Leader response to Fraser Nelson article

By on 18/11/2013 in Leader, Rebuttals

Statement by Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham City Council in response to an article by Fraser Nelson in the Daily Telegraph

“Following the inappropriate comments made by the Chief Inspector of Schools some weeks ago, there have been one or two very misleading articles published in the Daily Telegraph about the city of Birmingham and its city council.  The article by Fraser Nelson - Birmingham, our second city, is third rate, 15 November – was so ill-informed that I feel I must respond so that people will know the facts.

“The City Council has been completely transparent and honest about the challenges facing our children's social care service - under my leadership and under the previous administration.  But constant attacks on the service and the dedicated social workers who are struggling in the face of increased workloads and reduced resources are just not helpful.

“But to extrapolate from one public service to an attack on the whole city and how it is governed is simply absurd.  The article presents no evidence whatsoever for the alleged “astounding incompetence” beyond children's services. 

“The article suggests that “Birmingham is too big to function properly” and it has “a sprawling dysfunctional council apparatus”.  Again no evidence is given for this.  But more importantly it ignores the long history of measures taken by the city council itself to get closer to residents and deliver services that respond to local needs, including the most radical devolution and localisation programme of any local authority, introduced in 2004.  Ten district committees now control significant budgets and important local services - those that are most locally focused.

“Comparisons with the Strathclyde Region are completely misleading, as Strathclyde always contained several district councils, including Glasgow with a population of about 600,000, just as the former West Midlands County Council did.

“In recent years we have streamlined the council apparatus dramatically, losing a quarter of our non-teaching staff in the last three years and reducing from six senior managers to just three directorates. 

“The truth about Birmingham and how it has been led in the last few decades is very different:

  • Birmingham's schools improved dramatically in the 1990s and now consistently achieve GCSE results above the national average - with 63% of pupils achieving five A* to C grades, a figure that improves every year
  • In fact about a quarter of Birmingham's schools are now academies and the number is growing.  There is no agenda from the city council to prevent that
  • Birmingham is the centre of a long overdue resurgence in our manufacturing industry and for the first time in fifteen years our region will show an export trade surplus of over £11bn next year.  Crucially our biggest trading partner is China, to whom we exported nearly £1billion of goods in the second quarter of 2013 alone
  • Foreign Direct Investment into Birmingham is running at a record level, having increased by 52% in the last year.  Investment projects created or protected over 4,000 jobs in 2012-13
  • Birmingham's growing city centre has been through a complete transformation in the last twenty years, under the stewardship of successive city leaders who set out a clear vision and worked hard to turn it into reality.  This includes thousands of new homes, new shopping areas such as the Bull Ring, plus the International Convention Centre, the new Library of Birmingham and our transformed £600m New Street station, opening in 2015 
  • Our plans for the future include a further 5,000 new city centre homes.  The country's largest enterprise zone will create thousands of additional jobs in the city centre and the surrounding economic zones.

“Birmingham is an essential engine of the UK economy and the nation needs us to succeed.  The spreading of ill-informed and ideologically motivated untruths about the city can only damage all our hard work and therefore damage the UK as a whole.  Knocking Birmingham is knocking Britain.

“The repetition of these attacks makes me wonder whether there is a hidden agenda amongst some in London to undermine the city and the city council, perhaps in a desperate attempt to blame us for the consequences of the huge funding cuts being imposed on the city.

Commentators in London should be aware that Birmingham people do not take kindly to their city being attacked, especially by those who don't know the city.  I suggest that in future such commentators might actually visit the city and speak to those who are working hard day in day out to give it the leadership and the public services it deserves”.

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  1. TC says:

    Albert wants evidence of a sprawling dysfunctional council apparatus? It’s right in front of him. He’s being disingenuous when he posits otherwise.

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