Demonstrate for the Library of Birmingham (and the wider library service) Saturday 13 June

The Friends of the Library of Birmingham has decided to call a demonstration on Saturday June 13th. It will be to oppose the drastic cuts to the LoB in terms of its opening hours, staff cuts and restrictions on the services it has been offering. It will assemble at the Waterstones book shop at the bottom of New Street at 12 noon and then march up New Street for a rally at the Council House at 1pm.

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Goodbye Sir Norman Warner!

What do Capita, the Cambrian Group and Core Assets have in common? They were all invited among others by Birmingham City Council to an event held in December 2014 entitled ‘Developing strategic partnering options for Birmingham’s children’s services’. They are also private companies which provide services for young people for profit and on the hunt for new opportunities.

The market testing event was presided over by Lord Norman Warner who was until recently the Government appointed Commissioner with responsibility for overseeing improvements in children’s safeguarding services in the city. Lord Warner was charged by the DfE with promoting the commissioning of services by the Council as part of the safeguarding improvement plans, and on his watch the Council’s cabinet made the decision to outsource the remaining Children’s Homes run by the Council.

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National END AUSTERITY NOW demonstration on Saturday 20th June

From Birmingham Peoples Assembly

The election of a Tory majority government last week was an ugly shock to millions of people. Now the architects of the decimation of the NHS are back in office, and they are already planning more attacks on welfare, our unions and human rights.

Already since the election thousands have people have marched in London, on Wednesday evening 3,000 people marched in Bristol, and planning meetings for the national demonstration have seen big turnouts.

We are organising transport to the national END AUSTERITY NOW demonstration on Saturday 20thJune from Birmingham.

If you want to go please email birminghampeoplesassembly@gmail.com with the number of tickets you want reserved. We will be leaving Birmingham at 8.45am, venue TBC.

Tickets will be £10 waged, £5 unwaged and we will need to try to collect the money in advance to pay for the coaches!

We are organising a mobilising meeting to build the demonstration. If you have ideas for how to get the message out please come along. Tuesday 19th May, 5.30pm, PCS office, New Oxford House, 16 Waterloo Street, Birmingham, B2 5UG

Birmingham @ END AUSTERITY NOW facebook page here

National END AUSTERITY NOW facebook page here

People’s Assembly website here

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The forthcoming West Midlands Combined Authority: a threat to local democracy

The policy of both the Tories and Labour is for the spread of Combined Authorities (CAs). One is planned for Birmingham and the Black Country. The spread of devolution to CAs marks a fundamental change in the model of local government in England, and a further threat to local democracy. Here are some briefing notes on the developments and dangers that lie ahead for workers and their unions, for service users, and for citizens.
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‘The Future of Community Governance in Birmingham’: A response by Birmingham Against the Cuts

The Council has produced a consultation paper on ‘The Future of Community Governance in Birmingham’. It and two related papers are at http://birmingham.gov.uk/community-governance-review. Quotes below are from the paper. BATC’s comments are in boxes.

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If you want to see what Kerslake wants for Birmingham, look at Leeds

Neoliberalism imposes a policy framework on local councils which has two components:
‘roll-back’ and ‘roll-out’. Roll-back neoliberalism comprises reductions in the role and powers of local councils, most obviously through massive cuts in grants to urban authorities, but also through legislative restrictions (e.g. Gove’s requirement that all new schools had to be academies or free schools, not LA schools). Roll-out neoliberalism is the putting in place of a new transformed model of local government. Driving this is the function of the Kerslake Review, because for government the transformation in Birmingham is not going far enough or fast enough.
kerslake
For Kerslake a model that Birmingham should emulate is Leeds. The Review makes favourable reference four times to Leeds. This is one:

‘Other local authorities, such as Leeds (see ‘Example Strategic Planning Framework’ box p.35), have used their civic leadership role to develop a shared narrative and priorities for their city’s future. They have used this to help agree shared strategic objectives across the city and to form the partnerships that are needed to deliver them.’ (p36. Also pp16, 39, 48.)

Eric Pickles has just announced the Improvement Panel put in place to ensure BCC implements the Kerslake Review. It comprises four people, one of whom is Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds city council.

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Birmingham’s District Committees exclude co-opted members elected by Ward Committees: Leeds welcomes them

We think that Birmingham has something to learn from Leeds in terms of citizen participation. Leeds is a long way from the sort of participatory democracy that we want, but for Birmingham it would represent a step in the right direction, because Leeds’ equivalent of District Committees does not comprise only councillors. It also includes co-opted members who are elected representatives of its equivalent of Ward Committees. This is what BATC has been arguing for for Birmingham.

Birmingham’s Scrutiny Inquiry into ‘The Role of Councillors on District Committees’

As part of the ongoing debate about the future shape of local government in Birmingham the Districts and Public Engagement O&S Committee has been holding a Scrutiny Inquiry into ‘The Role of Councillors on District Committees’. It has held Evidence Gathering Sessions into Housing (18 November) and Community Libraries and Youth Service (9 December), and a visit to the Erdington District (2 December). In January 2015 it published an Evidence pack.

The Inquiry contains two models of what are obviously regarded by the Committee as models for the way forward. One is the active role of the Erdington District Committee. The other is the model of devolved local government in Leeds. Its significance is indicated by the fact that documents from Leeds City Council take up 23 pages of the 94 page report.

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