Plans for new improvement model to best serve residents

Published: Tuesday, 23rd July 2019

Birmingham City Council has published a proposal to appoint a number of non-executive advisors aligned to its priority areas, as part of its ongoing improvement journey

The report asks cabinet to approve the innovative model of ‘progressive assurance’ designed by the city council’s leadership team to ensure a relentless and determined focus on improvement.

The model will involve a quarterly strategic programme board with the non-executive advisors working alongside the council management team. The model builds on analysis of assurance and improvement models across a range of different sectors.

Leader of the council Cllr Ian Ward said: “Here in Birmingham we are all really keen that the city council continues to grow and change.

“I’ve always said that improvement never stops, but we can take a fresh look at the way we continue to improve, ensuring it is ongoing and sustainable.

“It remains a testing time for local government and there has been a lot of talk about how councils can be supported differently to give residents, elected members and government confidence that risks are managed properly and that we can service residents in the best possible way.

“So I’m really pleased to say that Birmingham City Council is at the forefront of this new way of thinking about how we ensure continued improvement, a new approach for local government supported by central government.

“It is particularly important to note Birmingham’s progress in the important areas of children’s services and finance. Just this week it has been announced that Birmingham’s children’s social care services no longer requires a commissioner, which is a significant step forward in their continued improvement journey. Additionally, a report from the council’s external auditor, due before audit committee next week, shows that not only are there no new statutory recommendations but that tangible progress has been made in response to statutory recommendations published last year.”

The Ministry for Communities and Local Government has also been engaged in the design of the new model, and a letter of support from the secretary of state is published here. 

The city council has identified clear priority areas for improvement by building on the latest stock-take report, recommendations from external auditors and the final report of the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel (BIIP). Following on from our commitments when BIIP stepped down, the council will voluntarily be reporting progress to the secretary of state and the external auditor will be invited to observe the strategic board.

Working alongside the Council Management Team the NEAs will offer peer support to the council’s priority areas:

  • Waste governance and industrial relations
  • Financial resilience
  • Good governance and cultural change
  • Outcomes for vulnerable adults and children
  • Risk management
  • Peer support to the corporate management team and cabinet in leading this change and transformation

The NEAs will join the Strategic Programme Board and will:

  • be expected to bring independent judgement, external perspectives and advice on issues of strategy and performance.
  • ensure the board sets challenging objectives for improving performance
  • constructively challenge and influence the board’s decisions to ensure the council continues to improve in the key areas whilst acting in the best interest of Birmingham residents
  • hold the board to account for the delivery of strategy

The council has already committed to a series of complementary actions as follows:

  • Commission an independent review of the council’s model of waste collection and disposal services. This has already been agreed by cabinet, commissioned through a procurement framework and the review work is underway.
  • A formal review of the industrial relations framework in 2019 with peer support and exemplar case studies provided by UK Core Cities and supported by the LGA
  • Commissioning of the Charted Institute for Public Finance and Accounting (CIPFA) to provide formal third-party challenge and support to the Council throughout 2019-20. This is already underway and it is proposed that CIPFA be invited to provide an independent and public report on the council’s financial resilience, as part of the council’s reporting to cabinet and the Secretary of State three times during the twelve month operation of the Strategic Programme Board.
  • Continue to under-take ‘temperature take’ discussions with key stakeholders such as partnership chairs, opposition members and key partners to provide a live report against which to judge progress as part of the quarterly performance framework




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