‘Birmingham deserves better’ - Michael Gove confirms government intervention at city council
Michael Gove said the residents and businesses in Birmingham ‘deserve better’ following the city council’s bankruptcy
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Michael Gove has announced he will appoint commissioners to take over Birmingham City Council and will launch a local inquiry into the authority after it declared itself effectively bankrupt.
Communities Secretary Mr Gove also revealed on Tuesday (September 19) that the Government is prepared to extend additional financial support to Birmingham although he warned of “tough decisions” ahead.
Mr Gove told the Commons: “Council taxpayers elsewhere in the West Midlands must not be on the hook for failures that occurred in Birmingham. Although there are some tough decisions that we are going to have to take, central Government is prepared to extend additional financial support to the city.
“But our commissioners, I am sure, will be confronting the political leadership of Birmingham City Council with some necessarily very difficult decisions and I hope that we can take them in a constructive spirit together.”
Mr Gove said he was “satisfied that Birmingham City Council is failing to comply with its best value duty” after it issued a Section 114 notice.
He added: “In line with the Local Government Act 1999 therefore, I can announce that I am today writing to the council to set out my proposal to intervene and to appoint commissioners and that I intend to launch a local inquiry in due course.
“I do not take these decisions lightly, but it is imperative in order to protect the interests of the residents and taxpayers of Birmingham, and to provide ongoing assurance to the whole local government sector.”
‘The residents and businesses in Birmingham deserve better’
Michael Gove told MPs: “The residents and businesses in Birmingham deserve better and the intervention package I’m proposing today is formed of two complementary parts.
“First, I propose to issue statutory directions to the council and to appoint commissioners to exercise certain functions of the council as required.
“And second, I intend to launch a local inquiry to consider the more fundamental questions around how Birmingham got to this position and options for how it can become a sustainable council moving forward that secures best value for its residents.
“I’m proposing a transfer to the commissioners of the exercise of all functions associated with the council’s governance and scrutiny of strategic decision making, all functions associated with its financial governance and the scrutiny of its strategic financial decision making, and all functions relating to senior appointments.
“And, as part of the proposed direction, the council would, under the oversight of the commissioners, prepare and agree an improvement plan within six months, which would set out the council’s own plans to make the necessary improvements to the whole council to return it to a sustainable financial footing.”
Mr Gove said the commissioners will have the power to make decisions directly if needed, adding he is “minded” to implement the package he has set out and the city council has five working days to make representations.