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Council: this time we’re serious

Council: this time we’re serious

🕔29.Jun 2018

Birmingham City Council today publishes an Improvement ‘Stocktake Report’ outlining the current position relating to improvements recommended by Lord Kerslake in December 2014. In effect, it says that this time it’s serious, reports Kevin Johnson.

For those that have followed the twists and turns of the Kerslake review – and it’s aftermath – the issues remain the same: financial grip, member/officer roles, transparent decision making and effective implementation, organisational culture and partnership working to name a few.

In the report the Council acknowledges that it has not, until recently, “sufficiently gripped the improvement challenge set by Lord Kerslake, in particular the delivery of the most important improvements required in its corporate governance.”

The Council also says that it has not yet “fully aligned its revenue expenditure with the available resources and consequently has been using substantial reserves each year since 2015/16 to balance its budget, including in 2018-19.”

Although progress has been made, it says, the Council has “only recently” started to tackle some key issues raised by the Kerslake review, including the blurring of member and officer roles.

Improvement Panel and Council to join forces

However, the report makes clear that, with new political and senior managerial leadership in place, the Council is committed to addressing the major challenges it now faces with “vigour”. In particular, it has committed to taking the action necessary to prevent overspending in 2018/19 and to approve a revenue budget for 2019/20 that does not resort to further use of reserves. It acknowledges that this will mean that very difficult decisions must be made and implemented without delay.

Commenting on the report Cllr Ian Ward, Leader of the City Council, said:

As part of my pledge to be absolutely transparent with citizens, staff and partners, I promised to publish an Improvement Stocktake Report on the Council’s progress. This report clearly sets out our improvement aims, what action is required, how success will be monitored and who is leading on the improvement.

It is a detailed and honest look at where we are in our improvement journey, what has been achieved and what work is still needed, so as well as the Improvement Stocktake Report we are publishing our Corporate Governance Improvement Plan.

I made it clear, when I became Leader, of the importance of working closely with the Improvement Panel so I’m pleased that this collaborative approach is continuing. We have taken some positive steps forward, there is still much to do, but crucially we know what needs to be done for the benefit of Birmingham’s residents.

The Council’s relatively new Chief Executive, Dawn Baxendale, commented:

We have a real and shared determination to drive through changes in the organisation that mean we deliver improved services for our citizens. This collaborative and transparent approach is the right way forward to build on progress already made.

John Crabtree OBE, Chair of the Independent Improvement Panel commented:

The Improvement Stocktake Report is helpfully frank about where things stand in relation to the Kerslake recommendations. The crucial issues raised by Lord Kerslake have not been tackled quickly enough.

The Panel is supporting the Council’s efforts to grip urgently the improvements needed and to address its serious financial position. The Panel will be monitoring progress with the Council at monthly joint meetings alongside Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) representatives. Time is running out and we need to see real progress.

Chamberlain Files will have more analysis later today.

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