Friday, December 31, 2010

Update on domestic refuse collections

I am sure you are well aware that both domestic and recycling collections have been missed across the city over the last two weeks.

I hope this note explains the background to these missed collections and what the Council is doing as a result.

There are three reasons for the missed refuse collections, each of which I will go into greater details.

The three reasons are:

1) The heavy snow fall in the week leading up to Christmas Day.

2) Industrial action by the Council’s refuse workers

3) The additional waste left out during the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

The heavy snow fall in the week leading up to Christmas Day

The heavy snow meant that refuse collections during the week leading up to Christmas Day were restricted to roads that received regular gritting. So in the case of Moseley and Kings Heath Ward, this would have included Alcester Road, Salisbury Road, Wake Green Road, School Road, Billesley Lane, etc. All the side roads did not have a refuse collection.

The non-gritted roads did not receive a collection for the following reasons:

a) The possibility that the refuse trucks would skid in the road, ploughing into parked cars, cyclists, pedestrians or the refuse collectors themselves.

b) The possibility that the refuse trucks would become stuck in the side road, in turn completely blocking it to other traffic that could handle the snowy conditions

c) The possibility that the refuse workers would slip on the pavement or road whilst carrying a heavy sack and causing serious injury

Because of this week’s worth of uncollected rubbish, the refuse workers have had additional waste to collect this week – which in turn has filled the refuse trucks up quickly, resulting in increased trips to the depots to empty the refuse trucks.

Industrial action by the Council’s refuse workers

Without wishing to go into detail as to the cause of the industrial action, the action by the refuse workers has taken a number of forms:

i) A one day strike on Monday 20th December.

ii) An overtime ban

The overtime ban is having the greatest impact on our refuse collection, since the structure of the city’s refuse collection is based on the refuse collectors willingness to do overtime.

This willingness to do overtime, has in past being used as follows:

1) After previous one day strikes, the Council has paid the refuse workers overtime to remove the rubbish caused by their strike.

2) Whenever there is a Bank Holiday, the refuse workers have been paid overtime to remove rubbish on the Bank Holidays.

3) To minimise the number of refuse trucks required, the refuse workers worked a compressed four day week(9.25 hours per day, totalling 37 hours per week), with the fifth day paid as overtime.

As you can see from above, the refusal to work overtime, has resulted in the ‘fifth day’ of working disappearing, no collection on Christmas Day bank holiday(Monday 27th December), Boxing Day bank holiday (Tuesday 28th December) and New Years Day bank holiday (Monday 3rd January)

The additional waste left out during the Christmas and New Year holiday period

It goes without saying too much, that the Christmas and New Year period is a time of parties, big dinners and presents.....which result in increased waste.

What is the Council doing about the uncollected waste

The Council has recruited a "casual" workforce, who will operate the 19 vehicles that originally ran the ‘fifth day’ operation.

The 19 vehicles and ‘casual’ workforce are operating from a newly created depot in Central Birmingham. They began operating on Monday 27th December.

The daily amount of tonnage the casual crew is collecting has significantly increased as they have got used to operating the refuse trucks and learnt the route of the rounds.

The first task for the ‘casual’ crew is to collect all the refuse that wasn’t collected on Monday 27th December (plus the Monday before that). At time of writing, I have been assured that nearly all this rubbish has been collected and they are now beginning to collect the uncollected rubbish from Tuesday 28th December (and the Tuesday before that).

The casual crew will be working throughout this weekend, plus Bank Holiday Monday.

The Council’s permanent workforce have been working this week on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. However, a high number of illnesses on these permanent crews has impacted on their collection rates.

The permanent workforce are working until 3.30pm every day, so anything not collected before 3.30pm will not be collected until next week.

We are hoping that with the New Year bank holiday out the way and hopefully, no more snow, we will quickly get back to normal with our refuse collection service.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Update on Moseley Road baths

Rumours are circulating that the historic Moseley Road baths are on the verge of closing. I hope I can explain the source of these rumours and also allay them.

In late November, the Council engineers expressed concern about the structural safety of the fire exit door in Pool 2 – Pool 2 is the present operating pool. The lintel (a lintel is the horizontal beam above any door or window, that carries the weight of the wall above ) of this fire exit is badly corroded, due to the chlorine in the pool, such that it can no longer carry the weight of the wall above.

Temporary scaffolding was inserted a month ago to carry the weight of the lintel, whilst a structural survey was carried out. I was given the results of the structural survey last Wednesday (22nd December).

The structural analysis shows that the metal lintel needs replacing and that the temporary scaffolding should be replaced with a permanent solution during January. The cost of replacing the metal lintel is £75k.

Working with the Acting Director for Constituencies, between us we managed to find the required £75k. However, we didn’t have time before the Christmas break to put together a business case to Finance justifying the release of this money – we will do this once all the Council officers come back next week after the Christmas break.

In addition to this, during November, in my role as Cabinet member for Leisure, Sport and Culture, I showed members of the regional Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) around Moseley Road baths. The restoration of these baths is a project that the HLF are particularly interested in, with the potential for the HLF to fund up to 90% of the work......although can I add the caveat, that to justify funding up to 90% the business case has to be particularly strong.

Our meeting with the HLF was very positive and they have asked us to look at ways we could phase the restoration, within an overall master plan and business case. By phasing the work we would only apply for small chunks of money over a number of years, which the HLF could accommodate within their budget.

Once we have resolved the issue of the fire exit in the coming weeks, I will begin work to look at ways of phasing our HLF bids for a Moseley Road baths restoration project.

