Sir Albert Bore today urged Birmingham to take inspiration from the â€˜imagination and sheer civic prideâ€™ of Joseph Chamberlain as plans are drawn up for the future governance of the city.
The Leader of Birmingham City Council was speaking as delegates from across the city came together for a Democracy Convention at Chamberlain’s home, Highbury Hall. The event launched a major new review of governance in the city.
Opening the event, Sir Albert said: â€œAlong with the other Core Cities, we have been working for many years to build the case for devolution of decision making and funding from government to the cities and city regions.
â€œThe national debate on devolution that has come to a head following the Scottish referendum now gives us a once in a generation opportunity to at last restore some of the freedoms and the autonomy that Chamberlain enjoyed.
â€œBut we must come forward with stronger governance arrangements at the city region level and make a clear Birmingham offer on both economic growth and public service reform if we are to grasp that opportunity.â€
â€œOur approach today is very much taking a blank sheet of paper, looking at how we govern in the here and now and thinking about different ways of doing this across the three domains of the region, city and neighbourhood. We need to be innovative and ambitious in looking at best practice across the UK and beyond.â€
Today’s event has generated some initial ideas on all three of those domains, looking at what needs to be done at the city region level and how can we work more effectively in smaller areas like the districts and neighbourhoods of the city. These will be firmed up in the months to come during an extensive process of consultation and engagement.
Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive, Jerry Blackett said: “Proper, sophisticated devolution is absolutely the next step to maximise the economic potential of Greater Birmingham. It’s great to see the private sector at the heart of designing this.”
Mark Rogers, Chief Executive of the City Council added: “With devolution comes a responsibility to ensure we have a values-based leadership that ensures any decisions we make, first and foremost, are designed to improve outcomes for our residents. Fairness and prosperity go hand in hand with greater democracy. ”
Paul Slatter of the Chamberlain Forum think tank said: “Structures and formal processes can only take us so far. Successful devolution and civic governance in Birmingham depends on changing organisational culture. Birmingham’s can and should be getting on with the job regardless!”
Cllr Karen McCarthy, District Chair for Selly Oak said: There remains great enthusiasm for districts and the contribution they can make to community engagement and the life of the city”
Todayâ€™s event has been webcast and the archive will be available here: http://www.birmingham.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/152774