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Rogers tells combined authority hopefuls to show some humility

Rogers tells combined authority hopefuls to show some humility

🕔03.Jun 2015

Politicians across the West Midlands must show “humility and magnanimity” to get a successful combined authority off the ground, the chief executive of Birmingham city council has warned.

Mark Rogers said the leaders of Birmingham, Sandwell, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Dudley, Solihull, Coventry and Lichfield councils must lose their “self-interest” and take the time to understand each other’s common interests and aims.

They had to realise they were not running their own  “mini empires” and that the style of leadership in future would have to change to be more inclusive.

He sought to play down the size and power of Birmingham and stressed that a West Midlands combined authority would have to be a true joint effort involving all of the councils working together in a “collegiate” way.

Mr Rogers was speaking as the region’s council leaders edge slowly towards establishing a combined authority, which will qualify for some devolved powers and budgets over economic development and transport.

Earlier this week West Midlands council leaders met Chancellor George Osborne, Local Government Secretary Greg Clark and Lord Heseltine to talk about progress in developing a combined authority.

After the meeting the councils said they had been encouraged to be “as ambitious as possible and to move forward at pace” and that the Government trusted the West Midlands to “deliver what is best for our citizens and the national economy”.

In an interview with the Information Daily Mr Rogers spoke of the changing face of local government and warned of the dangers of “heroic leadership”.

He agreed it was inevitable that local authorities across the country would move towards city region or combined authority status and traditional city council boundaries would no longer be important.

Mr Rogers said:

Place is being defined differently. The big challenge of leadership is we can’t think any more of the leader of the city council or the chief executive just for Birmingham we have to lose any self-interest and have a common interest with our Black Country partners.

We can’t drive the changes that our citizens need just from Birmingham any more just as they can’t do it from Solihull on their own or Sandwell or Walsall on their own.

Leadership is going to have to be different. We are not running mini empires in the West Midlands. We have to create a collegiate endeavour across these boundaries.

He did not address directly the question of who might lead a West Midlands combined authority, although he said a “vacuum was waiting to be filled by an incoming leader”.

Asked for his views on leadership, Mr Rogers said:

I am anti heroic leadership. Heroes, generally speaking, end up in nasty places because they have lost their followers. The heroic leader knows all the answers in the first place and doesn’t need any followers, but just needs obedience.

He urged councils “not to waste a crisis” and to take advantage of opportunities to do things differently with the restructuring of local government during the years of public sector austerity.

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