Leader gives ‘state of the city 2011' speech

By on 11/10/2011 in News

Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council, delivered ‘State of the City 2011′ at this afternoon’s (full) Birmingham City Council meeting.

Context: 2004 – the beginning of our journey

Before the formation of the Progressive Partnership Birmingham was, by the Government's own reckoning, a “weak” and “underperforming” Council.

Service delivery was chaotic, taxation was excessively above inflation, and on several fronts the City Council was failing to deliver the basic services that the people of Birmingham deserve.

In 2004 the Conservative - Lib Dem Progressive Partnership took over the reins, and made a number of strategic promises to the people of Birmingham:

• To deliver a low taxation environment – quality services, at a price that's fair
• To turn around failing Council services
• To raise the quality of life
• To unlock the infrastructure projects which had been mired by indecision
• To transform Birmingham City Council into an organisation fit for the 21st century
• Enhance Birmingham's reputation

Today, we take stock as a City and an administration, and can be proud of our achievements… whilst, of course, being realistic about the challenges we continue to face.

Challenges facing the UK and the City

However, the backcloth of a grave national financial challenge impinges heavily on our City.

Birmingham is not an island, and not immune to the pressures faced by the UK in this difficult macro-economic climate:

• UK public sector net debt stands at £944.5bn (61.4% of GDP)
• The European Commission has predicted that economic growth in the eurozone will come “to a virtual standstill” in the second half of 2011, and the Euro is under threat
• The USA has recently had its long-term credit rating down-graded
• Fortunately, because of the credibility of our repayment programme our interest rates are the same as Germany's - otherwise debt repayments would be higher

The reality of a Labour Government's national neglect means Birmingham will have to face tough decisions in the future

Birmingham City Council's Financial Reputation

We have, Lord Mayor, built an enviable reputation for fiscal discipline whilst delivering value for money to our citizens:

• Built a sustainable, transparent, Long-Term Financial Strategy
• Delivered efficiency savings -  totalling over £400m
• Identified an additional £248m of investment for key priorities
• We now have the lowest Band D Council Tax of all the Core Cities and all the West Midlands Districts
• The lowest average yearly Council Tax increase - less than 1.6% – of any of the Metropolitan Districts over the last six years (well below inflation)

… All of which has been achieved whilst making discernable improvements in all areas of service delivery (accepting we have challenges in certain areas, like Children's Safeguarding) and making consistent improvements in resident satisfaction (from 57% in 2004 to 73% most recently).

Our record has today been further enhanced today by a major announcement this morning. I am delighted to announce:

Birmingham City Council has been awarded a triple A credit rating, the best possible, by the Moody's Credit Rating Agency who have stated:

“The track record of keeping expenditures within budget of the council is positive, and BCC has proven to be able to quickly address strong in-year budgetary pressures.”

Very few organisations can achieve this level of rating, and considering the recent downgrading of nation states, banks and building societies this is an important accolade and recognition of our achievements to date.

Clearly it endorses and enhances the strong financial position of the city council - and the strong track-record, looking back, at our management record.

The credit rating - which is also enhanced by a AA+ rating from Standard & Poor's – will enable the council to access a wider range of sources of finance, if it wishes to in the future, at the best possible interest rates.

Certainly, it gives us greater freedom and flexibility in meeting the financial challenges ahead.

International Profile

Equally, our international reputation goes from strength to strength:

• In 2004 we didn't even feature in the Cushman & Wakefield Euromonitor. Now we are the “most improved” and “fastest rising” City in Europe
• Within the Mercer Quality of Living Index Birmingham's position has improved from 56th to 55th place in 2010 - and we are the only English city outside of London to make the top 100
• Birmingham has been ranked the best place in Europe for encouraging entrepreneurship in the ECER's survey of 37 major European cities.
• We are internationally recognised for excellence in planning, design and regeneration - with our award-winning Big City Plan

Lord Mayor, Birmingham is a successful, confident city; with its growing population, whose cultural links extend to India, America, Ireland, Pakistan, Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean;

Whose European reputation is enriched through long-standing Sister-City relationships with Lyon, Frankfurt, Milan and Leipzig, and more recently with China – the fastest growing economy in the world;

Where we have a rich and rewarding political relationship with Guangzhou, Nanjing, Shanghai, Beijing and the Chinese Government;

Whose commitment to our relationship was substantiated by the recent visit of the Chinese Premier to MG Birmingham - where I personally launched the third model from the production line to him