Update on Kings Heath Library temporary closure

At the moment Kings Heath Library is temporarily closed. Anyone who has visited the library in recent months will have noticed the extensive amount of temporary scaffolding inside the library. This scaffolding was inserted due to concerns about the structural safety of the roof.

With the recent heavy snowfall, the library was temporarily closed, since it was feared that one of the roof skylights might collapse and injure anyone in the library below.

A structural survey of the roof and floor was done in early December and I was informed of the outcome of this survey last Wednesday (22nd December). The results were as follows:

  • · The roof is structurally sound, although it needs re-felting
  • · The floor is structurally sound. Sections of the floor have slightly sunk and this was found to be due to previous movement within the building which has now settled
  • · The wooden frames of the glass skylights are rotten and need replacing.

The cost of replacing the skylights with exact replicas is approximately (and this is a finger in the air estimate) to be £300k. The replacements have to be exact replicas since the building is statutory listed grade II.

Mindful of the present financial squeeze, it is proposed to go ahead with a cheaper alternative which will at least keep the library open for a number of years. This will give is time to find the money to fully repair the roof and skylights.

It is proposed to replace the present temporary scaffoldings with permanent scaffolding - cost £55k. The permanent scaffolding will be the equivalent of inserting a false ceiling, albeit with greater structural strength, which will stretch from wall to wall, with none of the current ugly vertical scaffolding. Artificial lighting will also be needed.

The earliest we are likely to get the roof and skylights repaired is 2012. This is due to a massive financial pressure next year of £1.8million required to strip the Sutton Coldfield library building of asbestos by December 2011

Working with the Acting Director for Constituencies, between us we managed to find the required £55k by last Friday (24th December) and an order has now been placed for the permanent scaffolding.

When the Council Officers come back from the Christmas break next week, I will be in better position to confirm when the permanent scaffolding will be installed. Also, I will know if the library can re-open, while we wait for the permanent scaffolding to be inserted.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Can I be sued for clearing the pavement of snow?

Whenever it snows, I am always asked the question “can I be sued, if I clear the pavement in front of my house and someone slips over?”. Indeed, last winter I was told by a number of people that they refused to use the nearby grit bins to spread grit on dangerous sections of roads, since they feared being sued.

In an effort to clarify the situation, last winter I asked Birmingham City Council’s Legal department what the facts were. What they told me verbally is also supported by the Government own website – see

The response from our Legal department that they are not aware of anyone ever been sued for spreading salt or grit on a pavement or road. If a case was ever brought to court, a judge would ask the basic of whether the person who spread the salt or grit had acted reasonably and with care. Obviously, if someone plonks the grit down in a huge pile that is six inches high, that is not reasonable nor sensible, since it is clearly a trip hazard. If someone spreads the salt or grit sensibly, then the judge would be unlikely to say there is any case to answer.

This is supported by the Government website ( ) which says:

“There's no law stopping you from clearing snow and ice on the pavement outside your home or from public spaces. It's unlikely you'll be sued or held legally responsible for any injuries on the path if you have cleared it carefully. Follow the snow code when clearing snow and ice safely.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Results of consultation on a possible Moseley cctv system

As you will be aware a two week consultation was held in late November to understand what was the appetite amongst Moseley residents and traders for a cctv system in Moseley shopping centre. The results of that consultation can be seen by downloading the pdf file at

These results were presented to the Moseley and Kings Heath Ward Committee on 15th December 2010.

The Safer Birmingham Partnership had informed us in October that they were willing to offer £100,000 towards a 5 camera cctv system in Moseley shopping centre, on condition that the majority of the system was installed by 31st March 2010. After this date, the money would be clawed back by the government.

Mindful of this tight deadline, the consultation in November was restricted to two weeks. If the traders and residents were supportive of a cctv scheme, then we would move to a second consultation in the New Year on the design of the system.

As you will see from the results of the consultation we had approximately 50% support for a cctv system and approximately against 50% a cctv system. We also received a letters of support for a cctv system from Moseley Business Association, numerous public houses and the Moseley Society (albeit, subject to no trees or hanging baskets being removed for the cctv cameras).

Prior to the 15th December Ward Committee, your Ward Councillors investigated the possibility of either re-running or extending the consultation process. This was due to clear evidence of tampering with one of the consultation boxes and misinformation being put around – it was claimed incorrectly that numerous trees in Moseley would be felled to improve the sightlines of the cctv cameras.

The Safer Birmingham Partnership made it clear that they wanted a decision as to whether or not to proceed with a cctv system on 15th December. Failure to come to a decision, would result in the money being withdrawn.

On 15th December, the Ward Committee, which consists of your three Ward Councillors, based on the consultation results we had in front of us, decided that we did not have a mandate to go forward with a cctv system in Moseley in the public domain. However, mindful of evidence put forward by the Moseley Society and the local traders of regular anti-social behaviour and crime in Moseley car park, decided to support the idea of a cctv system in Moseley car park.

The resolution past at Ward Committee was as follows:


That the Ward Committee request Safer Birmingham Partnership to utilise the
funding earmarked for a Moseley CCTV Scheme, for

a) Two cameras (or possibly three to ensure effective coverage) erected to
cover Moseley Car Park with associated improved lighting;
b) Additional lighting in the alleys between The Junction and the Encore
clothing store; and between the rear of Church Avenue and the Cream Indian
Restaurant; and
c) Consider providing funding from the original allocation for a Retail
Radio Scheme for the business outlets in Moseley Village."

This resolution will be put forward to the Safer Birmingham Partnership Board in the New Year.