Category Archives: Future Council

The challenge has changed and so must we

I won’t win any prizes for insight when I say that the local government landscape has changed dramatically over the last five years. It’s also an understatement to say that this has been a time of unprecedented change.

But, while it’s true that there’s less money and that demand and expectations are increasing, the conversations in 2015 need to be very different to the ones we had last year, let alone five years ago.

This is because the challenge is no longer about simply shrinking the council; our role as councils has dramatically changed over the last five years and the crunch is now coming in which doing everything but on a smaller scale will need to be replaced by doing things completely differently and, in a number of instances, not doing them at all.

This is a tough message, but the sooner we all understand it, the better. Irrevocable and seismic change is imminent.

In some cases this new thinking and new approach will mean new people and, that’s why as part of Birmingham’s Future Council programme, we’re recruiting to a number of senior roles.

We recently announced the appointment of Angela Probert as Strategic Director for Change and Corporate Services and Piali DasGupta as the new Assistant Chief Executive.

Now two roles, Director of HR and Assistant Director – Organisation Development, are being filled as part of the ongoing response to last year’s Kerslake report, which highlighted a number of areas of workforce improvement for the council to make.

These new people join us at a crucial period in the ongoing evolution of local government.

Collectively our capacity has dramatically shrunk, but the demand has not. Indeed in many ways the demands are growing year on year thanks to welfare reforms and an ever-ageing population.

So our challenge now is to work more closely with partners, community groups and residents. We’re going to have to find together new ways of delivering services, developing new relationships and overcoming whatever barriers may have existed in the past.

In Birmingham the approach we’re taking is badged-up as the Future Council programme Elsewhere the title will be different but the challenge remains the same.

  • Councils have less money to spend, meaning it is now impossible to do everything we did in the past.
  • But demand has not gone away.
  • So we have to do things differently and that means working much more closely with partners, our communities and individuals to manage demand and redesign services.

It’s very easy to talk about these things with buzz words and slogans but the three points above give a decent summary of the position and the task that faces colleagues, existing and new.

As a council, our workforce is our strongest asset – so it is vital we ensure the expertise and leadership is in place to develop employees and the way in which we operate as an organisation.

By filling these posts we will ensure this is the case. The challenge to shape the Future Council in the coming years is huge, and the successful recruits will play key roles in modernising how we do business.

Elections and Future Council – a busy week


whatsapp screengrabThe next few days (pretty much like the last few weeks) will almost certainly be dominated by the elections – Local and General – and my attention will be fully focused on them given my Returning Officer duties. The elections team, led ably by Rob Connelly, has been working pretty much 24/7 of late to ensure that everything goes well up to and on the 7th and, in advance of the big day, I would like to thank him and all his colleagues for their commitment and hard work: it’s very much appreciated.

And you can show your appreciation too – by voting. The Polling Stations will be open from 7.00 am until 10.00 pm this Thursday, so there is plenty of time to cast your votes.

And if you want a novel way to add to your election watching, why don’t you download WhatsApp onto your mobile ‘phone to catch all the Birmingham action. The link’s here:

Once the download’s complete, you can register for all our bulletins and, of course, the results-by-the-minute on the night itself. WhatsApp the message BRUMVOTES to 07593 166117.

There’s more information about #BrumVotes15 on our website. Just go to:

Future Council

Of course, it’s not all elections and our change programme, Future Council, continues to develop.

Last Friday (1 May) many of you came to the “soft launch” of the proposed replacement to the Performance & Development Review (PDR) system. The new approach is to be recommended to Cabinet later this month, but I was pleased to share the thoroughly reformed framework which we are calling MyAppraisal.

I think it’s fair to say that PDR won’t be missed. It was the internal issue that filled my inbox when I first arrived a little over a year ago, and its reform was, I think, the first promise I made to you all. Well, it’s nearly here and, between us, a much simpler and effective system has been put together.

We’ve spoken enough over the last 12 months for us all to know that MyAppraisal has been designed to take into account our focus on purpose, people and pathways and it fits completely with the values that, together, we’ve worked on since the Big Conversations kicked off last summer.

MyAppraisal is only one part of a much wider set of changes that sit under the umbrella of Future Council and, within that programme, Forward The Birmingham Way

But it seems that for many of you it has a particular symbolism because, if we can deliver it in the spirit with which it is intended, then it will be the first significant point at which we can put the rhetoric of our refreshed values into practice.

MyAppraisal is specifically designed to ensure that we are supported (and, as appropriate, challenged) so that:

  • We put Citizens First
  • We are true to our word
  • We act courageously
  • We achieve excellence

At the two “soft launch” events last week I was asked about how we move beyond good words. My answer was simple. We wanted a new approach; we have jointly designed a new approach; we must now go and deliver it. It’s in your hands now as much as mine. Keep it simple; keep it clear; keep it open and honest; and keep it continuous. And when you need to, be courageous.

This is what you said we should aspire to so, through MyAppraisal, let’s deliver:

  • More openness, trust and accountability
  • Challenging and honest conversations
  • Active performance management
  • Support to develop in whatever way is best for the individual and the organisation
  • A more strategic approach to management and leadership development
  • Clarity of roles and clear messages throughout the organisation
  • A move from a blame culture to an empowering culture
  • A shift from command and control to personal responsibility and contribution
  • A commitment from everyone to the “offers” and “asks” that will be defined through the employee journey
  • Role modelling at all levels, especially JNC
  • Accepting that a journey won’t happen overnight but is still everyone’s responsibility to complete

Thank you,

The Race Is On


Future Council

This morning the first progress report on our implementation of the recommendations of the Kerslake Review is published by the Independent Improvement Panel. The Panel has sent a letter to the Leader of the Council and also published a short supporting report – both of which can be found here:

You can also find a press statement from the Panel here along with our own response here.

As you will know from earlier blogs, we will be wrapping up all the actions arising from the Kerslake Review inside our overarching “Future Council Programme”. The scoping work will be completed during April so, for now, we still have a discrete document called “Organisational Improvement – Year One Action Plan” – to be found here.

It is clear to me from the Panel’s letter that we are making progress. For a start, the action plan has been signed off. But there is also recognition that we have taken some important early steps – for example, tackling the recommendations about human resources, corporate services and strategic capacity. In fact, work is underway across all the recommendations and, in due course, we will upload our own monthly reports so that you can see the detail of how much progress we are making. (In a few days there will be new, dedicated webpages for “Future Council” where you will be able to find all the information you need.)

There are, of course, challenges ahead and the letter to the Leader clearly sets these out. Most importantly, from my perspective, if we are to succeed in transforming this organisation both culturally and in its operating model(s), then we need to remain focused on living up to our values and delivering our core purpose. The Panel and, in due course, the Secretary of State at the Department of Communities and Local Government, will want to see – more than anything else – that we are different in our behaviours as well as our practices.

This first Panel report indicates that we are on the journey. To reach the destination requires us all to be working from the same map, headed in the same direction. Let’s keep up the good start and reach the goal of excellence.