A significant few weeks ahead of us (again).
This evening (Monday, 23rd November) the Labour Group chooses a new leader. And a week tomorrow (Tuesday, 1st December) a new Leader of the Council will be elected.
Then, on 7th December we publish our “one year on” progress update, reporting on the delivery of the recommendations made in Lord Kerslake’s 2014 review of corporate governance. And exactly a week later (14th December) there will be the final public meeting of 2015 with the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel.
As if all this wasn’t enough, the administration will be publishing its 2016-18 budget proposals for formal consultation during this period – in all probability on the 9th December.
There has already been a budget ‘warm up’ with a series of community workshops focused on engaging local people in considering questions such as ‘what kind of council should we become by 2020’ and ‘what do we need to do to get there’ – topics you will be more than familiar with. The outcomes of this engagement will be made available shortly.
To coincide with the publication of the 2016-18 budget proposals, the Future Council team has been planning formal internal consultation sessions with staff and trades unions – and these will be commencing soon. We will also be running a set of external events tailored for those in the voluntary, community and business sectors, along with our other public service partners. For me, all this activity kicks off with a Managers’ Voice session on 25th November, and I’ll be involved in much more. So, come along and have a further say in how we plan for the future.
As we career our way towards the end of 2015, it’s a good time (believe me, it is) to think about (y)our work-related resolutions for the year ahead. We are still in a tough place as a council, albeit we are moving forward on a number of fronts.
Children’s safeguarding is improving, but we’re only half way through a really challenging improvement plan and there is plenty still to do to leave special measures behind us. However, I believe that we now have the platform, the people and the plan. We must execute the latter to perfection.
Education is also going in the right direction – and somewhat faster. We have just been the subject of a peer challenge delivered by the Local Government Association and the findings will be published in full in the New Year. For now, I can tell you that there are plenty of positives and those areas that need more attention are already identified, understood and being addressed or planned for. There is no reason to believe that we can’t satisfy the requirements of our Improvement Notice and, by association, our Commissioner by the deadline of Easter 2016.
The Future Council Programme, which incorporates the Kerlake recommendations, is also progressing. The key to making further substantial and ‘game changing’ (sorry!) progress is to dispel any remaining concerns that the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel and Government have about our commitment to change, especially of the cultural variety. And that means you and me signing up and delivering. Whilst it is our elected members who have mainly been in the spotlight of late, I know – and I think you know too – that we must also play our part. We have to lead everyday now with our values and behaviours on full view and deployed consistently and convincingly.
To this end, I am about to put my team through its paces. At the end of this month we have an important development session, revisiting our 360s with an external adviser (here’s mine again: https://markrogersbcc.wordpress.com/2015/07/13/me-myself-i/). I’ll be asking my strategic director colleagues to reflect honestly with me on what we still need to do to ensure that we are, and are seen as, roles models for the rest of the organisation.
And lest all this serious talk comes across as a little one-sided, let’s recall some highlights from the week just gone.
On Tuesday (17th November) the incoming West Midlands Combined Authority did the biggest devolution deal so far with Government. Birmingham played its part in securing a total investment in jobs and growth over the next 10 years of around £8bn, with up to £2bn of new resources to be factored into the overall economic plan, the centrepiece of which is HS2. You can find out more about the deal here: http://www.westmidlandscombinedauthority.org.uk
And on Thursday (19th November) the Queen officially opened the totally revamped New Street Station. This, and the Grand Central Shopping Centre above, wouldn’t have been possible without the leadership of members and officers at the council working strongly and effectively with partners – and we should all be very proud of what’s been achieved. Birmingham now has a gateway station to rival the best – and we played our part in enhancing this great city’s reputation (a number of papers lauded us, unprompted, as the second city).
Oh, and of course, the absolutely brilliant Birmingham City Council choir sang for Her Majesty. Icing on the cake.