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The Bore cabinet: Spaghetti Junction, or a well-stirred risotto?

The Bore cabinet: Spaghetti Junction, or a well-stirred risotto?

🕔30.May 2012

The new cabinet structure at Birmingham City Council has been described as symptomatic of the worst 1990s management-twaddle, and even compared unfavourably to Spaghetti Junction.

Actually, the motorway analogy could backfire since Junction 6 of the M6 is generally reckoned to be one of the most efficient highway interchanges in this country, and possibly the world.

Council leader Sir Albert Bore might prefer to think of his creation as a risotto, which of course involves lots of mixing and stirring to achieve a flavoursome result.

Whether the new cabinet set up, which is designed to encourage lateral thinking and co-operation, turns out to be user-friendly remains to be seen. Local government is notoriously suspicious of radical change and much, I suspect, will depend on the determination of Sir Albert, senior councillors and officials to make the system work.

Sir Albert spent eight years in opposition thinking about the way he would run things when he returned to office. But no-one expected structural change on anything like the level that eventually emerged.

Many of the new roles overlap and are designed to get rid of the “silo” mentality in which cabinet members toil away in their own department rarely getting involved with what their colleagues are doing until it is too late to influence policy. The silo approach can often descend into a “defend my department and chief officers at all costs” mentality, with the result that strategic city-wide decision making becomes more difficult.

The most obvious change in the new system involves the absence of cabinet members with sole responsibility for housing or leisure, sport and culture. Caught on the hop by criticism, Sir Albert moved quickly to point out that the leisure/culture portfolio would be handled jointly by the deputy council leader and the cabinet members for Commissioning, Contracting and Improvement and Health and Wellbeing.

Housing strategy responsibilities lie with three people – the council leader and cabinet members for Health and Wellbeing and Development Jobs and Skills. Day-to-day management of council housing will be the responsibility of 10 District Committees, reflecting Labour’s determination to give the council’s devolution programme some teeth.

None of the eight cabinet positions have “transportation” in their title. Responsibility for sorting out Birmingham’s poor public transport system lies largely with the cabinet members for Development Jobs and Skills and a Green Safe and Smart City, with Sir Albert retaining overall responsibility for major physical regeneration and infrastructure projects.

Unusually, the cabinet member for Social Cohesion, John Cotton, has no direct responsibility for service delivery. His role is to act as a watchdog, chivvying his colleagues along and making sure that all cabinet members and officers are addressing the social cohesion agenda.

Sir Albert has given an example of how the merged responsibilities may work in practice.

A money-saving proposal to transfer the council’s schools support staff into a social enterprise would in the first instance be brought forward by the cabinet member for Children and Family Services. Once firm plans had been drawn up, it would become the responsibility of the cabinet member for Commissioning, Contracting and Improvement to ensure “our schools are getting the best” from what is being proposed.

The new council constitution sets out the roles and responsibilities of the eight cabinet members:

 

COUNCIL LEADER

The Leader has ultimate responsibility for the council, and accountability for:

 

Leading the development and implementation of Birmingham’s sustainable community strategy and the Council Business Plan.

Developing the council’s strategic approach to financial resources including developing alignment between partners, the BCC General Fund, Housing Revenue Account and capital spending.

Policy and Partnerships Development and where appropriate leadership of city, regional, national, European and international policy and strategic partnerships.

Leading major physical regeneration and infrastructure projects in the city.

Promotion of the city and inward Investment.

Leading the promotion of Birmingham regionally, nationally and internationally. This includes work with partners such as Marketing Birmingham and the universities and with major community and cultural events of citywide, regional or national significance.

Leading strategies to encourage investment in Birmingham.

Leading the overall organisational design of the council, including corporate governance arrangements.

Leading relationships with and ensuring appropriate action in response to LG ombudsman reports.

Ensuring arrangements are in place and where appropriate leading the council’s response to emergencies.

 

DEPUTY COUNCIL LEADER

 

The Deputy Leader has accountability for all corporate resources of the council in pursuit of delivering the council’s priority outcomes:

Deputy for Leader acting as council leader where the Leader is not available.

Providing overall financial direction within the Financial Strategy developed by the Leader, including delivering Best Value and ensuring appropriate financial, accounting and auditing controls and procedures.

Oversight of all major change programmes and sponsor for Customer First programme.

Ensuring appropriate arrangements to improve the performance of services and the delivery of priority outcomes for Birmingham people.

Ensuring the effective strategic management of council staff.

[The Employment & Human Resources Committee deals with issues around the employment of staff and their terms and conditions of employment]

Ensuring effective management of communications including customer services, customer knowledge, corporate marketing and relations with the media.

Developing the strategic approach to the management of property owned or used by the council.

Developing policy for risk management and hold officers to account on the management of risks.

