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Birmingham intervention panel disbands urging 'ongoing rigour'

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The government-led intervention team at Birmingham City Council has announced it is disbanding itself but warned the authority will continue to require “active monitoring”.

In a letter to the communities and local government secretary, Birmingham Improvement Panel chair John Crabtree said he agreed with much of the council’s analysis that it is transforming, but said there are “some matters on which the panel does not entirely concur with the council’s assessment”.

In a report, the panel praises a “level of stability and robust governance under the new administration and the appointment of a permanent chief executive, Dawn Baxendale”. This follows all-out elections last year.

“This change in relationship and approach heralded the requisite honesty around the scale of the challenge and sense of strategic purpose in order to start the improvement process in earnest,” it states.

However, the report warns of some “ongoing challenges in industrial relations which have constrained service modernisation and dented the council’s, otherwise very promising, performance in delivering financial planning and control”.

The report continues: “Clearly, there continue to be risks which require active monitoring and on-going rigour in improvement work across the council and a continued degree of humility is required.”

It warns of risks relating to industrial relations, equal pay, the Commonwealth Games, capital investment oversight and the potential impact of major contract revisions.

Reacting on Twitter, Claire Spencer, a former Labour councillor who now is a senior policy advisor for the West Midlands CA, accused the panel of being a “value-destroying, painful exercise for the city”, adding: “I couldn’t be happier that they are leaving.”

She accused panel members of having “hurt my city and squashed good people to do it”.

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