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Birmingham council is getting better, but some familiar problems remain

Birmingham council is getting better, but some familiar problems remain

🕔21.Jun 2016

The performance of Birmingham city council improved last year with the authority recording a sharp increase in the number of key targets it met.

Out of 29 measures in the council business plan, 14 hit their 2015-16 targets – a 14 per cent improvement on the previous year.

An analysis of the direction of travel for 28 of the measures shows that 50 per cent are improving, 43 per cent are going in the wrong way and seven per cent remained the same.

The council, which is being monitored by an independent improvement panel, said the must-do-better targets were based on “the most problematic areas requiring significant improvement”.

In a separate exercise, the council is delivering on its ‘Birmingham Promises’ initiative which sets out recommended maximum response times to customer inquiries.

At the end of March 2016, 80 per cent of the 15 pledges were performing well.

Six of the promises were being delivered in full:

  • Making decisions on housing benefit or council tax support claims within 10 days of receiving them.
  • Attending to trees considered to be dangerous within 2 hours.
  • Carrying out temporary repairs to potholes or other defects within 24 hours.
  • Considering school admission appeals, following the offer of a year 7 and reception class place, by an independent appeal panel within 40 school days of the deadline for submitting the appeal.
  • Offering the nearest available school, within 10 school days, for those children identified as being without a school place.
  • Considering all in-year appeals within 30 school days of the appeal being received.

The success of the Birmingham Promises scheme will be a relief to deputy council leader Ian Ward who devised the pledges and saw off claims that some of the targets were too ambitious and would not be met.

Despite the good news, a range of familiar problems remain.

Areas where the city council is not doing so well include staff sickness, children’s social care and refuse collection.

Sickness absence was an average 10.64 days per employee against a target of 9.25 days. The figure has been increasing recently even though tackling absenteeism has been a major council priority for years.

A fifth (20%) of young people subject to a child protection plan has come to the attention of social services at least twice before. The target is between 13 and 18 per cent.

Targets for reducing the amount of residual household waste and increasing recycling were missed. The council has admitted that some people are unwilling to pay £35 a year for a green waste collection service and may be self-composting at home, although there are no figures to prove this.

Efforts to make Birmingham cleaner do not appear to be succeeding, with 7.3 per cent of land and highways deemed to have unacceptable levels of littler.

It continues to be difficult to persuade the public to communicate with the council via the internet rather than in person.

A channel-shift programme, regarded as a key money-saving initiative, is not meeting targets. Only 21 per cent of business dealt with by the benefits, council tax, housing and waste management departments is handled online against a target of 25 per cent.

Successes in delivering the council business plan include:

  • A house building target has been exceeded with 561 new affordable homes delivered in 2015-16.
  • Innovation and enterprise activities saw 4,005 jobs created, 814 above target. In addition, 2,166 people were helped into work.
  • Almost 90 per cent of completed adult safeguarding cases were judged good – against6 per cent a year ago.
  • Five per cent of 16 to 19 year olds were not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET). This is better than the Core Cities average of 5.9 per cent, and has improved by two per cent compared to last year.

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