Council has also stopped all ‘non-essential’ spending
A leaked briefing from Birmingham City Council CEO Deborah Cadman to staff this week has informed them that the council has stopped all ‘non-essential’ spending – and even ‘mandatory’ spending is under restrictions:
But the council has also been in chaos, with massive computer problems rendering it unable to pay many suppliers or even calculate its tax bill.
Skwawkbox obtained a recording of a 31 March 2023 meeting chaired by council Head of Finance Rebecca Hellard, with all finance staff in attendance. The meeting discussed the following major issues:
- ongoing problems with the council’s payment system were preventing staff from accessing the ledger so the council’s end of year taxes could not be completed
- the system had not been trialled before implementation and staff who brought up issues with it wwere being ignored and described as called trouble-makers
- staff were not the only ones raising issues. The payment system came third in reviews compared to other payment systems available, yet was still implemented
- the council had brought in consultants to try to fix the system but they were unsuccessful. PwC had now been hired and had informed the council that while they may be able to fix the problems, they may also identify new ones
- the union rep present highlighted that staff are working under severe stress and the senior management team had ignored their issues. Over half the staff had informed their union they were suffering from stress
- experienced staff had left the council because of the system and the resulting stress, for example a staff member with over 30 years’ experience and his two assistants left and the council had hired 17 other staff members with no experience to take their roles
- the payment system was supposed to be faster and cheaper to run and it has turned out to be slower and more expensive, and is not even fully functional
- Ms Hellard apologised at the start of the meeting to the staff who are on the frontline, who are on the receiving end of the anger of schools and other council departments because of issues with payments
- staff are now so stressed that they were scared to bring anything to the senior management team because they said this leads to bullying and intimidation.
- consultants unable to fix issues had nonetheless been paid, staff had been hired with no experienced and are floundering. The council was now offering more cash to staff who want to leave because of the stress, in an attempt to persuade them to stay
The council told Skwawkbox:
“Last year, the council went live with a new IT system to improve its internal functions relating to financial management and human resources.
“The switch was the first major change in IT system that had been undertaken by the council in more than 20 years.
“Although it is not unusual for such implementations to encounter difficulties, it is clear the transition to the new solution has been particularly challenging – but, importantly, the issues have not affected front-line services for the people of Birmingham.
“There have been notable successes over the last year. For example, the council has made payments to over half a million suppliers since April 2022, with a value of £2.5billion using the new system. However, some elements still require further work to resolve impacts upon day-to-day operations in back office areas such as finance and HR.
“To resolve all issues, an action plan has been drawn up, governance strengthened, and a new task force is being set up, which will be chaired by the Chief Executive, with progress overseen directly by the Leader of the Council. “In addition, the council is also actively engaging with its external auditors, who have offered to independently review the plans to ensure the implementation of the system is successfully completed.
However, Skwawkbox understands from council insiders that the situation is still ‘chaos’.
Keir Starmer’s Labour regime was recently exposed by Skwawkbox using a ‘campaign improvement board’ investigation to oust then-council leader Ian Ward – but ignoring complaints to the CIB of rampant abuse, bullying, threats and misogyny among Labour-right figures, who escaped with no action taken over the allegations.
Now the computer chaos at the council, which has long been run by the Labour right, has been revealed to be accompanied by financial near-collapse.
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