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Introducing Rogers and Bore: the new double act banging the drum for Birmingham

Introducing Rogers and Bore: the new double act banging the drum for Birmingham

🕔07.Apr 2014

He intends to be ‘out there’ banging the drum for Birmingham. He admits to being an extrovert, and intends to ‘be in the space’ of city council leader Sir Albert Bore.

This is not the type of language you would usually expect to hear from a very senior town hall official. But Mark Rogers, the new £180,000-a-year chief executive of Birmingham City Council, is happy to explain how he will bring drive and enthusiasm to the biggest job in local government, in a very public way.

In an interview with Chamberlain Files Mr Rogers struck a highly personal note, insisting that his partnership with Sir Albert would be crucial to Birmingham’s future success.

Mr Rogers said he wanted the pair to copy the performance of Manchester City Council chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein and council leader Sir Richard Leese, whose impressive double act has been a constant feature of the public sector world for 16 years.

Bernstein and Leese have a deserved reputation for working together to maximise investment opportunities by selling Manchester at Government level and across the world. Such a highly effective partnership between official and elected politician has never been repeated to the same degree in Birmingham.

Mr Rogers, who joined Birmingham from Solihull Council last month, said Sir Albert had been “brave” in appointing him and he promised to be “very different” from his predecessor as Birmingham chief executive, Stephen Hughes.

Mr Rogers said: “Albert is being brave. He has made a conscious decision that I am not Stephen Hughes mark two. He was reasonably introverted and I am not.

“I am in Albert’s space. I am complementing him. We are both out there to do a job for Birmingham.”

He continued: “I have to work with Sir Albert so that we can be much more extrovert and be out there and do and sell in a much more consistent way. Like Leese and Bernstein in Manchester. We are going to aim to get something like that for Birmingham.”

Mr Rogers is determined to find a better way to promote the Birmingham brand.

He draws a distinction between promoting Birmingham as a great place in which to live and work, and the wider question around local government administration and whether a Greater Birmingham authority would be appropriate.

He warned: “The name bit is fertile and sterile ground at the same time and there is work to be done. The distinction I want to make is this. There is something to do with naming and there is something to do with branding. The two are getting confused.

“There’s an important question over how the city presents itself in the UK, Europe and the world which is not the same as the Greater Birmingham discussion which is much more about the vexing issue of what do we call something that is more than Birmingham co-operating to drive growth in this part of the world.

“How does Birmingham sell itself? Not through self-deprecation. I hear time and again unless you go to Birmingham and find out for yourself you won’t know about the jewels in the crown. It’s got one of the best universities in the world. We have significant cultural assets in Symphony Hall and the Royal Ballet and the best attended theatre in the country.

“It is endearing that people are self-deprecating but the consequence is they are not ‘out there’ in the way that Liverpool and Manchester is.”

Mr Rogers said he did not object in principle to establishing a Combined Authority, where Birmingham would join forces with the Black Country Councils and Solihull to form a strategic body overseeing transport and economic development.

But he was not in favour of a “big bang” approach and felt much could be achieved simply through closer co-operation between West Midlands’ councils rather than a formal structure.

Mr Rogers added: “A Combined Authority is an option. For some reason Greater Manchester is seen as the single solution, but there are other ways of providing perfectly good governance at a sub-regional level that doesn’t require a Combined Authority.

“I am not pushing Combined Authority as an officer. I am pushing for good governance.”

He pointed to the efforts of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) to work closely with other LEPs in the West Midlands. Mr Rogers said he detected a significant shift of attitude by Cities Minister Greg Clark who now accepts that GBSLEP has the capability to deliver a Strategic Economic Plan (SEP).

Mr Rogers added: “Let’s not fixate on governance. Do we have agreement between GBSLEP and Coventry and Warwickshire about the investment needed? A shared commitment to a small number of things they want to co-operate on is how Greater Manchester works.

“I think there is a degree of comfort about the governance we have in GBSLEP, but what the Government is really keen to understand is can we co-operate across borders and deliver.

“I am not for a big bang. I want to take governance incrementally and deliver on shared objectives I am not against a Combined Authority, but it’s not a starting point.”

He described the argument over whether Birmingham and Manchester is the second city as “an enjoyably pointless discussion” in a climate where the Government’s “localist rhetoric” continues to be “outweighed by a centralist structure”.

Mr Rogers added: “London will clearly dominate as much as it always has done. It’s about making sure communities north of Watford get some benefit from a return to growth. It’s about cities and city regions getting their acts together.

“I genuinely believe there is enough growth to go around, it’s not about having to take growth off of London. It’s levelling up, not levelling London down.”

And finally, on the matter of the Rogers and Bore double act there’s no question over which one is the front man. Mr Rogers knows his place: “I have worked in local government long enough to know my role. I am a very well paid advisor to the political leadership and elected members of this council. My job is to deliver for them. Albert is my boss.”

 

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