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Sir Bob becomes Lord Kerslake, of the Birmingham Future Council Plan

Sir Bob becomes Lord Kerslake, of the Birmingham Future Council Plan

🕔27.Feb 2015

Life just gets better and better for Sir Bob Kerslake. As if spending several months investigating Birmingham city council’s “lack of corporate grip” wasn’t more than enough to sign off a long career, he’s been rewarded with a berth in the House of Lords.

Lord Kerslake will sit as a cross-bencher upon the direct nomination of the Prime Minister.

The appointment has attracted rumblings from left-wing conspiracy theorists who predictably enough regard the peerage as a “reward” for Kerslake’s shafting of Labour-led Birmingham in his damning review of the council’s governance capabilities.

In truth of course the award has nothing to do with Bob’s work in Birmingham, which is but a small blip at the end of a lifetime in local and central government.

Bob Kerslake has an impressive CV. He was formerly Head of the Civil Service and is the retiring Permanent Secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government.

He was chief executive of the Homes and Communities Agency from 2008 to 2010, chief executive of Sheffield City Council between 1997 and 2008, and chief executive of the London Borough of Hounslow from 1991 to 1997. He was knighted in 2005 for services to local government.

While at Sheffield council Sir Bob applied to become chief executive of Birmingham city council. He was rejected in favour of American city manager Valerie Lemmie, who subsequently pulled out and said she didn’t fancy the job after all.

Birmingham council leader Sir Albert Bore dashed up to Sheffield to plead with Bob, as the second best candidate, to take the job that Lemmie had turned down. Funnily enough, Bob said thanks but no thanks.

Failing to land the Birmingham job did not prove to be much of a set-back to Kerslake’s stellar career.

And as things turned out when he did finally arrive in Birmingham in 2014 to conduct the governance review, he ended up pushing through more change to the way the council operates in the space of a few months than previous chief executives had managed over 40 years.

The action plan that the council hopes will be approved by the independent improvement panel that Bob said must be set up is based on recommendations contained in the Kerslake Review.

These include a redefinition of the roles of councillors and officers, strengthening the corporate centre, moving to all-out elections once every four years, reducing the size of the council, getting a grip on HR, ripping up the current devolution plans and replacing them with something workable, and setting up an independent Birmingham leadership group.

It has suited the council to claim it drew up and has “ownership” of the Kerslake action plan, now known as the Future Council Plan. Chief executive Mark Rogers is particularly zealous about not mentioning the K-word and ventured onto Twitter the other day with this message: “Future Council: Our Plan” – the four words I want to see and hear. 2015 is ours.”

Bob Kerslake has departed from Birmingham, leaving his plan in the hands of Mr Rogers, Sir Albert Bore and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who will be the final arbiter on whether the council is improving quickly enough.

All that remains to be decided now is the exact wording of Bob’s peerage. He hails from Bath, so perhaps it will be Lord Kerslake of Bath. Chamberlain Files would like to suggest a more appropriate moniker – Lord Kerslake of the Birmingham Future Council Plan, in the county of the West Midlands.

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