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Eric Pickles to Birmingham council: ‘Stop feeling sorry for yourself and get on with it’

Eric Pickles to Birmingham council: ‘Stop feeling sorry for yourself and get on with it’

🕔09.Dec 2014

Eric Pickles has described Birmingham city council as a “dysfunctional organisation” which has failed to get to grips with the problems it faces and the economic challenges of the future.

The Communities Secretary gave strong backing to the Kerslake Review, told the council to stop feeling sorry for itself and warned that the authority has a year to improve or face Government intervention.

Mr Pickles was responding to the independent report from senior civil servant Sir Bob Kerslake, who found that Birmingham has been overtaken by other places due to its poor economic performance and service delivery.

He agreed with Sir Bob that while Birmingham’s size is a challenge for a single authority, its fundamental problem has been poor performance and a failure to reform, rather than being too big.

And he firmly approved of a finding that Birmingham should move to a system of all out elections and have a Boundary Commission review of its wards so that the council has less political interference in the day-to-day running of its services and more strategic vision from its leaders.

The report also found that:

  • the city risks becoming socially divided between its poor population with low skills and those able to take advantage of jobs
  • the council too often looks to central government bail outs or to blame others for its problems
  • Birmingham needs to collaborate more with partner authorities and business leaders if it is to avoid falling further behind competitors such as Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds.

Mr Pickles said:

Birmingham is a great city which has made a fantastic contribution to British history, but the council has been holding it back. This report makes clear that Birmingham risks losing its status as our second city for good if it does not start taking common sense steps to improve its performance now.

For too long the council has been a dysfunctional organisation which has failed to get to grips with the problems its faces and the economic challenges of the future. It must stop looking to central government to bail it out and come up with innovative solutions itself.

Now is not a time for the council to feel sorry for itself, but to start providing the leadership, skills and services its people need as the best authorities are doing across the country.

I thank Sir Bob and his team for their work and look forward to seeing how Birmingham, its leaders and the improvement panel I am appointing respond to the challenge he has set them. But be in no doubt that if they do not, the next government may decide to take much tougher action.

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