Dear Editor, I would like to express my disappointment at the nature of the coverage given to the Lessons Learnt report that we have produced (Birmingham Post, November 4), looking back at the first year of our Corporate Services Transformation programme.

Last October, CST was the first of our nine Business Transformation workstreams to go live. The overall programme is one of the largest of its type ever undertaken and is on course to realise £1.5 billion of benefits, that will enable more cash to be pumped into front line services for citizens.

CST more specifically went live on time, is still within budget and is on target to reach the £860million of benefits that we have identified.

This was only fleetingly referenced in the recent article, and I would like to point out that of the £518 million benefits that are cashable, £355 million were delivered by September 2008, with the majority of the rest coming during the remainder of this financial year.

Invoice payment has been the cause of much debate since the launch of CST, and I am happy to announce that we are now consistently paying more than 90 per cent of our bills within the standard payment terms of 30 days.

This figure is way higher than anything we achieved in the pre-Voyager era and would be the envy of any organisation in the public or private sector.

Yes, there were some teething problems which have been well documented. It is also easy to look back in hindsight and list the things we would have done differently. The key thing is that we are learning from this experience and putting measures in place to address them.

What we have learnt stands us in good stead for our remaining eight programmes.

I want Birmingham City Council to be the best council with the best served citizens.

The nine workstreams underpin our strategy to achieve this.

Everyone agrees the organisation needs to undergo change to enable us to deliver excellent services, improved customer satisfaction, more efficient use of resources and better designed jobs for our staff – there is no credible alternative to this.

Making changes this far-reaching is never going to be easy but we are determined and urge everyone in Birmingham to fully back our efforts to achieve this.

Stephen Hughes,
Chief Executive,
Birmingham City Council.


Misinformation over gipsy ‘shame’ claim

Dear Editor, Your John Bright column of last Thursday was misinformed about an incident which appears to have entered Black Country folklore.

John Bright reported that when I was chief executive of Walsall Council some 24 years ago, I was “allegedly dilatory at shifting a family of gipsies” from land owned by the Richardsons. On the contrary, I told Mr Richardson that I could not remove the gipsies as the council had no role in moving trespassers from their land or any other private land.

To persuade me to change my mind, the Richardsons parked a double-decker bus outside my house and said that they would move the bus only when I moved the gipsies. I reiterated that I could not move them and did not authorise their removal.

Comments that I was “left in ignominy with my neighbours” and “shamed into getting rid” of the gipsies are, therefore, untrue. After four days and following substantial press and TV coverage, the bus was removed by the Richardsons so Bright’s conclusion that “it does not pay to cross the Richardsons” does not follow. In fact, only recently Roy Richardson presented me with a framed photograph of the bus outside my house. I am pleased to say that despite the occasional difference of opinion we have always remained on cordial terms.

Viv Astling,
Former Chief Executive of Walsall and Dudley Councils, 1982-1999.


We should pay tribute to leader

Dear Editor, Bill Cash in his Agenda article (A working class hero. Birmingham Post, 27th October), is quite right when he states that it is “tragic that the original marble statue of John Bright by Albert Joy is now languishing in a museum collection centre”.

At a time when civic leaders are few and far between, it seems logical to celebrate the life of one such civic leader by returning his statute to the public prominence, which is richly deserved.

Bill Cash, may indeed have an agenda for publicising a book he is writing on the life of John Bright, but, there is no doubt that a man who both locally and nationally made not just an impact but change as well. Should he not have his memory left to a street name or a social column within this newspaper? Whether it be within or outside the walls of our great Town Hall, the statue of John Bright should be returned to people of Birmingham in celebration of his and our civic pride.

Paul Burke,
Sutton Coldfield,


Unifying the region would help bring overseas investment

Dear Editor, With regard to Monday’s article championing Greater Birmingham by Cities thinktank director D Finch.

The area would only benefit from the name change.

Business investments from overseas would increase with the unification of the region. Dudley, Walsall or Halesowen in Greater Birmingham would mean much more to the overseas investor looking to place his factory or investment here in the UK.

They would know imediately where the town was in relation to the area.

All the thinkers and shakers have for so long stated that this could only benefit the whole region; why it has not happened is beyond me. Let’s have an all embracing name of Greater Birmingham to bring in mainly foreign involvement and investment.

Ask the foreign companies here and you will see they all agree with the name change.

We have lost so much industry, anything that helps to provide more jobs must be a good thing What have we to lose?

If it brings in one factory in any area of Greater Birmingham, others will follow to supply the first. It is a no brainer. Let’s do it.

Dr I. Roth,