The Local Government Secretary has given his strong backing to a new report warning that Birmingham City Council has a year to improve its performance or face further intervention.
Eric Pickles was on Tuesday responding to an independent report from senior civil servant Sir Bob Kerslake, who found that Birmingham has been overtaken by other places due to its poor economic performance and service delivery.
He agreed with Sir Bob that while Birmingham’s size is a challenge for a single authority, its fundamental problem has been poor performance and a failure to reform, rather than being too big.
And he firmly approved of a finding that Birmingham should move to a system of all out elections and have a Boundary Commission review of its wards so that the council has less political interference in the day-to-day running of its services and more strategic vision from its leaders.
The report also found that:
- the city risks becoming socially divided between its poor population with low skills and those able to take advantage of jobs
- the council too often looks to central government bail outs or to blame others for its problems
- Birmingham needs to collaborate more with partner authorities and business leaders if it is to avoid falling further behind competitors such as Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds
Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said:
Birmingham is a great city which has made a fantastic contribution to British history, but the council has been holding it back. This report makes clear that Birmingham risks losing its status as our second city for good if it does not start taking common sense steps to improve its performance now.
For too long the council has been a dysfunctional organisation which has failed to get to grips with the problems its faces and the economic challenges of the future. It must stop looking to central government to bail it out and come up with innovative solutions itself. Now is not a time for the council to feel sorry for itself, but to start providing the leadership, skills and services its people need as the best authorities are doing across the country.
I thank Sir Bob and his team for their work and look forward to seeing how Birmingham, its leaders and the improvement panel I am appointing respond to the challenge he has set them. But be in no doubt that if they do not, the next government may decide to take much tougher action.
Read the full independent report.
The independent improvement panel will be appointed shortly and report to the Secretary of State and people of Birmingham on its progress by December 2015.
The government will respond formally to the further recommendations in the report in due course.
More background about the Kerslake review.