Devolution of Birmingham City Council services must involve the real transfer of power if the process is to succeed, according to the chair-man of a hard-hitting inquiry into the local authority's power-to-the-people agenda.
Mick Wilkes said it was no good giving "theoretical influence" to ten district committees while still maintaining close centralised control from the Council House.
Coun Wilkes' scrutiny inquiry, published last week, concluded that after two years the principle of devolution had still not been fully accepted by the council's political or administrative leadership.
The committees, handed multi-million budgets and charged with running local services, were operating with inadequate financial information and there was a culture of resistance from the centre, the report adds.
The scrutiny inquiry urged the council leadership to give fresh impetus to devolution.
Coun Wilkes (Lib Dem Hall Green) told yesterday's full council meeting that devolution in Birmingham, the biggest project of its kind in the country, was yet to reach its potential. "The time has arrived to put this effectively into practice. Despite some notable efforts, what we have at the moment doesn't work to any great extent," he added.
The council had to be prepared to take an element of risk and set the districts free. But this did not mean the committees would be allowed to "run amok". The process would have to be handled very carefully, Coun Wilkes added.
Mike Whitby, the leader of the council, promised to speed up the devolution process.
Coun Whitby (Con Har-borne) admitted that views on the initiative ranged from "exasperation to expectation".
Describing the scrutiny report as a watershed, he added: "This city has embarked on the most ambitious programme of devolution and localisation.
"It needs to accelerate this forward."
Nigel Dawkins, who chairs the district chairmen's committee, questioned whether devolution was giving value for money.
"Devolution has not produced a significant improvement in council services. The question needs to be asked, why has devolution failed to improve council services?"
C oun Dawkins (Con Bournville) pointed out that 54 per cent of the budgets devolved to the committees were tied up in Service Level Agreements - which are contracts preventing the committees from radically changing the delivery of services relating to street cleaning or refuse collection.
"If we cannot identify sufficient improvement in council services after two years, why does the report recommend more devolution?," Coun Dawkins added.