Cllr Robert Alden is Leader of the Conservative Group on Birmingham City Council.
Out with the old, in with the new. Or so the start of a new year is meant to signify. Sadly, for residents of Birmingham the new year merely sees the escalation of industrial action and the continuing Birmingham Labour bin dispute.
The bin dispute, now over 630 days and counting, since the first notice of industrial action was declared, has seen residents suffer months of strikes over the last two years – and often more missed collections than actual collections.
The latest chapter in Birmingham Labour’s bin saga came about when ‘secret payments’ to members of one union came to light causing first one and then a second union to go on strike demanding similar payments. Sadly as is often the case in Birmingham, residents have been left trying to piece together what has happened from snippets in the press. The Labour administration never produce any public reports nor did they brief opposition councillors about the payments that were made, prior to them appearing in the papers, and claims have been made that only the Labour Leader was aware from the administration itself.
The Conservative Group has been demanding that all papers relating to these payments and the latest chapter of the industrial action are released to the public. We tabled a motion calling for these to be released at this week’s full Council meeting.
Since news of the payments broke, the Cabinet Member for Cleaner Streets, new to this role in May but in another cabinet portfolio before May, even joined our calls for the Council to release the documents relating to the payments. He then resigned in protest at Birmingham Labour’s handling of the current industrial action during this week’s full Council meeting.
With industrial action that has been on and off for more than two years, those not familiar with Birmingham Labour would no doubt think this is as bad as it could get; they are wrong.
Just before Christmas, Birmingham Labour brought a report to cabinet about the need to procure a new waste contract. Normally this would not seem out the ordinary. However the previous waste disposal contract was a 9,131 day contract that commenced in January 1994. Which meant the cabinet report for the re-procurement came forward just 36 days before the end of the current contract and was finally approved one day before the current contract expired. This report, due to its late nature, simply calls for an extension of the current contract rather than a full procurement process that would be able to ensure taxpayers got the best value.
To top it all off, days before Christmas the Labour Council slipped out a damning report into the waste dispute – but that is a story for another day.
Many Labour people like to claim Birmingham City Council is a testbed for policies a Labour Government would bring in. Residents of Birmingham wondering when they may finally get their Christmas waste collected will be able to vouch for the failure of Birmingham Labour’s testbed.