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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.