Javid backs Council’s “decisive action”
Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary, has responded to the chair of the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel some five weeks after John Crabtree wrote to him outlining the Council’s progress in implementing the recommendations of the Kerslake Review.
The Council’s leadership is understood to be pleased that the Secretary of State has recognised the “decisive action” taken and the DCLG’s backing of Stella Manzie as Interim CEO alongside a full new senior management team.
In the letter, Mr Javid says he notes the “decisive action by the Council to appoint experienced individuals to the posts of interim Chief Executive and interim s.151 officer. I expect that the new interim Chief Executive will be keen quickly to drive further improvement.”
The last progress letter from the Panel followed the extraordinary events surrounding the departure of former Chief Executive Mark Rogers, as exclusively revealed here on the Files.
Many thanks for your report dated 24 February 2017.
I am very grateful to you and your colleagues on the Improvement Panel for your continuing hard work and commitment to improving Birmingham City Council. I would also like to record my thanks to those who conducted the Independent Financial Review of the deliverability of the Council’s budget.
It is encouraging to hear that you believe that the 2017/18 budget is achievable, and of the determination of the Leader and Cabinet to deliver the Council’s financial plans. As you identify, both political support and managerial leadership are vital to ensure the Council gets onto a sustainable financial footing – and that means that the Council must address in parallel the issues you identify regarding culture, capacity and capability.
I note the decisive action by the Council to appoint experienced individuals to the posts of interim Chief Executive and interim s.151 officer. I expect that the new interim Chief Executive will be keen quickly to drive further improvement.
In view of the scale of the challenge, and the risks you identify, I would like the Panel to continue to support the Council as it manages the transition in managerial leadership. I would also welcome an update on the remaining Kerslake recommendations, as you suggest. I would be grateful if you could report to me by the end of June.
Please continue to work closely with my officials, and let me know if there are any issues of which you think I should be aware before your next report.
It is notable that the Communities Secretary asks Mr Crabtree and his Panel to “work closely with my officials”, underlining the more arms length approach that Mr Javid is taking in respect of Birmingham city council’s progress in contrast to his predecessor, Greg Clark.
The full council is expected to ratify the appointment of the Interim CEO next Tuesday, with Stella Manzie starting at her desk on Wednesday.
There are some expectations in the Council House that a positive report from the Panel at the end of June could trigger the disbanding of the group of four led by Mr Crabtree. Time will tell, but council leader John Clancy will know that his leadership and an intervention-free council now relies on the success of the new management line up under an Interim CEO and the successful appointment of a permanent postholder later in the year.
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