Monthly Archives: March 2016

Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel recommends stepping back

The Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel today published a letter to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, reporting on the progress the Council has made in implementing the recommendations of the Kerslake Report in the fifteen months since the report’s publication.

The Panel’s progress report says that whilst some good foundations for improvement have been laid and the pace of progress has picked up, the changes have not yet had the required impact, or become embedded.

Full release: http://birminghamnewsroom.com/birmingham-independent-improvement-panel-recommends-stepping-back/

Response

In a joint statement the three group leaders Cllrs John Clancy (Leader of the Council, Lab), Robert Alden (Con) and Jon Hunt (Lib Dem) and Mark Rogers, Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council, said:

“We accept in full the improvement panel’s latest assessment which sets out our progress to date against the recommendations made in the Kerslake report. The panel’s belief that it should end the current level of intervention, cease to meet and stand back to enable the council to focus even more sharply on continued improvement is welcome news.

We would also very much welcome them back to review our progress at some point in the near future, as they suggest. The advice and support they propose to offer in the interim would also be very helpful.

“The panel has stated we must build further momentum – and that is precisely our intention. We accept there is still more work to be done and at a faster pace. Therefore, we have no intention of taking our foot off the gas and we will be concentrating on ensuring sustained change across the whole organisation and, more importantly, delivering the best quality services and outcomes for our residents.

“There is a collective commitment to restore the city council’s reputation and help Birmingham realise its full potential, working with partners across all areas to continue this pace of change and improvement.”

ENDS

Note to editors:

Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel recommends stepping back http://birminghamnewsroom.com/birmingham-independent-improvement-panel-recommends-stepping-back/

To read the improvement panel’s letter to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark MP, and the associated background documents, please visit http://birminghamnewsroom.com/biip-documents/

Partnerships: Happy to take a back-seat if we get the right outcome

With partnership working growing in importance, Cabinet member for Health and Social Care, Cllr Paulette Hamilton, looks at a new project that sees Birmingham City Council working with two charities to feed Birmingham’s homeless.

You’ve probably seen and heard a lot from Birmingham City Council in recent months about the growing importance of partnerships.

Leader of the council, Cllr John Clancy has made clear his determination to ‘do things with the city’ not ‘to the city’ and a major part of our Future Council work stresses the importance of working with organisations, communities, charities, businesses and individuals across Birmingham.

Cllr Clancy has made it very clear that it’s not enough to just talk about partnerships – we have to deliver them. And I think there are plenty of examples popping-up across the city. Some projects are in the early planning stages while others are starting to bear fruit.

Take for example a new initiative I recently visited which sees Birmingham City Council joining forces with two city charities to help improve the lives of hundreds of homeless people. Three nights every week, Sikh charity Midland Langar Seva Society (MLSS) is now offering a hot meal service for homeless people from the Digbeth headquarters of SIFA Fireside.

The new service has been launched because MLSS were offering an evening meal service on the streets of Birmingham at a time when SIFA’s premises were not in use. Now the two have come together and the early signs are that the service will be a big success.

And the city council role? We’ve funded the pilot project, helped to bring the two organisations together and played a part in the planning. Basically we’ve been in the background – not the usual role for the city council but one I’m sure we will be playing for more often in future.

But what’s the problem? I feel it’s more important than ever that we enable others. In the past the council would have tried to deliver this project themselves but we’re now working far better with our partners. Of course this is partly out of necessity – we have a lot less money than we did in the past – but it’s not just that. We’re now enabling others but we’re also in the middle as the gel to ensure it happens.

What matters is the outcome. The people enjoying a hot meal in the warmth of SIFA Fireside do not really care whose name is attached to the service, their only concern is that the new service offers much-needed help.

When I visited SIFA I was really impressed by the welcoming atmosphere, by the organisation and by the way MLSS and SIFA were working together to help people in real need.

