Birmingham City Council publishes Kerslake Stocktake report
Birmingham City Council today publishes an Improvement Stocktake Report outlining the current position in relation to it achieving the improvements recommended by Lord Kerslake in December 2014
In the report the Council, which has recently undergone significant change in political and managerial leadership, acknowledges that it has not until recently sufficiently gripped the improvement challenge set by Lord Kerslake, in particular the delivery of the most important improvements required in its corporate governance. Nor has it yet fully aligned its revenue expenditure with the available resources and consequently has been using substantial reserves each year since 2015/16 to balance its budget, including in 2018-19.
Although progress has been made, the Council has only recently started to tackle some key issues raised by the Kerslake review, including the blurring of member and officer roles. However, the report makes clear that, with new political and senior managerial leadership in place, the Council is committed to addressing the major challenges it now faces with vigour. In particular, it has committed to taking the action necessary to prevent overspending in 2018/19 and to approve a revenue budget for 2019/20 that does not resort to further use of reserves. It acknowledges that this will mean that very difficult decisions must be made and implemented without delay.
Commenting on the report Cllr Ian Ward, Leader of the City Council, said: “As part of my pledge to be absolutely transparent with citizens, staff and partners, I promised to publish an Improvement Stocktake Report on the Council’s progress. This report clearly sets out our improvement aims, what action is required, how success will be monitored and who is leading on the improvement.
“It is a detailed and honest look at where we are in our improvement journey, what has been achieved and what work is still needed, so as well as the Improvement Stocktake Report we are publishing our Corporate Governance Improvement Plan.
“I made it clear, when I became Leader, of the importance of working closely with the Improvement Panel so I’m pleased that this collaborative approach is continuing. We have taken some positive steps forward, there is still much to do, but crucially we know what needs to be done for the benefit of Birmingham’s residents.”
The Council’s new Chief Executive, Dawn Baxendale, commented: “We have a real and shared determination to drive through changes in the organisation that mean we deliver improved services for our citizens. This collaborative and transparent approach is the right way forward to build on progress already made.”
John Crabtree, Chair of the Independent Improvement Panel commented:
“The Improvement Stocktake Report is helpfully frank about where things stand in relation to the Kerslake recommendations. The crucial issues raised by Lord Kerslake have not been tackled quickly enough. The Panel is supporting the Council’s efforts to grip urgently the improvements needed and to address its serious financial position. The Panel will be monitoring progress with the Council at monthly joint meetings alongside Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) representatives. Time is running out and we need to see real progress.”
Note. The documents published today can be found here: joint letter to the Secretary of State; the Improvement Stocktake Report; the Corporate Governance Improvement Plan; joint panel and council meeting minutes.
In December 2014 Lord Kerslake published The way forward: an independent review of the governance and organisational capabilities of Birmingham City Council.
Alongside the recommendations in the Kerslake report relating to action Birmingham City Council should take, Lord Kerslake recommended that the Secretary of State appoint an Independent Improvement Panel to work with the Council to provide robust challenge and support.
The Improvement Panel was set up in January 2015. Its members are John Crabtree OBE (chair), Frances Done CBE (vice chair), Cllr Keith Wakefield OBE (former leader of Leeds City Council), and Steve Robinson (former chief executive of Cheshire West and Chester Council). Dave Hill CBE, children’s services commissioner for Birmingham, serves on the Panel as an ex officio member.