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Rogers vows to be ‘nicely less patient’ with off-message Kerslake deniers

Rogers vows to be ‘nicely less patient’ with off-message Kerslake deniers

🕔13.Aug 2015

Birmingham city council chief executive Mark Rogers has returned from a two-week break abroad to declare that he will get tough with colleagues who are “off message” about delivering the culture change demanded by the Kerslake Review.

In a straight talking blog Mr Rogers said the council had to move more quickly to change its ways of working and to meet a timetable for reform set down by the Government and the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel.

He admitted that a future operating model embracing the Kerslake recommendations is unlikely to be signed off by council leaders until mid-Autumn, raising the near certainty of a third critical report from the improvement panel to Communities Secretary Greg Clark complaining about slow progress.

Mr Rogers wrote:

We are getting closer to, but have not yet reached, the point at which our future operating model is fully formulated and signed off politically.

There is further work for the leader and cabinet, supported by the corporate leadership team, to complete between now and mid-Autumn to ensure that we know clearly what kind of council we are going to become by 2020.

Whilst I’ve been away, the leader has been in detailed discussions with members of my team to ensure the programme for the remaining design work is clear, deadlines are kept to, and the accompanying member, staff and public engagement in the process is agreed.

A key part of Kerslake’s recommendations is that the council must avoid a “salami slicing” approach to delivering spending cuts and take a more strategic view over service delivery if it is to make savings required by the Government and continue to deliver statutory services at a satisfactory level.

Mr Rogers warned:

We must not forget that we need this 2020 vision if we are to save £240 million intelligently over the next three years.

Describing the Kerslake Review as “a metaphorical vivisection” Mr Rogers added:

We have to change our ways. And we are. But we need to do more – and faster. The independent improvement panel gave us the proverbial mixed review in the middle of last month and we don’t want another one.

This means changes for all of us: the political leadership, elected members in the round; and, of course the banishment of ‘I always know best’ attitudes; open and brave decision-making as the default; and new ways of working in partnership are some of the key areas we will all be focusing on.

He promised to be “tougher more quickly” where colleagues were not “behaving and operating as I expect them”.

In a clear warning that the pace of reform must be stepped-up, Mr Rogers declared:

I’m not suddenly going to ditch Dr Jeckyl for Mr Hyde, but I will be nicely but firmly less patient with those off-message. Corporate Leadership Team will need to walk the talk as much as anyone – no, make that more given we are supposed to be leading by example. So, watch, watch out but, crucially, take a lead yourself if you haven’t already and make the difference.

He said the main priority for the council continued to be improving children’s social services and the city’s schools.

I don’t care what anybody else out there thinks or says, delivering our improvement plans and creating a system in which children are as safe and as well-educated as they can be is the number one priority for us all at the city council.

He described the emerging West Midlands combined authority as “a mega opportunity to hit the heights and show the whole country just what we and our partners are capable of”.

He added:

Three local enterprise partnerships and around twenty councils, including the seven Mets, are working on delivering a devolution deal for the West Midlands that will bring more jobs, more growth and more chances to reform and improve public services than at any other point in the last twenty five years.

What we have is the chance to take an economy that’s already getting pumped up and put it – metaphorically, of course – on steroids. The pre-conditions for doing a deal with government are already in place: we are the best performing part of the country outside London and the south east and have made one of best recoveries from the recession of any sub-region.

Our own LEP area is quite possibly the strongest in the country and, when we ally with the similarly potent Black Country and Coventry & Warwickshire LEP areas, there’s no stopping us making this combined authority the most effective of them all.

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