Another quiet week in Birmingham…
Thursday is polling day for both local and European elections and part of my role at the City Council is to be the Returning Officer for both. I have been involved in election management for some time now (I can say “I do hereby declare that … is elected” in my sleep), but this is my first time as regional RO for the Europeans and, inevitably for a first timer, I’m a little nervous. However, I’m very ably aided and abetted by an experienced and highly committed election team, led by Rob Connolly, and the 22nd will, I’m sure, go smoothly.
As well as being on the inside of the democratic process I am, of course, also a voter and will be making sure that I express my preferences at 7.00 am sharp on Thursday morning before heading into the office. In Birmingham alone, the largest electoral authority in the UK, there are more than 755,000 registered electors and it would be my ambition that each and everyone of them put their crosses on the two ballot papers. This may fall into the territory of putting expectation before reality but, at the very least, I expect that each and every registered voter who works for the City Council casts her/his votes. We are a politically-led organisation and we should all show support and respect for the democratic process by taking advantage of it and putting that little pencil to work.
And to galvanise us, remember that the world’s biggest democracy – India – has just held general elections and achieved the nation’s highest turnout ever. What India can do, so should we.
“I think the whole thing’s just wonderful” – Carole Klein.
My wife has just called me into the lounge to catch coverage on BBC 1 of our garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show: http://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show/exhibitors/Chelsea/Birmingham-City-Council
I have to concur wholeheartedly with Ms Klein. This is a beautiful and touching display commemorating the forthcoming 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. I imagine some of you may be lucky enough to be going to Chelsea. If so, you must visit this garden – and Tweet with a picture please (@MKMRogers).
Fingers and toes crossed for news of a top award this week. Irrespective of the judges view, the BCC team has my vote.
Birmingham: Twinned with the BBC
And mention of the BBC brings me to last Friday’s big news. On top of exciting announcements a few months back, Lord Hall – the Director General – made public that “Birmingham is to become home for the BBC’s UK skills and talent centre, helping to create the programme makers and stars of tomorrow”.
This is spectacularly important for the City as the BBC Academy is the Corporation’s in-house and industry-wide centre for training. It will also work along local businesses to develop the talent base of City and the wider West Midlands and, pinch yourself, it’s in Birmingham. Not London. Not Salford. Not Bristol. Birmingham.
And there is much, much more which you can read about here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2014/birmingham-talent-skills
This is a major fillip to the City’s reputation as a vibrant creative hub, especially when it comes to digital thinking, research and development. Digbeth is rapidly becoming the country’s worst kept secret as the best place for innovation and creativity – and this reputation will only be enhanced by the arrival of a Digital Innovation Unit for the invention of next generation technologies. Be excited, very excited.
Sharp As A Needle
This coming Friday is also hugely significant in a sobering way as Ofsted publishes its latest report on the quality of the City Council’s safeguarding services.
We are clear – from our own analyses, the work of last October’s Local Government Association peer review, and the Professor Julian Le Grand Review earlier this year – about the need to move from inadequacy. It is our hope, therefore, that the inspectorate adds something to our understanding and efforts.
The report, whatever it says, must be put into context.
Firstly, we already have an agreed and mandated direction of travel for our improvement journey. Professor Le Grand’s report, the Minster’s response and the most recent guidance, support and challenge from our Commissioner Lord Norman Warner mean that we have a clear plan of action that we are busily executing. Given the City Council’s history of not having a single plan and sticking to it, we are determined to learn that lesson.
Secondly, uppermost in my mind is building on the hard won, but undoubtedly fragile, sense of calm, composure and “we can do it” attitude that The Leader, Cllr Jones and Peter Hay have been instilling since last summer. It is recognised, not least by our Commissioner, that having steadying and steady hands has been essential to giving colleagues in children’s services – and more widely across the organisation – the confidence to believe in themselves. These are essential building blocks for improvement to begin to take root and flourish. I truly hope, therefore, that this report does not set that confidence back. Therefore, I will be doing all I can to remain focused on the journey we have now started – as well as supporting anyone that needs it to take this report in their stride. We must keep moving forwards.
In doing this, I look to colleagues far and wide across the City Council, and within partner organisations, to help keep morale on its upward curve. This for the sake of the children and young people across the City who need us to excel at keeping them safe and promoting their wider wellbeing.
And Finally …
Next Saturday, as brief respite between declaring the local elections (early Friday morning), reacting to the Ofsted report, and announcing the results of the European ballot (Sunday evening), it is Birmingham Pride.
Be there. I will be, celebrating this great City’s diversity and vibrancy.