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Improvement panel seeks further collaboration with Birmingham

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Birmingham City Council’s independent improvement panel has informed Sajid Javid that it wishes to explore jointly reporting with the council on progress.

A letter sent to the housing and communities secretary today, jointly signed by panel chair John Crabtree and council leader Ian Ward (Lab), says Birmingham and the panel have “reviewed our position and propose moving to a more collaborative approach” following changes to political and corporate leadership.

It adds: “We have started to explore how we might re-shape and strengthen our relationship.

“We are working to develop a new and more productive relationship between the cabinet, corporate leadership team and the panel.”

Southamption City Council chief executive Sarah Baxendale will become Birmingham’s most senior officer next month.

Cllr Ward took over as leader after John Clancy resigned in September last year following speculation he was to face a vote of no confidence over his role in the city’s long-running bin strike.

Birmingham has been subject to oversight by a government appointed improvement panel since 2014. The panel was appointed by then communities secretary Eric Pickles after Lord Kerslake’s review of the council highlighted culture and governance concerns. The panel has been linked to the departure of previous chief executive Mark Rogers at the beginning of 2017.

The letter adds the council and panel will “develop a shared understanding” of improvement priorities to “reassess and reset the baseline position”.

It continues: “The council has recognised that there exist significant aspects of its organisational culture that are inhibiting progress and these will be explicitly addressed to ensure that the council is well placed to deliver its improvement priorities as effectively as possible.”

It adds achieving financial stability will require “high quality strategic financial management and difficult decisions”.

The letter also says Birmingham and the panel are planning to work together on a progress report for June and the council will publish “a suite” of improvement plans.

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