Ensuring appropriate support to the Lord Mayor and other holders of civic office.

Revenues and Benefits Service. Holding management to account for the effective management of the service.

 

The following accountabilities will be shared between the Deputy Leader and the Cabinet Member for Commissioning, Contracting and Improvement:

*Overall oversight of procurement management including ensuring the development of appropriate approved lists of suppliers.

*Monitoring performance, effectiveness and holding to account the management of all internal trading operations.

*Leisure, sports, arts and culture buildings and services. Effective management of these assets including management of grants.

 

The following accountabilities will be shared between the Deputy Leader and the Cabinet Member for Development, Jobs and Skills:

*Ensuring effective management and promotion of council owned land and property, facilities, amenities and services.

*Providing and securing land for regeneration, and industrial and commercial development land use planning and other regeneration matters Including developing the Core Strategy, Local Action Plans, Development Briefs and Supplementary Guidance.

 

CABINET MEMBER FOR SOCIAL COHESION AND EQUALITIES

A cohesive society is one which offers opportunities to all its members within a framework of accepted values. The pattern of disadvantage has not changed significantly for several decades. The challenge is to ensure that every Birmingham citizen has access to opportunity across the social and economic life of the city – including in education, employment, housing, health and social care, civil society and political participation – whether these are delivered by the city council itself, partner agencies, private or third sector organisations.

 

The Cabinet Member has accountability for the following strategic functions:

Developing and leading approaches to ensure that all Birmingham citizens have increasing access to  opportunity across the social and economic life of the city.

Ensuring that community and cultural events promote social cohesion.

Leading the development and promotion of shared values and mutual respect across the diverse communities of Birmingham.

Developing strategic approaches to reduce inequalities including around health, education and employment outcomes; access to services; and participation in civic life.

Driving improvements in equality across communities and groups in the city, and ensuring  compliance with all legal equalities duties.

Leading the delivery of the “Make a Contribution” sustainable community strategy outcome – valuing one another and actively contributing to the community – and associated targets.

 

CABINET MEMBER FOR GREEN, SAFE AND SMART CITY

The Cabinet Member for a Green, Safe and Smart City will position Birmingham as a safe, technologically ‘Smart City’, ‘Entrepreneurial City’ and a ‘Green City’ with a sustainable infrastructure that supports these objectives through initiatives that are delivered by the city council and also by partner agencies, private and third sector organisations.

 

The Cabinet Member has accountability for the following strategic functions:

Green City Strategic Leadership of the city’s ‘green’ environmental agenda.

Strategic city-wide leadership of community safety in Birmingham, including addressing anti-social behaviour.

Developing effective relationships and clear share priorities with the new Police and Crime  Commissioner and West Midlands Police.

Leading the delivery of the relevant outcomes in the sustainable community strategy.

Leadership in addressing issues around sustainability, climate change, carbon reduction, energy security, food security and “green” planning and transportation policies.

Promoting the development of world class technological capability and connectivity in Birmingham, including mobile 4G and superfast broadband connectivity.

Extending use of intelligent transport systems and digital technologies for “open access” to support “green and smart” actions.

 

Working with the Cabinet Member for Development, Jobs and Skills:

* Developing strategic approaches to create sustainable employment opportunities (including technological businesses) and smart and green infrastructure.

 

CABINET MEMBER FOR HEALTH AND WELLBEING

The objective of this portfolio is to create and develop increasingly healthy and sustainable places and communities in Birmingham – where people live long, healthy and independent lives in their own homes.

The development of the new Health and Well Being Board, together with the amalgamation of public health functions from the NHS and council, will add coherence to the policies and actions around the health and well-being needs of the residents of Birmingham, across all life stages from young children to older people.

The Cabinet Member has accountability for the following strategic functions:

 

Leading the delivery of the “Be Healthy” sustainable community strategy outcome and associated targets around health and well-being.

Leading development of the Health and Well Being Board and relationships with the NHS and private providers.

Leading the development of a more collective health and social care economy in Birmingham.

Leading the transformation of public health in Birmingham including through reducing health inequalities; health protection, and advice to health services.

Ensuring effective arrangements are developed to reduce the misuse of drugs and alcohol.

Strategic leadership of adult safeguarding.

Ensuring appropriate housing related support for disadvantaged groups.

Statutory housing responsibilities where not covered by other portfolios or district committees (eg homelessness).

 

CABINET MEMBER FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES

The Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services has an integrated brief that extends across the safety and educational, social and emotional needs of children and young people.

Improving children’s safeguarding will be a major focus of this portfolio.

The needs of all children and young people, including the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children and their families and carers will be realised through a partnership approach with schools and third sector educational providers.

The Cabinet Member has accountability for the following strategic functions:

 

Ensuring that the needs of all children and young people, including the most disadvantaged and vulnerable, and their families and carers, are addressed.