Since his visit several Government delegations have visited Birmingham, including MOFCOM - a powerful Chinese Government Agency who have invited me to China to discuss several strategic investments into Birmingham

Similarly, our Middle Easter relationships have continued to grow:

• We have signed a world-first deal with Abu Dhabi, via a Memorandum of Understanding, for advising them on Civic Governance
• Giving us potential access to their considerable Sovereign Wealth Funds
• Already the Middle East has invested around £200m into the City of Birmingham

Since 2005 we have seen a 21% increase in the perception of Birmingham as a good place to do business - the best of all the Core Cities

Earlier this year Ernst and Young's European Attractiveness survey, which tracks foreign direct investment into the UK and investment intentions, cited the Midlands and Birmingham, in particular, as the fastest growing UK location for investment outside London.

Economic Growth

Visitor Economy

Birmingham is also bucking a national trend when it comes to visitors – National research has reported a 5% drop in the number of domestic and international visitors holidaying in the UK, however Birmingham has performed strongly:

• Our visitor figures have reached a record high – with 32.8m visiting last year, 154,000 more than the year before

• These extra visitors have brought an additional £18m in revenue into city

• The city's visitor economy is now worth £4.6bn, with the average visitor spending £140 in the city during their stay

• The strength of the city's visitor economy has also created 21,220 jobs over the last five years, with employment in the sector going up by more than half (57%).

• With 28 new hotels currently at various stages of planning and construction in the city, there is clear confidence about our future


Lord Mayor, we are creating a sophisticated transport hub at the heart of the country - with a transport infrastructure that befits a global destination.

Arguably, there is now more happening to transform Birmingham's transport infrastructure than at any point in our recent history:

1. New Street Station - due for completion 2014/15, levering in 10,000 jobs
2. Birmingham Airport Runway Extension -expect it to be completed by 2014, levering in up to 15,000 jobs
3. Metro Extension - expected for completion by 2015, levering in 1,300 jobs
4. Highways PFI - already underway, and supporting over 300 jobs
5. Investment in the Moor Street - Marylebone line; with Deutsche Bahn investing half a billion pounds into the fastest growing link out of London
6. National Express Coach Station in Digbeth - already complete, £15m of investment in their coach centre
7. A new programme of utilising secondary railway stations
8. High Speed Rail - the icing on the cake for Birmingham's transport future - generating 22,000 jobs for the region, and increasing our economic output by £1.5bn per year

Local Enterprise Partnership

As the capital of the 'Greater Birmingham & Solihull' Local Enterprise Partnership, we will drive forward a new agenda to support Economic Development

Since I last updated to the Chamber about the LEP, we have grown our boundaries to include: Birmingham, Solihull, Redditch, Bromsgrove and Wyre Forest, Cannock Chase, Lichfield, Tamworth and East Staffordshire

We have established one of the most impressive business-led representation seen across the country, including; John Lewis, KPMG, Jaguar Landrover, Kraft and ThyssenKrupp (to name but a few)

We have been announced as one of the first Enterprise Zones in the country, with the scale of our ambition being praised by government

Together, with the support of our Enterprise Zone, we are committed to:

• Increasing the economic output in the area by 30% (£8.25bn) by 2020
• Creating 100,000 new private sector jobs by 2020
• Achieving global leadership in key sectors include: automotive, low carbon R&D, ICT, and digital

Art, Sport & Culture

Lord Mayor, we have recognised the importance of Art, Sport, Culture & Cuisine as a catalyst for economic activity, regeneration, reputational enhancement and quality of life for the people of Birmingham:

• We've made major investments in a new swimming pool strategy, which next year will see the first new swimming pool opening in Birmingham since 1990

• We established Film Birmingham in 2005 which now receives 1200 filming requests per year, creating economic impact of £6m.

• We have elevated the Frankfurt German Market into the third biggest German market in Europe which last year attracted £300m economic benefit to the City.

