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67% of performance targets missed, but Birmingham council still finds plenty to shout about in annual report

67% of performance targets missed, but Birmingham council still finds plenty to shout about in annual report

🕔27.Jun 2014

Last Friday, GBSLEP chairman Andy Street was at pains to ensure three red indicators out of five on the ‘KPI Dashboard didn’t spoil the Partnership’s Annual Conference. Today it’s the turn of Birmingham City Council Chief Executive Mark Rogers to put a positive gloss on the local authority’s performance.  In a valiant effort not to talk down the city, chief blogger Paul Dale makes you wait until the tenth paragraph of this story before highlighting those pesky missed targets. 

An end of year report on Birmingham City Council’s performance doesn’t hesitate to grab readers’ attention by listing the good news first.

Chief executive Mark Rogers, who recently blogged on the subject of ‘Birmingham, there’s plenty to shout about’, and criticised people for ‘talking down’ the city, sets out what he thinks were the most notable achievements during 2013-14.

These include Birmingham schools maintaining their reputation as a “beacon of excellence” in tackling homophobic bullying, and the opening of a £600,000 cycle route in the Cole Valley.

Mention is made also of the council’s Victims Charter, one of the first in the country, and the establishment of a national network to tackle social exclusion along with 17 “places of welcome” across Birmingham.

The report proudly lists the many awards won by the council during the year.

These include a gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show, two awards from the Royal Planning Institute recognising the council’s contribution to the quality of life for its citizens, and first place at the global Foreign Direct Investment awards in Shanghai with Birmingham named as the location with the most potential to attract foreign direct investment by international industry experts.

There’s also a hat-tip to Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust for winning Developer of the Year at the Insider Midlands Property Awards, and recognition of the four Royal Institute of British Architects awards for Eastside Park, not to mention the British Council for Offices award bestowed upon the city council’s new offices at 10 Woodcock Street.

Mr Rogers goes on to mention “key events” during the year which included Armed Forces Day, the first International Paralympic Committee Grand Prix Final at Alexander Stadium, the Diamond League Grand Prix “where a packed house saw international athletes, such as Mo Farah”, and the council leader’s delegation to the MIPIM property fair in the South of France.

Birmingham’s Christmas markets are praised as are the city’s New Year fireworks display, the St Patrick’s Day Parade, the Chinese New Year celebrations and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual History Month.

It’s not until the fourth page of his report (and the tenth para of this post, Ed.)  that Mr Rogers gets down to the real issue – the actual performance of the council against targets in its business plan. The picture is mixed, but the bald statistics show that 67 per cent of performance targets were missed.

Mr Rogers says this is partly due to a change in approach with the business plan being re-focussed on “the most problematic areas requiring significant improvement”, which meant that some targets were bound to be extremely challenging. He also points out that several targets were missed by only a very narrow margin.

He added: “It should also be noted that a few of these measures had national targets in place which, whilst we knew there was no possibility of achieving these by the end of the financial year, our focus was more around ensuring improvement from the baseline position at the start of the year.”

A “very challenging” target to reduce the average number of sick days taken by council staff to 9.25 days a year was missed by some way. The actual figure for 2013-14 was 10.69 days. That, however, is an improvement on the 12.4 days in the previous year.

Other targets missed include dealing with complaints from the public in a timely fashion, and achieving ‘channel shift’ by persuading more customers to use the council website when communicating with the local authority.

A target to minimise the number of adult safeguarding cases rated as poor was narrowly missed. A fifth of care home providers remain poor or are unrated, which is 3.8 per cent above target.

Children’s social services, which are in special measures and being overseen by an education commissioner, continue to under-perform. Targets to review child protection cases and children in care cases on time were missed.

Birmingham has slipped below the national average for the percentage of children achieving five or more A* to C grades at GCSE, a trend put down by Mr Rogers to the city having more pupils in poverty and able to claim for free meals in our schools, “which has been shown nationally to lead to a lower achievement rate”.

The number of case files judged good or better for children in care, children in need and child protection cases remains below a 60 per cent target.

Fewer than three-quarters of initial child protection conferences were completed on time, and only 50 per cent of Special Educational Needs statements were issued on time against a target of 100 per cent.

The council is also missing targets to increase household recycling rates and reduce residual household waste, but expects this to improve when the move from plastic refuse sacks to wheelie bins has been completed.

Total crime in Birmingham rose by three per cent, against a targeted five per cent reduction. Offences of violence with injury shot up by 11.6 per cent against a targeted reduction of nine per cent. These figures are “within normal expected variation levels”, according to Mr Rogers’ report.

On the plus side, 33 per cent of business plan targets were achieved or exceeded.

Rent arrears are down, fewer people are being killed on the roads and more homes are being built.

The council and its partner organisations created 5,327 jobs, against a target of 3,000.

More adult safeguarding cases are being heard on time. More families are being prevented from being made homeless.

Mr Rogers summed up the overall performance: “We had another very challenging year in 2013-14 with further significant reductions in service and difficult economic conditions remaining, but, Birmingham faced these challenges well.”

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