(Quotes from the Review are in boxed italics)
Sir Bob Kerslake is Permanent Secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government. But he is no neutral civil servant. In April 2013 he wrote in the Daily Telegraph in praise of Margaret Thatcher and her pioneering privatisation programme. Now he has been sent into Birmingham as Eric Pickles’ hatchet-man to force Birmingham Council’s privatisation programme to go further and faster.
The purpose of the Kerslake Review is to make the Council a more efficient model of neo-liberal transformation from a provider of services to a commissioner of services by external providers in the driving context of drastic reductions in its budget.
23. BCC needs as a matter of urgency to develop a robust plan for how they are going to manage their finances up to 2018/19 without recourse to further additional funding from central Government. This should: … involve residents and partners. (pp48-9)
This transformation requires three major and interrelated changes to local government in Birmingham:
1. Efficient strong central corporate leadership and management by the Council – devolution of power to Districts is inefficient.
2. External partners (private and third sector) not only as providers of services but as partners in the governance of the city, i.e. in the formation as well as the implementation of policy.
3. Involvement by the community in this transformation, but not empowerment. Any transfer of power to communities would weaken central control and risk challenging both the cuts programme and partnerships with the private sector. Community involvement is necessary for two reasons: to induce community acceptance of the austerity programme, and to substitute community provision for some aspects of reduced provision. The latter is as much for ideological reasons, symbolising legitimising the cuts in democratic terms, as for actually saving money, which is likely to be minimal.