#SU4BRUM – and then some
Week five completed and, with much anticipation, I received my first official briefing on this great campaign. Great? Why? Because, at its heart “Standing Up For Birmingham” is about the people of the city being encouraged, aided and abetted to collaborate and come up with innovative new ways of working together to the advantage of their neighbourhoods. #SU4BRUM also recognises and celebrates the great work that communities have already done, using these successes to motivate more individuals and groups to come forward and make a distinctive difference by designing and implementing their own initiatives. In all this, the council is learning how best to perform an enabling role that helps to grow and value this active citizenship.
So, quite understandably, I want to lend my backing to this really important programme (about which you can find out more by visiting www.standingupforbirmingham.wordpress.com) because it will contribute significantly to shaping a future council that is fit-for-purpose. #SU4BRUM plays directly to the Leader’s localisation and devolution agenda that is driven by our Democracy priority. By empowering our citizens we continue on the critical path of supporting this council’s commitment to nurturing networks of people who can decide and do things for themselves, rather than relying on, and being subservient to, an outdated model of centralised wisdom, hierarchical authority and monopolistic delivery. #SU4BRUM is a practical application of the neighbourhoods level of the Leader’s model of “Triple Devolution” that Birmingham is pioneering (http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/lps – pages 6-7). We all need to get behind this, especially as it is all about “we” – i.e. what citizens and the council of the future can achieve by coming together in genuine, respectful and trusting partnership.
But, for me, the phrase “Standing Up For Birmingham” has wider resonance and importance beyond the parameters of the campaign itself. Ours is an organisation with a noble history, but there are aspects of past and present performance and reputation, focused primarily (albeit not exclusively) on children’s services, that need to improve dramatically in order for us to be able to stand up proud and shout from the rooftops about being great. Of course, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know – and I’m certainly not going to downplay the challenges which have grown up over a decade or more. But, whilst we undoubtedly have some very serious issues to tackle – which we must tackle with focus, determination and alacrity – I believe that to succeed we must also move forward with a positive mindset and be convinced of, and convincing about our own capabilities, willingness and readiness to recognise and deal with those things that have to be fixed sooner rather than later.
We have fully accepted that we can benefit from external help in addressing our shortcomings. Indeed, an openness to looking outwards is a sign of our growing maturity. But, whilst welcoming the potent, thoughtful and well-intentioned assistance that has flowed from JulianLe Grand’s report, we need to guard against becoming too psychologically dependent on it as, if we are to have control of our future, we also have to have a mindset that says “we can do this for ourselves – and we will”. I truly welcome and value the advice, guidance and challenge that Lord Warner and the other experts will bring; but to be an organisation in which improvement and effectiveness are truly sustainable we must have a confidence and capability in our own efforts. (And, by the way, that effort needs to be across the whole of the council.)
In the pursuit of self-sustaining excellence I will not be a soft taskmaster; but I do promise to be fair – and my starting point is to assume that we are all up for, and capable of rising to the occasion. There will be some out there who think we can’t do it; there will be others who might hope that we can’t. There will be those who think they are helping when they aren’t (no names, no pack drill); whist a number who should help us, can’t or won’t. All I ask is that you stand up for Birmingham City Council – and our city – and be counted. Do this and the Leader and I will reciprocate by doing everything we can to ensure that you can deliver on behalf of our communities and the most vulnerable within them – for making a positive difference to people’s lives is, of course, our shared purpose and ultimate ambition.
In addition to #SU4BRUM, the commitment above should also serve as a further declaration of standing up for Birmingham.