This is a partnership that works and one that I hope we can build on. Once demand is assessed we hope to bring in more partners. City Council services like Reach Out Recovery, which offers treatment and recovery services to support anyone experiencing difficulties with drugs and/or alcohol. Housing and crisis support, mental health support and more.

So good partnerships can lead onto more good partnerships and I have no doubt that many future projects will see the city council taking a back-seat.

That’s fine by me.

Let’s stay focussed on outcomes – not the role we play.


 

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Mugshots & Musings

As you know, my reconfigured team has been introducing itself over the last few weeks and I hope you have found this both informative and helpful. I imagine you might have had a bit of a laugh too – we did.

It is my intention that there are regular blogs from all of us over the coming months: partly to relieve the tedium of having to wade through my purple prose; but also because I want to ensure that you read different perspectives on the challenges that lie ahead – and, as importantly, the successes that we are having.

I should also take this opportunity to remind you that I would be very pleased to receive and publish guest blogs – either from colleagues within the city council, or from partners or members of the communities we serve.

Values & Vicissitudes 

I’m pretty certain you will have noticed that we have started to make much more visible the four values that we agreed some time back following the Big Conversations.

There have been some mixed reviews about this publicity. Some of you felt that it’s been somewhat inappropriate at another really difficult time for the city council (“insensitive when there are impending mass redundancies” and “a statement of the bleeding obvious” being two of the more direct comments I’ve received). Others have expressed a different view, commenting that it’s not before time that the values started to appear on our screens and walls as a clear and enduring demonstration of what we stand for.

I’m more than happy to hear what you think – keep the comments coming. But, in return, I want you to know I believe that wearing our values on our sleeves, so-to-speak, matters very much. Not just to me personally; but to our residents and our elected members. Stating them boldly doesn’t mean that we think no-one’s switched on to them. Quite the opposite actually. They’re up there in recognition of the great work you do and the great attitude you have – and the need for both to continue because of these tough times. So, whether or not you approve of the publicity, I do believe that it’s important that we continue to show what we stand for.

Improvement & More Improvement

I’ve previously written that 2016 is going to be a very big year for the city council. It will be the critical twelve months during which we must convince our residents, ourselves, our monitors and government that we really do “get” what’s been wrong in the past and, crucially, understand what we need to do to have a successful future.

There’s a massive “test” coming on the 10th March when the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel meets again in public. At this meeting, we have to be able to demonstrate that across the political and managerial spectrum we have done what’s expected of us after 15 months of external support and challenge from John Crabtree and his team.

If we have, then the Panel will be able to discuss with the Secretary of State, Greg Clark, whether or not it can recommend its withdrawal – partly or in full.

Key to its assessment will be the answers to these three questions:

  1. Is the culture of the organisation actually changing? Key measures of this will be the extent to which Panel believes that there is greater clarity about, and delineation of member-officer roles; and, where appropriate, much better cross-party collaboration.
  2. Does the city council have a credible long term plan for the council itself and its budget? Key measures here will be the confidence the Panel has in the work on our “future operating model”; and the lynchpin areas of the budget such as the savings plans for waste and recycling, adult social care and the workforce.
  3. Has the corporate leadership team been able to secure the focus and drive required to ensure that improvement will continue into the long term? Key measures here will be work undertaken to ensure that there is a strong team, learning and development ethic within CLT; and the extent to which sustainable improvement is likely irrespective of the changing financial and political landscape (eg the all out elections in 2018).

The stakes are high – and there is, of course, much more under examination than just the three areas above.

I remain confident that we are an organisation that can restore its capabilities and, consequently, its reputation. If we continue to pull together and work hard at pace on the priorities then we have a good chance of demonstrating that we are up to the task of continuous self-improvement.

But there are still many tough discussions and decisions ahead – as well as the consolidation of those improvements already secured. No-one can feel the job is anything like done; but it is in hand and there has been progress.

It is, of course, up to the Panel to adjudge where we are on the journey. My and my team’s commitment to the Panel is that of an unrelenting focus on driving culture change and practical transformation.

I know that’s your ambition too.

Mark