• We have invested generously in new facilities, including the Birmingham GMAC, expansion of Alexander Stadium, and the new International BMX Track

• Over the last 15 years Birmingham has hosted more World and European Sporting Championships than any other UK City - attracting the accolade from Lord Sebastian Coe of 'Britain's sporting city'

• After being mired in indecision before 2004, we have driven forward an iconic new solution for the Library of Birmingham, which will be a proud symbol of the City for generations:

o The £193m project is under budget at £188.8m and we expect more major savings to be made
o The new Library will be 20% larger than the existing Birmingham Central Library, integrated with the REP, capable of taking up to 10,000 people daily

Lord Mayor, I am also delighted to see that BBC's Olive Magazine has recently awarded Birmingham the title of “Food Capital of Britain”

Investing in the future

Lord Mayor, we know already that the NIA already generates an estimated £150m in economic benefit to the region each year, and supports around 2,500 jobs in the wider economy.

Which is why I am proud to announce today, that as part of our ambitious plans for investment in the future of Birmingham - I will be taking to Cabinet on Monday plans for a £20m investment programme into the NIA

Progressive Partnership

Lord Mayor, our achievements have been made possible by the strong team leading the City of Birmingham. Their dedication and strength gives me confidence in our ability to tackle the challenges of the future.

Traditionally, I use my speech to the Chamber as an opportunity to reference some of the key Portfolio achievements. As with last year, rather than dictating these to you - or stealing the thunder of any Cabinet Members - I refer you to the appendix at the end of this paper.

2011 & the Budget for Birmingham

Lord Mayor. Tomorrow I will be instructing the Chief Executive to begin consultation on a new 'Budget for Birmingham'

We have made formidable progress with our Budget for 2011/12; actions have already been taken to deliver 88% of this year's savings.

Nevertheless, as we know, the scale of the challenge we face is gargantuan - and it requires difficult decisions.

Last year we built our budget on the back of the largest consultation exercise undertaken by the City Council. This year, I want us to go further.

We know there are experiences from this year's budget we need to take on board, and areas we have always said we would want to reflect on as we progress our savings plans.

So tomorrow we will begin consultation on a new “Budget for Birmingham” - which puts people first, and allows them to have even more of a say over how the Council decides to spend its money.

In our consultation, however, we will make it clear that our preference, and our proposals, will focus on:

• Proposing to look at options which prevent the changes to eligibility criteria for Adult Social Care as we had originally discussed
• Conducting a thorough review and consultation around Home to School Transport, to better meet the needs of children whilst running the service more effectively

I encourage all of you take part in the consultation.

Lord Mayor, as part of our Budget process, I am pleased to inform you today that we will be exploring the creation of a new “Birmingham Lottery”

• I have always committed to enhancing service delivery via the sensible use of revenue raising opportunities
• One of the avenues open to us is the creation of a 'Birmingham Lottery' - where large prizes will be available to local people, and all the profits could be invested - for example - into extra cultural activities
• There is considerable work left to do on the concept, nevertheless it is a potential lever for a multi-million pound investment in the city

Similarly, Lord Mayor, linked to our budget, next year we can look forward to the prospect of a 0% Council Tax increase, once again, due to the support of the Coalition Government

This will mean Birmingham is again likely to boast the lowest average Council Tax increase - less than 1.4% – of any of the Metropolitan Districts over the last seven years.


Lord Mayor, the City of Birmingham faces a formidable challenge. We know the task before us is immense. However, our record to date should imbue confidence in our ability to meet the challenges ahead.

Appendix 1: Achievements from across the Progressive Partnership

Paul Tilsley, Deputy Leader

• Sustainability - Birmingham is becoming a hot spot for the development of low- carbon initiatives and the green economy and is playing a leading role in the implementation of the Green Investment Bank. Birmingham continues to be a leading edge city in developing the Green Deal through our “Birmingham Energy Savers” programme, already on course to deliver photovoltaic “solar” panels for more than 1,200 council-owned homes by March 2012 and 165 schools in the future

• The Digital Agenda – Birmingham has built on its reputation as a leading digital city by approving a project to establish commercial opportunities and benefits by accelerating the deployment of a 4G wireless network across the city to deliver superfast mobile broadband capacity. Birmingham has also been recognised as a continental leader for its work on improving IT literacy for people of all ages. The innovative Keeping IT in the Family scheme was named as the winner of a European Award of Excellence “City for Children” honour.

• EUROCITIES is the network of 140 major cities in over 30 European countries, influencing and lobbying the EU institutions to respond to common issues that impact the day-to-day lives of Europeans in cities.  The Deputy Leader was elected as the spokesperson for European Cities on social affairs matters; an opportunity to represent the interests of cities across Europe, underlining Birmingham's reputation as one of the key players on EU issues. Birmingham has also been appointed to the EUROCITIES’ Executive Committee

Alan Rudge, Equalities & Human Resources

• The last 12 months has seen the People Solutions system which was implemented as part of the EPM programme become part of 'business as usual'. Employee self-serve (ESS) and Manager self-serve (MSS) is helping employees and managers to carry out work related transactions such as the booking of annual leave, the recording of sickness and referring to HR related policies and procedures, easily and quickly.

