New starts and fresh commitments

My life has been so dominated by school routines that, even though I’ve been working in Local Government for some thirteen years now, September still feels like the beginning of a new year for me. (And, yes, I know it’s actually October now, but you know what I mean.) So, given that I am experiencing that oh so familiar sense of new starts and fresh commitments, I thought I would reflect on some of what the autumn is ushering in.

Most topically, work behind the scenes is really ramping up to bring together the ideas generated by the service reviews so that public-facing engagement can begin in order to ascertain what our residents think the council’s priorities should be from 2015 onwards. At the same time, I have been working closely with our strategic directors, colleagues from HR & OD and a number of others to take forward your Big Conversation contributions and use them to inform the revamped approach we are going to take to reshaping the workforce. Throughout all this debate and change, I want us to keep a keen focus on being true to our values, supporting each other to navigate these very challenging times, and ensuring that we remain focused on the reason why we come to work In the first place – making a positive difference every day to people’s lives.

Indeed, I had a lovely snapshot of just how great an organisation we can be when I slipped into the Shining Stars awards ceremony last week. A well-deserved celebration of the achievements of colleagues in children’s services, this event made me all the more disappointed that I didn’t get to an earlier get together for those working in adult social care. However, we still have “The Chamberlains” coming up in November when I’ll get to see people from across every directorate get their just recognition for going that extra mile.

As well as these updates from within the council, there’s also news to report outwith the organisation. For example, only last week the Leaders of Solihull and Birmingham announced an agreement to pool, incrementally, the two councils’ economic development resources. This is a major step forward in cross-border collaboration, and also leaves the door open for other councils to join in with us to make sure that we have the capacity to deliver that all important growth to our city region.

On a different front, we have more “visitors”. On Wednesday 8th October, Sir Mike Tomlinson arrives in Birmingham for his first day as our new Education Commissioner. His role is to oversee the work we are already doing to move forward from the Trojan Horse controversies of the last few months and I am genuinely pleased to be welcoming him; if you have to have another commissioner on the premises, then you’d choose someone like Sir Mike.

We will also be seeing a lot more of Sir Bob Kerslake and his team of civil servants, who are also supported by a largely local government-populated Advisory Panel. To remind you, Sir Bob has been asked by Eric Pickles to conduct a review of the internal and external governance of the city council. This review will conclude just before the end of the calendar year (more commonly known as December) and will publish recommendations that are likely to have considerable importance for the way we develop in the future.

For my part, I will be pleased when we have this report as it will mean that we will have completed all the external reviews that Government has required of us over the last 12 months and, at last, the council will be able to focus single-mindedly on actually implementing the improvements that we are so committed to making.

So, it seems that I will actually celebrate not one, but two New Year’s within six months of each other. The one that the new school term has ushered in, to be followed by the traditional one in January. What an honour it is to have the opportunity to make twice the usual number of resolutions. But then this is Birmingham – the greatest city in the UK: we should expect to have twice as much of everything.

Now, let’s go out and show them what we can do.

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