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Improvement Panel and Council to join forces

Improvement Panel and Council to join forces

🕔08.Mar 2018

Birmingham City Council and the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel are today publishing a joint letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government which informs Mr Javid that they wish to explore reporting jointly in future to him and the city’s residents about the Council’s progress, reports Kevin Johnson

In the letter, the Leader of the City Council and the Chair of the Independent Improvement Panel draw attention to what they see as significant changes taking place in Birmingham including the appointment of a permanent Chief Executive who joins the Council in April; the establishment of the Children’s Trust also in April; all-out council elections in May, and the recent announcement that Birmingham will be the host city for the Commonwealth Games 2022.

In the light of these changes and context, they say that the Council and the Panel intend to move towards a more “collaborative approach.”

The letter contains little detail about progress or challenges in recent months. It does say that “the Council has recognised that there exist significant aspects of its organisational culture that are inhibiting progress.”

Analysis: three years – financial and cultural challenges remain.

Three years – finance and culture challenges remain

It also states that the Council recognises:

.. that it has not yet brought its day to day expenditure into line with its revenue.

Balancing its revenue budget has therefore required, and continues to require, substantial draw down of the Council’s reserves. This position is not sustainable and high quality strategic financial management and difficult decisions will be required to achieve financial sustainability.

The letter comes just two months before the first ‘all out’ elections which will return 101 councillors on a four year term.

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

I’ve made it clear since becoming Leader of the Council that I want to work more closely with the Panel, so I welcome this move to a more collaborative approach. Progress has been made in a number of areas, but we recognise there is still much work to be done to ensure that the Council is well placed to deliver our improvement priorities.

We will work with the Improvement Panel to prepare a progress report for publication in June. This will be an account of the Council’s achievements and successes since the Kerslake review.

But it will also be an honest account of the position in relation to significant areas where the improvements are yet to be achieved and where we acknowledge that more needs to be done.

He tweeted this morning:

John Crabtree, Chair of the Independent Improvement Panel commented:

The Council has made it clear that it actively welcomes the challenge and constructive support provided by the Panel and intends to engage with it regularly and in an open and honest way.

A clear commitment has also been made to grasp the substantial financial challenge facing the Council, to ensure that in future its revenue budget can be balanced without substantial draw down of the Council’s reserves, achieving financial sustainability as quickly as possible.

In the light of these commitments the Panel looks forward to working with the Council in a collaborative way, providing both challenge and support as it continues its improvement journey.

Reacting to the letter, Cllr Robert Alden said:

The improvement panel have been raising the failings of the Labour administration since 2014.

In four years Labour have completely failed to address the concerns raised in the Kerslake report.

A budget that massively overspends year on year, an administration that refuses to modernise services and a failure to take difficult decisions. The irony is refusing to take tough decisions before the elections each year mean even tougher ones have to be made afterwards to balance their own overspends.

The Conservative Group leader added:

This tired Labour administration have no vision for how to fix our broken City Council, provide a plan for the housing we need, and have no idea how to clean up our streets.

Cllr Alden concluded:

With Cllr Ian Ward being the common denominator of the three failed Labour administrations in the last four years, it is clear that the only way Birmingham can get the change the Improvement panel confirm we need is with a change of administration on May 3rd.

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