THE BIRMINGHAM POST: Red Faces and Blunt Warnings for Council

Article excerpt

The scale of Birmingham City Council's business transformation programme - seeking to generate savings of more than pounds 650 million by adopting more efficient ways of working - makes it easily the most ambitious modernisation project in British local government. Failure would be unthinkable, not just for a council which is relying on the changes to cut a bloated workforce and to keep council tax increases at 1.9 per cent over the next ten years, but also for the Government which is keeping a keen eye on Birmingham's progress.

There will be a few red faces at the Council House, therefore, given the blunt warning issued by Audit Commission inspectors who found that the hype surrounding business transformation is far removed from events in real life. It is worth noting at this stage that the commission's progress report is an entirely independent piece of work by experts who have nothing to gain from being anything less than honest, and who recently gave Birmingham an extremely positive Comprehensive Performance Assessment.

Their findings in this instance should set alarm bells ringing.

The council's political leadership has been at pains for months to deny trade union claims that this project, led as it is by the private outsourcing group Capita, is a thinly-disguised attempt to reduce the workforce, despite promises by council chief executive Stephen Hughes that any jobs that do disappear will be accounted for through natural wastage. …