Monthly Archives: January 2015

A response by BATC to the Kerslake Review

(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.

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Ward Committees still won’t be fit for purpose! A response by BATC to the Council report ‘Are Ward Committees Fit for Purpose?’

The District and Public Engagement Overview and Scrutiny Committee Inquiry report ‘Are Ward Committees Fit for Purpose?’ was approved by Council on 6 January 2015. It followed a report on “Citizen Engagement” published by the Committee in February 2014 which concluded that “Ward Committees are not currently fit for the purpose set out in the Leader’s Policy Statement (2012) as the major means for citizens to engage on issues affecting their area.” (BATC published a response to it.1)

The Council then set up another inquiry, specifically into Ward Committees, by the same Scrutiny Committee (now chaired by Cllr Zaffar in place of Cllr Trickett), which has come to exactly the same conclusion: they are not fit for purpose. Referring to the purpose of Ward Committees as spelled out in the Council Constitution, the Inquiry report concludes: ‘we cannot say that they maximise the influence of local people over the way in which the functions of the Council (or other public agencies) are discharged within the Ward.’ (2.1.3).

This is BATC’s response to the Inquiry report. Our comments on the Kerslake Review’s proposals for Wards can be found in ‘A response by BATC to the Kerslake Review’ on our website.

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