The Leader and Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council have responded to the latest letter to the current Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, welcoming the recognition of the progress the council is making. The Leader of the council, Councillor John Clancy, said: “I welcome the panel’s acknowledgment, just two years into a five-year improvement programme, that Birmingham City Council has already made considerable progress.

“As the panel correctly notes, the ‘new skills, insights and contributions’ from additional senior management staff have made a positive difference and the council ‘has made progress in addressing many of its own improvement priorities and handled effectively some unexpected external events and challenges’.

“The panel’s acceptance that the council is actively addressing concerns raised by the Kerslake Review and is strengthening how it manages its corporate performance by putting in place improved collaborative working between elected members and officers is also welcomed.

“I am particularly pleased that the panel is fully supportive of my decision to appoint four assistant council leaders who are leading a drive towards greater devolution and developing new ways of involving and listening to the views of citizens’.

“The panel is correct to recognise the extent of the extremely challenging circumstances facing the council as it focuses on developing a robust medium-term financial strategy – a challenge made all the more difficult by year-on-year cuts to Government grant allocations.

"As I have said before, I very much welcome the panel’s continuing input as Birmingham City Council’s critical friend, monitoring our progress and providing expert help where necessary. I regard myself as the fifth member of the panel and remain intensely focused on working with the panel chair and members to make Birmingham a better place for all its citizens.”

Chief Executive Mark Rogers said: "My team and I take the comments made by the Improvement Panel very seriously. We are pleased that the progress we have made in many areas has been recognised.

"The continuing and profound reductions to local government funding mean that the budget setting process has become increasingly challenging. The Panel is correct in describing the setting of the 2017/18 budget as a ‘mammoth task’ and it is one that we are not going to shy away from. We are equally determined to continue the wider work to improve ourselves and will not lose sight of our responsibilities to improve safeguarding and education services.

“These are the toughest of times ahead, but I have a strong team with me who as are committed as I am about delivering positive change for Birmingham.

"Challenge during these times is always welcome, and helps us to focus even harder on delivering the services and support, with partners, for Birmingham citizens.”