At the weekend, the SKWAWKBOX broke the news that Birmingham City Council had agreed a deal with union Unite to retain the pay-grade and salary of ‘leading hand’ refuse collectors, who had faced a pay cut of £3,500-5,000 to their existing salaries of only £19-21,000 and have since been issued with summary redundancy notices as the council went back on its agreement.
The ‘smoking gun’ was an email from council leader John Clancy to depot managers that confirmed the agreement and began its implementation. Up to that point, the council had been denying that a firm deal had been made.
When the Birmingham Mail ran with the story, the council’s response was to try to scapegoat Clancy, claiming he had exceeded his authority in making and communicating the deal. A motion of no confidence in his leadership has been tabled for the next council meeting.
Some councillors have challenged the content of Clancy’s email to the depot managers, focusing on the claim that it cannot have been agreed because there was no cabinet meeting of the correct type for what he described in the email as a ‘key decision’ – with the clear implication that the council leader had acted as a maverick.
But the SKWAWKBOX can reveal that a cabinet members did meet on 17 August to discuss the deal, the day before Clancy’s email went out – and even the result of the vote to support it.
A senior Birmingham Labour source told the SKWAWKBOX:
John has done his best to resolve the dispute in good faith and cabinet absolutely did get together to discuss it and vote on it. In a later council meeting, councillors admitted it was carried by six votes to four – but it was seven-three. Either way, there was a clear majority in favour of the deal.
John made a mistake in using the term ‘key decision’, because you can’t make those in a secret cabinet meeting – but the meeting did happen. It was a ‘part 2‘ meeting held in secret and at short notice, which is why it wasn’t on the council meeting calendar – but John’s proposed agreement with the bin workers had the approval of a clear majority of cabinet members.
Stella [Manzie, the interim CEO employed by the council] was on holiday at the time. When she came back it all kicked off, with all kinds of pressure applied to the cabinet members to row back on the decision. If anyone should be carrying the blame for the failure to honour the deal and the fact we’ve still got rubbish piling up, it’s Stella.
Any attempt by the council to paint Mr Clancy as a maverick and to heap all blame on his head will be transparently an attempt to wriggle out of a properly made agreement that has already been formally approved – and it must be resisted as such.
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