Monthly Archives: February 2016
This is my first ever attempt at a blog. Depending on how it goes it may be my last!
I am Paul Dransfield. I’ve been at Birmingham City Council since 2007, starting as the Council’s Finance Director under the title of Strategic Director of Resources which also extended into managing a number of corporate services and latterly being Deputy Chief Executive which included a managerial role over the Council’s economic function.
During that time I have had an interest in the delivery of major projects and have had the pleasure and sometimes the pain of being involved in some really big projects.
I have recently taken up a role which involves working on major projects full time. Birmingham, and more widely the West Midlands Region has a series of big projects to deliver and we felt it was time to have a more dedicated role working on those rather than having to do them on top of the day job, either badly or where the day job suffers.
Ironically, that opportunity for me has been made even more pleasing that it has created opportunities for others. I am particularly pleased that both Jon Warlow and Waheed Nazir have been given a place in the Corporate Management Team. Both worked with and for me, although often I felt I worked for them! There is no greater feeling than to see your own staff move alongside and even overtake you in my view. I am taking great pleasure from that.
I am also really pleased to see my change in role provide an opportunity for us to recruit Angela Probert as the Strategic Director for Change from nearby Nottingham Council. She has only been here a few weeks but I can see the difference she is making in the management team, she brings a really positive outlook on things. I am hoping she will be able to sort out all the corporate niggles people have that I didn’t quite achieve.
What this does mean for me is that I have to sing for my supper. The budget for my salary has gone towards funding the above posts and others across the organisation so I now have to earn my salary through the work I do across a number of projects. This means the projects are going to have to need my skills and often I am going to have to deliver efficiencies in the projects to fund my costs.
Another part of being a Programme and Project Director is that I am not intending to build an empire of people working for me in a traditional hierarchical way. I aim to gather expertise from around the Council, from other Councils and partners to work with me on the key projects. I will however, retain the line management of our Property Services Director, Peter Jones, whose team will also have a significant role in major programmes and project delivery.
So what do I think I will be doing over the next months or years?
My initial work programme looks something like this….
- Delivery Director for the £4.4bn HS2 Growth Strategy Programme over the next 10 years which will see the Curzon Street and Digbeth area transformed, create a new business, entertainment and living area around the Solihull Interchange Station, transform the East of Birmingham through a new metro link and improve transport connectivity across the West Midlands.
- Continuing to work as a Senior Director for the £600m Paradise Circus redevelopment scheme which is underway.
- Completing the New Street Gateway Project where I chaired the Project Board for 7 years!
- Managing the relocation of the Wholesale Markets and then delivering the transformation of the Smithfield area into a new exciting quarter for the City focussed on family leisure and entertainment.
- Deliver a new Life Sciences campus in Selly Oak.
- Support the Library of Birmingham to have a sustainable future, starting off with the relocation of the Brasshouse Language Centre into the library.
- Supporting a new sustainable approach to funding culture and the arts.
- Continuing as a Director of Birmingham Airport to make sure the airport continues to grow and be a key part to the City and the Regions’ economy.
- Act as a Director on the Board of a joint venture with the Canals and Rivers Trust to deliver a large scale housing and regeneration project at Icknield Port Loop.
- Oversee the coordination of a significant programme of Public Realm works in the City Centre.
- And of course whatever else my chief executive asks me to do!
One thing I do want to point out is that whilst a lot of the projects are exciting and lead to shiny new buildings which are transforming the skyline of the city, that isn’t what they are about to me. These projects are about creating sustainable economic growth and jobs which then directly leads to Birmingham and the wider region being more economically successful. This in turn creates opportunities for all our citizens to prosper and ultimately reduces their call on public expenditure.
Good blogs I am led to believe should have some pictures to break up the words. I have provided the pictures and if they are there I hope you enjoy them, if they are not then I’ve bust the memory limit! Somebody says I need to set up a Pinterest account to post all the photos. I would if I knew what it was!
My final words are to thank all the people that I have had the pleasure of working with in my previous role and to reassure those who might think I might not play my full strategic role in the Corporate Management Team going forward, I will be! I don’t know where to charge my time for that to yet though! Better go and ask the Finance Director!
When I joined Birmingham as an interim in 2008 I clearly did not plan on being at the Council beyond the short term. As many colleagues have also experienced, the challenge (and excitement!) of working at Birmingham City Council led to me successfully applying for the Director of Corporate Finance post in 2009 and similarly for my current position, Strategic Director – Finance & Legal from the start of 2016.
For me, what makes me want to go to work is to be able to make a difference and make things happen – I know I share this with colleagues and Birmingham provides (in my opinion) the biggest and best opportunity in local government to do this.
The reduction in central government grant funding over the last five years has affected Birmingham far more than most Councils, and it has been extremely testing time us. As you know, these funding reductions are forecast to continue on to 2019/20 and it is a considerable achievement for us to be putting forward a Business Plan 2016+ which includes service and financial plans to take us through to what we project to be a financially sustainable Future Council 2020. This is going to require a complex, managed transition from where we are now – already a much changed organisation – to the Future Council we are working to define. I will be working with Members, Mark Rogers, Angela Probert and with other CLT colleagues to help deliver this. While we have much experience in managing a large savings agenda, the initiatives required over the next few years are more of a transformational nature and will require greater management and commitment than ever before. So its going to be about delivery, delivery, delivery and a strong emphasis on accountability and responsibility.
In saying this, I very much recognise that the Council’s plans involve substantial further reductions in the number of employees – unfortunately unavoidable due to reducing budgets – and I and my colleagues in Finance & Legal will be working very closely with Angela and HR to ensure that this is achieved in the most acceptable way. The Legal Services Department since Christmas has been led by Kat Charlton and Stuart Evans as joint Acting City Solicitors and it is great to see the confidence that they are demonstrating in this role.
These employee reductions will be felt across the Council and of course include support services, and this is element is being overseen via the Integrated Support Services (ISS) programme which is jointly chaired by Angela and myself. This is looking to ensure that the impact of support services staffing reductions on departments and services is mitigated, as best as we can, by process simplification, investment in systems such as work flow, better joined up working and increasing managers self-reliance.
Apart from the money, we have also had to wrestle with the improvement challenges laid out in the Kerslake report, the other reports of external inspectors and the Government Improvement Panel. While we are not at the end of these journeys yet, I think we should be proud of the positive and not defensive way that we have responded. Under Mark Roger’s leadership and with a number of new senior officers at the top of the organisation I definitely feel the “new broom effect”, and a different culture starting to take root. I have always thought that as a Council we achieve a phenomenal amount. You only have to look at our Cabinet and other agendas, or look at what is physically going on around us in the development of the City, to see evidence of this. We are now improving the speed of decision making and change, and are finding new ways of working with communities and partners. This ranges from the work of members on how they engage differently with local communities and their leaders, to the creation of a new West Midlands Combined Authority with a planned programme of £8bn! Lots going as you would expect from an organisation whose motto is “Forward”!