This will go down as one of the most difficult weeks in the recent history of Birmingham City Council, with two national reports prompting yet more negative headlines and another wave of budget cuts unveiled.

This is on the back of repeated and damning reports, inspections and inquiries into child protection, various serious case reviews into child deaths and the recent furore over the Trojan Horse takeover of schools.

Mark Rogers, who seems to have walked into a permanent crisis management role since being appointed chief executive earlier this year, urged staff to “stay strong” amid the waves of criticism from up on high.

Meanwhile, many within the organisation believe Birmingham is the punch bag authority of choice and that Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles and before him former education secretary Michael Gove, want to portray it as a loony left rotten borough – the type that Maggie had to deal with in the 1980s when people like Ken Livingstone and Derek Hatton dominated local politics.

In no respect could anyone ever accuse council leader Sir Albert Bore or Lord Whitby before him of being rebellious lefties or willfully defiant of Government.

And there is a feeling that there is anti-Birmingham spin apparent in Kerslake’s review. At one stage he says: “The economy has underperformed – not just compared to London and the South East but compared to Greater Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield.”

This is based on figures from 2012, and more recent forecasts have revealed that Birmingham and the Black Country are forging ahead in terms of jobs growth.

And in foreign direct investment there has been £3 billion and 12,000 jobs since 2008, the highest total of any UK city outside London.

It has also been recognised that the region is also doing well on exports – and is the only net exporter to China in the UK.

So council insiders rightly feel under assault and the report has been spun in that way to allow Eric Pickles to be the Government’s champion whipping the naughty local authority into shape.

But Kerslake also highlights many failings and many weaknesses in the organisation, which the Labour leadership and Tory opposition have recognised.

The resistance to change from a large part of the authority, called “organisational disobedience”, has been highlighted and is something Councillor Bore and Mr Rogers must tackle.

In some cases, services or units have been removed, only to spring up again as staff go back to their old desks aided by sympathetic or ignorant management.

Successive administrations have been trying to drag the organisation into the 21st century and experienced this resistance – now Sir Albert has the added clout of Kerslake’s report to drive through the changes.

I suspect this type of thing goes on in all large organisations, local authorities, government departments and even the private sector.

There is also too much confusion, too many initiatives, reports and studies which lead nowhere and a constitution which even an accomplished bureaucrat like Sir Bob cannot fully fathom.

And both Sir Albert Bore and Lord Whitby must accept that on their combined watch over the last decade or more there have been drastic failings – the monumental cost of equal pay is crippling the budget and only a bit of creative rearrangement of debt has saved the citizens from more brutal cuts this year.

And the horrors of a children’s services department which has been starved of resources, overworked with complex and difficult cases and reliant on temporary agency staff to plug gaps have been well documented.

The Library of Birmingham was a massive PR success just over a year ago when it was opened.

It has now turned out to be a massive financial burden, costing – at £22 million a year – more to finance and run than the entire economic development, planning and skills department.

Of course, when the project was launched, about a week before the collapsed of the global banking system, its business case was based on millions of pounds of private sponsorship and funding raised through council city centre land sales. Neither have materialised to any extent.

Whatever the view of Kerslake, a piece of government spin to demonise evil Birmingham or a much-needed lifting of the lid on a dysfunctional authority, a deadline has now been set for improvement – so Birmingham City Council had better get cracking.


On a lighter note, last week’s full Birmingham City Council meeting descended into farce when the Council Chamber’s push button electronic voting system broke down.

As is traditional, to stop any last minute entrances and exits by councillors, the doors are locked when a vote is about to take place.

But on this occasion the person who operates the electronic system found themselves shut out. So the vote was taken on a show of hands.