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Job cuts demands ‘moral compass’ approach to austerity – council chief

Job cuts demands ‘moral compass’ approach to austerity – council chief

🕔19.Sep 2014

Birmingham council chief executive Mark Rogers has spoken of the need to maintain a “collective moral compass” as the authority faces up to savage budget cuts and prepares to shed 6,000 jobs.

In a deeply personal message to staff, Mr Rogers said the road ahead would be long and hard with tough decisions about “who we can keep and who we can lose” and an understanding of the reduced number of services the council would be able to offer in an era of austerity.

He was speaking after council leader Sir Albert Bore unveiled plans to cut spending by £200 million next year and reduce the workforce from 13,000 to 7,000 by 2017-18.

Mr Rogers said local government would have to be reinvented in Birmingham and it should be understood that the council would have to adopt “fewer but wholly realistic priorities”.

There was also a need for an understanding about transferring power from the Council House to local communities through a devolution programme.

He stated that “fewer staff means fewer priorities, fewer services and fewer initiatives”.

At the core of his message was a call for discipline, unity and a team approach.

Mr Rogers made it clear that local government’s traditional ‘silo’ approach to management, with departments largely going it alone and often battling against each other, would have to end.

He said: “We need to play nicely together or not play at all – Solitaire will not be acceptable at BCC.

“We need to be a team that questions constructively and brings forward positive alternatives to ensure that we don’t fall into the easy decision-making trap of giving priority to those views/data that support our default way of thinking and doing things.

“I will expect constructive challenge at all times. We hunt as a pack, but a pack that argues the toss over the hunting strategy.”

In an email to colleagues, Mr Rogers said: “Having a clear future focus is the only way to deal with austerity in a way that respects both the needs and expectations of the public and ourselves.

“More than ever, we need our collective moral compass to inform the hard decisions about what to do and what not to; who we can keep and who we have to lose. But if we have authentic values, a common sense of purpose, and fewer but wholly realistic priorities, then we will all know what we are aiming for.

“And in this way we retain our focus on the citizens whom we serve and ensure that what we can still do is of the highest quality and makes the greatest difference.”

He promised a series of “big conversations” with staff in an effort to define “the core values that need to be in our DNA” and would make a difference to people’s lives.

He added: “We must set this out clearly, ensuring the public, councillors, officers and our partners know what we mean by ‘the next era of local government in Birmingham’.

“We also owe it to our staff to be clear what the future will bring so that they can make informed decisions about whether or not they want to be a part of it notwithstanding that some of them won’t get a choice because of the way the axe is falling, reducing our capacity to deliver as much as we used to.”

Mr Rogers promised a “short, sharp debate” about the way forward with an approach to deciding redundancies that would treat people fairly.

Signalling a major change to the way the council draws up its annual budget, Mr Rogers said that from 2015-16 resources would be allocated to policy priority areas where “transformation” investment is most needed.”

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