BrumBudget15: Shaping the future together

Good morning colleagues.

Today (Thursday 23 October) the Leader of the Council publishes a Green Paper: Responding to the challenge, looking to the future

In essence, this document sets out the provisional outcomes of the seven Service Reviews which have been underway since January – and then asks for your views. In particular, you are invited to comment on the initial conclusions reached about the ranking of the council’s services in relation to the relative contribution they make to delivering our priorities.

What is set out in the Green Paper affects everyone in the council – as it also affects our partners and, most importantly of all, our citizens. As in previous years, the document is designed to facilitate discussions in advance of a formal consultation on costed proposals which will be set out in a White Paper to be issued in early December. I hope that everyone single one of you reads the paper and also takes part in discussions within your team. To support this, a toolkit has been pulled together that managers can use to help structure and guide your debates.

You will also see a public-facing publicity campaign over the coming weeks, raising awareness of our challenges across Birmingham and encouraging citizens to get engaged in our thinking and planning to shape the next steps with us. As you would expect, it pulls no punches.

Therefore, I also need to reiterate to you that our managers, and colleagues more generally in HR&OD, are here to provide information, advice and signposting to other support and guidance if you are feeling concerned about your future. We all know that these are difficult times; and there is help available if you need it – just ask for it.

Shaping the future together

Whilst the Green Paper is clearly the next step along the way in terms of being able to make decisions about where the cuts should fall, it also sets out the wider context for the changes we are making.

You will know that we are in the process of re-inventing local government – not just here in Birmingham, but across the country. And you will also be aware that I have been holding a series of Big Conversations to address the key questions that we need to answer in order to be clear about our longer-term future.

Between June and September there have been twenty of these Big Conversations, supplemented by the Leader’s and Deputy Leader’s Listening Leadership sessions. Over a thousand of you have made your contribution to the debate about our values, purpose, people and pathways and the Green Paper briefly touches on these matters in the section Shaping the future together (Chapter 3).

What you will find, via this link a fuller version of the Shaping section which captures my attempt to analyse and distil your Big Conversation contributions. Please do read this companion piece and then book into the next round of Big Conversations (BC2) which start on 3 November and run all the way through November with other dates planned for early December.

These are being held at the following venues:

Auditorium in Woodcock St on:

  • 3 November -12.00 – 1.30pm
  • 6 November – 1.00-3.00pm
  • 12 November – 12.00-2.00pm

Lancaster Circus:

  • 10 November – 9.00 – 11.00am
  • 24 November – 9.00-11.00am, 11.00 – 1.00pm. 1.30-3.30pm

Lifford House:

  • 17 November – 9.00-11.00am, 11.00-1.00pm, 1.30-3.30pm
  • 25 November – 9.00-11.00am, 11.00-1.00pm, 1.30-3.30pm

Sutton New Road

  • 7 November  – 10.00-12.00pm, 12.30-2.30pm
  • 28 November  – 10.00-12.00pm, 12.30-2.30pm

These follow-on sessions will sense-check the draft narrative with you and lead to its refinement and adoption. They will also be the means whereby I follow through with you on the future purpose and shape of BEST leadership and, yes the time has finally come, to commence discussions about the re-shaping of the Performance Development Review (PDR) arrangements. What more could you ask for?

Forward: The Birmingham Way

So, we are on the cusp of understanding the future function and form of our council. What is certain is that the future will be very different: the budget and staffing figures for 2018 make this quite apparent.

But the future has to be about more than managing cuts in funding and staff. We need to re-focus our thinking and efforts to ensure that we can stay faithful to our ambition to deliver Fairness, Prosperity and Democracy to the city.

For example, it will be important to look at Birmingham the place, not Birmingham the City Council. As we reach conclusions about the key outcomes we need to make a difference to, and the operating models we need to put in place to change things for the better, so we also need to remember that we are not an island. We will be so much more effective in what we do when we do it in productive partnerships – working with other public, private, voluntary and community organisations and, crucially, our communities themselves.

We need to think “city workforce”, not “city council workforce” and, in particular, we must grow our commitment, capacity and capability to empower local people to help themselves. There are good things already underway that we can build on – but we will need to take the thinking that underpins Standing Up For Birmingham (#SU4BRUM) forward further and faster.

And, having listened to you at the Big Conversations, I believe that the phrase Forward: The Birmingham Way captures the spirit of what we are aspiring to be and achieve. I look forward to bringing about the future council with you and, most importantly, making a positive difference everyday to people’s lives.

Best wishes,

Mark

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