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Kerslake Review could spark radical council shake-up for ‘flatlining’ Birmingham

Kerslake Review could spark radical council shake-up for ‘flatlining’ Birmingham

🕔08.Sep 2014

The Kerslake Review into the effectiveness of Birmingham City Council’s governance arrangements will have a wide brief and could even lead to the break-up of Britain’s largest local authority.

Two key areas to be probed are the council’s structure and size and the clarity of strategic leadership and direction.

The inquiry will consider whether the managerial capacity exists to deliver the council’s priorities and will look at the implications of recent critical reports into the city’s failing children’s social services by Professor Julian Le Grand and Lord Warner.

One area of the investigation is expected to consider whether Birmingham would be run more efficiently if the city was split into three or four separate councils.

The idea was floated last year by Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw who described Birmingham as a national disgrace and one of the worst places in the developed world to bring up children.

Critics of breaking Birmingham up into separate authorities argue that a new council covering east Birmingham, where Trojan Horse was rampant, would be disadvantaged by of some of the highest unemployment and worst social deprivation anywhere in the country.

Sir Bob Kerslake, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government, will lead the review and report back to Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State, by the end of December. Mr Pickles will then decide what action to take.

Sir Bob was appointed after inquiries into the Trojan Horse affair highlighted the council’s failure to address concerns of head teachers about infiltration by hardline Muslim governors.

Council officers failed to act because they were afraid of being castigated as racist.

Sir Bob’s inquiry began last week with a “call for evidence” via the social networking site Twitter (@KerslakeReview) into the operation, culture and structure of corporate governance at Birmingham City Council.

He said his mission was to discover why Birmingham had “flatlined” over the past two decades and failed to reach its potential. He intended to go beyond issues raised by Trojan Horse and look at the way the council is run and what could change.

Lines of inquiry for Sir Bob include:

  • Structure and size of the council
  • Clarity of strategic leadership and direction
  • Managerial capacity to deliver the council’s priorities
  • Role of the council in representing the community
  • Financial planning and sustainability in the medium and long term
  • Performance management and accountability
  • The council’s approach to partnership.

Sir Bob said: “Birmingham is a vibrant, dynamic city of 1.1 million people and Birmingham council is the largest in the UK. Ensuring that everyone shares in the city’s economic prosperity and takes full advantage of all of the opportunities open to them requires strong civic leadership, effective governance and excellent delivery by the council.

“This is very much an open call for evidence and I’m keen to hear from as many individuals, institutions and organisations as possible to inform the review and its final recommendations.”

An advisory panel will support Sir Bob throughout the review by conducting interviews and holding evidence gathering sessions. The panel is:

  • Deborah Cadman (Chief Executive, Suffolk County Council)
  • Carolyn Downs (Chief Executive, Local Government Association)
  • Councillor Sir Steve Houghton (Labour, Barnsley Council)
  • Councillor Mehboob Khan (Political Advisor at the Local Government Association for London boroughs, Mayor of London’s office and Westminster / Labour, Kirklees Council)
  • Joanne Roney, OBE (Chief Executive, Wakefield Council)
  • Councillor David Simmonds (Conservatives, Hillingdon London Borough Council)
  • Councillor Howard Sykes (Liberal Democrats, Oldham Council)

Timeline:

July 2014  Review announced
November 2014  Call for evidence September
December 2014  Write and present report to DCLG ministers and Birmingham City Council

Contact details for responses:

Email kerslakereview@communities.gsi.gov.uk

Twitter @KerslakeReview

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