• The PDR process continues to support service and organisational delivery objectives. Employees across the organisation are clear about their objectives - which link to their PDR and how their behaviour supports the  Council's BEST programme core values, evidenced through the Birmingham Way

• Through using Human Resources tools the “Bridging the Gap” initiative which has been established by the Human Resources portfolio, has successfully reduced headcount by over 2,900 in the past 12 months and over 5,000 (Full time equivalent 3950)  in the past 18 months – without the need for significant redundancies as claimed in the media.

Tim Huxtable, Transport, Environment & Regeneration

• The Midland Metro Extension is great news for Birmingham in terms of economic regeneration and job creation. The exciting plans to run 21st century trams through the heart of Birmingham are forecast to boost the regional economy by £50million and create over 1300 jobs.  The main works are expected to start in 2012 and take up to three years to complete. We are working with our partners to ensure that we minimise disruption to shops, businesses and people using the city centre the city.

• The City Council is actively promoting Birmingham as a greener, post-carbon-era city which has successfully addressed sustainability issues at a strategic level. We aim to achieve a significant city-wide reduction in carbon emissions by 2026. We want to harness the potential of the Tyseley District as a green exemplar contributing significantly to the delivery of this agenda. To do this we have designated Tyseley as an Environmental Enterprise District, with the vision of making it the principal location in Birmingham for C02 reduction as part of a low-carbon, low-waste economy, through encouraging recycling, energy production and renewables including manufacturing and supply-chain development.

• From 7 June 2010, Amey began working as Service Provider in partnership with Birmingham City Council on the £2.7bn 25-year Highway Maintenance and Management Services contract. The first year of this partnership has already started to deliver on the rehabilitation of the City's highway infrastructure, providing: Over one million square metres of road and footway resurfaced; Nearly 3,000 lighting columns replaced, including the installation of LED street lighting and modern lighting technology that enables better energy efficiency; 66 aging traffic signal controllers replaced; and Refurbishment of three subway pumping stations.

Les Lawrence, Children Young People & Families

• Provisional indications show that Birmingham schools’ GCSE and equivalent results have shown once again impressive improvements in 2011.  58% of candidates achieved 5 or more A*-C including English and mathematics compared with 41% in 2000.  The provisional figure for 5 or more A*-C in any subjects is 84% compared with the final 81.9% in 2010.

• In fact, the indications from the provisional results suggest that Birmingham is leading the way locally and nationally with year-on-year improvements and is likely to have outperformed all of our comparable authorities.

• Average Key Stage 2 combined attainment scores for Level 4+ English and Maths of 70%, compared to 68% in 2010. Further success was also seen in the 2011 A-level results, with early indications showing that Birmingham schools' A-level and equivalent results have improved yet again in 2011.  We anticipate that nearly all candidates will have achieved at least one pass and that most will have achieved one or more higher grades at A-B.

• Development of Community Sports Hubs (CSHs) – A new governance model is in the process of implementation to deliver a number of Hubs across the city in line with the Community Asset transfer (lease arrangement) protocol. This is a pioneering development working with local communities, constituencies and across portfolios and will be linked to the future development of the Youth Service.

• Of course this Portfolio benefits from the enhanced attention of Executive Member for Children's Social Care, Cllr Matt Bennett.

Matt Bennett, Children's Social Care

• Launch of completely remodelled service, developed in line with national best practice, including the creation of 16 new Integrated Family Support Teams, made up of professionals from all key agencies to meet children's varying needs

• An intensive and systematic programme of improvements to the quality of social work practice has been conducted over a period of months:

? Vigorous auditing of cases has been, and continues to be, carried out. All senior managers participate in this
? Special highly experienced practitioners have worked with teams at the frontline to support and nurture best practice
? Work has been done to improve the quality, and consistency of the supervision social workers receive
? Where necessary, tasks previously undertaken by unqualified staff are now done by social workers.

