Now it’s time to be a ‘step-up’ city
So a week after my election as new leader of the Birmingham Labour group, I am now proud to take on the role as Leader of Birmingham City Council.
I would say that the hard work starts here but actually I got down to business last week and I’ve wasted no time getting to grips with a job I am honoured to accept.
One of my first tasks as ‘Leader-elect’ is to convince Government that:
- We can deliver the changes set out in the Kerslake Review
- Following the recent announcement of the West Midlands Devolution Deal, we are ready and willing to play our part in the West Midlands Combined Authority.
That’s why I’ve already had a very constructive meeting with Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark, and Lord Heseltine. I assured them of my commitment to making Birmingham City Council a more outward looking organisation – one that can work more closely and collaboratively with partner organisations from the grassroots up.
I see myself as a civic leader in this great city of Birmingham and I’m looking out to other civic leaders – and that means everyone in the city – to step up and play a part. I look forward to working with everyone who’s prepared to step-up and be a civic leader in our city.
Let’s face it, we’re under the spotlight like never before here in Birmingham and we have to show that we understand, and indeed, embrace the need for change. The Kerslake Review was a wake-up call and, while progress has undoubtedly been made in the last 12 months, there is still a lot of hard work to be done to satisfy the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel.
I’ll appear before the Panel in a public meeting on December 14 and have already met chair John Crabtree and vice chair Frances Done to reassure them of my determination to deliver the changes set out in the Kerslake Review.
We are moving in the right direction and I was delighted with Lord Kerslake’s assessment last week that Birmingham is “making progress on all the fronts.”
Of course the Panel and Lord Kerslake are not the only ones who have been taking a keen interest in our city in the last few years. Sir Mike Tomlinson was appointed education commissioner for Birmingham in September last year and I’ve already spoken to him about the progress we are making in our schools.
And we are making progress as a report to Full Council on my first day as Leader makes clear.
We are only part-way through our improvement journey but children and parents across this great city can rest assured that their needs will be met, their ambitions will be matched.
We also play an important role in the local economy – both at a city level and of course at a regional level. So I’ve also spoken to Andy Street of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership and Chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority Bob Sleigh.
I’m keen to stress that our focus does not begin and end with city centre regeneration. We need to make sure we improve the lives of all residents across the whole of Birmingham by creating jobs, skills and opportunities.
Finally, I acknowledge the need for every single councillor to play a part in Birmingham’s future. We may differ on policy from party to party but we all want what is best for our city.
I’ve already spoken to Conservative group leader Cllr Robert Alden and his Lib Dem counterpart Cllr Paul Tilsley. I think there’s a need for more cross-party co-operation to ensure that Birmingham’s future lives up to its illustrious past.
Now I need to put the words above into action and over the coming weeks and months I’ll provide regular updates here to show that as the new Leader of Birmingham I’m working hard for you.