City leaders have today (18 June 2014) announced a wide ranging and radical review of local democracy in the city to take place over the next year. The bold step is in response to a petition from Sutton Coldfield residents calling for a Town Council for the area.
Cllr Albert Bore, Leader of the Council said: “We welcome the interest in new democratic arrangements from campaigners in Sutton Coldfield and we will now fully evaluate their proposals in line with the legal requirements. But Sutton Coldfield is not an island, it is an important part of the city of Birmingham, so any changes we make there will have implications for the rest of the city. I believe, along with my Conservative and Lib Dem colleagues, that people right across the city are keen to have more influence over their local services and more control over their local neighbourhood.
“So we have decided that we should be much more radical and take this opportunity to have a wider look at how we organise democracy in the city at the most local level. We will be looking at good ideas from around the country and also how they do things in other countries. We would also be keen to work with the Government and political parties - we believe this review can open up exciting options for the future of local government across the country.”
Cllr Anne Underwood, Sutton Coldfield District Chair, said: “As a Sutton Coldfield councillor I am passionate about how residents in my area are represented and can influence decisions that affect them. But Sutton is also part of the wider Birmingham area. I believe it would be a mistake to push for a Town Council, which would have very little influence over the services provided by the city, and which, if established, could stand in the way of an exciting development for Birmingham as a whole and give greater devolution to Sutton Coldfield than it currently has or would have under a Town Council.”
Last year, Birmingham City Council was presented with a petition from residents calling for a “Community Governance Review” to consider the feasibility of creating a Town Council for Sutton Coldfield. A cross party working group, chaired by the Leader of the Council was set up to look at how this could be done and how the change would impact on Sutton Coldfield and the rest of Birmingham. As a result of these initial discussions, the group has agreed that there is a need to explore not only the potential of a change in local democratic arrangements for Sutton Coldfield, but for the rest of the city as well. This wider review could for example look at neighbourhood councils and the potential for more local bodies to take control of some services.
The Community Governance Review for Sutton Coldfield will be carried out as part of this wider review, and there will be opportunity for residents to get involved and input into the process throughout the coming municipal year. The next meeting of the cross party working group will be on 16 July and at this meeting the specific terms of reference for the Sutton Coldfield review will be agreed and published. Details of community engagement events will also be made public as soon as they are finalised.
For further media information contact Debbie Harrison on 0121 303 4476