Political responsibility for the leadership, strategy and effectiveness of children’s services. This includes all responsibilities of the statutory Lead Member for Children role.

Ensuring appropriate target services, integrated with family support services, for young people who are vulnerable or disadvantaged.

Safeguarding children and young people With statutory partners, ensuring the safety of all children.

Political leadership of improving the lives of children looked after.

Ensuring all council members, officers and services understand and actively promote the council’s responsibilities to looked after children.

Strategic and statutory duties including school improvement, special educational needs, early years, school places.

Responsibility includes working with the Cabinet Member for Development, Jobs and Skills around:

*Lifelong learning (post 16 skills, experience and education) Ensuring provision of suitable guidance, training, work experience, further and higher education to give opportunity to all and to meet the economic needs of the city now and in the future.

*Developing an approach to support the development of enterprise and entrepreneurship in Birmingham schools.

 

CABINET MEMBER FOR DEVELOPMENT, JOBS AND SKILLS

Jobs, economic growth and the regeneration of the physical infrastructure of the city including housing provision and transport infrastructure, are key to Birmingham re-establishing a well-founded reputation as a successful city, so taking back control of its own destiny.

This objective will be supported by ensuring that the education and skills agenda is dovetailed into the role.

The Cabinet Member has accountability for the following strategic functions:

 

Leading the delivery of the “Succeed Economically” sustainable community strategy outcome and associated targets.

Leading the strategic approach to economic growth and employment including regeneration.

Driving the expansion of key growth sectors,  enterprise and innovation.

Strategic leadership of development of the city’s physical infrastructure.

Assessing and making plans in relation to housing demands and supply.

Developing and implementing transportation strategies to improve connectivity for the City.

Providing advice where appropriate including the effect of proposed developments.

 

The following responsibilities will be shared between the Deputy Leader and the Cabinet

Member for Development, Jobs and Skills:

 

*Ensuring effective management and promotion of council owned land and property, facilities, amenities and services.

*Providing and securing land for regeneration, and industrial and commercial development.

*Land use planning and other regeneration matters Including developing Core Strategy, Local Action Plans, Development Briefs and Supplementary Guidance.

 

The following responsibilities will be shared between the Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services, and the Cabinet Member for Development, Jobs and Skills:

*Lifelong learning (post 16 skills, experience and education).

Ensuring provision of suitable guidance, training, work experience, further and higher education to give opportunity to all and to meet the economic needs of the city now and in the future.

Developing an approach to support the development of enterprise and entrepreneurship

in Birmingham schools.

 

Working with the Cabinet Member for a Green, Safe and Smart City:

*Sustainable employment Developing strategic approaches to create sustainable employment opportunities (including technological businesses) and smart and green infrastructure (digital, energy, water, transport systems, and natural environment spaces).

 

The following responsibilities will be shared between the Cabinet Member for Development, Jobs and Skills; and the Cabinet Member for Commissioning, Contracting and Improvement:

*Introduction and monitoring of a Birmingham Business Charter for social Responsibility that encourages contractors to offer local employment and training opportunities, and to adopt the Birmingham Living Wage employment policy.

 

CABINET MEMBER FOR COMMISSIONING, CONTRACTING AND IMPROVEMENT

This Cabinet Member is responsible for procurement, contract compliance and contract

performance and value for money.

Increasingly, rather than providing services directly, local government is commissioning

services from private and third sector providers, Trusts, joint ventures or via wholly-owned companies. It is important for the Council that there is a continual and effective challenge to all internal and external providers to ensure that arrangements are effective, efficient, contract compliant and provides Best Value.

 

The Cabinet Member has accountability for the following strategic functions:

 

Ensuring the council commissioning supports its wider social objectives such as employment, training, encouraging social enterprise and ensuring living wages.

Strategic approach to and compliance with contract management policy.

Holding external providers to account for the performance of services and delivery of contracts.

Developing policy and monitoring the management of contracts to ensure value for money.

Developing positive relationships and a strategic approach with the Third Sector.

Ensuring compliance with relevant Council policies such as the Compact and grant funding guidance.

 

The following responsibilities will be shared between the Deputy Leader and the Cabinet

Member for Commissioning, Contracting and Improvement:

*Oversight of procurement management including ensuring the development of appropriate approved lists of suppliers.

Monitoring performance, effectiveness and holding to account the management of all internal trading operations.

*Leisure, sports, arts and culture buildings and services. Effective management of these assets  including management of grants.

The following responsibilities will be shared between the Cabinet Member for Development, Jobs and Skills; and the Cabinet Member for Commissioning, Contracting and Improvement:

*Introduction and monitoring of a Birmingham Business Charter for Social Responsibility that encourages contractors to offer local employment and training opportunities, and to

adopt the Birmingham Living Wage employment policy.

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