Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Spun out to dry

You really have to laugh. Yesterday, Mike Whitless instructed an officer not to brief Sir Albert Bore on the latest series of reports from the Audit Commission. He did find time to brief the media, though. This broke a promise to keep the leader of the opposition up to speed with key council matters. In the council meeting today, Whitless blathered that he had promised to brief Sir Albert, but hadn't said when he'd arrange those briefings.

Sadly for Whitby and his minder from Central Office, James North, the whole thing backfired as the Post and Mail decided not to take the council-spun line entirely seriously. They made the mistake of actually reading the report, saw through what they were being fed and instead decided to sink their teeth into the flesh of Whitless and his cronies.
It was a desperate attempt to airbrush bad news. And it failed spectacularly... His plan was not just to accentuate the positive... but to ignore completely the negative aspects of the commission's corporate assessment report...
Now, it is true to say that there some good signs of improvement, but there are some major problems highlighted by the report - consistently in areas of leadership and particularity on diversity issues. Surely in a city like Birmingham, diversity has to be a key issue. To fail this part of the assessment with a damning comment like this is an indictment of the failure of this administration:

Collectively, political and managerial leadership has been ineffective in delivering a corporate approach to equality and diversity. In particular its approach to community cohesion has been slow and has not adequately engaged with communities and other key stakeholders.
That isn't the end of it though - there's plenty more to come.

The Council has high level aspirations but these are not sufficiently outcome focussed or consistently challenging.... The Council is still a long way from achieving its stated goal of excellence.... the Council does not have a clear view about what its aim of excellent services means in practice... The Council also does not yet provide adequate community leadership to address local and regional challenges.

There is also some lack of realism about the scale of the task faced in transforming some services, which have only recently begun performing adequately, into excellent services.

Communities beyond the city centre have yet to see consistent benefits from regeneration and performance has been weaker in developing the housing market, sustainable transport and waste management...

Improvement in the health of disadvantaged people has been slow. Approaches to promoting the independence of older people are weak.... The Council has no overarching strategy for meeting the needs of older people in Birmingham, and has no timescale for developing one.

You can't tell me that Whitless believes his own propaganda? Surely not.


Lord Saxondale said...

Thank you Sir for the begrudging acknowledgement of the improvements that have been made! As you very well know we are not talking about "some" improvements, we are actually talking about "lots".

With regards to diversity, you obviously don't listen to Alan Rudge very often do you? (You know, Alan Rudge the guy with the balls to clear up the single status mess that you created when you underpaid council staff for over a decade).

Taken in the round, if what is being said by your disprited crew is your idea of constructive opposition then you are doing a disservice to your party, and importantly to the people of Birmingham.

When you lost control of the City Council in 2004, people were telling you that they were sick of poor housing, fed up with high council tax, disturbed by the thought that children were dying whilst in the care of social services etc ..etc...

Why don't you push your leaflets through people's letterboxes telling them the truth. Namely, that they have committed a serious mistake is rejecting you and that unless they put Albert back in his plush office - the nice Mr. Brown will make it very difficult for the city to progress.

Because that is the game your party is in.


Neil Hammond said...

I'm certainly not trying to be an advocate for Tory/Liberal Birmingham, but to be fair to them, to say there is no plan for helping older people is folly.

There is a £100 million project happening as we speak called Special Care Centres/Extra Care Sheltered Housing and an entire review and reprovision of existing home and day care services, in full partnership with stake holder groups. This has unanimous cross-party backing by way.

Credit where it's due please!

PoliticalHack said...

Neil - I'm well aware of the schemes to improve residential care for the elderly, which is indeed backed by all parties. If they are anywhere near as good as the plans suggest, they will be beacons of excellence for the entire country.

Remember that the quotes aren't mine, but lifted directly from the Audit Commission's report. I suspect that it refers to more strategic thinking over the whole operation, rather than to the specifics of the housing issue - which is being handled sensitively and cautiously by officers and members alike.