Kerslake: Progress update 3
We’re now moving through the gears in our response to the Kerslake Review.
Last week saw the arrival at the Council House of the Independent Improvement Panel. Joined by Sir Bob Kerslake, who came along to ensure an effective handover, the Panel had an introductory meeting with the Leader, the Deputy Leader, one or two officer colleagues and myself. The discussion focused on progress with action planning and we were left with some important and useful feedback about how best to shape the document (it’s looking good so far, but there is more to do). Cabinet approval of a full working draft is still slated for 16 February and the Panel indicated that it would undertake a formal review of the plan at its March session, with a view to signing it off if satisfied.
The Boundary Commission also made its first visit last week, arriving on Friday to brief the three political groups and relevant senior officers on the review process that it has been asked to undertake. As you will know from Sir Bob’s report, the Commission will look at the future size of the council (ie how many elected members it should have) and, in doing so, also review the number, size and boundaries of the wards across the city. This work will be completed in time for the first “all out” elections which are due to be held in May 2017.
There was also a round of discussions arranged last week with various people to help inform the ongoing preparation of the plan. In particular, a group of partners met last Wednesday to kick off the thinking about the “city leadership group” recommendation. There will, of course, be much more debate over the coming weeks and months about how best to take forward all the recommendations as we seek to ensure that as broad a set of views as possible are taken into account as we formulate our approach to improvement and implementation.
In addition to having a keen interest in the plan itself, the Panel has also asked to see the work being done by my team to show how we are going to resource the implementation of the various activities that will address the recommendations. This is an important and challenging piece of analysis. Sir Bob Kerslake indicated in his report that there were significant strategic capacity gaps in the organisation that were holding up progress; working out the best way to address them won’t be easy at a time when we are still experiencing significant reductions in our budget. But this circle will have to squared if we are to make the requisite improvements by the end of the year. Our thinking caps are firmly on our heads.
So, I hope you get a clear sense of the growing pace of planning and preparation for change. And all this in the context of the forthcoming decisions about the 2015/16 Council Business Plan and budget (Full Council on 3 March) and the formulation of our all-embracing “Future Council” programme which set the framework against which we accelerate the process of inventing the new shape of local government here in Birmingham.
So, time to roll our sleeves up, get our heads down and embrace an exciting and demanding period of reform.