Analysis Breaking Exclusive

Right-wing Labour-run Birmingham council computer systems in chaos amid financial crisis

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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  1. I understand Rebecca Hellard has left the council. At a recent meeting the cabinet was asked to approve expenditure of £100 million £46 million on top of the initial cost of the system has already been allocated prior to approval. I can see this Oracle ERP costing well over the £100 million allocated. Council Leader John Cotton said “It would not impact services” it has done so already. I believe there should be a criminal as well as independent investigation in to this contract & if council officers are found to have overstepped their authority they should be sacked! We see this in all councils but Birmingham has a history of overspending & not renewing contracts on time as well as council officers renewing contracts without oversight from cabinet. This should be a watershed moment for a council that is too big, too incompetent & opaque. A Council that lost court cases around the Bin Dispute & Care Workers Dispute that led to the City Solicitor leaving her post. They now have to find £760 million to cover underpayments to mostly women employees and that was part of Labour & then Conservative/ Liberal Democrat Coalition & then back to Labour so no party comes out the last issue squeaky clean. What a mess!

    1. Public Finance tells us that all non-essential spending has stopped at Birmingham City Council ‘as officials reckon with an expected £860m hit from historic equal pay issues and a faltering IT system implementation’ that should have cost £19m, but could end-up costing c £100m instead.

    1. As far as the £760 million underpayment is concerned that also goes back to previous Labour administration as well as Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration as well. So it’s not just one party at fault. Council officers also must take the blame for this and Oracle debacle, if the independent judge led enquiry doesn’t find officers exceeded their authority I’d be gobsmacked! The council is too big and unwieldy!

      1. BUT – as Oracle EPR’s developers will prove – some clients are prone to ‘requirements creep’ and do, under the terms and conditions of the contract between it and the Council, balloon the requirements and thus augment the cost. The blame is likely to be as much the Council’s procurement department ‘s as the supplier’s.

  2. Oh dear…..Maidstone Central (Kent) council by-election result:

    LDEM: 28.5% (-1.6)
    GRN: 28.4% (+13.😎
    CON: 24.0% (-12.4)
    LAB: 14.0% (-5.0)
    REF: 4.3% (+4.3)
    IND: 0.9% (+0.9)

    Votes cast: 6,521

    Liberal Democrat HOLD*.
    11:21 am · 7 Jul 2023

    1. Baz2001 – I wonder if the Greens will manage to hang onto their one and only seat in Brighton & Hove at the next GE, I have my doubts.

    2. No idea why you feel the greens are cool.

      They’re lib dems into recycling. They don’t give a crap about the average person. In fact they want to take your stuff.

      1. Although some Green candidates are also democratic socialists, you are right NVLA, the majority of them seem not to be and the party itself comes across as ideologically ’liberal’ and therefore NOT sufficiently distrusting of the elite and its rigged capitalism.
        JC was right in his two manifestos. Red ‘n’ Green is the future for democratic, mass-appeal socialism. Starmer’s watered-down green pledges kinda proves Jeremy’s prognosis.

      2. NVLA: You are talking complete and utter bollocks!

        And qwertboi, can you provide evidence for your assertion that the majority of Green candidates seem not to be democratic socialists, because their manifesto says otherwise. In other words, what specifically led you to such a conclusion?

        I would suggest to everyone who follows skwawkbox to check out the Green Party’s manifesto and, as such, make up your own mind.

      3. @Allan

        So I’m talking bollocks am I?

        Let’s start with Green support for NATO. How much pollution!? This alone shreds their agenda.

        And what about their hatred for the car? Did you know that just one cruise company (Carnival) makes more pollution than all the cars in Europe? How about just 16 ships making more pollution than all the vehicles in the world?

        But no, your car and gas cooker are the problem…

        The green party support ideas such as C40. And if you live in Londonistan, you can look forward to no new clothes, no car and if you’re lucky 44gr of meat a day.

        But I’m talking bollocks…

      4. Allan H. For me, it’s a “once bitter twice shy” thing.
        I used the word ‘seem’ because there is no evidence for or against the proposition that the UK Greens adhere to any notion of class consciousness enough to make them (logically at least) socialist. I was a student in Germany when the Greens had a spectacular rise under Petra Kelly and, because I was active in the Düsseldorf and Cologne chapters/branches of the new party, saw how approaches from trade union-centred parts of the left were not just ignored but actively resisted/repelled by Die Grünen.

        I’d love history not to repeat itself, so watch for signs that ‘the left’ in the FPTP anaemic UK and the Greens are in integrating with the established Green party. Other than the sort of cases that SW highlight here (xx), I don’t see any. Do you?

      5. It says Daz on the side of buses but they don’t sell soap powder.

        Just because something is printed in a manifesto means nothing.

        It does seem reasonable to surmise that lesson had been learned following Keith’s famous ten pledges.

        But, obviously not.

      6. Allan – I wonder, will there be any Greens sitting on the green benches after the next general election? 🤔

      7. Allen, which bit of “it says Daz on the side of buses but they don’t sell soap powder'” is causing comprehension problems.

        The only thing that counts is whether something does what it says on the tin.

        Ask those seeking independence rather than devo-max in Scotland about the “Greens”.

