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Birmingham city council to launch ‘power to the people’ devolution review

Birmingham city council to launch ‘power to the people’ devolution review

🕔10.Sep 2014

Devolution is all the rage this week. Paul Dale looks at plans for a major, grass roots review of how democracy works in Birmingham.

A wide-ranging review into devolution that could see communities in Birmingham being handed powers to run their own affairs is to be launched by the city council.

The year-long study will examine how democracy in the city is organised at grass roots level.

It will complement a governance review of Sutton Coldfield in response to demands by residents for a town council.

The devolution study will run alongside the review of the council’s corporate governance being conducted by Sir Bob Kerslake.

It will look in much greater depth at aspects of how Birmingham is governed, including devolved arrangements for different parts of the city.

Sir Bob and Secretary of State Eric Pickles have been given a briefing on the review and the council has invited Mr Pickles’ department to work collaboratively on it.

Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “We welcome the interest in new democratic arrangements from campaigners in Sutton Coldfield and we will now fully evaluate their proposals in line with the legal requirements.

“But Sutton Coldfield is not an island.  It is an important part of the city of Birmingham, so any changes we make there will have implications for the rest of the city.

“I believe, along with my Conservative and Lib Dem colleagues, that people right across the city are keen to have more influence over their local services and more control over their local neighbourhood.

“So we have decided that we should be much more radical and take this opportunity to have a wider look at how we organise democracy in the city at the most local level.

“We will examine good ideas from around the country and also how they do things in other countries.  We will also work with government and political parties as we believe this review can open up exciting options for the future of local government across the country.”

Cllr Anne Underwood, chair of the Sutton Coldfield district committee, said: “I am passionate about how residents in my area are represented and are able to influence decisions that affect them.  However, Sutton Coldfield is also part of the wider Birmingham area.

“The review will look closely at the proposal for a town council, but I want to make sure that Sutton residents understand the options, and obtain the best deal possible without great expense to them personally, rather than being pushed into what may not be the best option.”

Last year, Birmingham City Council was presented with a petition from residents calling for a ‘Community Governance Review’ to consider the feasibility of creating a Town Council for Sutton Coldfield.

A cross party working group, chaired by the leader of the council, was set up to look at how this could be done and how the change would impact on Sutton Coldfield and the rest of Birmingham.  As a result of these initial discussions, the group has agreed that there is a need to explore not only the potential of a change in local democratic arrangements for Sutton Coldfield, but for the rest of the city as well.

The Community Governance Review for Sutton Coldfield will be carried out as part of this wider review, and there will be opportunity for residents to get involved and input into the process throughout.

This wider review could look at:

  • Neighbourhood councils and the potential for more local bodies to take control of some services;
  • Options for devolved governance including urban parishes and other models;
  • The impact on current devolution and localisation arrangements;
  • Issues relating to the funding and accountability of local services;
  • Issues around social cohesion, equalities and fairness;
  • The role of community engagement, social enterprise and co-production.

The city council is being asked to approve a motion in favour of the review.

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