Ian Ward: ”I’m the only person with experience and skills to lead Birmingham council’
Ian Ward launched his campaign to become leader of Birmingham city council today, declaring that he is the only person with the “capacity, experience and skills to do the job at this critical time”.
Councillor Ward, the current deputy leader, is offering a more “collegiate” style of leadership which he says will “draw on the talents of the city and reach out to partners and stakeholders to form a collective solution to the challenges the city faces”.
His top priority will be to build a “constructive and proactive” relationship with the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel and to explore why sufficient progress has not been made on delivering reforms arising out of the Kerslake Review, which exposed the council’s poor leadership.
He warns that “misunderstanding” the challenges posed by Kerslake would be disastrous for Birmingham – a veiled hint at the possibility that the Government will send in commissioners to run the council if governance reforms are not pushed through.
He also calls for a “genuine” City Partnership group to be formed, suggesting that Birmingham Partners, the campaigning group set up under Sir Albert’s leadership, does not meet the Kerslake recommendation that a city leadership group be formed to hold the council to account.
Ward, who faced criticism yesterday for declaring that he wouldn’t issue a leadership manifesto, appears to have had a change of heart. In an email to his 77 fellow Labour councilors, he set out the way he would seek to run the council if elected leader at the end of November.
The two other declared candidates in the race to replace Sir Albert are John Clancy and Barry Henley.
Cllr Ward said:
The election of a new leader comes at a critical time for Birmingham and the Council. The Kerslake Independent Improvement Panel continues to express concerns about the Council’s commitment to the changes that are required.
In particular the need to form a genuine City Partnership, develop a long term financial strategy and begin an open and honest conversation with the people of Birmingham on the future shape and role of the council.
He has set three priorities:
- The new leadership must build a constructive and proactive relationship with the Improvement Panel to openly explore why the required progress has failed to be delivered. We must then demonstrate that the changes needed, on the scale required, are understood and will be delivered. Misunderstanding this challenge, or worse, behaving recklessly, will be disastrous for the council, Birmingham and its citizens.
- The council must set a budget for 2016-17 and set out the long term financial strategy required to balance the books through to 2020. This will involve making tough decisions and the council must honestly consult partners, stakeholders and the people of Birmingham on the future shape and role of the council. Severe reductions to the council’s budget means that we must ensure our diminishing resources are focused on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. We need to build resilient communities so that people can lead independent and meaningful lives. Existing partnerships must be nurtured and new ones brokered, to deliver the activities expected in a confident and successful city.
- Birmingham must continue to play its part in the creation of a combined authority and secure a devolution deal from the Government. This deal must be ambitious in order to secure the infrastructure investment that the region needs to increase its global competitiveness and close the skills gap that will enable local people to access the jobs of the future. Relationships need to be built with partners and Government to ensure the region does not fall behind other parts of the country.
Cllr Ward added:
I firmly believe that the city must pull together to deliver sustainable growth that meets the needs of its people and strengthens its competitiveness.
Poverty, poor health and worklessness are significant issues. We must create local jobs for local people as the route out of poverty and reliance on the Council’s diminishing resources.
Birmingham must develop an inclusive economy with sustainable neighbourhoods that are safe, diverse and afford all residents the opportunity to experience a high quality of life.
These are the immediate challenges that must be met over the months ahead. I believe I am the right person with the experience and knowledge to lead the Council in tackling these issues at this critical time; and can go on to deliver the longer term vision for Birmingham and its people, through a collaborative and inclusive partnership of all Birmingham’s stakeholders.
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