Monthly Archives: January 2015

Kerslake: Progress update 2


Please see below the Terms of Reference for the Independent Improvement Panel. Further information about the panel members can be found here

It is expected that the Panel will be up and running by the end of January.

Best Wishes,


Birmingham independent improvement panel terms of reference

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has established the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel to provide support and challenge to the City Council as it undertakes the measures necessary to secure the improvements needed if it is to effectively and efficiently deliver local public services for all the City’s communities, give value for money for local taxpayers, and promote growth and wellbeing across the City.

The Panel will therefore:

  • sign off the City Council’s Improvement Plan, prepared in response to the recommendations in the Kerslake Report;
  • provide challenge and advice to the Council – its members and officers- as it follows its improvement journey in response to the Kerslake Report, particularly in relation to its timely implementation of that Report’s recommendations;
  • provide a forum in which the City Council can be publicly held to account for the progress it makes; and
  • provide a report in December 2015 to the Secretary of State on the progress the City Council is making, and such other reports as the Secretary of State may request.

The Panel will comprise a Chair, a Vice Chair, and two other members, all of whom are to be appointed by the Secretary of State with the agreement of the City Council. In addition, any children services commissioners appointed for Birmingham will be ex-officio members of the panel.

The Panel’s working arrangements will include monthly meetings (which may be closed or open to the public), and quarterly meetings to be open to the public. The Panel may invite members and officers of the City Council, and such other persons as it considers appropriate, to attend any of its meetings. Panel members individually may work with particular members or officers on particular matters.

The Panel will be supported by a secretariat provided jointly by Birmingham City Council and the Department for Communities and Local Government. The Panel’s expenses will be shared equally by the City Council and the Department.




“Pure Luck”

holocaust memorial day 2015

Today, 27th January, is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Later in July we will remember the Bosnian genocide of 20 years ago, and particularly the infamous massacre at Srebrenica. There are, of course, many other places and dates that could be cited.

On Sunday I attended a Holocaust Memorial event at the Town Hall. There, along with a large audience, I listened to the stories of survivors. Their accounts kindled familiar distressing emotions, but ones that are impossible to articulate – so I won’t try to find the words.

Instead, I simply wish to convey two messages. The first is to remind us that the theme of Holocaust Memorial Day 2015 is “Keep the memory alive”. The second is to ask you to find some time today to hear the voices of the survivors – whether in person, on the radio or TV, or in books or newspapers.

In the Town Hall we heard first hand about the realities of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Srebrenica. Mindu Hornick, who had survived the Nazi death camp, told how she thought this was down to “pure luck”. We must not, however, leave to chance the re-telling of the genocide stories. That much we can do for the dead and the living in the hope that we will cease to see the repetition of past horrors. 


Kerslake: Progress update 1


Action (Plan) Stations

As you are only too well aware, there is no let up in the pace and importance of reform and improvement. The recommendations of the Kerslake Review are intended, in Sir Bob’s words, to ensure that “dial turning” changes are made to our culture and practices. As I said in my previous blog, the report presented a set of challenges to the council which can be summed up as ‘be modern, be transparent and be brave’. And we have to demonstrate convincingly that we are shaping up by the end of the calendar year.

With an action plan deadline from Sir Bob of the end of February, we need to respond positively, imaginatively and quickly and, with this in mind, production has commenced. It will need to be signed off by both the incoming Independent Improvement Panel and by our own Cabinet – the latter will consider the action plan formally on 16 February.

Lest there be any doubt, we are not simply writing a set of actions to “tick the box” for central government – or, for that matter, ourselves.  We are committed to addressing the important issues raised and, as the senior responsible officer for the plan, I have, therefore, spent quite some time already drawing on a range of advice both from within and outside the council, reflecting on how best to prioritise, phase and implement our improvement work. What we have to do is too serious for a knee jerk reaction – although we do have to move fast (but with speed, not haste).

In a number of important (and reassuring) ways, implementing the recommendations will add extra momentum and focus to the thinking and planning we started in 2014 through the Big Conversations: most particularly, we have already made a good start on the questions “what kind of organisation do we intend to be?” and “how do we propose to deliver against that ambition?”. This is critical because it means you are already helping to shape our response to Kerslake.

We know things have to change and we must now sign up fully to that process in order to become the universally effective and credible council we want to be in the future.  I am fully committed to making that happen and I take very seriously my responsibility for delivery.  But I also know that trying to do everything at once is unlikely to deliver step change sufficiently; nor will rushing our fences embed the improvements we attempt because we will lack focus and capacity and stretch ourselves and our partners too thinly. Therefore, we need to balance the need to move quickly with the need to get it right.

What it is most important to do, and do quickly, is set out what we are trying to achieve through this plan and to communicate a clear direction and set of milestones so that we, our partners and, crucially, our residents understand the journey ahead.  Some of this requires me to work with the council senior team – Members and officers – to “get our own house in order”: for example, how we behave, how we manage our finances, and how we make decisions are mission critical.  But we will also need the ideas, support and commitment from a much wider group of people to foster positive change for the city and its many communities.

I have, therefore, designed and agreed with the Leader, the Cabinet and my immediate team an approach that creates the space and opportunity for others to collaborate with us; to co-produce the detail for the action plans; and jointly deliver them.  We will be broadening and deepening the dialogue with internal and external “stakeholders” from the week beginning 2 February. For example, on Wednesday 4th there will be an event with partner organisations at which those attending will look, in particular, at how they can help in setting out the way forwards in establishing a City Leadership Group and agreeing a vision for our city. Other sessions are in train to engage group leaders, scrutiny chairs, MPs, officers and others.

However, I need to make it clear that the preparation and publication of our initial plan in February signals just the start of an ongoing and sustained engagement process.  Regrettably, I cannot promise to consult everyone on everything at this time – Sir Bob’s deadline is too short. But I will, with the support of Members and officers, lead a new inclusive and more outward-looking approach to engaging with staff and partners as we formulate, deliver, review and reformulate the plan over the coming months.

So, here we go … let’s get on with making the difference together.

Cheers, Mark