John Clancy operates within the same cuts framework as Albert Bore, but within it he advocates a number of policies which represent a move in a more progressive direction. They include policies with implications for education. Below are some of Clancy’s policies with comments in italics.
A zero-based budget review to address severe cuts to revenue in particular over next two years “where nothing is ruled out and everything is on the table”. All contracts, all books will be given over to the public’s immediate scrutiny.
- Clancy still accepts the cuts framework, but we should welcome more public scrutiny because it offers more opportunities to challenge and perhaps opportunities to gain public support for BCASE’s views.
Make Birmingham a Free School Meals City. “After our zero-based budget review we will look to reset our budget to invest first in children, not IT. We will make Free Hot School Meals available to both infant and junior pupils at all of our LEA primary schools”.
- Excellent! We know this is particularly important for children from poorer families. We need to ensure that all schools have the facilities to deliver this policy – we should demand that the LA produces an evaluative report of facilities and cost in the near future.
Save money on contracts
Scrap the Capita Service Birmingham contract. “In its current form there is effectively a protected £80-100 million a year department and this is simply no longer the kind of spend we can contemplate when we will have to take tough decisions elsewhere. We should look to our own West Midlands firms to do our IT”.
Challenge the £45 million extra top-up payments each year to the Local Government Pension Fund when it has now revealed it pays £90 million a year to investment managers. “We will challenge and decline to pay those unnecessary top-up payments to the fund of £45Million each year for the next few years and ask for a refund”.
Renegotiate the £2.8 billion contract to manage Birmingham’s roads and pavements the council has with Amey.
All these have the potential to save money to spend on public services including education.
The Birmingham economy
Clancy marks out a different direction for the growth of the Birmingham economy from that of Albert Bore. His 2010 analysis of the 2008 economic crisis stressed the failure across much of the private sector – not the public sector: the failure of global markets, global finance, credit systems and of the light-touch regulation to keep the market supposedly as free as possible. He believes that instead of building a city from global retail, financial markets and office space, it should be built from thousands of small and medium businesses. He proposes less emphasis on the global and more on the local, repeating that global capital got us into ‘this mess’ and local capital and local circulation of capital could get us out of it.
Clancy offers another model: “Digbeth is, to my mind, the real microcosm that deserves attention. Its development has been inspirational and can become a pattern for the rest of the city. Many would say it developed organically in spite of, rather than because of, the intentions of the city’s ‘powers that be’. “It shows a real energy and creative drive. It shows what can happen when you build on the real strengths and lively energies of this young city of the 21st Century”.
- What should our response be? The problem is that the progressive education movement in Birmingham has no economic strategy for Birmingham. For us in education the local economic strategy, as well as the national strategy, is important because we want young people leaving school to be able to get good training and worthwhile well-paid jobs. We know that future employment prospects can affect both the secondary school curriculum and the attitudes and motivation of school students towards education.
Clancy wants to set up a poverty commission to look at deprivation levels in the city.
- This is an initiative that BCASE will support and get involved in.
The structure of the Council
Clancy is promising to lead a debate about whether the cabinet and leader system should be replaced by the former committee system.
- We should support this. It involves more councillors in policy-making, breaking the tight stranglehold of the Cabinet over policy, it potentially makes isolated Cabinet members less vulnerable to officers, it increases the chances of more progressive councillors being involved in decision-making, and crucially it opens up a space for the demand that committees should have lay representatives, eg from trade unions and communities. We should call for an Education Committee with representatives on it in an advisory role from the teachers’ unions and from the Birmingham Governors Network.