Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Birmingham Labour abolish Ward Advisory Boards

Birmingham Labour abolish Ward Advisory Boards

Further to my previous blog about the new Birmingham Labour Administration banning Constituency Committees (now re-named District Committees) from holding their meetings locally – see   Further reading of the same Cabinet report shows that Ward Advisory Boards will be abolished.

As it says in the appendix of the report:

“Ward Committees are not expected to have sub structures reporting to them such as Ward Advisory Boards. The Ward Chair and Councillors may wish to engage stakeholders appropriately prior to formal decisions on Community Chest. However, as guidance and priorities for Community Chest will be agreed by District Committees through the District Plan (with the input of Wards) it is not considered necessary for Local Services staff to service additional meetings outside of Ward Committees and pre agenda meetings.”

I think this is a bad day for local democracy in Moseley and Kings Heath Ward where the Ward Advisory Board worked really well.

Ward Advisory Boards were created in the late 1990s as a non-public committee of local representatives to advise the three Ward Councillors on the spending of what was then called LILA money – if my memory is correct, it was £30,000 per Ward. Later on the same Committee advised on the distribution of Neighbourhood Renewal Funds (NRF) and these days Community Chest - £125,000 per Ward.

In the case of Moseley and Kings Heath Ward Advisory Board we had representatives from:

Moseley Forum
Kings Heath Forum
Moseley in Bloom
Kings Heath Floral Trail
Kings Heath Centre Partnership
Moseley Business Association
Moseley Sustainability
Kings Heath (Green) Transition
The police and fire service would also send representatives

The Ward Advisory Board was particularly useful in going through the numerous bids from local organisations for whatever funding was available to the Ward – latterly Community Chest. The Ward would always receive bids for money that when accumulated, came to over three times what money was available. By having the Ward Advisory Board, it provided an opportunity to decide in a non-public environment which bids to put forward for a final decision at the publicly held Ward Committee.

With the abolition of the Ward Advisory Board, all of this debate will have to be done in public, which, I believe, will end up as public slanging match and no decisions being made – remember two thirds of the applications end up being rejected, since there isn’t enough money to fund every single bid. You can easily imagine the situation, where numerous bidders put loads of their friends in the audience who argue for a particular bid to be granted. The whole thing is going to end up a mess!


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