The squad of experts being sent in to help Birmingham City Council improve how it delivers for local residents has today (22 January 2015) been announced.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has named John Crabtree OBE as the chairman of an independent improvement panel. The panel is charged with supporting the council as it pursues the vital reforms the city needs, in particular making sure it delivers against the recommendations made in the Kerslake report, which last month exposed a series of deep rooted and serious problems holding Birmingham back from reaching its potential.
Mr Crabtree will be joined by vice chairman Frances Done, Keith Wakefield and Steve Robinson. The appointments have been agreed with Birmingham City Council. Lord Warner and Sir Mike Tomlinson, as the children services commissioners for Birmingham, will also sit on the panel.
The Secretary of State has established the panel to provide support and challenge where necessary so the council can carry out the fundamental reforms required to deliver effective public services, provide value for local taxpayers’ money and promote economic growth.
Mr Pickles said:
The Kerslake report found a series of deep rooted and serious problems that are stopping both the city and the council from fulfilling their potential. It is essential now that the city council makes rapid progress if it is to serve the people and businesses of Birmingham as it should. I am confident the panel I have appointed will help achieve this.
Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham City Council, said:
We have now had time to reflect on the report and begun to take steps to address the issues identified. We are producing a comprehensive improvement plan, working across the political spectrum and with our external partners.
We are already making good progress towards establishing a combined authority to drive further the prosperity of our city and the city region, and have accelerated the initiative to tackle the skills and employment issues in the east of the city. Preliminary work is also well under way with the Boundary Commission for England to review the electoral cycle and ward boundaries.
I am pleased that the Secretary of State consulted me on the membership of the panel, and welcome the appointments that have been made. These are challenging times for the city council but we are determined to play our part in the ongoing renaissance of this great city.
The leader of Birmingham City Council Sir Albert Bore and the Secretary of State asked Sir Bob Kerslake to lead a review of the governance of the city council.
The report was published on 9 December 2014. It found that Birmingham residents and businesses are not getting the best from a council that lacks a clear vision for the city and has failed to tackle deep rooted problems over many years and administrations, such as low skills and economic growth.
The report contained 11 major recommendations for action to be taken to secure the improvements needed if it is to effectively and efficiently deliver local public services for all the city’s communities. The first of these recommendations was to appoint an independent improvement panel to provide the robust challenge and support the city council requires.
The Secretary of State appoints the panel with agreement from Birmingham City Council.
The panel will oversee Birmingham’s implementation of their Action Plan to deliver the recommendations of the review.
Appointments have been made as follows.
Chairman – John Crabtree OBE
A former senior partner of Birmingham law firm Wragge & Co., John is also a former High Sheriff of the West Midlands and former president of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
He has collected several awards including UK Lawyer of the Year in 2003, Birmingham Law Society Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003 and Variety Club Midlands Businessman of the Year in 2004.
John is also chairman of Sense, the leading national charity for children and adults who are deafblind, for which he was awarded the OBE for his services.
Vice-chairman – Frances Done
Frances was appointed Chair of the Youth Justice Board in February 2008 and re-appointed in January 2011, for a period of 3 years.
Frances’ career has spanned both public and private sectors. A graduate of Manchester University, Frances trained as a chartered accountant and worked for KPMG for 9 years. She served as an elected member of Manchester City Council for 13 years before retiring from political activity 24 years ago. Between 1991 and 1998 she held senior posts as Director of Finance and later Chief Executive of Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council.
For 3 years from 2000, Frances was Chief Executive of Manchester 2002 - the organising committee of the 17th Commonwealth Games. From 2003 to 2006 she was Managing Director for Local Government, Housing and Criminal Justice at the Audit Commission with responsibility for the Commission’s audit and inspection work in relation to local government in England.
After leaving the Audit Commission Frances was appointed to the interim role of Director General of the Royal British Legion, which she completed in October 2007.
Frances is currently honorary Chairman of The Waterways Trust, a charity which promotes the educational, social and environmental benefits of the inland waterways for all sections of the community.
Keith Wakefield, Leader of Leeds City Council
Keith was first elected to the council in 1988. Keith is also currently on a number of boards including the Leeds Apprenticeship Training Agency. He also serves as a representative on the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
Steve Robinson, Chief Executive of Cheshire West and Chester Council
Steve has positioned the organisation as one of the country’s most progressive and forward looking councils.
Throughout his public and private sector career, which began in 1975 as a Trainee Environmental Health Officer for Coventry City Council, Steve has achieved some impressive successes. He is noted for the way in which he turned around a number of failing services at Stoke-on-Trent and developed and delivered a strategy for the renewal of Liverpool City’s housing stock, improving the quality of housing services in Liverpool.