    3. Herr Flick
      Are you that thick
      Plus 13 in Kent
      Brighton is Red Tory Blue Tory , Two Cheeks of the same arse, put your last coconut on it staying Green

      1. Given that their one solitary MP Caroline Lucas is stepping down at the next general election and the Greens have already lost their control of Brighton council to Labour I expect there will soon be a Labour MP in Brighton and Hove

      2. “Given that their one solitary MP Caroline Lucas is stepping down at the next general election…”

        That’s the thing SteveH: When the parliamentary presence of an allegedly major issue produces only one MP, either
        * it is not a major issue, or
        * the powerful interests whose interests are served by an-easily manipulable FPTP system, use their control of MSM to reduce said presence to “personality politics” and position all matters green to “extremism” (terrorism’ in neoliberal english) or the persona/personality of Caroline Lucas.

        This is why IF ‘the left’ (as you say) has any power after the blair/starmer denaturing of Labour, it will be of a Red’n’Green flavour such as Die Links in Germany or a JC-type peace and justice clean air/rivers/ food ‘new party’.

    4. SteveH

      Depending upon how Labour’s manifesto is received, and how the typically six week campaign goes, there could be quite a few more Greens after the next GE.

      You’d think Labour would find it easy to work with other progressive parties, but Starmer and the people around him are such a control freaks, and in all honestly, this version of Labour isn’t progressive. A hung parliament and the idea of compromise would be a total nightmare for these people.

      You can well imagine Starmer standing down, rather than attempting to thrash out a supply and confidence arrangement with say the SNP, LDs and Greens or a combination of these. For progressive voters, the aim must be to deliver that hung parliament, effectively giving the corrupt big two the middle finger. There’d be far progressive policy from no majority, than from a authoritarian right Labour majority.

      1. Andy – I’m reasonably happy with Labour’s current policy platform.
        Time will tell whether you or the polls are proved right.

      2. If you were being honest you’d admit it’s threadbare stuff considering Labour won’t have been in power for 14 years at the next GE.

        And even with these meagre Blairite policy offers, they keep doing U-turns. They must have spent the est. £1.5bn from ending the VAT exemption for private schools, at least a dozen times over. And I’d wager even that one lone progressive policy, will never be implemented. They’ll U-turn at some point, just wait for it.

    5. Labour’s by-election results suggest mass apathy for the party.

      Yes, they dominate telephone polls be it ComRes , Ipsos YouGov as SteveH likes to remind people – but people agree to take part in those telephone polls and they adjust ‘don’t knows’. It’s nothing like 1997, with the left having enough in the manifesto, policy-wise, to get behind the party.

      1. It is self evident that neither of us will know exactly what is in the manifesto until it is published.

        It’s worth noting that all the polls were more or less spot on in predicting the vote share for the 2019GE.

      2. “It is self evident that neither of us will know exactly what is in the manifesto until it is published. “

        Or leaked – unless that’s something your right-wing accomplices ONLY do to left wing manifestos…

        in which case… it would be published 12 weeks after Starmer takes occupation of Downing Street.

      3. qwertboi – What a load of gibberish.
        As I recall it, the ‘leaking’ of Labour’s 2017 manifesto played out very much in Labour’s favour. As for who ‘leaked’ it, that’s anybodies guess.

      4. Leave voters were motivated to vote, treating it almost as if it was another referendum.

        Where have Starmer-led Labour matched their supposed poll leads to date? Certainly not in the weekly by-election tests, nor in the English Local elections.

        I’d wager they won’t get as many votes as Corbyn got in 2017 (his first general election) when they got an impressive 12.87 million, but they may get more seats, if the Tory vote collapses, obviously.

        What annoys many on the left are those who pretend Corbyn-led party was never even in contention, in 2017 with 40% and 12.87million votes they were very competitive indeed. The right concentrates solely on 2019, which Johnson acknowledged as an election purely about delivering Brexit. Labour had a sketchy ‘Peoples Vote’ proposal thanks to the conniving Tom Watson and Sir Keith Starmer.

      5. @Andy

        View everything that’s happened since 2008 as profit for America. Asides from the obvious with Ukraine, you can trace the riots in France and Brexit back to America. All roads lead to Washington.

        Remember when Obama told us “Back of the queue!”. It wasn’t a warning. He was goading. All the labour players involved with both Corbyns defenistration and the pants Brexit have ties to the US.

        Why do you think American inflation is dropping whilst Europe’s doesn’t? Because America is sucking the life out of Europe.

      6. Herr Flick
        It is self evident you will have no feet on the ground and nothing but a Tory Light offer to the electorate
        Big questions for next GE
        Spending priorities
        What is a women

      7. SteveH, of course the leaking (by starmer-supporting neoliberals) of Labour’s GE17 manifesto played ‘very much in Labour’s favour’. It was a proper Labour (read, not neo-we-love-capitalism-liberal con-trick) Manifesto. For the Many, not the Few.

        There might not be any evidence that a third-way starmerista (or the man himself) leaked the manifesto, but it’s the most likely explanation.

  3. God bless Red Tories
    Exploitation and Extraction on a grand scale
    Welcome to the Kleptocracy

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