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FEATURES - A VIEW FROM THE TOP

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Things at Birmingham City Council are on the up. Lin Homer is determined to build on its successes ...
Things at Birmingham City Council are on the up. Lin Homer is determined to build on its successes

One of the joys of being at Birmingham City Council is that it is determined to change. Indeed, it had started on its journey before I joined. So I am adding my weight to the enthusiasm that was already in place.

The findings of an Improvement & Development Agency peer review last February were remarkably consistent with Birmingham's own position statement and similarly, the comprehensive performance assessment report in December held no surprises from the self-assessment process. So, plenty of self-awareness then, and a determination to change built around the twin priorities of improving performance and localising services.

Pleasingly, initial feedback from an IDeA return visit last month showed 'observable signs of progress and culture change, evidence that the council is now more open and committed to learning and evidence of more effective corporate management, with a good understanding of the political agenda'.

So, is that it then? Can I sit back and relax just six months after joining this huge, exciting, dynamic organisation that is always in a hurry, always got a million and one new initiatives on the horizon, and operates in a city suffering some of the worst deprivation in the country as well as celebrating some of the best community relations you will find?

No, of course not. IDeA's return, while promising, shows how much has still to be achieved. The starting point is to move from 'weak' to 'good' while at the same time putting in place the building blocks that will help us to localise our services and devolve much of the power from a very centralist organisation to one based on the city's 11 constituencies. No mean task, when each of those 11 constituencies is themselves larger than many district councils.

We want to become an organisation where people feel responsible for what they do, take risks without fearing blame and rate highly the services they deliver. Stren gthening our communications, IT and human resources functions are essential ingredients to achieve this and we have already made a start.

Anyone in any doubt that Birmingham really buzzes could judge it by my first week in the job - shortlisted for European Capital of Culture 2008, host

to the Urban Summit, responding to problems in a privately-run city nursing home for the elderly. And those were just the headlines. In those first few days too, was the anniversary of Better Together, the public/private initiative to take joint ownership of the really biting social issues. I had the first consultation meeting with unions on the budget and a briefing from Dr Ann Power on the Independent Housing Commission's work - at that time, still in progress.

In our staff magazine, in the weeks after I arrived, I wrote how impressed

I was by how committed everyone is to Birmingham and to the work of the city council. That first impression has been borne out in the face-to-face meetings

I have so far had with around 4,000 of our staff, in their workplaces and

at their desks. So, still another 46,000 to go.

Challenging, yes - but also stimulating, worthwhile and very enjoyable.

Lin Homer

Chief executive, Birmingham City Council

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