the Labour council's inner leadership team, says he can't support the city council's decision to take legal action against the bins unions.

He acted after the council's Cabinet announced this morning that it was taking legal action against the unions Unite and Unison for what it says is an unlawful industrial dispute.

The news triggered a threat of immediate strike action.

"They have made a declaration of war against their own workforce and the people of Birmingham will be affected by the decision they made today," said a furious Howard Beckett, Unite union's assistant general secretary.

A new bins strike is now "inevitable", he said.

An urgent meeting of Birmingham City Council's Cabinet agreed to apply to court for an injunction to end what they say is "unlawful industrial action" by the bin workers' union Unite.

They pledged to formallly invite Unite to take part in Binding Arbitration through the conciliation service ACAS in the meantime - but ruled out plans to stump up any kind of 'parity payment' to its members.

 

Said Coun Mahmood: "I am not going to be party to a Labour council using Tory legislation to attack bin workers, our brothers and sisters in the union movement."

Coun Mahmood is Cabinet Member for Clean Streets, Waste and Recycling. He took up the post last year.

He has struggled with his conscience for several weeks over a range of issues he felt were at odds with his socialist principles and unionism.

Councillor Majid Mahmood
Councillor Majid Mahmood

He has particularly spoken to colleagues at his frustration over the council's handling of the dispute with enablement service workers and the closure of city council-managed children's nurseries and has complained of feeling 'gagged'.

In a letter to colleagues, he wrote: "The action being pursued by the officers of Birmingham City Council with Cabinet approval will ultimately lead to the carrying out of an injunction against Unite the Union. This is a dispute that has the support of more than 94% of the members.

"I cannot be a party to such an action that goes against the very fabric of my socialist values.

"As a group we need to understand the ramifications of our collective actions, and make a choice on whose side we’re on."

An emotional Coun Mahmood said today: "I love this city and this is the best position I have ever held but I cannot in all conscience continue to support an approach I don't believe in. I feel the bins service is being set up to fail."

Leader of the council  Ian Ward responded to the resignation: “The people of Birmingham want us to resolve the waste collection dispute as quickly as possible and cabinet members agreed a way forward on Monday 14 January - unfortunately Cllr Mahmood changed his mind and was subsequently unwilling to support that way forward.

Birmingham Council leader Cllr Ian Ward

“I thank Coun Mahmood for his efforts over the last four years, but being in the Cabinet requires collective responsibility, respect for the respective roles of officers and members, and the courage to take tough decisions in the interests of those we serve.

“Our focus now is to test our legal advice and seek a resolution to this dispute through binding arbitration at ACAS.

 

Our focus as a Cabinet is to resolve this dispute and to deliver clean streets, homes, jobs and opportunities for the people of Birmingham. Despite huge cuts we are achieving tremendous things for the people of this city, with the newly announced £1.5bn Smithfield development bringing jobs and homes, and the Commonwealth Games transforming our world standing in 2022."

Representing Bromford and Hodge Hill, Coun Mahmood is politically ambitious and has been linked with the Labour candidacy for the next West Midlands Mayoral election in 2020. Today's decision is unlikely to have been linked to that ambition.

 

Unite's assistant general secretary Howard Beckett, leading the negotiations with the city over the bins dispute, praised Coun Mahmood for his actions.

He also called on other Unite members within the Cabinet - including Coun Ian Ward, deputy leader Coun Brigid Jones and transport and environment member Coun Waseem Zaffar - to consider their positions.

"Shame on them for backing this action," said Mr Beckett.

The council vowed it was acting in the interests of residents by refusing to bow to union pressure to make a payment which it considers it is not lawfully obliged to do.