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Birmingham could end in-house waste service

Birmingham City Council’s troubled waste service could be handed to another operator following a review in response to the authority’s £6m strike settlement.

A report to the council’s cabinet said that waste industry consultancies should be invited to bid to review the service.

It said: “It is important to recognise that the council requires a ‘blue sky’ approach to this activity, and bidders are expected to take an unconstrained view of the possible options rather than solely consider remodel options regarding the existing in-house service provision.”

Successful bidders would be expected to start work in May on gathering data, followed by “an in-depth analysis of the current service [and] a best practice review of current market providers, with an options appraisal to ensure that a future service delivery model is an efficient, cost-effective, best in class service”.

Bidders must also undertake a ‘gap analysis’ between Birmingham’s systems and processes and best practice found elsewhere, and make recommendations for immediate efficiencies and savings.

Birmingham has a population of a million people and almost 420,000 households, from which the council moves 250,000 tonnes a year of domestic waste. It also deals with a further 494,000 tonnes of commercial waste.

The review was agreed by the council following the £6m settlement last week of strike action by the Unite and Unison trade unions.

Meanwhile, auditors have decided to take no action over possible unlawful spending by the council on waste services.

A report for its audit committee said that during an earlier strike in 2017, in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire, contractors for housing repairs arranged to collect waste from council tower blocks.

Some £800,000-worth of this work was charged to the housing revenue account, which is supposed to be used solely for housing management.

Former council leader Sir Albert Bore raised concerns that this was unlawful. The report found some of the spending had been unlawful and said officers should work out how much to reimburse the housing revenue account.

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