Monthly Archives: October 2014

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,


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.