After decades of centralisation the citizens of Birmingham are being promised a ‘real shift’ in political power to local communities under the Labour council’s devolution policy.
Last month council leader Sir Albert Bore announced that he wanted 80 per cent of council services to be run at a district level with only strategic city-wide services and the city centre being managed from the middle.
Already responsibility for a range of services such as libraries, council house maintenance, youth services, leisure centres, parks and refuse collections have been handed to the ten district committees to run as they see fit.
And now a select committee has been set up to see what more could be done to move the city towards the 80 per cent level.
Chairing the inquiry is Coun Lisa Trickett (Lab Moseley and Kings Heath) who pointed out that Birmingham, as the largest local authority in Europe responsible for more than one million citizens, is larger than many small countries.
Coun Trickett said: “Birmingham is the largest local authority in Europe, the size of many equivalent UN states – the one size fits all approach cannot work given our size and complexity.
“We have to build a new settlement with local communities where we together understand the strengths and opportunities in our localities, and establish how we can best work together to protect and improve key services and secure opportunity.
“Our devolution programme is not a paper exercise; it is about a fundamental shift in power and cultural change.
‘‘I want to ensure that through the work of this committee we are all clear on the challenges before us and have in place the collective capacity and confidence to make it happen this time around.”
A member of the inquiry committee, Sutton Vesey councillor Rob Pocock, wrote in the Birmingham Post last week that he hoped the special status of Sutton Coldfield would be recognised and greater powers devolved to the Royal Town.
Called ‘Making it Real’ the inquiry is focused on how to make the seemingly abstract idea of devolution matter and relevant for residents.
Coun Bore added: “I welcome this inquiry and the opportunity it will provide to review our progress and generate new thinking and opportunities for delivering the UK’s most ambitious devolution programme for local government.”
Party politics put aside for better city deal – page 16