• Most staff have now moved to modern offices, in conjunction with the council-wide Working for the Future property programme, and the rest will also move to modern offices. This has put an end to the situation whereby some staff were in accommodation which was not fit for purpose. Similarly, many improvements have been made to data and IT processes and systems, including the upgrading of Carefirst 6, and the introduction of E-records.

• In partnership with Birmingham University, we have launched  a new Social Work Academy, which will enable our staff to train and work to the highest possible standards

Randal Brew, Finance:

• The establishment of the Savings Star Chamber is providing the means to monitor progress against Directorate Savings Targets; while the creation of the Income Star Chamber is enabling the thorough review of Fees & Charges and progressing new Income Generation Projects

• 10 Woodcock Street, the new flagship office building, is progressing towards occupation in November. It is the largest and most efficient office development undertaken by the Council, as well, as the most sustainable office development the Council has ever built. It is also key to the rationalisation of the administrative buildings portfolio.

• The Wholly Owned Company has now been established to deliver a range of services currently delivered in house, on a shared services model, which will allow expansion and income generation, through trading with other public sector organisations.

John Lines, Housing

• Invested £106m in 2010/11 in our public sector housing stock and almost 100% of council homes now meet the Government's Decent Homes Standard through our '4th Option' (more than £700m has been invested since 2004). A further £190m will be invested between 2011/12 and 2013/14 to continue to maintain our previous investment.

• We continue to lead the way with the development of new housing through the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust. We have over 700 new high quality homes (Code Level 4 in sustainability) for rent and sale, that are built or in development. The affordable Rent programme could deliver a further 600 new homes between 2012 - 15. Almost £26.4m in additional investment has been secured through the HCA, including innovative developments and with private sector developers through the Local Land Initiative.

• We continue to lead the field in innovation. The Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust was announced as winner in the 'Best use of Housing in Regeneration' category and received the special 'Grand Prix' award, which recognises the overall winner for all awards (best of the best), at the Regeneration and Renewal Awards 2011.

Ayoub Khan, Local Services & Community Safety

• We are taking forward the Localism Agenda placing Ward and Constituency Committees at the heart of the Council's approach to localisation, and by doing so the City made a commitment and allocated £4m Community Chest across the 10 Constituencies ensuring that decisions made locally could also be funded locally.  We have continued to see support on a local basis for such things as; gating schemes, local carnivals, floral schemes, youth projects & sporting schemes.

• Birmingham's Financial Inclusion Partnership continues to be a West Midlands centre of excellence for this activity.  The FIP produced a booklet packed with tips & advice on saving money in time for the school holidays.

• Birmingham's total recorded crime from 1 April to 4th October 2011 compared to the same timescale last year is down by 3,187 offences.  The target reduction for this year is 6% less crime, and so far we are experiencing a 6.8% reduction.  On the same timescale, Burglary Dwelling offences are down by 1,169 and vehicle crime down by nearly 500 reported crimes.

Sue Anderson, Adults & Communities

• Introducing telecare - we have invested with Tunstall's to provide a city-wide telecare service.  The contract, which should benefit up to 25,000 people over three years to improve independence and reduce reliance on other more expensive forms of care.

• We have achieved the personalisation target with over 30% of our service users having an individual budget.

• Continuing to lead effective partnership arrangements, particularly with health, and GP Clinical Commissioning Groups we have established the Shadow Health and Wellbeing Board.

• Developed a new website “adult care in Birmingham” providing a wide range of information and advice available to citizens.

Martin Mullaney, Leisure Sport & Culture

• Expanded the Be Active scheme – the local Primary Care Trusts fund this – across the entire city, providing free swimming and free gym use at different times of the week. Despite these austere times, we have championed this project and worked with the PCTs to keep this going.

• Along with Councillor Les Lawrence, started the roll out of Community Asset Transfer of unattached and disused playing fields to sports clubs. Holford Drive will the first of these and other playing fields in line are Belchers Lane playing field (this will become a cricket academy in conjunction with Waverley School), the former MEB playing fields off Green Lane, Spring Lane playing fields in Erdington and Holders Lane/Pebble Mill playing fields.

• Kick started the process of engaging with the private sector to invest in and manage our community swimming pools. This has included the re-building of Harborne swimming pool (the first pool to be built in this city in 20 years) and the forthcoming re-building of Sparkhill swimming pool.

• Building of a new stand at Alexander Stadium which has enabled us to host the international Diamond League leg; become the administration centre for UK Athletics and install a 90 station gym for the residents of Perry Barr.

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